Deir Yassin: A Challenge to Recall

Having just reviewed Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe’s brilliant classic “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, I am pleased that Ronnie Kasrils [South African Minister of Intelligence] has devoted a timely piece in remembrance of the orgy of death at Deir Yassin on 9 April 1948.

Kasrils’ feature on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the illegitimate founding of Israel, appropriately titled “A call to confront the past” [Star, April 7, 2008] is compelling, not only because he is able to relate to the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians in much the same way the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 motivated him to join the ANC, but also due to his firm and unequivocal understanding of similar racial and colonial characters between our freedom struggle and the Palestinian cause. In challenging Israelis and Zionist supporters to acknowledge the reasons why Palestinians and freedom-loving people will have no reason to celebrate the establishment of the Jewish state, Kasrils aptly demonstrates that it will be a period of mourning and protest action.

Indeed, Pappe’s book contains well-researched evidence giving credence to the argument that the tragedy which befell the Palestinians in 1948 will always be the Nakba, the ‘catastrophe’. It is a study, which ought to shame all those making elaborate celebratory plans for it raises innumerable moral dilemmas for them to do so in the face of policies leading to one of the largest forced migrations in modern history!

Since Kasrils correctly asserts the need for Israel to confront the past, one wonders whether Chief Rabbi Goldstein will have the courage to recognize that “without dealing with the agony it has caused, there can be no healing and no solution”. Equally it would be futile for local Zionist lobbies to rubbish Kasrils as a “self-hating Jew”, as his reading of the “bloody thread that links Israel’s shameful past with that of today” is spot-on.

The late Edward Said would have been especially pleased with Kasrils’ call for solidarity. After all, as Said recorded two decades ago, more than any single occurrence in his memory of the Nakba, it was Deir Yassin that stood out in “all its awful and intentional fearsomeness –” the stories of rape, of children with their throats slit, mothers disemboweled, and the like”.