Deir Yassin: Evidence

A few weeks ago I published a harthives piece from 2009 on the culture of Deir Yassin, and why it stood out over most of the other battles during Israel’s war of Independence. A collaboration between the Israeli left and Palestinian propaganda starting in the late 1950s built a cottage industry claiming that the IDF committed war crimes centered around the evidence of that battle.

If you want to read that original piece and the politics that drives it, go here 

Deir Yassin was not a massacre. There were many hard fought battles during Israel’s war of Independence and this was one of them. Meir Pail, the Haganna observer of the battle, one of the mapamnikim spoken about in the first essay from 2009 provided the only official Haganna report on the incident. However, he remains suspect because of his left wing allegiances.

If you want to read Meir Pail’s official report on Deir Yassin click here

Pail, reported and has maintained to this day,  “most of the bodies were women and children. There were no Palestinian irregular ‘gangs’ there.”

Contary to this view, “Watchman on the Walls”  by Hannah Hurnard, describes first hand knowledge of  irregular fighters bivouac inside Deir Yassin. Hurnard was  one of twelve protestant missionaries, present in Jerusalem during Israel’s war of independence.  As a missionary she took no side in the conflict. Unlike Pail she had no ax to grind with either Jews or Arabs. She describes in her diary in detail a picnic she took alone on December 26, 1947, anxious to get away from the tension in Jerusalem at that point and to spend “a quiet prayer afternoon in the open country.”

She mentions Deir Yassin months before the Jewish attack on the town in April. There is no way she or anyone else, could have known its fate at that time. The following is her own description of what she saw and felt that afternoon when her own relaxation was interrupted.

…there was a distant bang, as though some kind of heavy artillery had been fired—not a rifle shot but something louder and duller…something hit the ground beside the van with a heavy thud…can  it be that someone is firing in this direction?..The hillside… sloped steeply down to a deep and narrow valley and another hill rose abruptly on the other side. On the brow of this opposite hill was an Arab village named Deir Yassin, exactly facing the suburb of Beit hakerem…a puff of smoke spurted out from a spot just below the village, then another  reverberation…I saw men moving on the opposite hillside, as though to improve their range, and with my heart in my mouth… I accelerated anxiously: to my  relief the car jerked forward and I got her facing up the hill and away.

Pail had claimed in his report that Deir Yassin was a peaceful village and even had a peace pact with  Givat Shaul, a neighboring Haredi (religious) village. Remember most orthodox Jews did not support Zionist aims before Israel became a survived state, so some sort of agreement is not out of the realm of possibility even if the elders at Deir Yassin apparently did not keep to it.

At any rate, if Hurnard’s account is accurate, there was some firing from there on that day. I’d be willing to bet that wasn’t the only incident.

Hurnard’s account supports ETZEl and LEHI claims of fighting when they were there. Both groups sustained Jewish casualties and that could not have happened without resistance to the Jewish attack. But, Pail maintains they were unarmed right to this day.

There were some civilian deaths but massacre on the scale of what has become Deir Yassin folklore is hardly possible. Consider the following paragraph of a description of the Mei Lei massacre during the Viet Nam war, almost twenty years later to the day. A proven massacre of civilians, Mei Lei stains American military history as a criminal barbaric attack on a civilian target. Let’s see if what happened at Deir Yassin is an honest comparison.

The following comes from Jonathan Glover’s “Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century.

Early in the morning the soldiers were landed in the village by helicopter. Many were firing as they spread out, killing both people and animals. There was no sign of the Vietcong battalion and no shot was fired at Charlie Company all day, but they carried on. They burnt down every house. They raped women and girls and then killed them. They stabbed some women in the vagina and disemboweled others, or cut off their hands or scalps. Pregnant women had their stomachs slashed open and were left to die. There were gang rapes and killings by shooting or with bayonets. There were mass executions.  Dozens of people at a time, including old men women and children were machine gunned in a ditch. In four hours nearly 500 villagers were killed.

Let’s unpack this.

Mei Lei, according to some Arab estimates could be Deir Yassin from the description above. But, what happened at Mei Lei never happened at Deir Yassin.

At Mei Lei the  American soldiers encountered no resistance, not a shot fired during the entire attack.

But at Deir Yassin there were almost fifty Jewish casualties, including six dead out of a 132 manned company. Jewish forces did sap some of the houses to eliminate sniper activity.

This is where Pail describes women and children dead.

“We went into the houses…in the corners we saw dead bodies. Almost all the dead were old people, children or  women. With a few men here and there…They also shot people running from the houses…mostly women and children.”

So, could this be similar to Mei Lei?

Other than describing those “women and children” running away from the scene, which Pail admittedly did not see, only surmised from the position of the bodies. This is consistent with hunting down snipers and killing them. The Etzel report describes only men running away with some dressed as women in a disguise. I will leave to you who you want to believe on this point.

Mei Lei took four hours to wipe out the whole village, and kill 500 men, women and children. Deir Yassin took two days with no more than 120 casualties, with 107 dead total according to a Bir Zeit University study in 1987, cited in the ZOA report on Deir Yassin.

Mei Lei was a massacre. Deir Yassin wasn’t.

No rapes took place at Deir Yassin, no pregnant women had their babies, torn out, no scalps being taken, no children murdered in cold blood, none of the atrocities that has followed that battle and promulgated by the Left, thanks to Meir Pail, and the Palestinian narrative for 67 years, ever happened.

Atrocities were entirely the now admitted fabrication of the Arabs, although Pail’s account above about going into the houses is often used as corroborating evidence against the Jewish side.

A BBC television series, “The 50 Years’ war, Israel and the Arabs” released for Israel’s 50th anniversary, in 1998, makes several startling revelations.


Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news in 1948, describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Palestine).

“I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,” recalled Nusseibeh. “He said, ‘We must make the most of this.’ So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. all sorts of atrocities.”

A Deir Yassin survivor, identified as Abu Mahmud, said the villagers protested at the time. “We said, ‘There was no rape.’ [Khalidi] said, ‘We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.'” Nusseibeh admitted that the propaganda boomeranged. “This was our biggest mistake. We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that

women had been raped at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.”


From about 8:00-16:00 minutes the incident at Deir Yassin is covered. Both Nusseibeh and Abu Mahmud appear in this film and give the evidence written about above. Meir Pe’il is also featured giving his narrative which is later refuted by the Arab speakers.


LEHI and IZL taking part in the Deir Yassin battle should be exonerated from all of these false accusations. Meir Pail, who was the most prominent on the Jewish side for promoting these atrocities, should make a public apology, sometime before he dies. It would be the right thing to do.

And, Deir Yassin should be put in its proper historical perspective. It was one battle, among many hard fought battles,  during the Jewish push to relieve the road to Jerusalem from Arab attack on their convoys trying to get to besieged Jerusalem.

Nothing else.

Photo at top courtesy of

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