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Reflect on the Beautiful Lives Lost

Deir Yassin Massacre Remembered

by RAOUF J. HALABY

Even though April 9, 1948, is a day of infamy for Palestinians, few commemorative ceremonies will be held.

Sixty-Five years ago today organized Jewish terrorist groups, including the Irgun and Stern gangs, attacked the Village of Deir Yassin, a village whose population numbered some 600 people; 112 women children and old men were brutally butchered in a massacre that has been likened to the Babi Yar Nazi massacre of Jews in Kiev, Ukraine. Add insult to injury, some of the survivors were stripped, loaded on flat truck beds, paraded in a demeaning triumphal drive through Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods, driven out of town, and shot to death. Under the cover of dark, 55 surviving children were loaded on trucks and dumped in a Jerusalem alleyway. Close to 600 villages were bulldozed and permanently wiped off the map.  Some ironies: the Israelis would change the name of the village to Kfar Shaul, move Holocaust survivors into homes that were not destroyed, build a mental institution on the site, and the site itself is within full view of the Holocaust Memorial, a site just recently visited by Barack Obama.

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“Out of the Ruins, Our Memory Lives,”  Raouf J. Halaby

A memorial sculpture donated for the Deir Yassin Jerusalem Memorial

For some reason during the past six weeks I have been receiving emails from the White House Public Engagement Office about Obama’s  love fest trip to Israel, the White House Passover Seder dinner, and only yesterday, another email on ”Yom Hashoah” which reads as follows:

I join the people here in the United States, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today we honor the memories of the six million Jewish victims and millions of others who perished in the darkness of the Shoah. As we reflect on the beautiful lives lost, and their great potential that would never be fulfilled, we also pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.

On my recent trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, and reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront anti-Semitism, prejudice, and intolerance across the world. On this Yom Hashoah, we must accept the full responsibility of remembrance, as nations and as individuals – not simply to pledge “never again,” but to commit ourselves to understanding, empathy and compassion that is the foundation of peace and human dignity.

To give credence to these words, on his recent trip Barak Obama could have done several things: He could have treated the Palestinians with more respect, he could have acknowledged the historic injustice perpetrated on them, he could have acknowledged that the Palestinians, too, are victims of Western prejudice and have been paying a heavy price for the dastardly deeds of the Holocaust, that they, too, have a historic right to the land, that they, too, deserve “empathy and compassion and human dignity,”  that he abhors the daily humiliation Palestinians experience at check points, that, as an African American and an advocate for human rights, he is against segregated bus lines and Jews-only roads and neighborhoods, that the wall of separation and illegal settlements are in violation of international laws, and  that he stands behind  “a collective responsibility to confront anti-Semitism” when it comes to the Palestinians, a Semite people still paying a heavy price for Western machinations.

Today the London, England-based Deir Yassin Remembered organization sponsored the Deir Yassin Day 2013 Commemoration at St. John’s Wood Church, London. And on the 13th of April Zochrot, an Israeli organization that describes itself as an organization that “seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba [Catastrophe] especially among Jews in Israel,” is sponsoring a walk through a destroyed Palestinian village to commemorate the Dier Yassin massacre.

Deir Yassin Remembered has been unsuccessful in its attempts to build a memorial site in Jerusalem. Should readers be so inclined, please log onto the organization’s site for more information, consider sending a message to the Jerusalem municipality by utilizing the following  site: http://www.dieryassinremembered.org (go to Help us build a memorial), and urge them to allow a memorial site to be built in Jerusalem that will  “reflect on the beautiful lives lost [and whose] great potential would never be fulfilled.”

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor of English and Art at a private Liberal Arts university in Arkansas. halabyr@obu.edu