If you read tomorrows National Post, you’ll find an editorial condemning me. Oddly enough, the basis of the condemnation is an article that was commissioned by the Post itself (which will also run tomorrow).
Context is everything. The Post had asked me to write about Israel’s 60th anniversary, as part of series of articles by many different writers that were set to run this week. Knowing that every other writer for the series would be strongly pro Israel, I decided to write an article expressing my doubts about Israeli nationalism and the standard accounts of Israel’s creation (accounts which have been effectively challenged by a new generation of historians). If I hadn’t been writing for the Post, I wouldn’t have expressed myself as strongly as I did in the article I wrote, but I felt that Post readers needed to hear another side of the story articulated as forcefully as possible. So, ironically, the very fact that I was writing for the Post has made me a target for the Post.
In any case, my article can be found here. An excerpt:
Sixty years ago, a 12-year-old boy witnessed the slaughter of his family. His name was Fahim Zaydan, and he lived in the Arab village of Deir Yassin in Mandate Palestine, which was attacked on April 9, 1948, by Irgun and Stern Gang troops, paramilitary forces allied with the right-wing of the Zionist movement. These troops swooped into the village and started machine gunning civilians. Those that survived this initial attack were then forced by the troops to gather outside.
“They took us out one after the other,” Zaydan recalled. “Shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him — carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her — they shot her too.”
Irgun commander Ben Zion-Cohen offered a more succinct account of what happened: “We eliminated every Arab that came our way.” This statement glosses over the fact that some of the Arab women were raped by Irgun and Stern Gang troops before they were killed. At least 93 civilians in the village were murdered that day, not just women and children but also babies.
The massacre at Deir Yassin is one of the most famous atrocities of 1948, but it was not the only one nor the largest. In fact, if one were cynical one could argue that Deir Yassin gets publicized only because its perpetrators were Irgun and Stern Gang troops, easy scapegoats who can be blamed for the violence in order to make the mainstream Labor Zionism of David Ben-Gurion look more respectable.
Deir Yassin was in fact a microcosm of what happened in Palestine as a whole in 1948: Zionist troops, including those under Ben-Gurion’s command, used terror tactics to force the indigenous population to flee. Israel was founded through an act of ethnic cleansing, of a type all too familiar in recent history.