SIR – Josef Kleinman was one of the lucky ones who survived the mass murder of Jews in Dachau, inmate 114986, and settled with his wife Haya in a tree-lined surburb of Givat Shaul in West Jerusalem. Givat Shaul is a friendly, bright neighbourhood of retired couples, small shops, flats, trees and some elegant old houses of yellow stone.
One or two of these bear the scars of bullets fired long ago on April 9th, 1948, when another people faced their own catastrophe. For Givat Shaul used to be Deir Yassin. Here it was that 130 Palestinians were massacred by two Jewish militias, the Irgun Zvai and the Stern Gang, as the emigre Jews now in Palestine fought to establish a Zionist state called Israel. British premier Lloyd George sought to establish a homeland for displaced people of the Jewish faith in Palestine ‘without detriment to the rights of the Arab population’.
In a world grown weary of war and familiar with the millions of refugees who had washed across Europe, what was the lot of 750,000 Palestinian refugees? They would have to pay the price. They would be told that they were the aggressors and those who dispossessed them the victims.
In the decades to come the Palestinians would be the ‘terrorists’ and those who stole their lands would be the innocents. The slaughter so terrified tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, weeks before the Arab armies came to assist them, that they fled their homes en masse – just some of the 750,000 – to create the refugee population whose vale of sorrow lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian war.
Back in 1948 around the old houses which still exist close to Kleinman’s home, Palestinian women were torn to pieces by grenades thrown by Jewish terrorists. This has been confirmed in Red Cross records and the dispatches of foreign correspondents of the time make it quite clear that the villagers of Deir Yassin were murdered and that some of the women were disemboweled. The Deir Yassin massacre and ethnic cleansing continued in villages all over Palestine.
Israel came into being after an anti-colonial war against the British occupation army, yet within years Israel’s own army, now itself the occupation force, was fighting an equally colonial guerrilla war in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the words of Churchill, ‘if our dreams for Zionism should be dissolved in the smoke of the revolvers of Jewish assassins and if our efforts for its future should provoke a new wave of banditry worthy of the Nazi Germans, many persons like myself will have to reconsider the position that we have maintained so firmly for such a long time.’
Nothing has changed in the meantime. The Palestinians continue to be the victims of banditry labeled by their oppressors as ‘terrorists’ and the theft of land continues unabated,
Pairc na Fana,