American Herald Tribune |Dina Elmuti: I grew up in a country far removed from the horrors of Deir Yassin, but I’ve lived with the snapshots of the massacre my entire life. My grandmother’s Nakba trauma has permeated my inner life, and I’ve known the world of acute agony and the mockery of what human life has been reduced to for the Palestinian people. Every massacre and assault carried out in Zionism’s calculated desire for control adds another layer to the transgenerational transmission of trauma of Palestinians everywhere. Like the bombs that Israel drops on civilian populations, dispersing their incendiary fallout in distant places long after the initial explosion, the psychological trauma continues.
When they said that there would come a time when the old would die and the young would forget, they didn’t realize that Palestinians who grow up fluent in a language of trauma and resistance could never forget. But more importantly, they refuse to.
The significance of the need to preserve the memory of what happened at Deir Yassin remains woven into our DNA. It’s a name that flickers at the edge of our consciousness, resonating in the Palestinian collective memory with chilling significance. My grandmother’s story has taken up residence in my soul. It became the blood coursing through my veins, reverberating in my heart and graven in my memories.
The collective Palestinian narrative is written in indelible link and though it’s a story of unimaginable terror and devastation, shattered dreams and decimated hopes, it’s also one of extraordinary sumud (steadfastness) and resistance. It’s a story that remains unfinished and determined, standing with hope defiant.
My grandmother was nine years-old on the morning of Friday, April 9th 1948 when the Zionist terrorist organizations – the Irgun and Lehi, with the agreement of the Haganah in Jerusalem, carried out Operation Nahshon and opened fire on the villagers of Deir Yassin. By evening, nearly 110 villagers were executed and the village was cleared. But the evidence of the Zionist criminality lay in the rivers of blood and the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of men, women and children.
The villagers endured barbarity at the hands, boot heels, and the edge of bloodied knives of Zionist terrorists who rounded up villagers executing them in decimations for crimes they had never committed. Men were paraded around on trucks before being taken to the village quarry and shot execution style.
Menachem Begin, the leader of the Irgun at the time, consciously inflated the death toll of the massacre from just over 100 to 254 to instill a sense of incoherent terror within people in hopes of eliminating and erasing the Palestinian people from the landscape and from human consciousness – root and branch, bone and blood. News of the massacre triggered the mass, forced exile that emptied Palestine of 80% of its native Arab population. Over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from the only homes they had ever known. Today, displaced Palestinians remain the largest and longest-standing refugee population in the world.
The beginning of the Nakba was more than an atrocity; it was completely and intentionally genocidal.
It’s been 69 years since the Deir Yassin massacre and the world has moved past it, but its selective amnesia remains present. Its survivors, however, have never forgotten that Palestine continues to be left with human devastation on an unimaginable scale by Israel in its successive operations and assaults. In the litany of Israel’s gruesome crimes and indiscriminate massacres, Deir Yassin was not the most massive in scale but it’s the one that reduced the Palestinian people to ungrievable, dehumanized convenient objects of hatred and violent retribution whenever convenient. It became the precondition for the calculative, prolonged violence and subhuman slaughter of Palestinians. This became the operative philosophy of the Zionist regime that exists today.
“Man’s inhumanity to man” – A poignant irony
Deir Yassin is one of the few Palestinian villages where the Zionist state attempted to erase its inhabitants, but kept its homes and buildings completely intact. Behind the security cameras, guard posts and fence where my family’s village and home once stood now exists a closed psychiatric facility – Kfar Shaul – which houses people with severe mental illness. The irony is not lost on me: The birth of a state predicated on the wholesale slaughter of innocent people on command, a state that has attempted to anesthetize itself to death and depravity, would surely drive anyone of conscience insane. Another breathtaking irony chills my bones every time I stand on the stolen land of my ancestors. Israel’s official Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, is built in panoramic view of Deir Yassin, standing as a haunting, insidious testament to “never forget man’s inhumanity to man” in absolute denial of the souls of martyrs buried deep beneath.
Zionist vindictiveness created a deeply-rooted psychological transference onto a people who had nothing to do with the Nazi Holocaust. Prior to 1948, Deir Yassin was a relatively prosperous and peaceful village, and its residents lived in peace with their Jewish neighbors in nearby villages, especially those in Givat Shaul whom they had signed a peace pact with. My grandmother recalls a different time when Arabs and Jews lived as neighbors attending each other’s weddings and celebrations, smoking arghila, eating dried watermelon seeds, sharing news, and going to the cinema together with their Jewish friends. The Orthodox community of Givat Shaul was one of the first to help the survivors of Deir Yassin following the Irgun-Lehi assault. This was never a conflict that has existed for thousands of years. The Palestinians have never had a problem with Judaism; it’s with injustice.
But here’s the thing about stories of survival: They affirm an inescapable truth that reacquaints both victims and perpetrators with memory, with history, with life, and with justice. Aggressors cannot seem to live with the inconvenient truth of their guilty history but survivors refuse to live without it. The people of the world continue to demonstrate that they are so capable of conveniently forgetting the murderous atrocities in which their fellow peers have participated, so it becomes morally imperative and essential, at the very least, to regularly remind them of it.
Palestine has never been a land without a people. It has always been home to a rich landscape filled with a beautiful people, with their own native land, language, and holy sites at the center of their religions. The Zionists tried to expel a people and attempt to scatter a people into oblivion, for they learned from colonizers before them that there is no precedent for a scattered people’s remaining a people. Their dispersion meant their disappearance. Or so they thought.
Tell the stories
The late Dr. Edward Said once said, “To recall Deir Yassin is not just to dwell on past disasters, but to understand who we are and where we are going. Without it we are simply lost.”
My grandmother’s face aches with despair as she narrates the horror and trauma of Deir Yassin. Her body has kept score for the past sixty-nine years. She has been acutely aware of the sense of displacement dully throbbing with determination inside the dark spaces between her organs and bones, haunted by a history that has sat uncomfortably out of joint for a lifetime. The emotional pain of displacement and dislocation hurts like no other.
The collective inventory of the Palestinian people rests on our shoulders. To never forget the incomprehensible violence and intolerable pain, the extraordinary valor and the steadfastness that have defined Palestinians. It is our duty to record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it. As the story of the massacre moves on in memory, the aim of remembering the atrocity and bearing witness takes on new meaning. The words of our parents and grandparents remain a talisman that will continue to be passed down for generations. These are the stories that teach us resilience, joy, hope and incarnation.
The Nakba continues
What drove the exterminatory impulses of the Zionists was not only the contempt that branded millions of Palestinians as dispensable and sub-human, but also the ideologically pervasive mixture of terror and hatred that continues to blame the Palestinians for all of Israel’s ills and seeks their destruction as a matter of life and death in the interests of the Jewish people’s survival. This is the politics and colonial neurosis of Zionism. Israel justifies its policy of mass eradication through its demagogic abuse of portraying itself the perpetual victim. And for those who don’t understand the sadistic nature of the Israeli settler colonialist violence, the only mention of Israel will continue through the perpetual victim narrative, nothing more than a kind of ersatz victory every time. No matter what Israel has ever done, it’s because they’re always defending themselves – armed with bombs and artillery that unearth entire societies – against the Palestinians. Everything Israel ever does is painted as reactionary under the normalization of Zionist brutality.
Israel has a very finely-tuned feel for how many atrocities it can get away with before the world reacts with revulsion. But when entire families are butchered, immolated[DE1] , bombed to oblivion upon breaking their fasts[DE2] , when mass murder has become an annual event, when the reprise of internment camps and the reinstitution of torture become acts of policy, where were the cries of “Never again”?
The truth is that for the Palestinian people, the truer shout is not “Never again” but “Again and again and again.”
The post-Holocaust vow that genocide would never again be tolerated has long been hollow. The Palestinian people are living proof that murder looks on its victims with a casual eye. The extraordinary and soul-crushing pain that the Palestinian people have endured, for nearly seventy years now, has been perceived as just and mutable.
The Nakba did not penetrate the world consciousness in the same manner as the Holocaust. Slaughtering people, village by village, didn’t seem too high a price to pay, nor did it appear inhumane. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. The silence absorbed the lack of noise with a lack of sound so potent that it blackened this world with something so much richer than Zionist hate. Since Deir Yassin, we’ve known what man is capable of: the silence acquiescence in genocide of another people.
The Nakba never ended. It is an ongoing catastrophe.
Justice and only justice
From its inception, Israel has had an insatiable addiction to blood, pouring more bodies into pits of slaughter never allowing the dead to rest in peace. But peace can never be built on the blood and bone of others. The robotic mass annihilation of the Palestinians had brought human bloodlust to a climax which nobody had considered possible by the victims of the Nazi genocide. Zionists have relied on decades of distortion and deceit, but what they always forget is that the millions of bodies have buried them more than anyone else. With each assault on the most vulnerable, disenfranchised, and traumatized people in which Israel pours endless young bodies into pits of death, they follow it. With every massacre, entire generations are revolutionized and filled with more conviction and sumud.
A truly “free” state can never exist when it’s enslaved to the organized aggression it has chained itself to. One day, Israelis will realize the ceaseless turmoil disrupting their peace has nothing to do with opposition to a Jewish state but is rooted in the fact that no human beings anywhere are created to accept injustice so casually. There will come a time when the world will stop asking the Palestinian people to stop resisting their oppression when the boots of the oppressor remains on their throats. The Palestinian people remain the only colonized and oppressed people who are constantly told to guarantee the security and rights of their occupiers and oppressors, who continue to be held responsible for nothing.
While Israeli expansion, expulsion, colonization, and the indefinite justification for violent retaliation under apocalyptic conditions continue, Palestinians are asked to concede and give more. Each year, their beloved homeland and rights wither away, like a diseased heart, speckled, clotted, and hollowed out. A homeland annulled. No two-state delusion will ever be a viable solution. There will be no peace in Israel and Palestinian until a modicum of justice is achieved for the Palestinians.
Our voices will not be muted by dispossession, expulsion, trauma, and denial. In attempting to erase us, the reality created by the Zionists became a fertile soil for the expression of steadfast resistance and perseverance. No matter how many innocent Palestinians are rounded up and executed, disappeared and silenced, there will always be more of us out there: living, excelling, falling in love, getting married, having children to pass on our narrative to. That resistance is what continues to ensure that ‘never again’ is not hollow.