By Gilad Atzmon
Yesterday, after an absence of five years, Deir Yassin was once again remembered.
Deir Yassin Remembered is an organisation which exists only to remember the massacre of Deir Yassin of April 9th 1948. I became familiar with DYR in the early 2000s. I performed at a few DYR commemorations and each and every time I was overwhelmed. It wasn’t only the emotional intensity of the commemorations but also only at DYR events could one see the true commitment and devotion of the Palestinian community.
It is no secret that the one people who are rarely seen at Palestinian solidarity gatherings are Palestinians. They are hardly ever involved with the PSC or any other organization, but Deir Yassin Remembered is different. A DYR commemoration is no mere solidarity event – it is about Palestinians and only about Palestinians - their past, their present and their enduring suffering.
Yesterday, as on previous occasions leading members of the UK Palestinian community gathered together to light candles for their parents, brothers and sisters, murdered by the Irgun and Stern Gang at Deir Yassin. Present, was the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Manual Hassassian and the entire Palestinian Delegation. Dr. Hassassian is a remarkable speaker who, while welcoming those gathered, managed to draw meaningful historical interpretations from the massacre. The fact is that in the Holy Land nothing has changed – the racially driven plan to evict the true people of that land is still in place and practiced 24/7 by the Israeli government.
DYR, together with the Palestinian Delegation flew over from Palestine, Abu Ashraf, a survivor of Deir Yassin. Abu Ashraf was eight years old when he saw his family and friends slaughtered by my grandfather’s beloved Irgun. But strangely, although it was my grandfather who was the Irgun commander and therefore primarily implicated in the atrocity, as I listened to Abu Ashraf and his story, it was of my dad that I thought.
Abu Ashraf and my dad were born in the same year, on the same land and under the same sun. When he was eight years old, Abu Ashraf’s life – present and future – was cruelly shattered. His home was destroyed, his family and friends were murdered and since then, he has lived as a refugee. Forty years later his own son was also butchered by the IDF while the rest of his kids ended up in Israeli prisons.
My father, on the other hand, though living under the same blue sky and growing up on Abu Ashraf’s land, was a free man. He travelled the world, he studied, he saw his parents grow old and was able to care for them – and his son, yours’ truly, is alive and kicking. My father is a free man while Abu Ashraf is a prisoner.
Can Abu Ashraf and my dad ever be friends? I know they can. But can my people make friends with Palestine or Palestinians? Well, my people are not as friendly as I would like them to be, so of that I am not so sure.
For years Deir Yassin Remembered was silent. In 2005-6 the organisation was wounded by a massive AZZ (anti-Zionist Zionists) campaign. Some Jewish so-called ‘anti-Zionists’ were disturbed by DYR’s equation of Deir Yassin with Jewish suffering and the Shoa. But to me it all made perfect sense. After all, Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial, built on the confiscated land of Ein Kerem, lies just 1400 meters from, and is in clear sight of, the village of Deir Yassin.
So, for a time the UK Jewish anti–Zionist community managed to slow down DYR’s activity, but it seems this precious organisation has bounced right back – and, as is so often the case with adversity bravely faced, DYR has re-emerged stronger than before. We owe thanks to this organization and to the support of the Palestinian Delegation and its Cultural Attache Mouhamed Masharqa.
But sadly, there were some people missing last night. The PSC leadership, though invited, were not in the room and I learned that the PSC leadership attempted to boycott, and even destroy the commemoration by mounting pressure on the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) to withdraw its support to the event. Now, what with the UK BDS movement, more active against fellow Palestinians than ever it was againstIsrael, there does seem to be an awful lot of boycotting going on in the Palestine solidarity movement.
Of course, this is no big surprise to me. In recent years and under the leadership of Sarah Colborne, the PSC London head office transformed itself into a true Zionist outlet taking its orders from rabid Zionist and openly Islamophobic Harry’s Place and desperately looking for ever new ways to please the Jewish Chronicle. Completely subservient to the sectarian AZZ command, the PSC recently expelled from its ranks some of its leading long-standing activists because they didn’t comply with the Jewish political line and, for the same reasons, has even gone as far as expelling Palestinians.
The PSC is now irrelevant but with the rapidly growing popularity of deLiberation and the clear success of yesterday’s Deir Yassin commemoration, I believe it is only a matter of time, it may even be mere days, before a new solidarity voice will be heard in this Kingdom.