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Beigin Disputes Contention That Dir Yassin Was Similar to My Lai

April 15, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Menachem Beigin claimed in an article published in The Times today that no massacre occurred at Dir Yassin in April, 1948 and attributed “hypocrisy” to anyone drawing analogies between that incident and the My Lai massacre in Indo-China of March, 1968. Dir Yassin, an Arab village on the western approaches to Jerusalem, was occupied by units of the Irgun and Stern Gang, extremist underground Jewish organizations, on April 9, 1948 following a heavy attack in which many civilians including women and children were killed. Beigin, now leader of the Gahal opposition party in Israel, was commander of the Irgun at the time. His article in the Times was a reply to one published by the paper’s deputy editor Louis Heron April 6 in which he referred to Dir Yassin as “Israel’s My Lai.” “It was neither a Jewish My Lai nor a Jewish Amritsar,” Beigin wrote. “The reason is simple. No massacre was either ordered or carried out at Dir Yassin” On April 11. 1948. the Executive of the Jewish Agency, then the de facto government of Jews in Palestine, bitterly condemned the Dir Yassin affair. The Executive said that after learning the full details of the occupation of Dir Yassin “it must express its horror and disgust at the barbarous manner in which this action was carried out…Such brutalities by Jews are repugnant to the Yishuv (Jewish Palestine).” The Executive also sent a cable to king Abdullah of Jordan, expressing sorrow over the events at Dir Yassin.

According to Beigin, the village was occupied because it “kept the only road to Jerusalem underfire” and was the base for repeated attacks on the western suburbs of Jerusalem. He said the Irgun, which was then operating jointly with the Stern Gang. or “Lehi,” brought a loudspeaker van to the hills near Dir Yassin and warned all civillians to leave. “Many did so and were not hurt and were handed over to the Red Cross,” he wrote, “Iraqi soldiers were in Dir Yassin helping local bands. Our men suffered unprecedented casualties. Civilians were killed because the battle was fierce. From almost every house built of solid stone our men were fired at. To overcome the enemy’s deadly fire, they had no option but to toss grenades into houses… The next day as we received the first news about civilian casualties, we publicly expressed our deep regret. This is what happened at the battle of Dir Yassin,” Beigin said. Heron wrote in The Times, “It can of course be argued that the situation was entirely different to that of My Lai. Unlike Lt. Calley and his men, the Jews were fighting for their lives as well as the establishment of a Jewish State… Dir Yassin was certainly different in that none of the allegedly mitigating arguments in defense of Calley applied. It was not the work of a confused young man but a carefully planned operation with a clear political objective. No effort was made to bush it up.”

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