DEIR Yassin is a Palestinian village situated on a hilltop, a short distance from the west of Jerusalem. If you try to find it on a map today, you will be disappointed, as the village has been completely razed to the ground.
In its place, in 1951, the newly-created State of Israel built a psychiatric health centre, making use of some of the village’s buildings that remained intact. But Deir Yassin is more than a village; its story encompasses the entire Palestinian tragedy.
Deir Yassin was a peaceful village whose less than 1,000 residents lived quite a relaxed life, with a degree of economic prosperity. The village was famous for its limestone cutting business. However, all that changed on 9 April, 1948, when a couple of hundred armed Zionist militias walked into the village and committed one of the earlier massacres that became standard practice for the newly-founded monster of the Middle East – Israel.
On that Friday, 73 years ago, anywhere between 100 and 250 women, children and unarmed young men were killed in a few hours, for no reason other than being Palestinian. Those who survived, fearful and terrified, left their homes and properties to seek shelter elsewhere. They became just another number in the still ongoing uprooting of Palestinians from their homes.
No one has ever been held accountable for the Deir Yassin massacre.
Menachem Begin was one of the Zionist fanatics who led an armed gang, known as Irgun, with members from another militia called Lehi, to slaughter unarmed Palestinian civilians. Both groups were just two of dozens of other Zionist armed groups operating in Mandatory Palestine. Before, during and after the Nakba, their main tasks were preparing the ground for the creation of modern-day Israel by killing and displacing as many Palestinians as possible – a scorched-earth policy that has been in practice since the early days of Israel.
Ironically enough, Begin reinvented himself, as did most earlier Israeli leaders, to become a politician and even serving as prime minister from 1977 to 1983. His career peaked in making peace with Egypt as the first Arab country to normalise ties with Israel. Born in modern-day Belarus, Begin became one of the well-known gang leaders in the British Mandate of Palestine, capable of anything as long as it was helpful to Israel.
Zionist propaganda even tried to dispute the fact that the massacre of Deir Yassin ever took place. However, that painful and shameful fact is now beyond any historical doubt, just like other infamous world massacres, such as the My Lai massacre committed by the US military in South Vietnam in 1968.
A Jewish journalist in Jerusalem, who witnessed the massacre unfolding, wrote that all reports about the massacre were ‘direct, fresh and convincing’. However, many extremist Zionists ‘still refuse to believe it’.
Natan Friedman-Yellin, a criminal himself, found the Deir Yassin massacre to be ‘inhuman.’ He was a joint commander of the Jewish Stern Gang in 1948, yet he could not swallow his colleagues’ actions.
A member of the UK delegation to the United Nations (UN), in a letter dated 20 April, 1948, confirmed the attack on Deir Yassin, in which ‘250 Arab men, women and children’ were killed in ‘circumstances of great savagery’. Palestine, at the time, was a UK Mandate territory pending final status determination by the UN.
Killing civilians and destroying entire villages and towns became embedded in the Israeli military code of conduct and is still widely practised today, but with more lethal power. As a result, we have seen dozens of massacres committed by the Israeli army in broad daylight and broadcasted live on world television. Not a single Israeli military officer has ever been held accountable so far.
The Israeli army made a name for itself by blatantly killing civilians and ignoring all international laws that regulate wars and conflict. For example, in 2009, it bombed a UN school in Gaza, killing at least 40 civilians who were sheltering in the building. On 18 April, 1996, the Israeli army fired motor shells on a UN compound near the small Lebanese village of Qana. Over 100 civilians who sought protection in the area were killed in minutes. Both the school in Gaza and the compound in Qana were clearly marked as UN properties. Like Deir Yassin, no one was held accountable. Both the Qana massacre and the Gaza school atrocity have passed without thorough investigation and proper accountability.
Recent developments, however, do offer a glimpse of hope. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has opened its first investigation into Israel’s crimes in the West Bank and Gaza. On 3 March, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that her office would launch the investigation to cover all suspected crimes since 2014.
Israel rejects any investigation into its war crimes in Palestine, and Israeli PM Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the ICC probe. As usual, Israel has the US’ full backing in rejecting any ICC investigation, despite the mounting evidence that the Israeli army did commit crimes against humanity and war crimes in its repeated operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Both Israel and the US are not members of the ICC and do not recognise its jurisdiction.
Not much is expected from the ICC’s probe, but still, it has a kind of deterring effect for the future. By launching its investigation, the ICC sends a clear message to individual Israeli politicians and army officers that they are being closely watched. It also says that Israel might have the potential for another Deir Yassin and even worse massacres, but it is not as immune as it once was decades ago.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has decried the United States for the administration of President Joe Biden ‘backing out of its pledge’ and resuming arms sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is complicit in operations in Yemen that ‘amount to war crimes’.
In February, Biden called for ‘ending all American support for offensive operations in Yemen, including relevant arms sales’, but his administration last Tuesday decided to proceed with over $23 billion in weapons sales to Abu Dhabi as it is close to completing a review of the Donald Trump-era weapons sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
‘Any re-examination of US arms sales to the UAE should have determined that the risk they could be used to commit laws-of-war violations is high, especially given the evidence that the Saudi and UAE-led coalition have already used US weapons in bombings unlawfully harming civilians and civilian sites in Yemen since the beginning of the war in 2015,’ Afrah Nasser, a Yemen Researcher at HRW, said on Thursday.
‘Many of those attacks may amount to war crimes.’
The rights organisation said the UAE has kept up ‘air operations and support for abusive local Yemeni ground forces’ despite announcing the withdrawal of most of its ground troops in mid-2019.
Nasser said she has been ‘regularly overwhelmed by messages from people in southern Yemen telling me about egregious abuses regularly committed by UAE-backed local forces.’ She also referred to the mistreatment of a Yemeni journalist who has been detained by the UAE-backed militants.
The statement additionally pointed to the Emirati violations in Libya, saying Abu Dhabi also carried out ‘unlawful strikes and provided military support to abusive local forces’ in the African country.
‘Resuming arms sales without first ensuring that the UAE is taking meaningful steps towards accountability for previous unlawful attacks just creates a situation in which those violations could happen again, with no one being held responsible,’ Nasser said.
‘In resuming these arms sales, the US government once again risks complicity in future violations.’
More than 100,000 lives have been lost since Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, according to estimates by the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organisation.
- United Kingdom charities have condemned statements by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into Israeli crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory.
In a letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson wrote: ‘We oppose the ICC’s investigation into war crimes in Palestine,’ while asserting that it does not have jurisdiction in this instance. ‘This investigation gives impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,’ wrote the British PM.
‘We condemn the Prime Minister’s statement on the ICC’s investigation into alleged grave crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). This investigation is bringing victims, survivors and their families one step closer to justice – but political interference by states, such as the UK, risks pushing that out of reach,’ said the charities in a statement.
‘The investigation is the first genuine hope that alleged perpetrators of the most serious crimes will be held to account for their actions. The ICC is committed to undertaking an investigation that is ‘conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour’. Providing impartial justice and ending decades of impunity would bring the prospect of lasting peace closer and would signal an end to the suffering endured by generations across the region,’ they said.
‘The UK government could be a bastion of international law and human rights – but instead it is undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice. No longer can the UK government genuinely assert that ‘Promoting international criminal justice and the rule of law are fundamental elements of the United Kingdom’s foreign policy’. Rather, the Prime Minister’s statement sets a wholly dangerous precedent by the UK, that may impact victims of grave crimes and threatens the viability, objectives, and the future of the court itself.’
The charities called on the international community to be consistent in its support for accountability and the rule of law, regardless of the context.
‘The UK government should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support – rather than substantially undermine – international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms.’
The Palestine Mission to the UK also condemned Johnson’s stand on the ICC.