The subject of the Palestine Center’s inaugural book review is Jewish Terrorism in Israel by Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger (Columbia UP, 2009). You can read the entire review here. Below is a relevant excerpt from the review concerning the book authors’ omission of the Deir Yassin massacre.
Reading through the book, it becomes evident that this is the most complete and detailed account of Jewish terrorism to date …
Yet, though this book does make solid contributions, it has weaknesses as well. The most notable weakness revolves around the period of the creation of the state of Israel. Despite the fact that groups like the Irgun (IZL) and the Lehi (LHI) were responsible for the most deadly and infamous acts of Jewish terror in modern history, the authors fail to place these groups under the same scrutiny. To be fair, a discussion of these groups is included in the book, however they are not subject to the same network analysis as Jewish terror groups in more recent times. Further, a number of heinous attacks perpetrated by these groups are not mentioned.
It is important, at this point, to review the authors’ definition of terrorism. Their understanding of terrorism which was applied in the book is a four-part definition (pg. xii): Terrorism involves 1) the use of violence, 2) a political motive that activates the violence, 3) an intention to strike fear into the victims and their community 4) the victims of terrorism are civilians or non-combatants. This definition encompasses most of the elements that the mainstream literature on terrorism accepts.
It is striking then, that a book on Jewish terrorism that adopts such a definition would leave out the massacre at Deir Yassin and other attacks against the Palestinian Arab community. Benny Morris, another Israeli academic, describes the attack at Deir Yassin as follows:
Deir Yassin is remembered not as a military operation, but rather for the atrocities committed by the IZL and LHI troops during and immediately after the drawn out battle: Whole families were riddled with bullets and grenade fragments and buried when houses were blown up on top of them, men women and children were mowed down as they emerged from their houses, individuals were taken aside and shot. At the end of the battle, groups of old men, women and children were trucked through West Jerusalem’s streets as a kind of “victory parade” and then dumped in (Arab) East Jerusalem.
All elements of the definition described by the authors are met, yet Deir Yassin did not make it into the text. In fact, the authors steered away from describing attacks against Palestinians during the period when the IZL and LHI were active. Even though the vast majority of those killed during the Irgun’s reign of terror were Palestinian Arabs and the vast majority of their attacks targeted Palestinians; the authors fail to fairly characterize this reality. Instead they claim that Irgun “activities focused primarily on the struggle against restrictions imposed by the British Mandate authorities on the immigration of Jews to Eretz Israel.” (pg. 13) Why they chose to omit these events, in what seems to be systematic fashion, is unclear.