Today, nearly 70 years ago in 1948, a peaceful village in Deir Yassin, Palestine, was attacked by armed Jewish terrorists from the militant Irgun and Stern Gangs, who formed the backbone of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) upon the creation of the State of Israel shortly afterwards.
The village, known for being so committed to non-violence it even expelled Arab militants, was attacked with the help of Palmach elite soldiers from the Haganah, another Jewish militant group.
Reportedly 200 were killed in battle, while around 40 men, women and children of the village were taken prisoner, paraded through Jewish sections of Jerusalem, brought to a quarry between tone quarry between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and brutally shot to death.
While the attack itself was reported, the massacre of the prisoners was never revealed to the international press at the time.
The horror of what happened at Deir Yassin would be the impetus for the uprooting of Arabs from their lands in Palestine, signalling the beginning of what would come to be known as the An-Nakba, or Catastrophe, where at least 80,000 Palestinian Arabs were evicted from what would become Israel.
These Palestinians and their descendants remain the world’s largest group of refugees today, and have been left without a state to call their own.
The international crime of genocide finds its definition in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and is divided into two elements, the mental element and the physical element. In the commission of that very crime by the predecessors of the IDF, the inhabitants of the village of Deir Yassin suffered the physical element thereof, which is the commission of the mass murder itself so that the rest of Arab Palestine could be made to fear its mental element in the expectation they would be its next victims, which was instrumental in their motivation to flee their lands, leaving them to be confiscated by the Zionist regime.
Back then, there was no International Criminal Court (ICC). Although earlier and later genocides had the benefit of ad hoc international tribunals, such as the Nuremberg trials, the Tokyo trials, the former Yugoslavia trials and the Rwanda trials, the Palestinians have never enjoyed any such inquiry and redress of their plight.
While the Palestine question has continued unresolved for 70 years now, today we are experiencing a renewal of violence perpetrated against the Rohingya in Rakhine, Myanmar. The evidence is overwhelming that genocidal violence is taking place against this ethnic and religious minority since October 2016 and continues to this very day.
Myanmar leader Aung San Syu Kyi recently gave an interview to BBC journalist denying genocide on the grounds that the term is too strong and does not accurately reflect what is happening on the ground, claiming that there is an intra-religious conflict between the Rohingya rather than an inter-religious conflict between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. Such a claim could not be further from the truth and is a clear attempt to obfuscate the issue in the like way the brutal murder of Palestinian innocents were covered up seven decades ago. The evidence instead points to a systematic attempt to clear Rakhine of Rohingya just as Palestine was cleared of its Arab inhabitants 70 years ago.
On the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the attack on Deir Yassin, the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) urges the international community to take stand up for the rights of oppressed peoples, in particular victims of international crimes such as genocide, by doing all they can to stop the commission of such crimes.
The international community should apply political, economic and social pressure to bear on those who support the barbaric regimes that commission such wanton acts by supporting and joining the campaign for the affirmation their rights at #WeAreAllRohingyaNow (http://allrohingyanow.org/)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among all other international human rights instruments affirm the inviolate nature of the right to life. A strong message must be sent to the regime of Israel that there is no statute of limitations on old crimes as well as to the Burmese regime, that mass murder has no place in the 21st century.
Let us honour the memory of Deir Yassin by continuing our fight for a just international order whereby those who commit crimes against humanity are duly sanctioned for such misdeeds.
Press Statement by Azril Mohd Amin, Lawyer & Chief Executive, CENTHRA.