Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

First U.S. Memorial to Deir Yassin Dedicated in New York State

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

First U.S. Memorial to Deir Yassin Dedicated in New York State

Article excerpt

ON SEPT. 24, 2003, members and friends of Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) dedicated the first memorial in the United States to the victims of the April 9, 1948 massacre of the Palestinian Arab village near Jerusalem. The sculpture joins two other commemorations of the tragedy: a plaque at Dar al Tifl al Arabi, which stands across from Orient House in East Jerusalem and where Hind Husseini sheltered orphans of the massacre the following day; and a small stone at Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland (see photo of Issam Nashashibi on facing page).

The DYR memorial, located on the western shore of Seneca Lake in the upstate New York town of Geneva, depicts a mature olive tree, a symbol of peace and of Palestinian culture, uprooted in the Zionist quest to build a Jewish state on land long owned and inhabited by Palestinians. Some of the tree's roots still cling to the earth, however, symbolizing the strength and tenacity of its tenders.

According to Daniel McGowan, founder of the eight-year-old organization, DYR's ultimate goal is "to build a memorial and information center at Deir Yassin, and thereby resurrect what is arguably the single most important event in 20th century Palestinian history."

Realizing it may take years to realize its dream of building a memorial at the actual site of the massacre-which, ironically, is visible to visitors as they leave Yad Vashem, Israel's museum honoring victims of the European Holocaust-DYR in the meantime has held two international conferences and sponsors yearly commemorations around the world on the anniversary of the massacre.

"Deir Yassin was not the only massacre," McGowan noted, "nor was it the largest." Its impact, however, was profound, causing terrorized Palestinian families to flee their homes as news of the massacre spread and Jewish militias continued their assaults on towns and villages allocated to a Palestinian state under the 1947 U.N. partition plan.

For its American memorial, DYR commissioned Berkeley, CA-based artist Khalid Bendib to design and create a sculpture for the site. Not only is the Algerian-born Bendib a trenchant political cartoonist (his book, It Became Necessary to Destroy the Planet in Order to Save It, is available from the AET Book Club), he also is a noted sculptor. Among his works is the sculpture honoring Alex Odeh, the West Coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) who was murdered in Santa Ana, CA in 1985.

The bronze plaque adorning the memorial features a Haiku by Randa Hamwi Duwaji:

Earth torn roots yearning,

Palestine landscape mourning

Displaced descendants

The Deir Yassin memorial was a local effort as well. …

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