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FPA: The Massacre of Deir Yassin – Lessons for Today

Free Palestine Alliance

April 9, 1948 is engraved in the collective memory of the Palestinian people – it is the day the Zionist movement carried out the Massacre of Deir Yassin. In our commemoration of this monumental turning point, the FPA attempts to draw lessons for today as we place the struggle of our people in its historical context.

We believe that we are presently enduring a period in Palestine and elsewhere that is similar in many ways to that of the Nakba era , during which Arab regimes and functionary aristocracies played a critical role in deflating the fledgling anti-colonial Arab struggle. Between the thirties and sixties of last century the struggle was over the advance of colonial projects. Today, it is about normalizing the material gains of these same colonial projects as integral parts of the Arab national fabric in all of its components.

On an overall Arab level, today there is an aggressive attempt to advance the reactionary monarchy of Saudi Arabia as the viable leading voice for the Arab people. Coupled with the multitude of other functionary despots, primarily Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, the Saudi monarchy is in fact completing the very role it was destined to fulfill – to deliver the Arab Nation to Western colonialism – all the way while the project to de-Arabize and truncate the Arabs is in full swing.

On the Palestinian level, the project to end Palestine is also in full swing. The Palestinian decolonization movement for freedom and independence is being replaced with a quarrel over the size of the mini-Bantustan in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – and damned be the rest of the Palestinian people and the rest of Palestine. And rather than firmly continuing the insistence that the Palestinian struggle is one of national liberation, the Palestinian movement is being reduced to one of “refugee rights” merely requesting human rights.

Lest it is forgotten, we believe that there can never be return without liberation and there can never be liberation without return. This inseparable dialectical relationship between the two is what anchors the Palestinian movement and is further shored up by its third anchor, the democratic and populist nature of this anti-colonial struggle, away from monarchs and functionary despots.

History in perspective:
Much like a long list of successive massacres against Arabs and Palestinians, such as Sabra and Shatila of 1982 and Jenin of 2002, Deir Yassin is a shameful blot on the conscience of the world while, ironically, also constituting a reminder of the resilience of those struggling for freedom. It is a story told in blood and enduring pain, as it is repeated today albeit with the perpetrators assuming differing names.

In a vivid reminder of today’s Palestinian calls for solidarity and support, Abed Al-Qader Al-Husseini, then leader of the Palestinian resistance movement during the late forties, returned empty handed from various Arab countries, except for the popular support of the Arab masses. He was at the helm of the resistance movement facing the advance of Zionist forces throughout Palestine. On April 8, 1948, Al-Husseini was murdered by Zionist forces in a counter attack in the Battle of Al-Qastal in western Jerusalem. His death sent shock waves throughout Palestine. On the following day, and no sooner than the news began to spread, the vicious gangs of Irgun and Stern led by Menahem Begin and Yitzhaq Shamir, both to become Israeli prime ministers, swept the nearby village of Deir Yassin, which had previously brokered an understanding of non-violence with the nearby Zionist colony . At least 245 unarmed Palestinians were executed, with many of the victims discarded in mass graves.

Two days later, on April 11, the Zionist Haganah forces destroyed Kalonia, and by April 30, all Palestinians in the areas of Jerusalem occupied by Zionists were forcibly expelled. These are the primary areas of Jerusalem that is often referred to today as West Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli control since 1948 ; the part the Palestinians are required to cede happily to Israel.

The Deir Yassin massacre and the terror that seized the Palestinian people in its wake marked the beginning of the destruction and depopulation of over 500 villages, the uprooting of approximately 75% of the Palestinians from their homes, and the colonization of 78% of their land, upon which the Israeli polity was declared as a state.

To enumerate Israel’s campaigns of settler colonial violence would far exceed the space of this document. In fact, Zionist campaigns of terror are not limited to the Palestinian people. In Egypt, 1954, the Israeli Mossad planted several explosives at public places and the British and American Cultural offices in Cairo and Alexandria to aggravate the British and Americans against the newly formed Egyptian revolutionary Republic under Nasser. Between September 1967 and May 1969 Israel carried out bombings against residential quarters in Ismailiah, Suez and Port Said, and Al Mansoura. In 1970, it launched air raids killing laborers at Abu Za’bal factory and young pupils at Bahr Al Baqar school.

Between 1959-63, Israel raided and killed the residents of Nuqeib, Rafat, Al Karamah, and Sheikh Hussein in Syria and Jordan; and in 1967 it launched massive shelling of Al Salt and Irbid areas. It also carried out continuous Napalm bombing of the villages and the refugee camps on the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River in February 1968, and Al Karamah in March 1968. The Israeli destruction campaigns in Lebanon are well known, including in 1978, 1982, the massacre of Qana in April 1996, and the latest assault of 2006. In 1950 Iraq, the Israeli Mossad committed viscous crimes by bombing synagogues to cause artificial fear among Jewish Arabs, to force migration to the newly formed Zionist state. In 1985, US-made Israeli jets bombed an Iraqi civilian nuclear installation near Baghdad. It was Israel that bombed the Libyan civilian airline in February 1973 killing 105 passengers. In Tunisia, Israel shelled the area of Hammam Al Shat suburb in June 1987 and in April 1988 landed in the same area to assassinate the late Khalil Al-Wazir.

Democratic Pan-Arabism: The Heart of Anti-Colonialism
The scorching and robbery of Palestine, cumulatively referred to as Nakba of 1948 and commemorated on May 15 of every year, was taking place during a period the newly installed post WW II puppet Arab regimes were implementing a British-French-US agenda of establishing proxy neo-colonial functionary entities. In fact, the British and French had secretly cut up the Arab Nation in 1916 in what became known as the Syks-Picot agreement, slicing up various Arab lands and people for French and British colonial rule. Handpicked regimes were placed in various areas, and fictitious boundaries were drawn, under the overarching slogan “divide and conquer.” In effect, the genesis of much of what exists today comes from that era.

As geo-political interests evolved and political systems developed in the Arab world, all pro-western functionary regimes were rewarded and strengthened, and all those daring to challenge the might of colonial powers were targeted for destruction. The dichotomy between opponents and proponents of Arab independence became vivid, with those in opposition emerging as an organic extension of the colonial project.

As an example, when on July 23, 1952, the Free Officers led by Gamal Abd el-Nasser succeeded in revolting against the British-propped monarchy in Egypt under King Farouq, Egypt earned the distinction of being a primary target of colonial powers. It is in this context that , following the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956, France, Britain and Israel launched a tripartite attack on Egypt on October 29 of the same year in an attempt to dislodge this fledgling expression of Pan-Arab independence. The intent was to deny Egypt the ability to finance the Aswan High Dam through potential earnings from Suez Canal navigation fees. The Aswan dam was projected to propel Egypt into modern capabilities in agriculture, manufacturing and commerce. It was termed Egypt’s oil equivalent. Only two days after the tripartite attack, Zionists carried out the massacre of Kufur Qassim in Palestine. Egypt remained under this distinction until the death of Nasser in 1970 and the rise of Sadat, better known as western functionary par-excellence.

The lesson colonists hoped to teach through this attack was the same the US attempted in Iran when it toppled Prime Minister Mohammed Mossaddeq in 1953 for daring to consider nationalizing Iranian oil away from Western control. Similar coups, murders, and destabilization projects were carried out throughout the southern hemisphere from Guatemala’s Arbenz in 1954 to Chille’s Allende in 1973, to the murder of Congo’s Lumumba in 1961 in Guevara in 1967, to the landing of the US marines in Lebanon in 1958, and the list goes on. This is the real legacy of colonialism that the west is attempting to whitewash today through their petty minions.

To the disappointment of colonists, however, massacres have typically revolutionized popular movements by dropping the farce of benign colonialism. Such was the case, for instance, with the Sharpville massacre in South Africa in 1960 that caused the African National Congress to form in response its armed wing, the Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), and radically transform its character. The defeat of the Egyptian forces in Palestine in 1948 due to despotic government and outdated and dysfunctional weaponry gave one of the main impetus for the Free Officers to launch the July 23 Revolution headed by Nasser. From the massacres of 1970 in Jordan, rose the Palestinian movement in Lebanon, and from the ashes of Sabra and Shatila rose the Intifada of 1987.

As movements emerged, so did revolutionary literature which developed the understanding of violence in the context of colonialism. Here, Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking work while narrating the struggle in Algeria is worth re-discovery. The work of the Pan-Arabists and Palestinian democratic nationalists that evolved into the Arab National Movement also set a new paradigm to understand the nature of the conflict. Rejecting the notions of colonial discourse that the resistance of the colonized is evil, the Arab movement pointed to the wrath of western colonial adventures in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine and beyond to reflect on the real meaning of resistance. Volumes of works by democratic and populist revolutionaries were published and debated, including writings of the late Palestinian writer, Ghassan Kanafani.

Kanafani critically evaluated the class and political character of the years leading up to the open advance of Zionist forces throughout Palestine, when the Palestinian people had organized a multitude of successive revolts in opposition to British-Zionist colonial programs. Of particular importance was the 6-months long general strike of 1936 that swept the entirety of the county paralyzing all aspects of life. It is critical to note that this strike was aborted from within at the hands of corrupt Arab leaders, as was the case with the Madrid Conference and Oslo accords that deflated the 6-year long Intifada of 1987, and the same with the Intifada of 2000. In the same context, it is also important to point out that it was treasonous regimes and corrupt functionaries that aided in the defeat of the Palestinian anti-Zionist struggle in 1947 and 1948.

The common thread between the despotic Arab leadership then and now is that they both served functionary roles irrespective of the will of the Arab masses and aspirations – always attempting to secure their positions at the expense of the people’s struggle, bartering on the way any remaining piece of dignity and using the will of the people as a chip in a poker game of servitude.

As is the case today, two camps were then locked in an existential struggle over the Arab people. On the one hand, anti-colonial revolutionaries led by Nasser were positioned to sweep the region as the Algerian struggle set forth a new flagship of revolutionary resilience. On the other hand, corrupt Saudi and Hashemite monarchs and other puppet rulers throughout the Arab Nation were implementing the bid of imperial designs in direct confrontation with the rising anti-colonial movements worldwide. These are the same two camps today, with the Palestinian revolution occupying the flagship space of the Algerian. The monarchs are the same, and those functionaries may have changed names, but certainly not roles.

The dangerously destructive influence of the Saudi and Hashemite monarchy today, propped up by the despotic Egyptian regime, constitute the primary danger within the Arab fold. These functionary regimes along with their extensions in Palestine through Mahmud Abbas, in Lebanon through Fouad Saniora, and in Iraq through the existing government(s), are eager to eliminate anything that stands in the way of the US-Israeli program they are entrusted to implement.

Key elements targeted by these functionaries are (1), the Palestinian movement anchored by the right of return, (2) the resistance in Lebanon, (3) the strengthening of a genuine resistance in Iraq, and (4) the rise of popular movements against despotism and neo-colonial policies throughout the Arab Nation.

Deir Yassin: The Struggle Continues
Ironically enough, the same April that invokes memories of massacres and destruction of the yester years, does the same today. It was on April 18, 1996, that Israel committed the Masacre of Qana in Lebanon, and on April 3, 2002 Israeli tanks rolled into Janin under the watchful eyes of Arab regimes and functionaries, and it was in April the following year, 2003, when US forces assumed their now-failed control over Iraq, with the active participation of these same regimes – the ones who just convened their summit in Riyadh in late March of this year and enthusiastically announced their willingness to normalize with Zionist colonists.

Thus, Deir Yassin is even more than a massacre – it is all the Deir Yassins that preceded and followed. It is a reminder of the wrath of colonists, a manifestation of corruption and acquiescence, and an inevitable result of placating imperial policies. Never forget that had the Palestinians were genuinely supported in 1948, the outcome of the Arab struggle against Zionism would have been different. It is also a reminder that political clarity is a must; and that trusting those who repeatedly sacrifice the Arab people on the US-Israeli alter, is, at best, dangerously naïve.

Deir Yassin is a lesson that unity can never be forged with those who sell Arab land and struggle. And a sad reminder that, like 1948, the course put forward by corruption is a course that leads to nothing other than death. Victories and freedoms are never earned through palaces of monarchs or maneuvers of sell-outs – they are earned in spite of them.

The FPA calls on all to reclaim our history and path of resistance by rejecting the capitulating alternatives of today and championing the strength and will of an organized popular mass movement that spans the Arab Nation from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, with Palestine as its flagship.