Map of pre-1948 Palestine gives lie to Israeli myths
A LAND without people for a people without land was one of the early propaganda slogans of the Israeli state. Its claim was that the land of Palestine was empty of people, and this was the promised land of the tribe of Israel, the Jewish people.
This land is empty they said. It’s the land we were promised by God they said. It’s ours. They said.
It was a lie.
But a world shocked, shamed — as it should have been — by the Holocaust, a declared attempt at the genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazi state, a known atrocity that had not only been denied but ignored… the world chose to ignore the lie.
Palestine was not empty. It was full of a people who had lived there for generations in hundreds of villages and towns… the Palestinians lived in this land.
As well as lies, Israel also born out of terrorism. Jewish terrorism. The Irgun Zvei Leumi, Haganah, Lehi, the Stern gang. There were repeated massacres in the decade following 1946… at the village Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, Friday 9 April 1948, the Irgun, Haganah and Stern gangs’ systematic massacre of at least 100+ Palestinians, mostly women and children, was a defining atrocity on which the Israeli state was founded. Following the killings the village was looted and the dead desecrated.
Homes were dynamited. The cemetery was bulldozed and Deir Yassin was wiped off the map. More than 50 orphans were found huddled by the walls of old Jerusalem.
Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said: “Without Deir Yassin there would be no Israel”.
The massacre caused panic among the Palestinian population, with many fleeing in fear of further atrocities in the villages around Jerusalem.
The ultra-militant Irgun attack on Deir Yassin was headed by Menachem Begin. He was a refugee from Russian labour camps and later the sixth prime minister of Israel and Nobel peace prize winner.
On the night of the massacre the Irgun held the equivalent of a press conference at a nearby Jewish settlement. The website Deir Yassin Remembered reports the Irgun claimed Deir Yassin had become “a concentration point for Arabs, including Syrians and Iraqis, planning to attack the western suburbs of Jerusalem.” They said that 25 members of the Haganah militia had reinforced the attack and claimed that an Arabic-speaking Jew had warned the villagers over a loudspeaker from an armored car. This was duly reported in The New York Times on April 10.
The Irgun committed hundreds of acts of terrorism, including the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, killing 91, and the hanging of British soldiers.
You won’t find Deir Yassin on maps of Israel today. If you visit Isreal you won’t find the village of Deir Yassin. There are no memorials. No plaques. Deir Yassin has long gone, except in the memories of the Palestinians.
Within months of the massacre Deir Yassin had been settled by Jewish immigrants from Poland, Romania and Slovakia. It was renamed in Hebrew Givat Shaul Bet. Today the site of Deir Yassin is in the grounds of a mental hospital, hidden in the trees within sight of the Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Yad Vashem rightly honors the Jews who were victims of the Holocaust by attempting to record all the names of .
There is no memorial to those killed at Deir Yassin — though the organization Deir Yassin Remembered is raising funds for a memorial.
Deir Yassin was but one village of at least 400 that were obliterated in the early years of the Israeli state. More than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from the new land of Israel — many of their descendants became trapped behind the barbed wire fences and closed checkpoints of the giant refugee camp that is now Gaza.
The Israelis went to great pains to cover up, deny and obliterate any record that the land they forcibly occupied was a land of people, the Palestinians. Not only were the people forcibly removed — ethnically cleansed — to create the diaspora, evidence of their existence and culture has been systematically destroyed.
History has been re-written.
Except… as the history of other oppressive assaults on peoples has revealed, it is not possible to obliterate a people, their history and their culture. It survives, albeit under great pain, sacrifice and suffering. But it survives. One day to be honored.
In 1982 I, along with a colleague, visited this crowded, troubled land. We visited refugee camps in Jordan, villages and towns in the occupied West Bank and lived with dear Emile in Ramallah and visited the house that had been his in Jerusalem. We went to cities in Israel. We saw the Israeli concrete forts (from where Palestinian children and peace activists have since been shot to death) looking down on the refugee camps of Gaza, Khan Younis, Jabaliyah.
In Israel we talked with Palestinians and Israelis. We visited the Palestinians in Hebron whose homes had been attacked by settlers demolishing the joint-walls with axes and picks. We visited the old woman whose small dwelling was all but surrounded by the barbed wire of the settlement of Kiryat Arba and who had survived the repeated grenade attacks on her home.
We met with the elected mayor of Bethlehem, who had lost both his legs in an Israeli assassination attempt. We walked with Israelis calling for Peace Now in demonstrations in Tel Aviv.
We became tourists to Canada Park and watched Israeli families and children relax and cook BBQs on what was once a vibrant Palestinian town, of which there was no surviving sign whatsoever.
We took photographs of the child survivors of the Israeli-backed Falangist massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut.
Weeks after we returned home we watched on TV as Israeli troops and planes invaded and obliterated apartment blocks in Beirut and villages in southern Lebanon… and shelled the refugee camp of Rashidieh south of the ancient city of Tyre where weeks before we had walked along the roads of sand.
But wherever we went we were implored to publish the map: the map that showed that Palestinians had lived throughout what was to be called Israel before 1948. That what had become Israel had been before home to a plethora of tiny Palestinian villlages, that there had been a land with people. Proof that the Israelis had deliberately set out to cleanse the land of Palestinians.
As we returned to London the map of Palestine before 1948 became our most treasured possession.
Print the map. And again and again. They said.
On our return we published the map as the centre-page spread of our humble report. We said there should be two states, Israel and Palestine.
When we sent copies of our report back to occupied Palestine with its pictures of Palestinian children in hospital beds recovering from gun-shot wounds, of barbed wire, of bulldozed Palestinian homes… in all the copies it was the map which had been removed by the Israeli authorities. It was the map that offended the idea of Israel.
Download the map. You’ll find Deir Yassin as a un-named small circle in grid J-5 between Ein Kerem and Jerusalem.
The map will print at 300 dpi on UK A3 (11.6 in x 16.54 in) paper.