Israeli commander of Deir Yassin massacre dies age 94

Unrepentant Israeli commander of Deir Yassin massacre dies age 94
3 min read
20 October, 2021
Ben-Zion Cohen, a former Zionist militia commander who previously boasted of his role in the horrific massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin in 1948, has died age 94.
Ben-Zion Cohen was a commander in the brutal Irgun militia [Getty]

A commander who led a horrific massacre in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin in 1948 has died in Israel.

Ben-Zion Cohen, who commanded fighters from the Irgun Zionist militia during the massacre, died on Saturday at the age of 94, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Over one hundred Palestinians were killed in the brutal massacre, which took place on April 9 1948, as Irgun fighters threw grenades into civilian homes and deliberately shot at women and children.

The total number of victims is disputed but estimates range from 107 to 254. The village had an estimated population of no more than 600 and an Israeli settlement, Kafr Shaul, was built on its ruins.

Cohen was never held to account for his role in the massacre and remained unrepentant and boastful about his role in it until the end of his life.

“If there were another three or four more Deir Yassins in the Land of Israel at the time, not a single Arab would have remained in Israel,” he said.

The Deir Yassin massacre was considered one of the main factors which led to Palestinians fleeing their homes in the 1948 Nakba, as Zionist militias took control of most of British-mandate Palestine.

Cohen was born in Jerusalem in 1927 and joined the Irgun militia, which was known for its extremism and brutality, in 1946. The Irgun militia was later absorbed into the Israeli army.

“What do you think all those refugees in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria are from? You know because of whom? There is one Jew who can say that it was because of him. I was the commander at Deir Yassin,” Cohen previously boasted.

Interviewed for the documentary Born in Deir Yassin, Cohen described how he told his men to “blow up as many houses as possible and kill anyone who shoots”.

After the massacre and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Cohen worked for the Jewish Agency in Turkey, organising the immigration of Jews to Israel. He was later employed in Israel’s chemical industry.

Other militiamen have boasted of the war crimes they committed during the massacre.

In 2017, a letter written by Yehuda Feder, a member of the Lehi militia, was discovered where he wrote, “In the village I killed an armed Arab man and two Arab girls of 16 or 17 who were helping the Arab who was shooting. I stood them against a wall and blasted them with two rounds from the Tommy gun.”

No one has been tried for their role in the massacre and the Israeli state still censors information relating to it.