Nakba – the testimonies of Deir Yassin

(Apart from the narrators, each speaker gives his/her name)


The word “Nakba” means “catastrophe”. It does not describe a single event. It describes an on-going attack on the lives of Palestinians, beginning over sixty years ago. It was typified by the murder of over a hundred
inhabitants of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, in the early hours of April 9, 1948.


According to UN estimates, which some say are conservative, 750,000 Palestinians, including 100,000 Christians, fled the site of the present Israeli state in 1948. Ten out of every hundred Arabs killed by the Israelis in 1948 were Christian. In all, over 400 Palestinian villages were attacked and destroyed


Deir Yassin village was about five miles from Jerusalem, close to the Jewish settlement of Givat Shaul with whom the villagers lived in peace. They had refused hospitality to Palestinian guerrillas who wanted to use the village as a base.

Yet at 4am on Friday April 9, 1948, Deir Yassin was attacked by a joint force of


·       Irgun Zvai Leumi (commonly referred to as Etzel, an acronym of the organisation’s Hebrew initials);


·       the Stern Gang, or Lehi, who had split from Irgun during World War II and actively collaborated with the Nazis;


·       Haganah, who had helped the British quell the Arab revolt in the late 1930s;


·       and some members of Palmach, which was established by the British military and Haganah on May 15, 1941 to protect Palestine from the German threat.

My name is
Yehoshua Zetler (codename Shapira)

I was Lehi Commander in Jerusalem. I received the following communication from David Shaltiel, Haganah Commander in Jerusalem:

David Shaltiel

I have learned that you intend to carry out an operation against Deir Yassin. I would
like to call your attention to the fact that the conquest and continued occupation of Deir Yassin is one of the stages in our overall plan. An additional argument I would like to cite is that if enemy forces are drawn to
the place, this will disrupt the plan to establish an aerodrome there.

Irgun report

From a plaque at the Irgun Museum:

The operational plan to occupy Deir Yassin stated that the participation force would be a company composed of two ETZEL platoons and one LEHI platoon. On April 9, 1948, at 02:00 hrs, the
forces set out on their mission. During the briefing before they left, it was decided to forego the element of surprise, in order to assure the wellbeing of non-combatants, by using loud speakers to call women, children and old people to vacate the area.

The battle did not open as planned. The Arabs noticed the movement of the attackers before zero hour and
opened fire, while the armoured car with the loudspeaker did not reach the entrance to the village because the LEHI unit in the vehicle encountered an Arab barricade about half a kilometre away from the village. The vehicle overturned and the calls to the villagers of Deir Yassin were swallowed up in the gunfire.

From this moment on the fighters were forced to advance in the face of increasing resistance by the Arabs. The intelligence they had was not extensive and precise enough, and the estimates of the strength of the resistance were not correct. Almost every one of the village houses served as a fighting position, and taking control of the place entailed house-to-house fighting, using hand-grenades and sub-machine guns.
There were many casualties among attackers and defenders alike.

At day break, the force encountered strong resistance around the Mukhtar’s (headman’s) house on the
hill. Here there were more casualties and the lack of ammunition made removing the wounded very difficult. At this stage a request was sent to the Hagana commander in Jerusalem, who supplied bullets and also fire cover to assist in rescuing the wounded.

In the Deir Yassin battle, five of our fighters fell while the number of Arab casualties is under dispute.
According to the version which prevailed for many years, about 250 Arabs were killed there. This amazing number created panic among the Arab population and had an indirect effect on its flight from the country during the 1948 war.
Recent research sheds doubt on the number of people killed, and one version states that the Arab dead totalled about 110.

Beyond the dispute over the number of casualties, it is universally agreed that the Deir Yassin operation was a key point in the history of the War of Independence.

My name is
Yehuda Lapidot

I was Irgun Commander. We attacked Deir Yassin because it was a vital military target. The original idea to attack Deir Yassin was mainly economical. That is, to get booty in order to maintain the bases that we had set up at that time with very poor resources.

My name is
David Ben Gurion

I was leader of the Jewish Agency at the time of the 1948 attacks on Palestinian villages. I believe that without
Deir Yassin there would be no Israel.

My name is
Yitzhak Rabin

In conversation with Dave Ben Gurion, we asked “What is to be done with the Palestinian
population?” BG waved his hand in a gesture, which said: “Drive them out!” I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out.

In 1967, as Israeli chief of staff I planned the Israeli attack on Egypt, the war which ended with the Israeli
occupation of the whole of Palestine. Later, I became Israeli prime minister from 1974 until 1977. In 1994 I won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.

My name is
Menachem Begin

I was commander of Irgun Zvai Leumi. Together with members of the Stern Gang and Haganah, assisted by a unit of Palmach, we attacked the village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. We created terror among the Arabs and all the villages around. In one blow, we changed the strategic situation. The Arabs fought tenaciously in defence of their homes, their women and their children.


In fact, only 13 inhabitants of the village were armed, with ancient muzzle-loading muskets and Mauser pistols.
All were killed in the fighting.


Later our forces were amalgamated as the Israel Defence Force. I became Israeli prime minister in 1977. I was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1978. On June 6, 1982, when I was still prime minister, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon.

My name is
Yitzhak Shamir

I was originally a member of Irgun, but later I became commander of the Stern Gang. Before the attack on
Deir Yassin, I had already masterminded the bombing without warning of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, killing 97 people.

We felt it was the only way we could operate, because we were so small. So it was more efficient and more
moral to go for selected targets.

I was head of the Stern Gang when it assassinated the UN mediator, Count Bernadotte in September 1948. I
succeeded Begin as prime minister of Israel in 1983.

My name is
Count Folke Bernadotte

I was appointed to mediate between the Arabs and the Israelis. In my first progress report, on September 16, 1948, I recommended that the UN should affirm “the right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish controlled territory at the earliest possible date”.
The following day I was murdered in Jerusalem by a group calling itself the Fatherland Front, but actually members of the Stern Gang led by Yoshua Zeitler and Meshlam Markover.

My name is
Chaim Azriel Weizman

I was President of the World Zionist Organization and first President of the state of Israel, elected February 1, 1949. In my opinion, the attack on Deir Yassin resulted in a miraculous simplification of our task.

I am Dr.
Meir Pail

I joined the Palmach in 1943 after graduating from high school. I participated in numerous operations including
the bombing of the B’not Ya’akov Bridge.

In the summer of 1947 I was sent to Jerusalem in the capacity of company commander. I was under the direct
command of Joshua Globerman, representing the Haganah Supreme command.

Deir Yassin was a quiet village, which had a pact with us that had been approved by Yitzhak Navon, then Head of the Arab section of the Haganah Jerusalem Intelligence Service and later President of Israel. The people of Deir Yassin had kept to the pact. 

The place was of no strategic value. I never heard about any shooting at our side coming from Deir Yassin or
from foreign Arab soldiers in Deir Yassin in 1948, and there was none that I know of on the night before the attack.

My name is
David Siton

I was a Lehi member, opposed to the attack on a quiet village. I said that an operation like that would hurt
the Jewish neighbourhoods in the western part of the city, but Etzel people said that the inhabitants of Deir Yassin were getting ready to attack Jewish neighbourhoods. We checked, and found out it was not true. Our chaps entered the village, talked to the Arabs and heard from then that they were not interested in harming the Jews, and that they are men of peace. Yehoshua Zettler, Lehi Commander, heard this and said “These are good Arabs, quiet Arabs.”

My name is
Fahimeh Ali Mustafa Zeidan

I was aged 11 at the time of the attack. As soon as the sun rose, there was knocking at the door, but we did not answer. They blew the door down, entered and started searching the place; they got to the store room, and took us out one-by-one.

They shot the son-in-law, and when one of his daughters screamed, they shot her too. They then called my brother Mahmoud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother, carrying my little sister Khadra, who was still being breast fed, they shot my mother too.

We all started screaming and crying, but were told that if we did not stop, they would shoot us all. They
then lined us up, shot at us, and left.

Meir Pail

Meanwhile a crowd of people from the Givat Shaul settlement, with peyot (earlocks), most of them
religious, came into the village and started yelling “gazlanim“, “rozchim” (thieves, murderers), “we had an agreement with this village. It was quiet. Why are you murdering them?” They were Chareidi (ultra-orthodox) Jews.

My name is
Halima Id

I saw a soldier grabbing my sister, Saliha al-Halabi, who was nearly nine months pregnant. He pointed a
machine gun at her neck, and emptied its contents into her body. Then he grabbed a knife and ripped open her stomach to take out the unborn baby.

My name is
Hanna Khalil

I was a girl at the time of the attack. I saw a man unsheathing a large knife and ripping open the body of my
neighbour Jamila Habash from head to toe. Then he murdered another neighbour, Fathi, in the same way at the entranceway to her house.

My name is

I was 40 years old. One of the attackers opened up his trousers and pounced on me. I began screaming and
wailing. But the women around me were all meeting the same fate. They tore off our clothes so that they could fondle our breasts and our bodies with gestures too horrible to describe.

Meir Pail

I got permission to go on the raid. Dawn was breaking as we got to the village. It seemed to me that they
just ran in and attacked. We hid in some houses. The Irgun and Lehi had some British Lee Enfield rifles, Bren guns, Tommy guns and Sten guns, though some of the Stens didn’t work. They may have had knives too, but I didn’t see any. The villagers had no automatic weapons.

Around 11 o’clock, I started hearing shooting in the village. The fighting was over, yet there was the sound
of firing of all kinds from different houses. Sporadic firing, not like you would hear when they clear a house. I took my chap with me and went to see what was happening. We went into houses.

In the corners we saw dead bodies. Almost all the dead were old people, children or women, with a few men here and there. They stood them up in the corners and shot them. In another corner there were some more bodies, in the next house more bodies and so on. They also shot people running from houses, and prisoners. Mostly women and children.

I saw this horror, and I was shocked and angry, because I had never seen such a thing, murdering people
after a place had been conquered. The killers’ eyes were glazed over, full of lust for murder. It seemed to be going on everywhere.

Around noon, I saw that they had gotten together around twenty or twenty five males near the entrance to the
village on the field track. A truck came in, and they put them on a truck, and drove off to the city. Meanwhile the massacre continued.

About three quarters of an hour or an hour later the truck came back. The prisoners were led to a place in the quarries between Deir Yassin and Givat Shaul settlement. There was a natural wall there, formed by digging out the quarry, along one side. There were a group of Irgun or Lehi there, and they stood the prisoners against that wall and shot the lot of them. All the while the massacres were going on in the houses in the village
as well.

Then the Lehi and Irgun gathered about 250 people, most of them women, children and elderly people in a school house. They were debating what to do with them. There was a great deal of yelling. They were yelling “Let’s blow up the schoolhouse with everyone in it” and the Givat Shaul people were yelling “thieves and murderers – don’t do it” and so on.

Finally they put the prisoners from the schoolhouse on four trucks and drove them to the Arab quarter of Jerusalem near the Damascus gate. I left after the fourth truck went out.

Etzel and Lehi had a press conference on Saturday evening and claimed that there were 254 dead. Now they
say that they exaggerated on purpose, but I don’t know when they started prevaricating, in April 1948, or later, when they realized the damage done by their deed.

My name is
Yehoshuah Arieli

I was commander of the Gadna youth troops who entered Deir Yassin after the massacre. We saw three groups of bodies. In one there were 70, the second had 20, the third had 20. But when we entered the village the whole village smelled of burned bodies, many bodies were thrown into water cisterns.

My name is
Dr Jacques DeReynier

I was representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jerusalem. On Saturday April
10, at 5pm, the Arab Higher Committee asked me to do the impossible in order to save a large number of wounded and retrieve the dead located in the village of Deir Yassin after it was captured by combined forces of the Irgun and Lehi, assisted by a unit of Palmach. I visited the site of Deir Yassin on April 11, 1948.

I asked to see the dead. They let us proceed to the centre of the village where I was surrounded by a circle of
men, each armed to the teeth, the bulk of them having an Arab knife at the waistband. One female soldier proudly showed a knife, 60 centimetres long, 10 wide, double-edged, and still full of blood.

For the tenth time I asked about the wounded and coldly the head officer responded: “We have not yet
cleaned up all the village houses but I can assure you that there does not remain nor will there remain a single Arab alive here.”

In the third room of one house it appeared that something stirred and I discovered a little girl about ten years
old, frightfully wounded, comatose but alive. She had not received any care for at least 24 hours despite the presence in the village of the troop doctor who was at my side. I was at great pains to overcome the Irgun’s resistance and I had to forcibly place the wounded child in our ambulance.

I returned to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and expressed the ICRC’s position in this affair. Insofar as it
represents the Jewish community in Palestine, the Agency is severely to blame for the events of Deir Yassin, which are a manifest violation of the spirit and letter of the Geneva Conventions which on April 4, 1948 they had assured the ICRC that they would absolutely respect.

My name is
Mordehai Gihon

I was intelligence officer of the Haganah Etzioni Brigade. The murder of falachim and innocent citizens,
faithful allies of the western sector, who kept faith despite pressure from the gangs, even during the conquest of Sharfa, (Mt Herzl) may lose us the trust of all those Arabs who hoped to be saved from destruction by agreements with us.

Meir Pail

Deir Yassin was an immoral example of a massacre that we must admit to ourselves and atone for and not cover up. Militarily it was worthless. The Irgun claimed falsely that after Deir Yassin it became easier to conquer villages because the Arabs left out of fear rather than fighting. Begin said that the “turning point of the War of
Independence came at Deir Yassin”.

From my experience I know well that there is no war without killing, and that not only combatants get killed.
I have seen a great deal of war, but I never saw a sight like Deir Yassin and therefore I cannot forget what happened there.

They admitted to Israeli television in 1989 that they had killed me to avoid Israel being forced by the goyim
(that is, non-Jews in the UN) to make concessions.


And the killing goes on.

During the first intifada, between 1987 and 1993, 1,162 Palestinians were killed, during the “peace
process” between 1993 and 2000 388 more, and during the second intifada between 2000 and 2006, 2,933 were killed, a total of 4,483 deaths, many of them women and children, nearly four times as many as the Israelis killed during the same period.

There are no figures for deaths before 1987, nor for those injured.


Between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, the Israeli military carried out an attack on the Gaza Strip, which it called Operation Cast Lead:


1,390 Palestinians were killed, 759 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were under the age of 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, 350 of them seriously.


According to UN figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left


During the operation, Palestinians fired rockets and mortar shells at Israel. These attacks killed three Israeli
civilians and one member of the Israeli security force. Nine soldiers were killed within the Gaza Strip, four by friendly fire. More than 100 soldiers were wounded, one critically and 20 moderately to seriously.


Israeli spin doctors say their attacks are in retaliation for suicide bombings. But the first Hamas suicide
bombing did not take place until April 1994, in retaliation for the murders in the Hebron mosque committed by the illegal Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein.


The first suicide bombing by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade did not take place until 2002, following Israel’s assassination of the leading Fatah militant Raed Karmi.


Ariel Sharon ordered the assassination of the two leading Hamas leaders in Nablus on July 31, 2001,
which put an end to a nearly two-month cease-fire on Israeli civilians observed by Hamas.

The July 22, 2002 assassination of leading Hamas militant Salah Shehada in Gaza, which also killed 15 civilians, 11 of them children, came within hours of a unilateral cease-fire declaration by both the Palestinian nationalist militia Tanzim and Hamas.


An editorial in Israel’s prestigious Ha’aretz newspaper, declared on August 2, 2002 that “In short, any four-year-old child who examined this pattern of events would conclude that this government, whether consciously or not, is simply not interested in the cessation of the terrorist attacks, for they constitute its raison d’être“.


The Nakba continues.


They said
(Leon Rosselson)

They said they’d not been told, they didn’t know

Maybe it happened maybe not

And if it did it was so long ago

They weren’t responsible for what

Others had done. In any case,

Look at the map, they said,

You’ll see there’s no such place.

I close my eyes imagining the scene

A peaceful village high upon a hill.

The morning breaks, a pale April sun

Stirs life inside the houses made of stone.

A woman carries water from the well

A child laughs at his shadow on the wall.

Was this the way it was? This much is known

The invaders came, they took control and then

The terrorists began their careful kill.

This was a peaceful village on a hill.

They said, Why bring that up? What good does it do?

These things will happen in a war

And in the heat of battle Arab, Jew

Do things we afterwards deplore

But that was then, forget, forgive.

The fact is now that’s where other people live.

This was no battle. Resistance was at an end.

It was a massacre the world forgot

So brutal it must have been designed

To terrorise the Arabs from their land.

What other reason could there be but that?

And did they feel no pity at the sight

Of children’s bodies bloodstaining the ground

Of women stabbed, their dreams drowning the wind

Of men thrown onto lorries and then shot?

This was a massacre the world forgot.

They said that this unfortunate affair

Although it might be called a crime

Could not, they said, in any way compare

With what they’d suffered in their time

And so, they said, please understand

And face the facts – this is now our Promised Land.

I thought I heard a voice cry, I speak for the dead

The dead of Deir Yassin who cannot rest

While still our pain and suffering are denied

And none knows who we were or why we died.

You who oppress us and were once oppressed

Do not pretend that we did not exist

And do not let our stories go unheard.

Acknowledge now at last the price we paid.

You took our lives and all that we possessed.

The dead of Deir Yassin who cannot rest.

They said they’d not been told, they didn’t know

Maybe it happened, maybe not . . .

·        All the testimony in this script is in the exact words of those quoted, as researched from the Internet. Sections have been taken from previous works by Karl Dallas, namely “Terrorists” ( and “Babi Yar” (

·       This compilation is © Copyright 2007 (adapted 2011) Karl Dallas/HoustonMedia. Open-ended permission is given for its distribution and public performance without fee provided that this copyright acknowledgement is made.

Deir Yassin after occupation by Jewish forces,...

Image via Wikipedia

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