Remembering Deir Yassin...

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 at 3:59PM :

...and they are still fighting over a patch of supposedly holy land.

- - - - - - - -
by Daniel McGowan, executive director of Deir Yassin Remembered

(published in The Daily Star, Beirut, September 24, 2003)

Today, an extraordinary event will take place in Geneva, New York:
the dedication of the first US memorial to the victims of the Deir
Yassin massacre. This event was organized by Deir Yassin Remembered,
an international human rights organization, half of whose current
board includes Jews.

On April 9, 1948, members of the Irgun and the Stern Gang massacred
over 100 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir
Yassin, near Jerusalem. The Deir Yassin massacre marked the beginning
of the depopulation of over 400 towns and villages, and the exodus of
750,000 Arabs; it also marked the beginning of the Palestinian Nakba,
or catastrophe, and the creation of a Palestinian diaspora in refugee
camps and in neighboring Arab countries.

But why build a memorial to the victims of Deir Yassin in the US? For
Palestinians and most Arabs to remember Deir Yassin is a form of
resistance to the humiliation and dehumanization Palestinians have
suffered for over 55 years, much of it sponsored and nurtured by the
United States, through its unwavering support for Israel. To
memorialize Deir Yassin is a cry for the world to remember the ethnic
cleansing Palestinians have endured, and the apartheid conditions
under which they now live.

Quite simply, for Palestinians remembering Deir Yassin says: "You
stole our history; we want it back. We shall not allow our history
and the narrative of our dispossession to be ignored." If Kelcie, in
Poland, is hallowed ground where Jews were massacred, Deir Yassin is
hallowed ground where Palestinians were massacred. And that ground is
within sight of Yad Vashem, the famous Holocaust museum, where the
world is taught to "never forget" and that "hope lives when people

Today, half the people between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River
are not Jews; most of the non-Jews are Palestinian. Their history is
also important. Contrary to popular mythology, there never was
a "land without people" before the Jews arrived. Nor were
Palestinians persuaded to voluntarily leave their land by their
leaders. They were driven out in 1948 and in 1967, deliberately and
with malice. There was no "purity of arms" at Deir Yassin. Those who
committed the crimes were hardly a "light unto nations."

As writer Elie Wiesel often proclaims: "The opposite of love is not
hate; it is indifference." If so, the indifference shown toward
Palestinian history, in Israel and in the US, is worse than hateful.
Jews rightly protest against Holocaust denial, and the world listens.
Palestinians rightly protest against Nakba denial and are often
told: "Get over it." In either case, such denial is hurtful and is no
basis for peace.

The Geneva memorial is a bronze sculpture depicting a mature olive
tree, a symbol of peace, uprooted in the quest to build a Jewish
state on land owned and long-inhabited by Muslim and Christian
Palestinians. The tree's tortured, angular lines illustrate the
Palestinian dispossession that began in 1948 and continues today. The
extended branches add movement and drama; they appear dead and yet
are still alive. The torn roots of the displaced olive tree are
partially wrenched from the earth; their continued attachment to the
ground symbolizes clinging to the motherland.

Members of Deir Yassin Remembered believe there cannot be true peace
as long as the truth is avoided and as long as the sad history of the
Palestinians is ignored.

-- Jeff
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