Zionism, Transfer and Massacre
From the Introduction to: Israel – An Apartheid State, by Uri Davis, Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1987
In political Zionism, two broad traditions emerge: Labour Zionism and Revisionist Zionism. Labour Zionism is attempt to reconcile the basic tenets of political Zionist and colonial practice with the tenets of the enlightenment. Since these two sets of values are mutually exclusive, Labour Zionist literature has been largely predicated upon the obfuscation of Zionist colonial practice, and upon mystification, ignorance and cultivated deception. Revisionist Zionist has largely escaped the Labour Zionist predicament of attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable. In contradistinction to Labour Zionism, it has attempted, with considerable success, to locate Zionism ideologically and practically inside the tradition of modern secular racism and imperial colonialism.
Political Zionism claims to offer a valid solution to the question of anti-Jewish racism: the establishment, through the Jewish colonization of Palestine, of a sovereign, exclusively Jewish state; the transformation of Arab Palestine, through the dispossession and the mass transfer of the Palestinian Arab population, into Jewish Israel, an Israel that would, in the words of Haim Weizmann, subsequently first President of the state of Israel, "be as Jewish as America is American or England English" (quoted by Martin Gilbert, Exile and Return, The Emergence of the Jewish Statehood, p.117)
The practical implications of the Zionist aspirations to make Palestine ‘Jewish’ were outlined clearly by one of the architects of the Zionist settlement, Joseph Weitz (1890-1973), Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) from 1951 to 1973. Weitz was born in Wolhynia (Russia) in 1890 and immigrated into Palestine in 1908. He became head of the Plant and Afforestation Department of the JNF (1918-1932); Director of the Subcommittee for Naming Agricultural Settlements and Chairman of the Land Development Council of the JNF (1960-1967). He was former Chairman of the Israel Land Authority and a prolific publicist and author of books on land, colonization and afforestation. He also published his memoirs in six volumes. In 1967, contributing to the Israeli daily Davar, Weitz proposed ‘A Solution to the [Palestinian] Refugee Problem", as follows:
Any suggestion for the colonization of the liberated territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) and the territories held under Israeli administration (the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights) must be subjected necessarily to a definite policy which addresses and solves three fundamental problems rendered more acute by the Six-Day War: Regional security, demographic security and the settlement of the refugees.
The first problem is understood by all and needs no explanations. As to the demographical problem, there are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbour than over those of a tenant. The author of these columns tends to support the latter view, and has an additional argument to support his position: the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish, and obviously in the near future, by the majority of its inhabitants, with a non-Jewish minority limited to 15 percent. I had already reached this fundamental conclusion as early as 1940, concerning which it is entered in my diary as follows:
‘Among ourselves it must be clear that there is no place in the country for both peoples together…With the Arabs we shall not achieve our aim of being independent people in this country. The only solution is Eretz Israel, at least the west part of Eretz Israel, without Arabs…and there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, transfer all of them, not one village or tribe should remain, and the transfer must aim at Iraq, Syria and even Transjordan. For this purpose money will be found, much money; and only with this transfer could the country absorb millions of our brothers. There is no other alternative…One should investigate now the neighbouring countries in order to determine their capacity to absorb the Arabs of Eretz Israel’"
The role of the massacre in the Palestinian Arab village of Deir Yassin in bringing about what Weitz termed ‘the only solution’, namely, ‘Eretz Israel, at least the west part of Eretz Israel, without Arabs’, cannot be under-estimated. Prior to its destruction in 1948, the village of Deir Yassin, on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, had a population of some 400 people. On 9 April 1948, the Revisionist Zionist Military Organization (Irgun Tzevai Leumi – IZL), led by the future Prime Minister Menahem Begin, and the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel (Lohamei Herut Israel – LEHI), led by Begin’s successor, Yitzhak Shamir, attacked Deir Yassin with some 130 men and murdered approximately 250 men, women and children. Some of the survivors were then marched in blood-drenched clothes through the streets of Jerusalem:
It was noon when the battle ended and the shooting stopped. Things had become quiet, but the village had not surrendered. The IZL and LEHI irregulars left the places in which they had been hiding and started carrying out cleaning up operations in the houses. They fired with all the arms they had, and threw explosives into the houses. They also shot everyone they saw in the houses, including women and children – indeed the commanders made no attempt to check the disgraceful acts of slaughter. I myself and a number of inhabitants begged the commanders to give orders to their men to stop the shooting but our efforts were unsuccessful. In the meantime some twenty-five men had been brought out of the houses: they were loaded into a freight truck and led in a ‘victory parade’, like a Roman triumph, through to Mahaneh Yehuda and Zikhron Yosef quarters [of Jerusalem]. At the end of the parade the were taken to a stone quarry between Giv’at Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot in cold blood. The fighters then put the women and children who were still alive on a truck and took them to the Mandelbaum Gate (Meir Pa’il, Yedi’ot Aharonot, 4 April 1972; as quoted by David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, pp.126-7)
Another testimony of the massacre at Deir Yassin was provided by Jacques de Reynier, Head of the International Red Cross Delegation in Palestine at that time:
.. the Commander of the IRGUN detachment did not seem willing to receive me. At last he arrived, young distinguished, and perfectly correct, but there was a peculiar glitter in his eyes, cold and cruel. According to him the IRGUN had arrived 24 hours earlier and ordered the inhabitants by loudspeaker to evacuate all houses and surrender: the time given to obey the order was a quarter of an hour. Some of these miserable people had come forward and were taken prisoner, to be released later in the direction of the Arab lines. The rest, not having obeyed the order, had met the fate they deserved. But there was no point in exaggerating things, there were only a few dead, and they would be buried as soon as the ‘cleaning up’ of the village was over. If I found any bodies, I could take them, but there were certainly no wounded. This account made my blood run cold.
I went back to the Jerusalem road and got an ambulance and a truck that I had alerted through the Red Shield…I reached the village with my convoy, and the Arab firing stopped. The gang was wearing country uniforms with helmets. All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women, armed to the teeth; revolvers, machine-guns, hand grenades, and also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained. A beautiful young girl, with criminal eyes, showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy. This was the ‘cleaning up’ team, that was obviously performing its task very conscientiously.
I tried to go into a house. A dozen soldiers surrounded me, their machine-guns aimed at my body, and their officer forbade me to move. The dead, if any, would be brought to me, he said. I then flew into one of the most towering rages of my life, telling these criminals what I thought of their conduct, threatening them with everything I could think of, and then pushed them aside and went into the house.
The first room was dark, everything was in disorder, but there was no one. In the second, amid disembowelled furniture and covers and all sorts of debris, I found some bodies, cold. Here the ‘cleaning up’ had been done with machine-guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room, but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive…everywhere it was the same horrible sight…there had been 400 people in this village; about fifty of them had escaped and were still alive. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed for myself, this gang was admirably disciplined and only acted under orders.
After another visit to Deir Yassin I went back to my office where I was visited by two gentlemen, well-dressed in civilian clothes, who has been waiting for me for more than an hour. They were the commander of the IRGUN detachment and his aide. They had prepared a paper that they wanted me to sign. It was a statement to the effect that I had been very courteously received by them, and obtained all the facilities I had requested, in the accomplishment of my mission, and thanking them for the help I had received. As I showed signs of hesitation and even started to argue with them, they said that if I valued my life, I had better sign immediately. The only course open to me was to convince them that I did not value my life in the least… (Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un Drapeau Flottait sur la Ligne de Feu, pp.71-6; as quoted by D. Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, pp.127-8
Today, in the ruins of the village of Deir Yassin, a community of 100 Torah-observant families is planned. This new quarter of Jerusalem will be named Qiryat Har Nof (the Township of the Scenic Mountain) (advertisement in the Jerusalem Post, 30 June 1980).
The Deir Yassin massacre, perpetrated by the unofficial Revisionist Zionist underground organisations, the IZL and the LEHI, was not an isolated incident. The official Labour Zionist-controlled Israeli army, the Israel Defence Forces (ZAHAL), perpetrated similar outrages, of which the massacre at al-Duwayma in 1948, documented below, is but one. The following account of the massacre appeared in Davar, the official Hebrew daily of the Labour Zionist-controlled Histadrut General Federation of Workers in the Land of Israel:
We did not always successfully face the test of Jewish ethics, of which we were proud: the purity of arms. Recently I ran across a letter dated 8.11.1948, which reads as follows:
‘I wish to submit to you an eyewitness report given to me by a soldier who was in al-Duwayma on the day following its occupation….The man is one of us [member of the United Workers’ Party – Mapam]…
‘He opened his heart to me because there are not many hearts these days that are willing to listen. He arrived in al-Duwayma immediately after its occupation. The conquering army was Battalion 89…They killed some 80-100 Arabs, women and children. The children were killed by smashing their skulls with clubs. There was not a single house without dead. The second wave of the army consisted of the Battalion of the soldier who gave this eyewitness report….In the village there remained Arab men and women who were put in the houses without food or drink. Then the sappers came to blow up the houses. One officer ordered a sapper to put two old women into the house he was about to blow up. The sapper refused, and said that he would obey only such orders as were handed down to him by his immediate commander. So the officer ordered his own soldiers to put the old women in, and the atrocity was carried out. Another soldier boasted that he had raped an Arab woman and then shot her. Another Arab woman with a day-old baby was employed in cleaning jobs in the yard…She worked for one or two days in the service, and then she was shot, together with her baby…Cultured and well mannered commanders who are considered good fellows…have turned into low murderers, and this happened not in the storm of the battle and blind passion, but because of a system of expulsion and annihilation. The fewer Arabs remain the better…." (quoted in Eyal Kafkafi, ‘A Ghetto Attitude in the Jewish State’, Davar, 6 September 1979)
Al-Duwayma, prior to its destruction in 1948, was a large Palestinian Arab village some 17 kilometres west of Hebron, with a population of some 2,700. In 1955 Kibbutz Amatziyah was established on the site by a nucleus of Israeli-born Jews and new Anglo-Saxon Jewish immigrants. The settlement has since altered its status to that of a co-operative smallholder Moshav.
The impact of the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 was subsequently assessed by Israel Eldad (Scheib), who together with the future Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir and Nathan Yalin-Mor (Friedman), led the LEHI. As noted above, the LEHI and the IRGUN together planned the attack and perpetrated the massacre at Deir Yassin. Speaking at a closed discussion in the summer of 1967, as subsequently transcribed and published in the influential journal De’ot (‘Opinions’) in the winter of the following year, Eldad commented:
I have always said that if the deepest and profoundest hope symbolizing redemption is the re-building of the [Jewish] Temple…then it is obvious that these mosques [al-Haram al -Sharif and al-Aqsa] will have, one way or another, to disappear one of these days…Had it not been for Deir Yassin – half a million Arabs would be living in the state of Israel [in 1948]. The State of Israel would not have existed. We must not disregard this, with full awareness of the responsibility involved. All wars are cruel. There is no way out of that. This country will either be Eretz Israel with an absolute Jewish majority and a small Arab minority, or Eretz Ishmael, and Jewish emigration will begin again if we do not expel the Arabs one way or another….(Eldad, ‘On the Spirit That Was Revealed in the People’, De’ot, Winter 1968; as quoted in Davis and Mezvinsky (eds.), Documents from Israel (1967-1973, pp.186-7)
It is against this historical background that MK Aharon Yariv, former military intelligence chief and Minister of Information, stated in a public seminar in the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that:
There are opinions which advocate that a war situation be utilized in order to exile 700-800 thousands Arabs. These opinions are widespread. Statements have been voiced on the matter and also instruments (apparatuses) have been prepared (Ha’aretz, 23 May 1980)