The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

April 1-14: Global Commemoration of the Deir Yassin Massacre

Posted on March 21st, 2014 at 1:07 am by



Deir Yassin Remembered –
Gill Kaffash – – +44 7919 871845
Paul Eisen – – +44 7831 627560

Early in the morning of April 9th 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a beautiful Arab village with cut stone houses located on the west side of Jerusalem. It was several weeks before the end of the British Mandate and the declaration of the State of Israel. The village lay outside the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish state; it had a peaceful reputation; it was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and with the knowledge of the mainstream Jewish defence force, the Haganah, it was to be conquered and held.

In spite of being better armed, the two Jewish gangs were at first unable to conquer the village. But after they elicited the help of a small band of Palmach troops (the elite fighters of the Haganah), Deir Yassin soon fell. The Palmach soldiers left; it was then that the massacre began. That evening over tea and cookies, in the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Givat Shaul, gang members told foreign correspondents that over 200 Arabs were killed and forty taken prisoner. This was reported in the New York Times the very next day (4/10/48, p. 6). The terrorists claimed to have lost four of their own forces. They boasted of the “battle” but made no mention of the male Palestinians whom they had loaded onto trucks, paraded through some Jewish sections of Jerusalem, and then taken back to a stone quarry between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot to death. On April 13th the New York Times reported that 254 Arab men, women, and children had been killed at Deir Yassin; there was no mention of prisoners.

The official Zionist leaders of the Haganah denounced the dissidents of the Irgun and the Stern Gang accusing them of massacre, robbery, looting and barbarism. Ben Gurion even sent an apology to King Abdullah. But this horrific act served the future state of Israel well. As Begin said, “Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of ‘Irgun butchery’ were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be over estimated.” (The Revolt, p. 164)

While modern historians argue that Begin’s claims were exaggerated and that the actual number of Arabs killed was closer to 100, they all agree that the massacre at Deir Yassin marked the beginning of the depopulation of over 400 Arab villages and the exile of over 700,000 Palestinians.

In spite of protests by Martin Buber and other noted scholars, within a year the village was repopulated with orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, Rumania and Slovakia. Its cemetery was bulldozed and its name was wiped off the map.

Deir Yassin Today

Although virtually all Palestinians in the world know of Deir Yassin, few have ever been there. The site is not identified on post-1948 maps of Israel. But it is not difficult to find. The central part of Deir Yassin is a cluster of buildings now used as a mental hospital. To the east lies the industrial area of Givat Shaul; to the north lies Har Hamenuchot (the Jewish cemetery), to the west, built into the side of the mountain on which Deir Yassin is located is Har Nof, a new settlement of orthodox Jews. To the south is a steep valley terraced and containing part of the Jerusalem Forest. On the other side of that valley, roughly a mile and a half from Deir Yassin  and in clear view of it, are Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.

While not difficult to find, Deir Yassin today is not easy to visit. There are few places to park. Admittance to the mental hospital grounds is understandably restricted. There are no signs, no plaques, no memorials of any kind. The cemetery is largely gone; the ruins of the deir (monastery) are unmarked; and the quarry from which the residents made a living and in which the bodies of those who were massacred were piled up and burned is likely buried under a fuel storage depot on the south side of the mountain. The orthodox Jews living in the area are not friendly to outsiders and either do not know or refuse to acknowledge any history of Deir Yassin. Not surprisingly, picture taking invites suspicion and criticism. There are no markers, no plaques, no memorials – to all intents and purposes Deir Yassin is no more.

My mother was ill, she was pregnant. They threw something into our house. My sister ran to it and threw it out again and she sent me to tell our father who was still in Kastel. -Deir Yassin survivor Abu Ashraf,  aged 7 at the time of the massacre, at London commemoration, Deir Yassin Day 2012

They Said from Leon Rosselson on Myspace.

Report on Beth Israel vigil 03-01-14

Posted on March 10th, 2014 at 1:37 pm by

Now Hear This!

If you are READING this report and have EVER stood with Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends at ANY TIME during the past 10 years, whether it be at the Zionist Beth Israel Congregation or ANY OTHER venue, or whether you’ve STATED your support of the efforts of our group, then YOU are invited to our ten-year anniversary celebration party which will be held on

March 15, 2014
7:00 – 10:00 PM
Ypsilanti, Michigan

Please CONTACT this writer for address and directions to this soiree.

Who’s Not Coming to Dinner

From JWPF’s “D’oh!!”* department comes this flash: The University (of Michigan) Musical Society (UMS) will be violating the Palestinian Call for BDS/PACBI by hosting the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Coincidentally, this Israeli funded ensemble is performing at the SAME TIME as our celebration party (March 15). JWPF will thus not be able to organize the street protest necessary to challenge “Israel’s musical ambassador throughout the country and the world.” In the words of Vigiler S, this group applies the “lipstick on the pig” to make palatable the violent destruction of Palestinian culture, land and property.

Please note: If you know anyone who has inadvertently and mistakenly purchased tickets to this event, please contact this writer, who will raise the funds to have these tickets purchased. In that way the Palestinian call for boycotting Israel will be honored.

* – We should have checked the UMS calendar before proceeding with our plans for our party …  :>(

Aw, Shucks!

Vigiler L wanted to have a small gathering of the “core” group of vigilers, i.e. those who were present at Beth Israel at least twenty times in 2013. And so, with the generosity of Deir Yassin Remembered Executive Director Dan McGowan, we treated ourselves to a congratulatory feast in January.

Paul Eisen picked up on this, and wrote the following words:

The Core

These are the most effective, perhaps the only Palestine solidarity activists on the planet.

They’re the core Beth Israel vigilers of Ann Arbor, Michigan

They don’t look much do they? That’s their secret.

Core vigilers 2014

Aw, shucks, Paul, ’tweren’t nothing!


January 25: 7 viglers
February 1: 7 vigilers
Feb. 8: 9 vigilers
Feb. 15: 7 vigilers
Feb. 22: 3 vigilers
Mar. 1: 5 vigilers

Boycott Israel; End the Jewish State.
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-18-14

Posted on January 26th, 2014 at 12:18 pm by

Embrace the Ides of March

From JWPF’s “Better Late than Never” department, it is with great joy that we announce a party celebrating our ten years standing for a just peace in Palestine. The date of this soiree will be March 15, 2014 at a private location in neighboring Ypsilanti, Michigan. This invitation is open to all those folks who have EVER held a sign, and stood with us even once during this past decade, personal differences notwithstanding. You stood, you’re invited. It’s that simple. No formal dinner, some snacks provided. Bring your own finger food and/or liquid libation. An evening to relax, rehash, and imagine. Please plan on attending, more details as they pan out.

Who Wants to be an Editor?

Your opinion is desired. Feel free to reply personally or leave a comment below. Remembering last week’s report and the image of my “End ‘Israel'” hat, we felt it helpful to the cause to have a ready and simple printed handout for folks who express curiosity at the phrase “End ‘Israel'”. So far, this is the best we got. Can it be improved? Written more succinctly? A different tack, perhaps? Let us know.

Why We Say, “End ‘Israel'”

In 1948 the world witnessed the formation of two states based on a system of racial discrimination we call Apartheid. One of these states was South Africa and featured what we called White Supremacism, and the other is Israel, featuring Jewish supremacism. In the 1980’s world opinion focused on South Africa, and justice prevailed: the system of Apartheid was dismantled. As the world focuses on the injustices and atrocities committed by Israel to maintain Jewish rule, that Apartheid system, too, will be dismantled. The difference being that when the entire population achieves equal rights, the people will choose to adopt the land’s original “Palestine” and reject “Israel” as the name imposed upon them by 20th century Zionists.


Six vigilers
End “Israel”
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-11-14

Posted on January 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by

Hate and Hate Speech

My partner gets pulled off the dance floor this week by a close friend of hers who opines that my t-shirt and hat are examples of the hate that she’s certain lies within me and is the sole driver of my activism. This close friend is a social worker and recognizes hate. Did I mention that she’s also Jewish?

Hate Speech

A neighbor begs for help from Ann Arbor City Council members from the hate speech she encounters walking past my house and looking at the small imprint in the sidewalk which says, “Stop US Aid to Israel 2008″. This person is not Jewish, but most likely has been instructed since birth that Jews are eternal victims and need her support.

A Diversion

Typing in “hate speech” into Google can get one mired for weeks trying to nail this glob of jelly to the wall in an attempt to tease out the definition of this term. Is there a legal definition? Why do people throw it around other than to tarnish a message they don’t like? If nothing else, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends’ ten-year-old vigil stakes the claim that our actions certainly do not fall into the legal category of hate speech. Otherwise the clever lawyers inside the brick walls of Beth Israel Congregation would long ago have had us prosecuted for violating this chimera called hate speech.

One observes that Israel has committed atrocities against the Palestinian people for over 65 years; he observes that this Jewish state, using its emissaries in the US government, synagogues, media and think tanks, works feverishly to maintain the fiction of coinciding national interests when none exist; he observes outright murder of US citizens by this Jewish state and the US government is bribed or bullied into embarrassing silence by the Jewish Lobby from prosecuting these murders; he observes that Zionism – the invasion of European Jews into the Middle East to create a Jewish supremacist state – is primarily responsible for these atrocities and is convinced that the general public, armed with similar information, will no longer support a Jewish state.

And after considering these observations and convictions he initiates actions, holds political protests at powerful Zionist synagogues and churches, and wears clothing with phrases designed to provoke thought and conversation. But he doesn’t learn that pointing these things out and acting on them are examples of hate speech, according to some gate keepers on the political left.

Is it 1984 yet?

Michigan Weather

A steady 38-degree rain fell on a foot of already-fallen snow, producing hazardous conditions for standing still and holding signs at our last vigil. This writer called a few of our senior citizens and leaders and encouraged them to stay home and sit this one out. Three veteran vigilers and one rookie showed up.

Four vigilers
No Hate
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends


Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-04-14

Posted on January 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm by

Barghouti Clarifies: All of Palestine is NOT Occupied

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people on the University of Michigan campus, BDS organizer Omar Barghouti gave a masterful presentation of the crimes of Israel and focused on the 1967 invasion of the West Bank and Gaza because “it’s more easily understood in America”. He detailed the destruction of tens of thousands of Palestinian books during the Nakba as a deliberate attempt to destroy Palestinian culture as well as ethnically cleansing the population from its lands. To his credit he used the J-word as well as the Z-word in describing the situation. He even went as far as to show the audience a picture of a “Ghetto Gate” in the illegal wall Israel is building on Palestinian land. So, good for him, he’s an incredibly gifted speaker, organizer and intellectual. And this writer, respecting Omar’s position, did not put the boilerplate question to him.

Remembering the Call

I did ask for clarification, however, on what appears to be a change in position of the BDS movement. Of the three demands contained in the boycott, he showed the audience No. 1:

End the 1967 occupation and colonization

And we note that the original call (2005) found on their website had as its first demand:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

Omar was clear in his answer. There has been NO change in the stand of the demands of the BDS campaign: The first demand always focused on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (1967), the second referred to Palestinian citizens of Israel (1948) and the third referred to the Palestinian refugee population world-wide.

Puzzling Responses

Since Omar had just responded to a similar question about the “occupation”, I added: Would you agree that ALL of Palestine is occupied?

And here’s where the hand leaves the arm: Barghouti and the BDS movement have restricted themselves – as have other intellectuals like Chomsky and Finkelstein – to “supporting International Law”, and since International Law does not consider all of Palestine to be occupied, neither does the BDS movement, according to Barghouti.

This is the same “International Law” that didn’t even recognize the voice of Palestinians when it “created” a Jewish state on their own land. The same International Law that gave equal voting rights to countries half a world away (e.g. Australia), while neighboring countries – those who would bear the brunt of the invasion by European Jews – were not given a neighbor’s preference.

On the question of the power of Christian Zionists vs. Jewish Zionists, Omar referred to them as “peanuts” compared to the military-industrial lobby as the lead group supporting the Jewish state. He’d better not let AIPAC Chair Lee Rosenberg hear him say that! Or debate Jeff Blankfort on the power of the Jewish Lobby.

In the opinion of this writer, Omar’s “highly principled” stand was long on rhetoric but short on substance when the topic turned to anti-Semitism. One of the Israelis in the audience wanted to know where Omar stood on the subject in the Palestine solidarity movement, and Omar appeared to be waiting for the question: He proudly announced that the BDS movement “stands against anti-Semites who try to speak on our behalf.” And we infer from that response his satisfaction in attempting to stifle the voice of Gilad Atzmon when he put his signature to the document “Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon.”

Yes, BDS takes many a principled stand against a formidable opponent, but it harms his movement when he not only fails to tackle the question of Jewish identity politics and the role it plays in the violent behavior of the Jewish state, but goes out of his way to censor the voices of those who do. We wonder what his response would be to group that has held peaceful vigils in front of a powerful Zionist synagogue for over ten years. Would he proclaim it to be “patently anti-Semitic?”

Omar answered a question on why the BDS movement fails to consider the crimes of Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. His answer was straightforward: Israel is the oppressor of the Palestinian people and that is why we focus on the crimes of Israel. But in his talk he asserted that Judaism and Jewishness had “nothing to do” with Israel’s crimes, and we felt he was whistling past the graveyard on this one. Mr. Barghouti: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, uses Jewish soldiers and pilots with Jewish religious symbols on their weapons of destruction, and enjoys the support of Jewish organizations world-wide. How can you eliminate Judaism and Jewishness from the equation merely by denying its existence and influence?

And while we’re on the subject, why does he partner with the Left Zionists of Jewish Voice for Peace? Ever since JVP’s introduction into the Detroit area, we – Jewish WITNESSES for Peace and Friends – have been trying to put JVP’s position on the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine on the table. Frustratingly, we have been denied this opportunity. We notice the depth of the influence of this left Zionist group — they have their own mission statement on the BDS website.

More to Omar’s credit, however, he gave excellent, thorough and totally debilitating responses to questions posed by Israeli students and their supporters. Comedian Amer Zahr told these infiltrators that he knew what it felt like to be a minority in a crowd, but did not envy their positions requiring them to fabricate facts to make it appear like they were actually asking questions.


There was no Vigil Report for 12-28-13 (8 vigilers)
6 vigilers for 01-04-14
Pushing the envelope
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Why such discord between Arab and Jew?

Posted on January 9th, 2014 at 1:57 am by

Below is the first stanza of “Semitic Blood Feud” by Gregory M. DeSylva. You can read the entire poem on the DYR main website.

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language,
that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

– Genesis 11:7

Why such discord between Arab and Jew?
Descended from Semites of Chaldea
via Noah’s son Shem –
both “Shem-ites” through and through;
Abraham, of Shem’s line, their patriarch
Arabs – scions of Ishmael, his first son
Jews – scions of Isaac, his second;

Report on Beth Israel vigil 12-21-13

Posted on December 29th, 2013 at 1:32 pm by

Chomsky Catfight?

OK, I might have reacted too quickly to a message on an email list by someone who offered a YouTube video of a speech by Noam Chomsky on the 14th amendment. I asked why, since the list description “rejects all anti-Semitism” and is “also opposed to all other forms of racism”, the writer is promoting the voice of Chomsky, given that he

- lived on an early settlement (euphamism: kibbutz)
– carried weapons to impose Jewish racism upon Palestinians
– has never renounced his contribution to Zionism (found to be racism by the UNGA in 1975)
– opposes the BDS movement
[he also diminishes the effect of the Jewish Lobby in the US …hh]

Even PeaceMonger didn’t take my side on this one, and that pushed me to reflect that my criticism was hasty. Yes, I admitted later, we can learn from even those who hold political positions different than ours, and hoped that my comment did not indicate any move to censor.


What about the words of Nahida Izzat, which also crossed my desk this week:

Bottom line is: Almost all the so called “anti-zionist” Jewish groups who “support” the Palestinians, have exactly the same aims and objectives as their zionist “enemy” ; i.e. enabling, supporting, and securing the Jewish-zionist project and their permanent illegal, and immoral colonization of Palestine, be it as it may under a different name and altered regime…This troubling conclusion urges to scrutinize how these facts have been translated as strategy on the ground. It appears that the strategy is manifested in three main aspects: diversion, holding back and steering:


What about a response to Paul Eisen’s observation:

The crime against the Palestinian people is being committed by a Jewish state with Jewish soldiers using weapons displaying Jewish religious symbols, and with the full support and complicity of the overwhelming mass of organised Jews worldwide. But to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do.

We ask the question: Is Noam Chomsky part of the solution or part of the problem? He is Jewish. He is an iconic leader in the peace movement. But he diverts our attention from issues like Israel’s legitimacy, holds back his opinion on Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state, and steers us away from possibly effective strategies like BDS. And his behavior lends confirmation to the observation that holding Jews responsible for the crimes in Palestine seems impossible to do.

Activists need to hold their leaders’ feet to the fire, especially Jewish activists in the Palestine Liberation Movement. Our answer is that Chomsky is without doubt part of the problem. What do you think?


Eight vigilers
Saying “No” to Jewish Supremacism
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
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