Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Southern California Chronicle: Deir Yasin; Still Remembered after 51 Years

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Southern California Chronicle: Deir Yasin; Still Remembered after 51 Years

Article excerpt

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHRONICLE: Deir Yasin; Still Remembered After 51 Years

This year, when April 9 rolls around, ceremonies in the United States and Jerusalem will commemorate the massacre perpetrated at the Palestinian hamlet of Deir Yassin by the terrorist Israeli Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Lehi (Stern Gang) militias in 1948. A procession from Arab East Jerusalem will be led by school teacher Khaireh Abu Shusheh to the site of Deir Yassin, provided an Israeli permit for the march is forthcoming. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also will host an observance in Washington.

Much of the renewed awareness of Deir Yassin is the result of a one-man project, Deir Yassin Remembered, which was started by Prof. Dan McGowan. He will be speaking about the massacre and its effect on the Palestinian psyche April 7 at the University of Michigan, April 9 at Georgetown University, and April 17 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

McGowan also spearheaded publication of Remembering Deir Yassin: The Future of Israel and Palestine. The book, which is about 50 years overdue, is going into a second printing and is available through the AET Book Club (see catalog p. 129 of this issue). Hopefully, if a new generation of Jews and non-Arabs read it, the national tragedy wreaked on the Palestinians will finally be understood.

McGowan, who co-edited the book with Marc H. Ellis, is a college economics professor who learned about the Deir Yassin massacre on a trip to Israel/Palestine. Ever since, he has been leading a campaign to establish a memorial to the 254 Palestinians murdered there by Israeli forces 51 years ago. Ellis is a Jewish theologian specializing in modrn Judaism and post-Holocaust thought.

All proceeds from the book are earmarked for a Deir Yassin memorial fund McGowan has established. An oil painting by New York artist and human rights activist Ann Leggett, which graces the paperback cover, will go to the highest bidder at an April 9 auction. McGowan vows that someday a memorial park or sculpture will be placed on the site of Deir Yassin, which is less than 1,400 meters distant from Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum.

"It is a chilling fact that Deir Yassin is in the shadow of Israel's preeminent national shrine where the names of every known Jewish victim of the Germans are recorded," McGowan commented. "Yet a few hundred feet away, the massacred civilians of Deir Yassin were cremated and buried in an unmarked grave. The irony and hypocrisy are breathtaking."

Most of the stone houses of Deir Yassin's massacred Palestinian villagers remain standing. They have been preserved partially because they are used to house residents of a Jewish mental institution known as Givat Shaul. However, few in this West Jerusalem neighborhood would even recognize the name of Deir Yassin if they were questioned and fewer, if any, would admit knowledge of the brutal massacre that occurred here on April 9, 1948.

Deir Yassin Remembered is not just a collection of essays dealing with the massacre of Palestinians by Jewish terrorists that prompted Arab villagers all over Palestine to panic in 1948. In his memoirs, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who had headed the Irgun terrorist gang, wrote that the "legend" of Deir Yassin "was worth half a dozen battalions to the forces of Israel" (in that it accelerated the ethnic cleansing of Israelioccupied portions of Palestine).

Divided in two parts, Remembering Deir Yassin's first section deals with the Palestinian catastrophe which began with Deir Yassin and concludes with a proposal for a memorial park. The second half offers individual visions of how Jewish admission of "a martyrdom cast to the winds" could lead to a binational state.

Essayist Souad Dajani theorizes that Israeli creation of facts on the ground has precluded a two-state solution to the IsraeliPalestinian dispute, leaving the only viable solution the creation of a binational state in which Israelis finally acknowledge and try to redress the Palestinian past. …

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