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The Political significance of Deir Yassin

The annual Deir Yassin commemoration tour took place in near deserted streets on April 8th, the day before the official anniversary of the 1948 massacre in the Palestinian village. Today's residents of the area – the orthodox Jewish communities of Givat Shaul, Kfar Shaul and Har Nof – were evident only in their absence as they marked the Jewish Pessach (Passover) festival with their families.

A mixed group, consisting of Palestinian residents of Israel and Jerusalem alongside Israelis walked the streets of Deir Yassin, stopping outside various original Palestinian houses including that of the Radwan family of whom 38 were massacred by the attacking Irgun and Lehi Zionist militias in 1948.

The massacre of Deir Yassin remains etched in the Palestinian psyche today, 67 years later. It is far from the largest massacre that has been perpetuated against the Palestinian people but its political significance cannot be overestimated. Deir Yassin, amongst Jerusalem's western Jerusalem, was one of nearly 170 Palestinian villages that were attacked and forcibly depopulated before the establishment of the State of Israel. The massacre that was carried out during this depopulation was systematic and methodically planned as a tool to spread widespread fear amongst Palestinians everywhere to ease the program of ethnic cleansing that was already well underway but would continue and eventually include more than 400 Palestinian population centres.

The massacre of more than 100 Palestinians on April 19th 1948 in Deir Yassin, including those killed by initial machine fire and others who were dragged from their houses and lined up against walls before being executed, was seen by Zionist leaders as an essential element in their drive towards the realisation of their goals.

David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, is widely reported to have openly acknowledged this fact when he said 'without Deir Yassin there would be no Israel'. The many Nakba survivors who have described fleeing their villages, in some cases even before the Zionist militias attacked villages, often describe their deep fear of repeat massacres as being fundamental in their decisions to flee.

Images by MEMO photographer Rich Wiles

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