Palestine – “Barbarism by an Educated and Cultured people?” — Dawayima Massacre was Worse than Deir Yassin

“There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors killed from eighty to a hundred Arabs [including] women and children. The children were killed by smashing of their skulls with sticks. Is it possible to shout about Deir Yassin and be silent about something much worse?” For the first time ever, a letter quoting one of the Israeli soldiers who were part of the Al-Dawayima massacre in October 1948 is published in full.

The massacre is of Al Dawayima, west of Al-Khalil (which is often referred to as Hebron). In a 2004 interview with Haaretz, Israeli historian Benny Morris refers to this as a massacre of “hundreds”.

After the massacre, a letter was sent to the editor of the leftist affiliated newspaper Al-Hamishmar, but never published. As Auron notes, there are still many archives of the time which are classified. Auron also states that there was an investigation that was never concluded and “died out” as a massive amnesty was provided to military personnel in February 1949.

The letter is brought forth by a member of the MAPAM leftist party, S. Kaplan, who got the letter of testimony from the Soldier. It is written to Eliezer Peri, editor of Al Hamishmar, and dated 8th November 1948 (10 days after the massacre):

To comrade Eliezer Peri, good day,

Today I have read the editorial of “Al Hamishmar” where the question of our army’s conduct was aired, the army which conquers all but its own desires.

A testimony provided to me by an officer which was in [Al] Dawayima the day after its conquering: The soldier is one of ours, intellectual, reliable, in all 100%. He had confided in me out of a need to unload the heaviness of his soul from the horror of the recognition that such level of barbarism can be reached by our educated and cultured people. He confided in me because not many are the hearts today who are able to listen.

There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors killed from eighty to a hundred Arabs [including] women and children. The children were killed by smashing of their skulls with sticks. There was not a house without dead. The second wave of the [Israeli] army was a platoon that the soldier giving testimony belongs to.

In the town were left male and female Arabs, who were put into houses and were then locked in without receiving food or drink. Later explosive engineers came to blow up houses. One commander ordered an engineer to put two elderly women into the house that was to be blown up. The engineered refused and said he is willing to receive orders only from his [own] commander. So then [his] commander ordered the soldiers to put the women in and the evil deed was performed.

One soldier boasted that he raped an Arab woman and afterwards shot her. An Arab woman with a days-old infant was used for cleaning the back yard where the soldiers eat. She serviced them for a day or two, after which they shot her and the infant. The soldier tells that the commanders who are cultured and polite, considered good guys in society, have become vile murderers, and this occurs not in the storm of battle and heated response, but rather from a system of expulsion and destruction. The fewer Arabs remain – the better. This principle is the main political motive of [the] expulsions and acts of horror which no-one objects to, not in the field command nor amongst the highest military command. I myself was at the front for two weeks and heard boasting stories of soldiers and commanders, of how they excelled in the acts of hunting and “fucking” [sic]. To fuck an Arab, just like that, and in any circumstance, is considered an impressive mission and there is competition on winning this [trophy].

We find ourselves in a conundrum. To shout this out in the press will mean to assist the Arab League, which our representatives deny all complaints of. To not react would mean solidarity with moral corruption. The soldier told me that Deir Yassin [another massacre, by Irgun militants, April 1948] is not the peak of hooliganism. Is it possible to shout about Deir Yassin and be silent about something much worse?

It is necessary to initiate a scandal in the internal channels, to insist upon an internal investigation and punish the culprits. And first of all it is necessary to create in the military a special unit for the restraint of the army. I myself accuse first of all the government, which doesn’t seem to have any interest to fight the phenomena and perhaps even encourages them indirectly. The fact of not-acting is in itself encouragement. My commander told me that there is an unwritten order to not take prisoners of war, and the interpretation of “prisoner” is individually given by each soldier and commander. A prisoner can be an Arab man, woman or child. This was not only done at the exhibition windows [major Palestinian towns] such as Majdal and Nazareth.

I write this to you so that in the editorial and in the party the truth will be known and something effective would be done. At least let them not indulge in phony diplomacy which covers up for blood and murder, and to the extent possible, also the paper must not let this pass in silence.

Kaplan


Testimonials

REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE ARAB REFUGEE

“This letter regards sworn testimony by the village Mukhtar (leader) Hassan Mahmoud Ihdeib, who cites the massacre victims to be at least 145 in two main locations – the mosque (60) and the nearby cave Iraq El Zagh (85) – plus a large number of bodies in the street. This corresponds with historian Benny Morris’s assessment of ‘hundreds’. It is important to note here that testimonies vary, and can be a partial view; the Mukhtar came back to the village only a day later. Historian Ilan Pappe in his summation of sources estimates a total of 176 killed in the mosque, out of a total of 426 men, women and children.

UNITED NATIONS CONCILIATION COMMISSION FOR PALESTINE

TECHNICAL COMMITTEE

 

RESTRICTED. Com. Tech /W.3

14 June 1949

ORIGINAL ENGLISH

 

REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE ARAB REFUGEE CONGRESS OF RAMALLAH

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THE DAWAYMEH MASSACRE

Little is known about the brutal massacre of Arab peasants in the village of Dawaymeh on 28/10/48.* Dawaymeh is situated a few kilometers west of Hebron [Al Khalil]. It had a population of six thousand people. Some four thousand Arab refugees had taken refuge in the village prior to the massacre. The reason why so little is known about this massacre which in many respects, was more brutal than Deir Yassin massacre, is because the Arab Legion (the army in control of that area) feared that if the news was allowed to spread, it would have the same effect on the moral of the peasantry that Deir Yassin had, namely to cause another flow of Arab refugees.

For the benefit therefore of the Arab delegations assembled here in Lausanne, a brief account of the massacre is presented here. This account is taken out of a Sworn Statement given by Hassan Mahmoud Ihdeib, the Mukhtar of Dawaymeh village. I have personally interviewed the Mukhtar and found him to be a reasonable quiet man, not given to exaggeration.

He reports that half an hour after the midday prayer on Friday the 28/10/48*, he heard the sound of shooting from the western side of the village. On investigation, he observed a troop of some twenty armoured cars approaching the village on the Qubeiba-Dawaymeh road, a second troop appraoching along the Beit Jibrin-Dawaymeh road and other armoured vehicles approaching from the direction of Mafkhar-Dawaymeh. The village had only twenty guards. They were posted on the western side of the village.

When the armoured cars were within half a kilometer from the village, they opened fire from automatic weapons and mortars and advanced on the village in a semi-circular movement, thereby surrounding the village on the western, northern and southern sides. A section of the armoured cars entered the village with automatic weapons blazing – Jewish troop jumped out of the armoured cars and spread out through the streets of the village firing promiscuously at anything they saw. The villagers began to flee the village while the older ones took shelter in the mosque and others in a nearby cave called Iraq El Zagh. The shooting continued for about an hour.

The following day, the Mukhtar met with the villagers and agreed to return to the village that night to find out the fate of those that had stayed behind. He reports that in the mosque there were the bodies of some sixty persons, most of them were men of advanced age who had taken shelter in the mosque. His father was among them. He saw a large number of bodies in the streets, bodies of men, women and children. He then went to the cave of Iraq El Zagh. He found at the mouth of the cave the bodies of eighty five persons, again men, women and children.

The mukhtar then carried out a census of the inhabitants of the village and found that a total of 455 persons was missing of whom 280 were men and the rest women and children.

There were other casualties among the refugees, the number of which the Mukhtar was unable to determine.

The Mukhtar explicitly states that the village had not been called upon to surrender and that the Jewish troops had not met with any resistance.

It need hardly be mentioned that this brutal and unprovoked attack occured during the truce.

Secretary

DELEGATION

ARAB REFUGEE CONGRESS

Source – jewishvoiceforpeace.org