Blood Libel at Dir Yassin (Hebrew)

English Abstract

The Deir Yassin episode, which began on April 9, 1948, is better known throughout the entire world than any other incident from the Israeli War of Independence. It became a basic founding myth in the Palestinian consciousness, and therefore in Palestinian culture. It serves as a fundamental example for the claim that the Jews committed genocide against the Palestinians in 1948, and expelled, knowingly and intentionally, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the area earmarked for the State of Israel; from areas earmarked for the Palestinian state but conquered by Israel; and from the State of Israel after its founding.

According to the Palestinians, the Deir Yassin "massacre" was a "frozen incident" in the evolution of the State of Israel. In their eyes, it fashioned Israel as a terrorist state that has never ceased massacring Palestinians, such as at Kibia in 1953, Sabra and Shatila in 1982, Jenin in 2003 and Lebanon in 2006. The Palestinians? unwillingness to make peace with Israel, or at least to establish a relationship of non–belligerence, fifty–eight years after the War of Independence, stems to a definite degree from the place that Deir Yassin takes up in their present, national awareness. Hence, Deir Yassin is not just a historic incident, but a very relevant one as well, destined to preoccupy us for the foreseeable future. It makes clear, for example, why the head of the Palestinian Authority, Yassir Arafat, in 2000, rejected the offer of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to establish a Palestinian state in almost all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It makes clear why today's Hamas government rejects all compromise. Coming to terms with the "murderers" of Deir Yassin is out of the question, for coming to terms with them would be like letting the murderer have the spoils.

Deir Yassin is not just a founding myth of the Palestinians, but of the New Israeli Left as well. The New Israeli Left questions the justification regarding the establishment and continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish nation, and also works to restore to the Palestinians their rights "which were stolen by the Jews," in order to transform Israel to a state of all its residents.

Following are the main points publicized about this incident which we are going to question, one by one.

1. The Village of Deir Yassin, which stood in West Jerusalem, near the Givat Shaul Neighborhood, was a quiet village. Its residents had a non–belligerence pact with the people of Givat Shaul. Its residents did not act against the Jews in the War of Independence, neither did they endanger them in any way whatsoever. Therefore, the Jews had no reason for attacking the village and expelling its residents.
2. Etzel and Lehi fighters attacked the village without the go–ahead of the authorized institutions of the Jewish population, and against the military interests of the Jews at that time.
3. During the course of the battle the members of the Etzel and Lehi murdered women, children and the elderly who posed no danger to them whatsoever.
4. After the battle, the conquerors brought the remaining residents to the quarry between the village and Jerusalem, where they slaughtered many of them.
5. All told, the Etzel and Lehi slaughtered 254 inhabitants.

These points are an iron–clad component of the legacy surrounding the War of Independence for most Jews, of that surrounding "Al Nakba" [the calamity] for the Palestinians and the Arab world, and of the narrative of that war subscribed to by the world at large. In 2002 the Israeli military authorities ordered one of veterans of the battle of Deir Yassin, a former Lehi member who for years had been lecturing on this topic before I.D.F. soldiers, to cease his lectures, because he denied the massacre's having occurred. The Army took this drastic step following the complaint of then Knesset Member Naomi Chazan, today a political science professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For the Israeli Army and the Palestinians to hold such an identical approach to a basic narrative has no parallel in any other sphere.

Dr. Uri Millstein proves in this book that most of what has been published about Deir Yassin is unproven and largely false. His main argument is that the political leader of the Jewish pre–state population, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and Defense Minister David Ben–Gurion knew about the attack planned by the Etzel and Lehi on Deir Yassin and approved it. He further received a detailed report on all that occurred, both from the commander of the Jerusalem region, his confidante David Shaltiel, and from a secret agent of the Haganah in the Lehi, who took part in the battle, Shimon Monita. He knew that in Deir Yassin there was no massacre, yet he publicly remained silent, both in 1948 and later on, until his death. Despite this, at the beginning of the 1950's, He confirmed orally before the agent Shimon Monita that he knew the truth about the episode. In the chapters to come, we will prove this claim. If our claim is not refuted, it disproves everything written about this episode during the fifty–eight years since. This claim sheds new light on David Ben–Gurion, on his intimate circle, on the research done on the War of Independence and other wars, and on the political, security research and academic culture of the pre–State population and of the State of Israel. After all, if regarding this episode Ben–Gurion and his friends succeeded in deceiving the entire world, then all the more so regarding other episodes less damaging to Israel's image.

1. Deir Yassin teaches us first and foremost how conspiracies and myths create turning–points in history.
2. In the Battle of Deir Yassin, forces encountered the difficulties of fighting in a populated area and the harsh results from a human perspective. Turning this battle into a massacre myth prevented its being investigated in depth with the resulting conclusions. This is one of the reasons that the I.D.F. arrived unprepared at similar battles, up to the battle at Jenin in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, and the Second Lebanese War in 2006.
3. Deir Yassin exposes the destabilized relationships between the Jewish political parties in the pre–State era, and their readiness to take advantage of military incidents for political ends. It particularly exposes the methods of David Ben–Gurion in constructing negative, almost unassailable myths against his political antagonists. With the aid of these myths Ben–Gurion and his friends brainwashed the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and created a military sub–culture.
4. Deir Yassin exposes the complex ties between the political and security establishments, and the fact that the latter is an arm of the former, serving to advance party interests. It is by such means that political norms have penetrated the security establishment and prevented the State of Israel from establishing a professional army worthy of its name.
5. Deir Yassin points to the difficulty in investigating myths and exposing their refutations even in a democratic state like Israel.
6. Deir Yassin exposes the character of Israeli historians who have functioned regarding this episode as though they had been "enlisted" for the cause, thus unworthy of their status as members of Academia and intellectuals.
7. Deir Yassin teaches about the character of media people in Israel who accepted the official, manipulative version without investigating in depth the blood–libel regarding Deir Yassin.

In The Black Book, Dr. Uri Millstein describes in depth two massacres that did indeed occur: (1) the massacre by Arabs of physicians, nurses and university staff traveling in a convoy to Mount Scopus ? a few days after the events of Deir Yassin –– in revenge for the massacre that did not occur at Deir Yassin; (2) the massacre by Palmach fighters of the Arab residents of the Arab village Ein Zaitun on May 1, 1948.

Dr. Millstein documents the inferior quality of studies carried out in Israel about the War of Independence, which led to the development of a culture built around myth in the security establishment. This in turn prevented the establishment of a professional army which would be able to provide support for National goals. As a result, those national goals adapted themselves to the weaknesses of the security establishment, and were presented to the public as new ideological conceptions. This is the reason that fifty–eight years after its establishment, more than a few Israelis question the Jewish State's ability to last for very long.

In the last chapter Dr. Millstein presents his doctrine regarding the question: What should be done?
* We must foment a process of intellectualization in the security establishment.
* We must transform the standing army from a militia that exercises its might imperfectly, into a professional force that exercises its might optimally, without canceling the standing conscription army.
* We must transform the Israeli military culture from a myth–based culture to one that is critical and intellectual.

The author concludes his treatise with the following words:

"It wasn't I who authored The Black Book, but the shoddy conduct of the State of Israel. If the Israelis apply the above program, this will be the last "black book" that Israel will write, and a new period will begin of neutralizing threats at low cost, of flourishing and well–being on all fronts. If the program is applied, we will be a light unto the nations, at least to the enlightened world in its battle against Islamic fundamentalism –– the new barbarians who have arisen to annihilate civilization.

The decisions are not easy, and their implementation is a still harder task, because our leaders find it hard admitting their mistakes and the elites refuse to take responsibility and to step aside. I pray that for the sake of the survival of the State of Israel, the readership of this book will mass together into a war camp that will neutralize the internal threat –– a blighted regime, a foundering security establishment and its subculture –– and they will lead Israel to a Copernican revolution.

Blood Libel at Dir Yassin (Hebrew)
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