Ben-Gurion and Massacre of Deir Yassin

By Iqbal Jassat

The minutes of a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 12 June 1938 records a chilling statement made by David Ben-Gurion:

“I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it”.

Ben-Gurion, an ardent Zionist was a migrant from Poland where he was born in 1886. Since his arrival in Palestine as a 20-year old, Ben-Gurion was destined to be heralded as not only the founder of the State of Israel and its first prime minister, but also as the mastermind of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

In his Diary, an entry on 12 July 1937, Ben-Gurion records writing to his son that the only course of action open to Zionism was: “The Arabs will have to go”. What was needed was an opportune moment for making it happen, as Israeli historian and senior academic Ilan Pappe observes in his awesome study The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.   

Pappe describes Ben-Gurion as short of stature, with a large shock of white hair swept backwards and invariably dressed in khaki uniform. 

In order to make sense of the current politics of Israel, which under the right-wing leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant in denying Palestinian rights, its significant to grasp the malicious intent on the part of his predecessors. Zionist leaders such as Ben-Gurion developed and implemented concrete actions to empty Palestine of its natives. Its equally useful to recollect that in the period between 1919 to 1933 after 35,000 more Zionists immigrated to Palestine, Jewish hold of the land constituted less than 3% while their population stood at 12%.

It means that at the time the League of Nations approved Britain’s Mandate for Palestine in 1922, population figures reflected on a British census of Palestine reveals: 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish, 9.6% Christian, total population 757,182.

Historical facts, which chronicle the injustice committed against indigenous Palestinians by Jewish migrants, have unfortunately been relegated to mere footnotes. 

Yet these footnotes reveal much despite efforts by Israel and its supporters to banish them from memory.

A further chilling message is the one attributed to Zionist leader Jabotinsky who wrote in 1939 that “…… the Arabs must make room for the Jews in Eretz Israel. If it was possible to transfer the Baltic peoples, it is also possible to move the Palestinian Arabs”.

So the drive for an exclusivist Jewish State that resulted in the Nakba or catastrophe was entrenched in Zionist ideology decades ago.

Thus the massacre of Deir Yassin resulted from a blueprint for ethnic cleansing known as Plan Dalet. Pappe’s study of the terrible tragedy of April 9, 1948 when Jewish forces occupied and killed inhabitants of this pastoral village shows a pattern of calculated moves to cleanse the area. 

“As they burst into the village, the Jewish soldiers sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of the women were raped and then killed”.

According to Plan Dalet the Jewish army was to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes and land using various prescribed strategies: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning. 

In addition to Ben-Gurion’s urging the Zionist Congress of 1937 that ‘transfer’ or ethnic cleansing will be a prerequisite to make “a comprehensive [Jewish] settlement plan” possible, Jonathan Cook in Disappearing Palestine writes that three years later Yosef Weitz, a leader of the Jewish National Fund, wrote in his diary:

“It should be clear to us that there is no room in Palestine for these two peoples. No ‘development’ will bring us to our goal of independent nationhood in this small country. Without the Arabs, the land will become wide and spacious for us; with the Arabs, the land will remain sparse and cramped”.

It is instructive to learn that Jewish military commanders understood their operations against Palestinians clearly from the following descriptions: tihur [‘purifying’], biur [‘rooting out’] and nikkuy [‘cleansing’].

Cook claims that they did not wait for Britain’s departure before advancing the ethnic cleansing programme. By the time of the British exit on 15 May 1948, Jewish forces has expelled or forced into flight a quarter of a million Palestinians and occupied 200 of their villages.

The massacre of Deir Yassin added to the mass exodus and as the campaign of expulsion intensified, Ben-Gurion saw the advantages of widening the war to the main area of the Galilee, where some 100,000 Palestinians, as well as tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting, were living on land that had been assigned to the Palestinian state under the Partition Plan, observes Cook.

“Then we will be able to cleanse the entire area of Central Galilee, including all its refugees, in one stroke,” announced Ben-Gurion.

It is futile for Zionists and Israeli apologists to deny this sordid history of dismemberment, imprisonment and impoverishment of the Palestinian people in what many historians and commentators have described as a relentless effort to destroy Palestine as a nation.

– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to Visit:

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  1. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, told a Zionist Conference in 1937 that any proposed Jewish state would have to “transfer Arab populations out of the area, if possible of their own free will, if not by coercion.”[8]Report of the Congress of the World Council of Paole Zion, Zurich, July 29-August 7, 1937, pp. 73-74.

  2. We were told not to try to speak to Ben Gurion, but when I saw him, I asked why, since Israel is a democracy with a parliament, does it not have a constitution? Ben Gurion said, “Look, boy”-I was 24 at the time-“if we have a constitution, we have to write in it the border of our country. And this is not our border, my dear.” I asked, “Then where is the border?” He said, “Wherever the Sahal will come, this is the border.” Sahal is the Israeli army. Article by Naim Giladi, author of Ben Gurion’s Scandals: How the Haganah & the Mossad Eliminated Jews,

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