Did ‘Doc’ Evatt’s support for Israel lead to the massacre at Deir Yassin?

Dear Colleagues

I know the information below is, in all probability, known to all.

It is also extremely painful to remember.

Nevertheless, in all anniversaries such as that of Deir Yassin, we must relive the past to correct the present and ensure a better future.

The information has been sourced from books by Benny Morris, who needs no introduction, and Matthew Hogan, the historian.

In solidarity

David Albuquerque

The Historiography of Deir Yassin.

By Benny Morris.

(Benny Morris  is a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, Israel.)

The village was attacked just before dawn on 9 April (1948). The dissident forces, mustering 130 troops, arrived from two directions, the 70-strong IZL column coming from the southeast (Beit Hakerem) and the LHI column from the northeast (Giv’at Shaul). Along a dirt track between these columns a van bearing a megaphone advanced towards the village from the east. Some 30 yards from the outskirts it halted, or overturned, at an impassable ditch, from which it broadcast to the villagers to cease resistance and to leave. It is unclear if any of the villagers actually heard the broadcasts-though, to be sure, many fled their homes to the nearby slopes at the first sound of gunfire.

The IZL troops, untrained and inexperienced in warfare (apart from terrorism), met stiff resistance and took casualties; their commander, Ben-Zion Cohen, was hit in the leg and evacuated. They then advanced slowly from house to house, clearing each objective with grenades and rifle and submachine gun-fire, and sometimes, explosives. Whole families were killed both inside buildings and in the alleyways outside, as they rushed out to try to escape or surrender.  The LHI column had an easier time and suffered fewer casualties. In the course of the battle, the dissidents ran low on ammunition and asked for and obtained thousands of rounds from the Haganah; Haganah squads also provided covering fire and fired on the refugees fleeing southward, towards “Ein Karim. Two squads of the Palmah (the elite strike force of the Haganah) also arrived on the scene and helped evacuate the wounded and take some of the houses.

By the afternoon, the battle was over. The IZL and LHI troops, who had suffered four dead and about a dozen seriously wounded (they later spoke of 30-40 wounded, surely an exaggeration), pillaged the houses and corpses and denuded the survivors of money and jewellery. Somewhat haphazardly, some set about burning the bodies31 while others loaded the survivors onto trucks and transported them, through West Jerusalem’s streets32 where some spectators jeered and even spat on and stoned them, to the border neighbourhood of Musrara, just north of 86 B. Morris the Old City walls, where they were offloaded. They then walked into East Jerusalem.

“The sight of the children and women arriving wounded, hungry and beaten” angered East Jerusalem’s Arabs.33 Apart from the villagers-combatants and noncombatants-killed in the course of the fighting, the IZL and LHI troops killed a number of prisoners in different parts of the village and inWest Jerusalem. The first, comprehensive HIS report on the incident, produced by Mordechai Gihon (“Eliezer”) on 10 April, speaks (incorrectly) of “some 200” dead, “mostly women and children.” Initially, according to Gihon, the orders were “to take prisoner the adult males and to send away the women and children . . . In the afternoon, the order was changed, to kill all the prisoners.

Gihon alleged that women prisoners were trucked to and held in Sheikh Badr, an IZL-occupied former Arab area in West Jerusalem, whereas the males were paraded around West Jerusalem and then taken back to Deir Yassin “and killed with rifle and machine-gun fire.” Gihon alleged that the mukhtar’s son was taken prisoner and executed “in front of his mother and sisters.

He described widespread beatings and curses, and looting and the stripping of jewelry and money from the prisoners.34 Follow-up reports by the head of the HIS in Jerusalem, Yitzhak Levy (“Yavneh”), written on 12 and 13 April, were similar: “The conquest of the village was carried out with great brutality, whole families [including] women, old people and children were killed and there are piles and piles of dead. Some of the prisoners taken away . . . including women and children were murdered barbarically by their captors.”35 Other HIS reports detail other killings.

On 12 April Levy reported that LHI troops had murdered a mother and child from Deir Yassin in Sheikh Badr. Seven “old men and women,” first trucked around Jerusalem, were taken back to Deir Yassin and murdered in its quarry. He also wrote of another Arab, “said to be a sniper,” who was executed and his corpse “burned in front of foreign journalists.”36 Meir Pa’il (“Avraham”), a Palmah intelligence officer who claimed to have been in Deir Yassin in late afternoon 9 April, reported the following day that he had seen “five Arabs” who had been murdered piled on top of each other in the quarry.37 Altogether about 100-110 villagers died on 9 April or, as one HIS report put it at the time: “A serious Arab summary on Deir Yassin says that there are about 100 killed.”

The bodies of the dead, were then either collected by Red Cross officials and transported for burial in East Jerusalem39 or buried on the spot by Haganah and Gadna (Haganah youth formation) troopers. Deir Yassin triggered vengefulness among the Arabs, “even among the moderates” and the “intelligentsia.”40 This was to result in the attack on the medical staff convoy to Mount Scopus on 13 April, in which, among others, dozens of doctors and nurses (and several wounded Jews, including one or two who had fought in Deir Yassin) were slaughtered by Arab irregulars. It also, among some, produced a belligerent resoluteness.41 And Deir Yassin alienated peace-prone Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah of Jordan, making it difficult for them to continue their dialogue with the Yishuv.



by Matthew Hogan (historian)

…meanwhile, villagers unable to evacuate cowered in the homes among which the guerrillas maneuvered. Attacker frustration settled upon them as they were captured.

Fahimi Zeidan, then a 12-year-old girl, remembered hiding with her own and another family when the house door was blasted open. The guerrillas took them outside. An already wounded man was shot, she said, and when one of his daughters screamed, they shot her too. They then called my brother Mahmoud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother (she was carrying my little sister Khadra who was still being breast fed) they shot my mother too.

The children and others were put against the wall and fired upon. She and some other children were wounded, but survived.

Villagers recall townspeople being shot as they fled or helped the injured. One guerrilla was seen at a house window with a machine gun, firing upon anyone going past. As attacker rage increased, guerrilla members produced knives they brought or found in the houses. Haleem Eid, a woman, reported seeing “a man shoot a bullet into the neck of my sister Salhiyeh who was nine months pregnant” and then brutally stab the body. A then eight-year-old girl named Thoraya later recalled cowering behind her aunts as they were stabbed to death. Villager accounts indicate that as many as 33 civilians were executed firing squad-style in the morning.…………….

Inside the houses, scores of villagers unable to escape earlier had sequestered themselves. Crowded into corners, residents were gunned down or blasted by hand grenades. Killings were not always quick. “You could hear the cries from within the houses of Arab women, Arab elders, Arab kids,” Pa’il remembered. Pa’il and his photographer followed “groups of men running from house to house looting and shooting, shooting and looting.” Mohammed Jaber, a village boy, hid under a bed, where he observed the guerrillas “break in, drive everybody outside, put them against the wall and shoot them.” One victim was holding a three-month-old baby. Mohammed remembered his mother screaming for a long time before she died.

Some prisoners did not survive capture. Taken alive, Fahimi Zeidan, her wounded siblings, and some women encountered a captured pair of village males. “When they reached us, the soldiers [guarding us] shot them.” When the mother of one of those killed started hitting the fighters, “one of them stabbed her with a knife a few times.”

Inside the houses, Pa’il and his partner photographed “people dead in the corners–an old man, a wife, and two children, here and there a [young adult] male.”

Irgunist Yehoshua Gorodentchik has confirmed that “about 80 prisoners were killed after some of them had opened fire.” [Male] Arabs dressed as Arab women were found, and so they started shooting the [surrendering] women also.”

Although some village men did disguise themselves as women to escape detection, those statements contain partial rationalizations, as many villagers died in different locations after capture and many were children. Journalist Dan Kurzman learned from Deir
Yassin veterans that some participants had “cold-bloodedly shot every Arab they found, man, woman, or child”

Villagers trying to run away also were gunned down.

Pa’il implied that he confronted the guerrilla commanders, but he has since admitted that the attackers’ murderous ferocity, the situation, and his predicament as an infiltrator froze him in “a psychological trap” during the massacre: “I didn’t know what to do.”

In addition to taking basic supplies like food and livestock, as originally planned, looting included direct robbery. Zeinab Akkel offered all her money (about $400) to protect her younger brother. One captor took the money and “then he just knocked my brother over and shot him in the head with five bullets.”

The violence grew more organized, and in the early afternoon, the attackers appropriated village trucks to carry prisoners in a triumphal “victory parade” through neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

A group of males went early, and the Lehi’s Yehuda Marinburg recalled that after the males were returned to Deir Yassin, “we executed the prisoners.”

Aviezer Golan, a journalist close to the Irgun, learned from them that “the 20 eldest males among [the captives] were immediately executed”

Meir Pa’il appears to have directly witnessed this, recalling photographing an estimated 25 males shot by firing squad in the town quarry.

7 thoughts on “Did ‘Doc’ Evatt’s support for Israel lead to the massacre at Deir Yassin?

  1. Editor's Note says:

    I take responsibility for the title of this post, David Albuquerque supplied the articles and I chose the title without consulting David or anyone else.

    The title seems provocative until viewed in the light of Kevin Rudd’s comments in the article Labor has always supported Israel:

    “Labor foreign minister “Doc” Evatt played a crucial role in the creation of the modern state of Israel through his chairmanship of the UN International Commission on Palestine in 1947.”

    It should be noted that academics are divided on the role played by Doc Evatt in the establishment of Israel as a modern state. For example some historians claim that his support for Israel was purely opportunistic, that is, to secure the Presidency of the United Nations. (See Chanan Reich “Australia and Israel – an ambiguous relationship”)

    Perhaps this opportunism is passed down to each leader of the ALP … all the way down to the current leader, whoever it happens to be at the time.

    Nevertheless the outcome has always been the same, only pro-Israel ALP leaders become successful Prime Ministers. (Whitlam wasn’t pro-Israel but then he was hardly a successful PM, having been sacked by Kerr.)

    What I am saying is, there is a systemic problem with Labor, the oft touted phrase ‘it is the leadership, they don’t speak for all ALP members’ rings hollow when you look at this issue (as with many others).

    So, if this is true, why do people who support the struggle of the Palestinian people bother with the ALP? Especially since ALP members endorse Zionist candidates like Michael Danby [current Member for Melbourne Ports (Vic)] and Barry Cohen [federal member for the seat of Robertson 1969-1990] as MPs? And they have been endorsing such candidates for 60 years! In case the list has escaped you, here are some of the names: Chifley, Evatt, Hawke, Cohen, Danby, & Rudd. And these are only some, the list of pro-Israel ALP union officials is just as long. And these leaders have had cosy relationships with big Australian businessmen like Packer, Murdoch, Abbels and the Pratt (the latter three all supported Israel). It was Hawke who planted a kiss on the dying cheek of Sir Peter Abbels.

    Take Barry Cohen, a minister in the Hawke government, he is still going on about how ‘democratic’ Israel is (see Cohen’s article titled ‘The Anti-Semitic Labor Party’).

    As for Danby, it was he who, with John Herzog (U of Q Student Union), destroyed the Australian Union of Students AUS in the late 1970s by attacking the International student section of that union (they said that AUS monies were going to communist guerrillas in Malaysia). The national structure of the union collapsed as a direct result of Danby and Herzog’s efforts. When they could not bow the union to the zionist cause, they destroyed it with hateful lies and smears.

    But then, neither ALP nor Zionists are noted for their ‘democratic’ methods.

    I suppose ‘Doc’ Evatt (were he still alive) could argue that he was a democrat because supported the Communist Party when Menzies asked the Australian people to ban it at referendum in the early 1950s. Evatt did this even though 49% voted in favour of making the Communist Party illegal. In a way the social democratic tradition that Doc Evatt came from may have persuaded zionists to adopt a strategy of social democracy in Israel. It turned out to be a strategy that won them a lot of supporters in the West including the ALP.

    in solidarity

    Ian Curr

    1. David Albuquerque says:

      Dear Colleagues
      There is evidence from the past (2003) that Israel has strong suport in the corridors of the Australian Government:


      Move back in time sixty two years from now. Australia’s Labor External Affairs Minister, Dr H.V. (“Doc”) Evatt, chairing the UN committee dealing with Palestine in 1947, played a large role in persuading the UN to adopt the partition of Palestine. In doing what he did, had Evatt committed an act of mercy towards the Holocaust survivors or an act of robbery against its rightful owners – the Palestinians?

      In the words of scholar and author (and himself a person expelled with his family by Israeli forces in 1948 during Al Nakba), Sami Hadawi, in his book, Bitter Harvest: “The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter.” So much for the good doctor’s ethics.

      Fast forward sixty one years – to March 12, 2008 and the Australian Parliament, where another Labor leader, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, delivered a bipartisan motion celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary as follows: “I move:
      That the House:
      (1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel in the 60 years since its inception
      (2) remember with pride and honour the important role which Australia played in the establishment of the State of Israel as both a member state of the United Nations and as an influential voice in the introduction of Resolution 181 which facilitated Israel’s statehood, and as the country which proudly became the first to cast a vote in support of Israel’s creation
      (3) acknowledge the unique relationship which exists between Australia and Israel a bond highlighted by our commitment to the rights and liberty of our citizens and encouragement of cultural diversity
      (4) commend the State of Israel’s commitment to democracy, the Rule of Law and pluralism….’

  2. Justice for Palestine meeting says:

    Hi all,

    A reminder that there is a Justice for Palestine meeting tomorrow evening (Wednesday April 15), 6:30pm at the TLC Building (2nd floor), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane.

    in solidarity,

    1. Justice for Palestine meeting says:

      Hi all,

      There is a Justice for Palestine meeting tonight (Wednesday), 22 April 2009 6:30pm at AHIMSA House, 26 Horan St, West End.

      in solidarity,

  3. Gary MacLennan says:

    Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd0_GHEoqnQ for a tape of the debate at the University of San Francisco between the Angry Arab, Abu Khalil, and the Israeli consul general. The sound is pretty poor but one can still get a good idea of the dimension of Khalil’s victory in the debate. He won by simply sticking to the facts and addressing above all the silences of the Israeli apologist.

    Khalil’s blog is at .



  4. Australians for Palestine says:

    Durban Review Conference

    The boycott by a number of Western nations of the Durban Review Conference in Geneva this week and their reasons for doing so, leave one gaping with incredulity. Just like the 2001 Conference in Durban, they are prepared to scuttle this important global enquiry into ongoing racist policies and practices, to save Israel from ignominy. And more likely, fear from having themselves exposed for propping up Israel’s regime at the devastating expense of the Palestinians.

    What is so tragic is that Israel’s racist policies and practices are just
    one part of the Durban Review agenda which is looking at the serious problem of racism around the world. With the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Israel pulling out on the grounds that Israel is being singled out for condemnation, now others walking out for the same reason leaving the fate of the Palestinians again high and dry.

    President Ahmadinejad’s speech was no hysterical invective against Israel, but a seriously constructed expose of a world still unable to rein in the worst excesses of greed and power of states pursuing global domination.

    Israel is one of them. His criticisms are of Zionist ideology not the
    Jewish faith, and try as President Ahmadinejad’s detractors might, there is nothing anti-Semitic about criticising an ideology that has instituted and continues to foster racism against the Palestinians both inside Israel and under Israel’s oppressive occupation.

    – SK

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