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October 25, 2012 11:29 am

Israeli Writer says Deir Yassin Was a Blood Libel

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Deir Yassin.

Dr. Uri Milstein has never failed to rankle feathers, especially those attached to the status quo. His most recent book to be translated into English, Blood Libel: The True Story Of The Massacre At Deir Yassin, stays on script, refuting one of the most pivotal narratives of the civil war between Jews and Arabs in what was then British Mandated Palestine.

Before Deir Yassin the Arabs had won the war and afterwards Israel won the war, so of course this moment was very important in history, Dr. Milstein told The Algemeiner.

The story is well known: early in 1948, the Arab village of Deir Yassin was located in the Jerusalem municipality that was, upon the UN suggested formation of two separate states—one Jewish the other Arab— to belong to neither, and as such administered separately. After the Arabs rejected this proposal, and war broke out, two underground militias, the Irgun and Lehi, decided to capture the town because of its strategic location. Many residents of the village were killed, and in the succeeding days and weeks news leaked out of a massacre, alarming many Arabs, who fled their homes.

Throughout the years various theories have arisen: did it really happen? Were the Arabs murdered in cold blood, or was it a propaganda campaign meant to rally Arabs against the Jews—a campaign that backfired miserably. Whatever the case may be, word got out that Jews had become unprovoked aggressors and killers.

Dr. Milstein, who has been researching the topic for decades, argues that a massacre never occurred. Rather, he claims that those civilians killed were the unfortunate victims of warfare—the cost of a battle for survival that meant many unfortunate casualties on both sides of the fight.

And he also believes that Deir Yassin was an effective way to mobilize Arabs into creating a Palestinian nation, to confront a Jewish State. “To be a nation you should fight against threats to your nation. You want the nation to survive. They didn’t fight against Jews seriously at first. The Arabs didn’t want to fight, they fled after Deir Yassin. But then they did. So my question is what changed them? Determination. And my next question was ‘What caused them to be determined?’ My answer was Deir Yassin. So they used this myth of a massacre to become a Palestinian nation.”

The village today is an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Har Nof, incorporated into Jerusalem. Time may have whitewashed the physical scars of long ago battle, but it hasn’t diminished the battle between minds on just what happened there sixty four years ago.

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  • Adam

    Elizabeth, what a fascinating story. That letter is an important document.

  • 35 years ago my husband conducted his own investigations into Der Yassin after talking with an Israeli woman who participated in the raid.As I don’t speak Hebrew my memories are hazy on the details of the conversation as later translated to me .However she vehemently denied that a deliberate massacare took place,saying that the arabs were warned and. asked to surrender by means of a megaphone mounted on a truck that drove through the village before hand and that the deaths were the result of Arab resistance.My husband tried to make a search of the Red Cross documents pertaining to the incident but was informed by Geneva headquarters that they were missing!! I still have that letter.

    • Josh Korn

      There’s documented video evidence (here: that the story of a massacre was fabricated by Dr. Hussein Khalidi in a press release for broadcast on Arab radio. The first-hand evidence comes from the man who broadcast it, Hazem Nusseibeh.

      Perhaps not coincidentally, Khalidi is the great uncle of Obama confidante Rashid Khalidi, who has attempted to deny that the broadcasts were made.

      The video clip comes from a 1995 PBS documentary called “The Fifty Years War”. Some footage immediately preceding what’s here gives some indication that there was also an attempt by the Haganah to discredit the Irgun by claiming that Deir Yassin was a massacre, although if truth be told, the Irgun’s professional standards weren’t very high.