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Deir Yassin survivors recount terror, honor resistance

Published May 21, 2008 9:42 PM

Continuing Palestinian resistance, 60 years after Al-Nakba, or “the great catastrophe,” was honored at a special meeting April 13 hosted by New Jersey Solidarity—Activists for the Liberation of Palestine at the New Brunswick Public Library.

Audience at April 26 meeting in
New Brunswick, N.J.
Photo: New Jersey Solidarity

Students, community members and solidarity activists heard from a panel that included two Nakba survivors, who shared their memories of the 1948 Zionist terror campaign that forced 750,000 Palestinians to flee their homes. The resulting massacres and mass land theft, aided and abetted by U.S. and British imperialism, accompanied the creation of the state of Israel.

Mohammad Awadallah, an NJS organizer and Palestinian student, opened the discussion by answering several myths about Palestine and Israel that will be familiar to anyone bombarded by corporate media spins.

Far from being “a land without a people,” as one myth goes, Palestine’s displaced people are today the largest refugee populace in the world—nearly 7 million. Awadallah answered charges of “terrorism” against Palestinian freedom fighters by highlighting examples from the decades long, state-sponsored terrorism of Tel Aviv and Washington. And Israel is not “the Middle East’s only democracy,” he explained, but an apartheid state built on inequality and racism.

Dawud Assad, who lived through the Nakba as a teenager and survived the bloody Deir Yassin massacre, told how he recently visited his home village for the first time since 1948, only after obtaining special permission from the Israeli Minister of Health. Assad barely escaped the Zionist death squads who killed his grandmother and 2-year-old brother. His younger sister hid between their bodies for hours and was later taken captive, while his mother, captured in another house, was refused the right to try to save her young son, who may still have been alive. In all, 27 of Assad’s relatives were killed at Deir Yassin.

Assad returned home to conduct research on the massacre for a forthcoming book. He said the common figure of 250 dead was based on a random number chosen by a British military officer. His review of records and personal interviews shows that 100 villagers were slaughtered along with three foreigners: a schoolteacher who stayed to treat the wounded, and a baker and his son who were cooked alive in their oven. Survivors were paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, where they were spit upon.

“The Nakba didn’t end in 1948,” said Charlotte Kates, an organizer of New Jersey Solidarity and Al-Awda New York. She noted the central role of U.S. imperialism in the occupation of Palestine, including the rush of both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to be the most enthusiastic defenders of the Israeli settler state.

Kates urged the audience to “educate our communities, friends and co-workers” about the ongoing catastrophe against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestine 1948 and in refugee camps, carried out with U.S. weapons and tax dollars as a means to further U.S. domination in the Middle East.

Awni Attiya, a Deir Yassin survivor and uncle of Assad, recounted his memories of the Nakba. He recalled how the Arab village of Deir Yassin and surrounding Jewish villages had lived in harmony and even signed a peace treaty in the months before the massacre. “The British occupation opened the door” to the Zionist death squads, Attiya explained.

The meeting was chaired by Greg Butterfield of New Jersey Solidarity and the International Action Center.