In March, the acts of hostility reached their peak, and it seemed that the Ishuv (pre-state Jewish community) could no longer endure the blows inflicted by the Arabs. The irregular Palestinian forces controlled all the inter-urban routes, the road to Jerusalem was blocked and the city was under siege. The settlements of the Galilee and the Negev were also cut off. Murderous onslaughts were launched on convoys, and the numbers of Jewish victims grew from day to day. The despatch of armed escorts with convoys had not proved effective, and most of the armoured vehicles, which had been assembled with great difficulties, had been destroyed or lost. The Arabs were taking the initiative, and were aided to no small degree by the ‘neutrality’ of the British, who were doing nothing to maintain law and order in Palestine.
Irregular forces streamed into the country from across the border and reinforced the Palestinian units already active there. Kaukji, who had arrived from Syria at the head of a large force, operated in the north, and a large unit led by Hassan Salameh, was active in the centre of the country. The Arab forces in the Jerusalem region were commanded by Abdul Kadr Husseini, who used Iraqi volunteers who had crossed from Transjordan, as well as deserters from the British army.
The brunt of the suffering was borne by the Jews of Jerusalem. The city was surrounded by Arabs, who harassed the inhabitants of the widely dispersed Jewish neighbourhoods, greatly restricting the area in which Jews could move around safely.It should be recalled that although British troops were evacuated from all the Jewish settlements in the country in February, the British remained in Jerusalem until May 14, 1948. This presence hampered the manoeuverability and defensive capabilities of Jewish forces. The indifference of the British and their reluctance to intervene made it easier for the Arabs to attack the Jewish community.
The Jews of Jerusalem absorbed blow after blow: the death of thirty five members of a convoy en route to bring help to the Gush Etzion region (16/1/48); the explosions caused by booby trapped cars down town; first in Hasolel Street near the Palestine Post offices (11/2/48), then in Ben Yehuda Street (22/2/48), wreaking death and destruction (50 dead and 100 wounded), and finally there was the explosion inside the office building of the Jewish Agency (11/3/48) (12 dead and 44 wounded). Moreover, the debacle at Nebi Daniel had a crushing effect on morale in Jerusalem. At the end of March, the Jews of Jerusalem had their first taste of siege. Contact with the coastal plain was severed, and provisions began to dwindle. The atmosphere was gloomy, and the leaders lost their nerve. The exhilaration roused by the November 29 UN resolution, gave place to grave concern and disillusionment as to the ability of the Jewish defence forces to repel the enemy. By the end of March, some 850 Jews had been killed throughout the country1, most of them in Jerusalem.
In view of the Jew’s failure to beet off the Arab attacks, the United State’s government decided to withdraw its support of the partition plan, and proposed to establish a special Trusteeship regime sponsored by the United Nation.
By the end of March 1948 the fight for the way to Jerusalem became a decisive battle for the city itself. Therefore it was decided to concentrate a big countrywide effort to open the road to Jerusalem, and on April 6 operation “Nachshon” began. This operation included for the first time an initiated military attack by a force of a Brigade.
At the self-same time the Irgun and Lehi in Jerusalem were busy preparing the attack on Dier-Yassin, which was part of plan of operation “Nachshon”.
Deir-Yassin lies on a hill west of Jerusalem, eight hundred meters above sea level, and 700 meters from the Jewish neighbourhood of Givat Shaul. The Deir-Yassin fortified position overlooked the westerly Jewish neighbourhoods: Givat Shaul, Bet Hakerem, Yefe Nof, and the road to Bayit Vagan. The village also overlooked the section of road linking Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv. Deir-Yassin served as a halfway site for forces moving up from the Arab villages of Ein Karem and Malha in the south to Kastel and Kolonia, which overlooked the main Jerusalem – Tel Aviv road.
Deir-Yassin was listed among the Arab villages to be occupied during Operation Nachshon, which began on April 6. When the fierce battle for the Kastel raged at the beginning of April, Arab reinforcements passed through Deir-Yassin on their way to the battlefield, and helped to drive out the Jewish force which had occupied the Kastel.
When the Haganah command learned of the plan to occupy Deir-Yassin, Shaltiel asked Raanan to co-ordinate the operation with the scheduled renewed assault on the Kastel. Shaltiel even despatched identical letters to Raanan (Irgun commander) and Zetler (Lehi commander), in which he approved the operation in advance. In it, he wrote:2
I have learned that you intend to carry out an operation against Deir-Yassin. I would like to call your attention to the fact that the occupation and holding of Dir Yassin is one of the stages in our overall plan. I have no objection to your carrying out the operation on condition that you are capable of holding on to it. If you are incapable of doing so, I caution you against blowing up the village, since this will lead to the flight of the inhabitants and subsequent occupation of the ruins and the abandoned homes by enemy forces. This will make things difficult rather than contribute to the general campaign and reoccupation of the site will entail heavy casualties for our men.
An additional argument I would like to cite is that if enemy forces are drawn to the place, this will disrupt the plan to establish an aerodrome there.
When Shaltiel wrote the letter to Raanan, it had already been known to the Haganah intelligence that armed forces, including Iraqi volunteers and Palestinian guerrillas entered Deir-Yassin. It was the Mukhtar of the village who met with the Haganah liaison in order to inform him that he had no control over the armed forces that entered the village, and that the promise that Deir-Yassin would be a quiet village had no more power.
Akiva Azuly who served as Haganah second in command in the Givat Shaul area testifies that the Mukhtar’s brother did not support the agreement and that shots were fired toward Givat Shaul from time to time.3 On a bundle of news released by the Haganah Intelligence Service on the goings-on in Deir-Yassin4 we find that as early as January 28 a group of 25 people had been seen training on the south-western slope of Deir-Yassin and among them a man with the Arab Legion uniform. On 3.3.48 a group of 30 Arabs were seen training in the village. On 3.4.48 fire was opened from Deir-Yassin towards the Jewish quarters of Beit-Hakerem and Yeffe-Nof. In addition we find that the Arabs built fortifications in the village and a big amount of ammunition was being stored there. A few days before the attack on Deir-Yassin there were reports about the presence of foreign fighters in the village, among them Iraqi soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas.
A research carried out by Arabs at the University of Bir Zeit5 tells that more over,
Arabs from Deir-Yassin took an active part in violent actions against Jewish targets and that in the battle of the Castel many of the villagers participated, helping Abd-el-Kadr el-Husseini. It is also stated in the above research that ditches had been dug in the various entrances to the village; and that more than l00 men had been trained and equipped with rifles and 2 Bren guns. There was also a local guard force, and every night, 40 villagers were busy taking turns guarding.
The armed forces, which had taken over the village, constituted a grave threat not only to the small airfield, which was to be constructed nearby, but also to the adjacent Jewish neighbourhoods and to vehicles on the main road to the coastal plain.
Going into Battle
On Thursday, April 8, about 80 Irgun fighters assembled at the Etz Hayim base (the Lehi people met separately at Givat Shaul). This was the first time that so large a number of underground fighters had gathered openly, without fear of British policemen or soldiers. The atmosphere was festive and our spirits were high; at last we were going out to hit back at the enemy which had inflicted such heavy blows on us for four months. The fact that two underground movements were acting together increased our sense of security and solidarity, and in honour of the event, we chose the slogan ‘Fighters Solidarity’ (ahdut lohemet).
Raanan, Commander of the Irgun in Jerusalem, opened the meeting. He said that the aim was not only to free the western suburbs of Jerusalem from the threat of Deir-Yassin but also primarily to seize the initiative. The time had come to abandon the defensive stance and take the offensive and move into enemy territory. Occupation of the village would demonstrate to the Arabs that the attacker could also be attacked. It would also elevate the morale of the people of Jerusalem and restore their self-confidence. Politically speaking, the operation would mark a change in conception and would alter the direction of the war: no longer retaliation operations, but occupation with the intention of holding on to gains. Our own people and the entire world would realise that the Jews were not ready to relinquish Jerusalem, and if necessary, they would take it by force of arms.
Raanan added and said that as the issue was conquest and not retaliation, we should avoid, as much as possible, hurting any Arabs unnecessarily. He warned time and again not to harm women, children and the old. Even more so: any Arab that would surrender, even a fighter, should be taken prisoner and he should not be harmed in any way. Raanan said that in order to avoid any unnecessary victims, it had been decided that the attack would start with an armoured car equipped with loudspeakers, which would enter the village before the sign to open fire. The loudspeaker would tell the villagers that the village was surrounded by Irgun and Lehi fighters and that they are called to leave and go to Ein-Karem or surrender. The announcement added that the way to Ein-Karem was open and safe.
Gal, Irgun operations’ officer in Jerusalem, spoke after Raanan. He explained that the objective was to occupy the village, and hold the position. The plan was to attack in two spearhead forces of two Irgun platoons would attack from the Bet Hakerem direction, and a platoon of Lehi would attack from Givat Shaul.
At 2 a.m., the Irgun fighters were driven from the Etz Hayim base to Bet Hakerem. The force moved into the wadi, where the platoons split up, each unit climbing up the terraced slope to its assigned area of action.
The Lehi unit assembled at Givat Shaul and proceeded from there towards the target. Some of the force advanced behind the armoured car, which was proceeding along the path towards the center of the village.
Close to 04:45, the village guards spotted suspicious movement. One of them called out in Arabic: ‘Mahmoud’, and an Irgun fighter, who misheard the cry, thought that some one had shouted the password ‘ahdut’ (solidarity). He responded with the second half of the password in Hebrew (‘lohemet’). The Arabs opened fire and as a result shots were fired from all over.
The armoured car advanced along the path and when it reached the outskirts of the village, it encountered a trench along the width of the path and was forced to come to a halt. The loudspeaker was switched on and the message was read out at the entrance to the village. Heavy fire was directed at the armoured car from the adjacent houses and it was necessary to rescue the fighters and wounded trapped inside
The other units launched an onslaught, accompanied by explosions and gunfire. The Arab resistance was strong, and every house became an armed fortress. Fierce fighting was conducted from house to house. Many of the attackers were injured in the first onslaught, including a number of commanders who had been advancing ahead of their units, as was the custom.
The pace of the battle was slow, because the fighting was conducted in a built-up area, and both sides suffered heavy losses. In order to silence the source of fire, the Irgun fighters were forced to use hand-grenades, and in some cases even to blow up houses. Very soon, about 30% of the attackers were out of action: most were wounded. And, to make things worse, the ammunition ran out. Fortunately, there was a stock of ammunition in one of the houses, so that the fighting could go on.
A report on the course of the battle was transmitted by courier to headquarters at Givat Shaul (neither the Irgun nor the Lehi had wireless equipment then). When word was received of the steadily growing number of casualties, and the shortage of ammunition, several Lehi people went to the Schneller camp and asked a Palmach unit to come to the aid of the attackers. After receiving the approval of the brigade HQ, the Palmach troops set out on an armoured car, equipped with a machinegun and a two-inch mortar. On arrival at the village, they fired several shells and machinegun rounds at the mukhtar’s house. At that very moment, without prior co-ordination with the Palmach, Avni charged the mukhtar’s house with several fighters. The attack was successful, and the house was captured and cleaned up. Now that the mukhtar’s house had been occupied, firing ceased and the occupation of the village was completed. Avni was so excited at having silenced the gunfire that he did not notice that he had been wounded and that his face was covered with blood. He was bandaged and evacuated to the hospital immediately.
Only years later was permission given to publicise the report written at the time by Eliezer, Haganah intelligence officer, describing the role of the Haganah in the battle for Deir-Yassin. It reads, in part, as follows:6
In the morning hours, it was decided to extend fire support. This support took two forms:
a) Blocking the way to Arab reinforcements coming up from Malha and Ein Karem.
b) A rear attack on Arabs dug in on the western slope of the village.
The two actions were carried out from the Masrafa positions. In order to enable the forces to attack from the rear, a Spandau machinegun was brought. The Arabs were taken by surprise by the gunfire and suffered considerable losses when forced to reveal themselves to our positions.
When the fighting ended, it was discovered that hundreds of villagers had retreated to Ein Karem, taking advantage of the fact that the road was open. Those who remained in the village surrendered and were taken prisoner. The prisoners, mostly women and children, were loaded onto trucks and taken to East Jerusalem, where they were handed over to their Arab brethren.
Because of the fear of a RAF (Royal Air Force) bombardment, Raanan informed Shaltiel that the Irgun could no longer hold on to the village. And, in fact, three days later, Irgun forces withdrew from Deir-Yassin and were replaced by the Haganah.
Facts and Commentaries
So much has been written and said about what happened at Deir-Yassin, that the battle, waged on the morning of April 9 became known as ‘the Deir-Yassin affair’. It is important to analyse the events and distinguish between facts and commentary.
The first question which should be clarified relates to the number of Arab casualties in the battle.
On Saturday night, April 10th, the Irgun radio station ‘Kol Zion Halohemet’, broadcasting from Tel Aviv, announced that, according to a wireless report from the Irgun HQ in Jerusalem, the attackers had suffered four dead (the number later rose to five, whenYiftah died of his wounds) and 32 wounded. Two hundred and forty Arabs had been killed, according to the report:7
The news item from Jerusalem concerning the number of dead Arab was inaccurate. The Irgun commander in Jerusalem deliberately exaggerated the number for psychological warfare tactics. In his testimony, Raanan related that, when he radioed HQ in Tel Aviv that 240 Arabs had been killed, he did not, in fact, know the precise number. He had invented the figure although he was well aware that the true figure was much lower. Exaggerated reports of enemy casualties, Raanan argued, would arouse fear and confusion among Palestine’s Arabs and deter them from attacking Jews8. It is interesting to note that the Supreme Arab Committee, in its turn, believed that claims of a high number of Arab dead, would rouse the Arab fighters to seek vengeance and render them more militant. Hence, the Committee emulated the Irgun, and announced that 254 Arabs had been killed. Only later was it realised that this was a miscalculation, since the report only aroused apprehension. Research conducted some time later, based on Arab sources, revealed that the number of Arab dead did not exceed one hundred9. An accurate body count of the Arab victims was conducted after the battle by two physicians, Dr. Z. Avigdori (who was Chairman of the Palestine Physicians Association, Jerusalem Branch), and Dr. A. Druyan (his deputy). These physicians came to the village and asked permission to examine the corpses. They told the Irgun commander they had been sent by the Jewish Agency to report on possible mutilations and other atrocities committed by Irgun and Lehi fighters against the Arabs. However, they said, if they were allowed to move freely about the village without restriction, they would report only what they had seen with their own eyes. This, in fact was the case: they went from house to house without interference, counted the corpses in the village and checked the cause of death. The report, which is filed in the IDF Archives, attests that there were no more than 46 corpses in the village. In addition, it was reported that death had been caused by bullets or bombs, and that “all the bodies were dressed in their own clothes, limbs were whole and we saw no signs of mutilation.”10
It turns out that the Haganah knew already two days after the battle that the number of casualties did not exceed l00, as one can learn from the following telegram which was sent from Jerusalem11.
To: Beit Horon
Appendix for concentration of news No. 151
[…] A reliable Arab source summing up Deir-Yassin, says there are some l00 dead (killed) who have to be buried.
The enhanced prestige of the Irgun was anathema to the leaders of the Yishuv. The occupation of the village as such, and the Irgun report that such actions would continue, were irreconcilable with the treaty with Abdullah and with Ben Gurion’s plans for the future of Jerusalem. It should also be recalled that at that time, the Zionist Executive was discussing the possibility of an accord with the Irgun, to which the Mapai leaders were vehemently opposed. This was the background for the smear campaign launched by the Jewish Agency in the wake of the occupation of Deir-Yassin.
Three days after the battle, David Shaltiel published a leaflet, packed with lies and slanders, in which he ignored the report of the physicians and the report from the Haganah unit which had taken part in the battle.
In this leaflet, Shaltiel chose to disregard the fact that he had known of and even approved the action and had claimed, in a letter to Raanan that the conquest of Deir-Yassin was part of the Haganah’s plan. On the other hand, he described the Irgun and Lehi fighters as a band of robbers, whose only aim was murder and looting.
The Irgun hastened to reply, and issued a leaflet, denying the Haganah charges one by one. The leaflet states that:12
Deir-Yassin was captured after heavy fighting. Our fighters were shot at from almost every house with rifles and machineguns. The large number of our casualties, several dozen, bears witness to this, as do the amount of arms which fell into our hands and the number of Syrian and Iraqi dead, who were part of the regular army force there…. Our troops conducted themselves, as no other military force would have done: they waived the element of surprise. Before the actual battle began, they cautioned the villagers by loudspeaker and appealed to women and children to leave at once and find shelter on the slope of the hill…. We would like to express our deep regret at the fact that there were women and children among the casualties, but this is not the fault of our fighters. They did their humanitarian duty and even more […]
The Irgun even published Shaltiel’s letter to Raanan, which revealed that Shaltiel had known about the operation and sanctioned it. Moreover, Shaltiel noted in his letter that the capture of Deir-Yassin was part of the Haganah plan. The publication of the letter caused great embarrassment to the Haganah leadership and undermined Shaltiel’s credibility.
The Jewish Agency went even further, when, in addition to the leaflet war, it sent a cable of condolences to King Abdullah. This cable was unprecedented and hence worthy of deeper scrutiny. Even Kirkbride, the British Minister in Amman, noted, in his cable to London, his surprise at the despatch of such a message to Abdullah, since Jordan was part of the Arab League which had declared war on Israel even before its establishment. Legion soldiers, stationed in Palestine, had often taken part in acts of hostility perpetrated by Arabs against Jews. Jordan had even allowed Iraqi troops to pass through her territory to join Arab forces fighting the Jews. And, even in Deir-Yassin, Iraqi soldiers fought alongside the Palestinians. Hence, Jordan should be regarded as an enemy or at least a potential foe. But perhaps this was the reason which induced the Jewish Agency to send the cable to Abdullah; to indicate to him that the Jewish Agency did not consider him an enemy, and continued to honour the agreement made with him in November 194713. Furthermore: although Abdullah was monarch of Transjordan, for the Jewish Agency he was also the uncrowned leader of Palestine’s Arabs and thus the address for any apology concerning the ‘barbaric acts’ committed against the Arabs of Deir-Yassin who were not Jordanian subjects. The Jewish Agency wanted to indicate to King Abdullah that it dissociated itself not only from the acts of the ‘dissidents’ at Deir-Yassin, but also, or mainly, from their declaration concerning the liberation of Jerusalem and the entire country, which ran counter to Jewish Agency policy.
King Abdullah did not accept these explanations and rejected the apology. In his reply, Abdullah noted that it was generally accepted that the Jewish Agency was responsible for all Zionist activities everywhere and that no Jew would act in such a way as to flout its policies. Abdullah concluded his cable by leaving open the option for dialogue, and wrote that “the Jewish Agency will do all that is necessary with regard to such atrocities…”. He added that the Irgun and others ” must take careful note of the possible consequences of their savage acts and their inevitable outcome, if they continue in this manner.”14
Deir-Yassin became synonymous with Jewish atrocities against Arabs, and the event is often referred to as ‘the Deir-Yassin massacre’.
The Arab village of Deir-Yassin was located in a spot of great strategic importance, and in the course of the war which was imposed on us by the Arabs, we had no choice but to capture it.
Was there in fact a massacre at Deir-Yassin and were Arab corpses mutilated?
Massacre means the killing of defenceless human beings. The unprovoked Arab attack on the peaceful Jews of Hebron one night in 1929 and their indiscriminate killing was a massacre. When, in February 1948, Arab workers at the Haifa Refineries attacked their Jewish co-workers on their way to work, and murdered more than 40 Jews in cold blood – that was a massacre. In both cases, the massacre had been planned and the acts of murder were premeditated. The loathsome murder of Kfar Etzion settlers by Arab Legion troops, after the defenders had surrendered and were unarmed was another such example.
And what happened at Deir-Yassin?
First, one should recall the strict orders given to the fighters before the battle, not to harm women, children and old people. It was also stated explicitly that any Arabs who surrendered, even fighters, should be taken captive and treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Secondly, an unprecedented thing was done at Deir Yassin: a loudspeaker was installed on an armoured car, and the attackers informed the villagers that the road to Ein Karem was open and secure and that those who left would not be harmed. By using a loudspeaker, the attackers forfeited the surprise element. However, the commander of the Irgun in Jerusalem believed that every effort should be made to avoid Arab civilian casualties even if that was the cost. The Arabs have never denied that a loudspeaker was used, and an Arab League publication on ‘Israeli aggression’ notes, inter alia: “On the night of April 9, 1948, the quiet Arab village of Deir-Yassin was taken by surprise when a loudspeaker called the inhabitants to evacuate the village immediately”15.
Thirdly, it is universally conceded that a fierce battle raged at Deir-Yassin. In the research carried out at the Bir Zeit University, as mentioned, it was stated that there were more than 100 Arab fighters in the village equipped with rifles and 2 Bren-guns with plenty of ammunition. The Arabs were holed up in the stone buildings of the village while the attackers were exposed to enemy fire. The fierce gunfire directed from the houses forced the attackers to use grenades and in several cases even to blow up houses in order to advance. Thus, it happened that there were women and children among the victims. a
It seems appropriate at this point to quote Ben Gurion’s remarks at the Mapai Central Committee in January 1948:
This is a war and there is no possibility, I want to stress this with the greatest clarity, of distinguishing between people. In war, one cannot avoid harming the innocent16.
The number of dead is of great importance to the question of whether it was a battle or a slaughter. According to all extant documents and testimony, it is now clear that the number of Arabs killed at Deir-Yassin was less than one hundred, and not 240, as published. Moreover, the battle was the first in the War of Independence to be waged in a built-up area, and this is accepted as one of the most difficult forms of warfare, and the costliest in human terms. This is the reason why 35% of the attacking Irgun and Lehi force were injured or killed by enemy fire. Incidentally, the second battle of this kind conducted in the War of Independence was the Palmach attack on Qatamon, some two weeks after the capture of Deir-Yassin. In that battle, which was waged from house to house, some 40% of the force were injured or killed, while among the Arabs, 80 were killed and some 150 injured.
All the Arab victims at Deir-Yassin were killed in battle, and the moment the battle ended all killing ceased. Those villagers; men, women and children who surrendered, were taken prisoner, and no harm came to them. When the fighting was over, they were conveyed by car to East Jerusalem and handed over to their Arab brethren.
As regards the accusations of mutilation and rape, it is enough to quote the report of the physicians sent by the Jewish Agency to examine the situation: “all the bodies were dressed in their own clothes, limbs were whole and we saw no signs of mutilation.”
In light of the facts of the battle for Deir-Yassin, one cannot escape the conclusion that, in condemning the Irgun and Lehi, the Jewish Agency leaders were guided by purely political motives and not by their consciences.
They were motivated by internal and external political considerations. The former were connected to the growing sympathy for the Irgun in the country at large and Jerusalem in particular. An increasing proportion of the Yishuv now recognised the justice of the Irgun cause and believed that the end of the British mandate was the outcome of the stubborn underground struggle against the foreign rulers.
The unique situation in Jerusalem had intensified support for the Irgun in the city. The people of Jerusalem felt like stepchildren, since the city was not included within the borders of the Jewish State. The Arab onslaughts, growing more frequent, the large number of casualties (higher than anywhere else in the country) the detachment from the coastal plain and the increasing shortage of food and water, all these had evoked disillusionment with the Haganah and the Zionist Executive. The growing support for the underground movement greatly concerned the establishment leaders who had remained in Jerusalem, and they emphasised this in their reports to Ben Gurion.
Support for the Irgun gained momentum after the capture of Deir-Yassin. The feeling was that at last someone had proved capable of giving the right answer to the murderous Arab attacks.
As noted, the Zionist Executive was holding feverish discussions at the time on the possibility of an accord with the Irgun. The Mapai leaders, who were emphatically opposed to the idea, hoped that their shameful smear campaign against the Irgun would forestall this move. And, in fact, one of the arguments cited against ratifying the accord was: “See what the Irgun is capable of. We cannot enter into an agreement with such people.” The champions of the accord, on the other hand, argued that the Deir-Yassin incident demonstrated what could happen when the Irgun operated alone, without an agreement17. Ben Gurion feared that the rise in the Irgun’s strength in Jerusalem was liable to disrupt his political plans for the future of the city. He hoped that the charges against the Irgun and Lehi would reduce public sympathy for them.
The external political reason was related to the treaty with King Abdullah. The Jews had agreed to the Arab Legion’s occupation of Judea and Samaria, which would then be incorporated in the Kingdom of Jordan, and in return, the Legion was to refrain from attacking the Jewish State.
Ben Gurion feared that the capture of Deir-Yassin would be interpreted by Abdullah as a Jewish volte-face. A particularly profound impression had been made in Britain, and subsequently also in Jordan, by the statement of the Irgun commander at the press conference convened at Givat Shaul after the battle:
[…] We intend to attack, to occupy and to hold fast until all of Eretz Israel [Palestine] is in our hands. The attack on Deir-Yassin is the first stage….18
In its smear campaign against the Irgun and Lehi, the Zionist leadership tried to create the impression that these were marginal groups without influence, and that their actions and declarations should not be taken into account. The leadership wanted to isolate the two underground movements, both within theYishuv and vis a vis the outside world. It failed to do this, however: the Jewish community in Jerusalem displayed even greater sympathy with the Irgun, and foreign diplomats now perceived the Irgun as a factor to be reckoned with in discussing the future of Jerusalem.
The Deir-Yassin affair had a strong impact on the course of the War of Independence, and was summed up as follows in the “History of the War of Independence” produced by the History Division of the IDF:
The Deir-Yassin affair, known throughout the world as the ‘Deir-Yassin massacre’, damaged the reputation of theYishuv at the time. All the Arab propaganda channels disseminated the story at the time and continue to do so to this day. But it indubitably also served as a contributory factor to the collapse of the Arab hinterland in the period, which followed. More then the act itself, it was the publicity it received from Arab spokesmen which achieved this aim. Their intention was to convince their people of the savagery of the Jews and to rouse their militant religious instincts. But, in actual fact, they succeeded only in intimidating them. Today they admit the error themselves.
1 out of a Jewish community numbering 600,000
2 Yoshua Ofir, On The Walls, p. 63
3 Akiva Azuly a Man of Jerusalem, p. 70
4 IDF Archives, 2504/49/16
5 Knaana Sharif, The Palestinian Villages Destroyed in 1948 – Deir-Yassin, Bir-Zeit University, 1987
6 David Shaltiel, Jerusalem 1948, p. 141
7 Menachem Begin, In The Underground D, p. 247
8 Interview with Mordechai Raanan
9 Dan Kurzman, Genesis 1948, p. 148
10 IDF Archives, 500/48-54
11 Central Zionist Archives, M 16/19
12 Menachem Begin, In The Underground D, p. 276
13 In November 1947 a meeting was held in Naharayim between Golda Meyersson (Meyir) and King Abdullah. In this meeting it was agreed between the two that after the British left Palestine, the Arab Legion would invade the western part of Palestine and would take Judea and Sammaria (the West Bank), an area allocated for the Palestinian State. In compensation, the King promised not to attack the Jewish State that would be established.
14 Central Zionist Archives, S 25/1704. English Translation S 25/4150
15 Deir-Yassin, Publication by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, March 1969
16 Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion, p. 680.
17Haaretz newspaper, 12/4/1948
18 Public Records, London, CO 733 477/514