In 1950, Doubleday censored frank account of Deir Yassin massacre from prominent American’s book

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 27 Comments

One of the ideological puzzles of the Ron Paul campaign is the fact that the best line on Iran and Israel from any of the candidates, by far, has come from an isolationist libertarian Republican from Texas.

And the most impressive president on the Israel-Palestine issue was Dwight Eisenhower, who bucked the Israelis in Suez and insisted on the right of return of refugees. (I know, Jimmy Carter is pretty good too).

vester
Bertha Spafford Vester (1879-1968)

Recently a friend pointed me to the fact that the rightwing publisher Regnery put out two books in the 1950s that had a more clear-eyed view of the conflict than any American publications beside the work of anti-Zionist rabbi Elmer Berger. Regnery published They are Human Too, a wrenching book of pictures of the Palestinian refugees. And in 1957 it published Freda Utley’s Will the Middle East Go West? [full text at the link]. Steeped in national interest politics, and calling for the two-state solution, the book also includes forthright descriptions of Israeli crimes.

Bottom line: for whatever reason, cultural or political, American rightwingers have done some of the best thinking on the Israel Palestine issue; and resolving this conflict inside American life means recovering some of their truths and working with them.

What a long introduction to my headline! In her book, Freda Utley tells about meeting the late Bertha Spafford Vester in Jerusalem.

This wonderfully understanding, compassionate and courageous old lady hails from Chicago, but she has spent more than forty years of her life in Palestine, where her father founded the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1881… Vester, whose husband died several years ago, has carried on their joint work and now presides over the Spafford Children’s Hospital situated above the Gate of Damascus and helped by the Ford Fondation… 

Several years ago [1950] Mrs. Vester wrote a book called Our Jerusalem about her life with her husband in the Holy Land, published by Doubleday Doran. Her final chapter, which gives an account of how the Arabs have been deceived and cheated by the West, also of the crimes committed by Israeli terrorists against the Arabs, was deleted by her publishers from her book. She gave me a copy of this chapter, which she had printed in a pamphlet form at her own expense. From her lips, for the first time, I heard the terrible story of the Israeli massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Deir Yaseen [in April 1948] which caused thousands of Arabs to flee and become refugees in Jordan and the Gaza Strip.

With tears in her eyes even after so long a time, Mrs. Vester told me how the Irgun [Jewish terrorist] forces had rounded up the whole population of this Arab village, machine-gunned the men and also many women and children, and how, afterwards, loud speakers mounted on jeeps or armored cars had paraded western Jerusalem warning the inhabitants that, if they did not get out at once, they would suffer the same fat as the people of Deir Yaseen.

“In my hospital,” she said, “I took in fifty babies under two years old from the martyred village of Deir Yaseen.”

As she told me, and as she wrote in the expurgated chapter of her book:

“While I was registering these babies and listening to the horrible recital by the women of what they had been through, a small boy about four years old stood by me. Seeing that I was not an Arab, he gave one shriek and said, ‘Is she one of them?’ and fainted. I ran to get water to revive the child but when I returned with the water, I found that he was dead….”

She realized that the Jews who committed the atrocities she witnessed had been brutalized, or driven into evil courses, by their own treatment by the Nazis, or by the persecution they had suffered elsewhere, and by their desperate situation in an Arab world rendered implacably hostile by the partition of Palestine. She told me that many Jews in Jerusalem were intimidated into supporting the terrorists among them who in their treatment of the Arabs were emulating the Nazis from whom they had escaped. One of her best nurses, a Jewish woman, had telephoned to her while the Jews and Arabs were fighting for possession of Jerusalem to say that she could no longer work in the American Colony hospital. Mrs. Veser assured her that she had nothing to fear from the Arabs, who trusted her completely after her thirty years of service to them. But the Jewish nurse replied, “It is not the Arabs I fear but my own people.”

In 1954 President Eisenhower received Mrs. Vester while she was visiting Washington and had a long talk with her. It is not inconceivable that her account of the tragic Israeli-Arab dispute helped the President in his decision two years later to defy Zionist, British and French pressures during the election campaign in November 1956.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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27 Responses

  1. Potsherd2
    November 21, 2011, 2:12 pm

    She should have pulled the book.

    • Sumud
      November 21, 2011, 4:18 pm

      Or Potsherd, perhaps it is time for the book to be re-published, in full, with the missing chapter re-instated. If this can’t be done in print form it could at least be done as an e-book.

      Or run here on Mondoweiss.

      And Phil ~ do you have a copy of ‘They are Human Too’? I see there is a copy in one of my local libraries. Might be good to run some pictures from it on Nakba Day next year. I volunteer to do the scanning.

      • Henry Norr
        November 21, 2011, 7:11 pm

        What’s described as the “full text” of Spafford’s Our Jerusalem – is available online here. It’s apparently of the published version, minus the censored chapter, but there are a few references to Deir Yaseen in chapter 31.

      • Potsherd2
        November 22, 2011, 8:30 am

        A very good idea, Sumud.

  2. lysias
    November 21, 2011, 4:11 pm

    If memory serves, there’s a brief mention of Deir Yassin (as well as a much longer discussion of how Truman doublecrossed the State Dept. in the UN votes over establishing Israel) in the memoir Many a Good Crusade by Barnard College Dean Virginia Gildersleeve, who served as a U.S. representative at the UN Charter Convention in 1945. Her memoir was published in 1954.

  3. annie
    November 21, 2011, 4:35 pm

    just opened the Will the Middle East Go West? link, THE ARAB-CHINA PARALLEL sounds intriguing. i love mondoweiss for posts like this. i could spend all day getting lost in this link alone. can someone get a copy of her Vester’s last chapter? is it available online?

    “In my hospital,” she said, “I took in fifty babies under two years old from the martyred village of Deir Yaseen.”

    • Bumblebye
      November 21, 2011, 5:53 pm

      Horrifying that a 4yr old could be so traumatized, so terrified at the sight of someone like you or I that he fell dead in an instant.

  4. Mayhem
    November 21, 2011, 5:44 pm

    Deir Yassin may not be all it is cooked up to be.
    From BBC interviews with the man who issued the first news report about the events at Deir Yassin.

    • Avi_G.
      November 21, 2011, 6:05 pm

      November 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Deir Yassin may not be all it is cooked up to be.

      Neither is the Holocaust.

      • Chaos4700
        November 22, 2011, 9:01 am

        We keep saying it and it keeps bearing true. Zionists are Jewish Holocaust deniers.

      • dahoit
        November 24, 2011, 11:50 am

        You stole my line!

    • annie
      November 21, 2011, 6:13 pm

      yeah yeah yeah, i’m sure israel would like nothing more than to water it down. in another decade it will be debatable whether it ever happened at the rate they’re going.

      • annie
        November 23, 2011, 4:36 am

        On the day of the massacre, the Israeli army decided to place all seven villages along the green line under a curfew called the War Time Curfew, from 5 in the evening until 6 the following morning. Israeli soldiers were instructed to shoot and kill any villager violating the curfew.
        Even though the border police troops were given the order by their commander at 3:30 in the afternoon, they only informed the mayor of Kafr Qasim about an hour later, leaving a window of 30 minutes for the 400 villagers working in the fields or outside the village to come back home.

        According to Israeli investigation committee records, from 5:00 pm until 6:30 on October 29, 1956, border police shot and killed 49 villagers from Kafr Qasim as they tried to return home. Among those killed were 23 children and one pregnant woman.

        The killed and injured were left unattended through the night. After the curfew ended, villagers took the injured to hospitals and laid the dead to rest in a mass grave.

        i didn’t know flyod.

      • eljay
        November 24, 2011, 10:03 am

        >> According to Israeli investigation committee records, from 5:00 pm until 6:30 on October 29, 1956, border police shot and killed 49 villagers from Kafr Qasim as they tried to return home. Among those killed were 23 children and one pregnant woman.

        The killed and injured were left unattended through the night. After the curfew ended, villagers took the injured to hospitals and laid the dead to rest in a mass grave.

        Ssshhhh! Can you hear that? That’s the sound of someone “holding his nose” and approving of immorality (“currently not necessary”).

    • Sumud
      November 21, 2011, 8:47 pm

      That clip doesn’t contain any new information.

      It is well known that both sides exaggerated events at Deir Yassin, Palestinians to induce surrounding arab state armies to enter the conflict, and zionists to create an environment of terror. To do so they perpetrated anywhere between 24 and 68 other massacres.

      The repetitive snippets of interviews included call into question to the reporting of rapes perpetrated at Deir Yassin, not the massacres. Anyone with half a brain can understand that.

      Why don’t you ruminate on the evils Israel has perpetrated instead of posting vary badly constructed hasbara? Bertha Vester has wisdow for you:

      “In my hospital,” she said, “I took in fifty babies under two years old from the martyred village of Deir Yaseen.”

      She told me that many Jews in Jerusalem were intimidated into supporting the terrorists among them who in their treatment of the Arabs were emulating the Nazis from whom they had escaped. One of her best nurses, a Jewish woman, had telephoned to her while the Jews and Arabs were fighting for possession of Jerusalem to say that she could no longer work in the American Colony hospital. Mrs. Veser assured her that she had nothing to fear from the Arabs, who trusted her completely after her thirty years of service to them. But the Jewish nurse replied, “It is not the Arabs I fear but my own people.”

      And then, for those who haven’t yet seen it, I suggest a viewing of the short 1950 documentary Sands of Sorrow:

      Sands of Sorrow

      It’s about the desperate situation of the 750,000 in the refugee camps after Al Nakba. Note the mind-blowing statistic that infant mortality in the camps in Gaza was 80% at the time. To put that in perspective, the worst infant mortality rate in any country in the world today is in Angola, 18%:

      Infant mortality: Infant mortality rate in countries

      • Walid
        November 22, 2011, 8:46 am

        “She told me that many Jews in Jerusalem were intimidated into supporting the terrorists among them who in their treatment of the Arabs were emulating the Nazis from whom they had escaped.”

        Sumud, the Zionists led by the terrorist Begin must have gotten their inspiration to do Deir Yassin from the 1938 Kritallnacht that in one month succeeded in spooking away 100,000 Jews out of Germany. Mostly everything they did back then and continue doing shows some sort of Nazi antecedant. You can’t say they’re not good learners.

  5. benedict
    November 21, 2011, 8:30 pm

    Anie-

    Events surrounding deir yasin are indeed controversial. There is no doubt that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed. However the precise number of casualties and the exact circumstances of the event are open to considerable debate among historians.

    The description of Mrs. vester is essentially hearsay based on what arab newspapers described in the time and so it doesn’t add to much to clarifying the matter.

    • chocopie
      November 22, 2011, 12:02 am

      “There is no doubt that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed. However…”

      In the above excerpt, identify the noun, the subject, the verb, the adjective…very good; that is correct. Now, tell me the Zionist word.

      That’s right, the Zionist word is “However.” One can identify the Zionist word by its placement in front of a long string of sentences that follows any reference to Israeli atrocities.

    • Watcher465
      November 22, 2011, 1:35 am

      Benedict you’ve just described the Holocaust. Thank you very much.

    • Sumud
      November 22, 2011, 2:14 am

      The description of Mrs. vester is essentially hearsay based on what arab newspapers described in the time and so it doesn’t add to much to clarifying the matter.

      Read the article before commenting benedict. Bertha Vester had direct knowledge of the Deir Yassin massacre, in her hospital she had to deal with the 50 babies whose parents had been slaughtered by zionists. Utley relays Vester’s account of events:

      From her lips, for the first time, I heard the terrible story of the Israeli massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Deir Yaseen [in April 1948] which caused thousands of Arabs to flee and become refugees in Jordan and the Gaza Strip.

      With tears in her eyes even after so long a time, Mrs. Vester told me how the Irgun [Jewish terrorist] forces had rounded up the whole population of this Arab village, machine-gunned the men and also many women and children, and how, afterwards, loud speakers mounted on jeeps or armored cars had paraded western Jerusalem warning the inhabitants that, if they did not get out at once, they would suffer the same fat as the people of Deir Yaseen.

      “In my hospital,” she said, “I took in fifty babies under two years old from the martyred village of Deir Yaseen.”

      As she told me, and as she wrote in the expurgated chapter of her book:

      “While I was registering these babies and listening to the horrible recital by the women of what they had been through, a small boy about four years old stood by me. Seeing that I was not an Arab, he gave one shriek and said, ‘Is she one of them?’ and fainted. I ran to get water to revive the child but when I returned with the water, I found that he was dead….”

      It’s offensive and stupid to hear you dismiss that as “hearsay”.

  6. lobewyper
    November 22, 2011, 7:24 am

    This is a great post, Phil! I encourage all who haven’t yet to peruse Utley’s “Will the Middle East go West?” As for making common cause with the Right, I hope we can, but you seem to be talking about right-wing publishers from the middle 1950’s here, as I understand you. To which right-wing thinkers are you referring?

  7. Justice Please
    November 22, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Phil, concerning your opening paragraphs about how “just views” on Palestine/Israel/Middle East also come from right-leaning people: Well, d’oh!

    Because you have adopted the outdated left-right paradigm on politics and chose the “left side” as yours, it surprises you that people who are put on the other side of this artificial paradigm are also capable of just ideas, just like you are. Let go of this outdated paradigm, and embrace the only division which matters: on the one side are those who think and act justly (justice being defined only by you, because there can be no general definition of justice), and on the other side are those who don’t. There are people of all colors and beliefs on both sides.

    Back to Ron Paul and some of the right-leaning people you mention: What distinguishes them from many on the left is their view that the US national interest is something very important. Left-leaning types often forget that putting your own nation (aka the political entity you live in) first, is a fundamentally reasonable position. Add to that the principle that all foreign nations should be treated the same, a principle especially Paul holds, and you have the solution to your “puzzle”.

    • Justice Please
      November 22, 2011, 2:43 pm

      Or like Larry Derfner wrote in that article Mondo quoted:

      “the problem is that this conflict is plagued by faint-hearted, even-handed, liberal failures just like him. From Obama to Ban Ki-Moon to Sarkozy to Ashton to Blair to Merkel to Cameron, from the New York Times to CNN to the BBC, everybody out there is afraid to say out loud what, from all impressions, they know to be true: that the Israeli government is the problem here and the Palestinian Authority is not..”

      I don’t know if the stereotype of the soft liberal is true, but it sometimes really seems that liberals can’t stand up to someone they know is a thug, look him in the eye, accuse him, or punch him in the face.

      Eisenhower could do this, and even Bush senior and James Baker could, when they threatened to freeze loans to Israel. Obama, in contrast, does not even raise his voice when Israel kills American citizens in international waters.

  8. lobewyper
    November 24, 2011, 8:51 am

    From Chapter V of “Will the Middle East go West?” published in 1957 by Freda Utley:

    “The situation is not hopeless, thanks to President Eisenhower’s courageous and principled stand against the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt, and to the confidence in America which his speaking-out engendered among millions of Arabs. In the words of the most respected and best informed of British publications, the Economist:

    “President Eisenhower electrified Asia and has won a respect he never previously enjoyed first by speaking without thought of the Jewish vote in the United States on the eve of a Presidential election, and then by the firmness with which he warned both his Anglo-French friends and Israel that they must conform to the will of the United Nations.

    “If President Eisenhower is of the stuff of which great American presidents are made, and if he is supported by the American people, he will be able to formulate and enforce a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world, based on the principles which have made the United States great, strong, free and respected.

    “Courageous” and “principled.” How long has it been since we could accurately use these terms to describe our leaders? It makes me want to cry…

    • dahoit
      November 24, 2011, 12:15 pm

      Ike had a lot of nationalist credentials the Zionists couldn’t counter.

  9. lysias
    November 24, 2011, 12:57 pm

    The Deir Yassin massacre is reenacted — quite effectively — towards the end of the last episode of the British TV miniseries The Promise.

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