The myth of Balad al-Shaykh. A massacre that never happened

This is the story of how a small engagement at Balad al-Shaykh, at the start of the 1947/1948 civil war in the British Mandate of Palestine, became the story of a full blown massacre with its own wiki page. I have uncovered documents that reveal the Balad al-Shaykh massacre is little more than part of the bubble of anti-Israel distortion. Here is the report:

It was new years eve, 1947. Both Jews and Arabs in the British Mandate of Palestine had been suffering from widespread violence since the passing of UN resolution 181 on 29th November. The Jews had accepted the partition plan, the Arabs had responded with violence, and civil war between the two sides had erupted.

With the British due to leave in only a few months, and with the neighbouring Arab states threatening to destroy any Jewish attempts to declare independence, the situation was becoming increasingly bloody and desperate.

On 30th December the Irgun attacked the Haifa oil refinery with grenades. Six Arab workers were killed in the attack. In an immediate response the Arabs at the refinery gathered together and began a massacre of Jewish co-workers.  In total thirty-nine Jews were killed. This attack is referred to as the ‘Haifa Oil Refinery Massacre‘,  (included in that wiki page are references to the ‘Balad al-Shaykh massacre’).

The Haganah wanted to respond, and do so quickly. Balad al-Shaykh was a local town where many of the refinery workers lived. Including some ‘allegedly involved’ in the massacre. For this reason it was chosen as a target. To extract revenge, the ‘units orders’ were to ‘kill as many men as possible’. (Morris, 1948 pp103. 2008. Yale University Press).

Using historical Haganah records and the research of Uri Milstein, Benny Morris put together an account that was unable to accurately specify casualty numbers from the attack. Needing to rely on separate accounts that didn’t agree with each other, Morris was left to conclude in Birth Revisited (see page 101 of book, page 124 in PDF) that anywhere between twenty-one and seventy died.

When anti-Zionists are given a choice between two conflicting numbers, they will always choose the higher number. Ilan Pappe, who quotes Morris & Milstein as the source, simply says ‘over 60 died’ (Pappe, Ethnic Cleansing, pp59. 2006. One World). As Pappe has no other source listed, his use of ’60+’ highlights perfectly, the sort of shoddy, agenda driven, propaganda, that he produces and calls ‘history’. Thus a massacre of 60-70 people, is etched in our history books. Propaganda sites such as ‘Palestineremembered’, call it  “a new years eve Massacre”.  It is now firmly part of the bubble called ‘Nakba’.

Although this is the way history has recorded the Balad al-Shaykh ‘massacre’. The idea of the Palmach units going from house to house and executing dozens of people is a complete fabrication. Here is what really occurred:

Balad al-Shaykh – uncovering the truth

For reasons I cannot currently mention, I have spent several days at the National Archives in Kew. As part of my research, I stumbled across files relating to events of 31st December 1947, most specifically at Balad al-Shaykh.

File WO 275/67 is a War Office file reporting incidents from Jan-June 1948. Inside was a report on the incident. Unlike Morris, this report comes with information from the Arab side.

“One group about 12 strong directed automatic fire from hillside above and to west into village. Second larger group believed 20 strong entered outskirts from South using SMG’s, throwing grenades at houses. Fire also reported from north from quarry nr Nazereth road. Attackers from south withdrew but firing continued from hills till aprox 010215B. Armed Arabs returned fire and sent out patrol. Villagers claim this patrol fired on a party of Jews withdrawing from scene with unknown results. Total cas(ualties) given by villagers believed authentic 14 Arabs killed incl 10 women and children. 11 Arabs seriously wounded. Jewish cas NYK (Not yet known).”


Balad al-Shaykh

Unpacking the narrative

Fourteen dead, 10 of these women and children. 11 seriously wounded. To uncover the real truth, we now need to combine the two reports and to look at motives.

Haganah – If the Haganah had come under fire, and if they had been forced to withdraw, then the disparity between the different reports Morris encountered begins to make sense. They had been involved in a firefight and had no way of knowing how high the casualty count was. Different groups, different estimates. The Arab resistance would also explain the Jewish casualties (three dead, two wounded). Given the orders were to inflict casualties and with the high sense of anger over the events at the refinery, it is no surprise the Jewish fighters may have overstated the success of their mission. As the low estimate was twenty-one, even this may have been an exaggeration.

Arabs – the villagers acknowledged the attack was probably in revenge for the events at the refinery. The casualty count is described as authentic. Whilst the Arabs may have had reason to overstate their own defence, they would also have had motive to exaggerate the number of women and children casualties.  A usual and predictable strategy in this type of circumstance. The four men plus ten women and children figure therefore becomes suspect. However if two or three of the critically injured died overnight, then we would reach seventeen casualties, the number of fatalities recorded in the article in the Times (and mentioned in the wiki page). It is this account therefore that seems the source of the initial media reports.

File CO 537/3855 and the truth about Balad al-Shaykh

Whilst digging for more information on this, I then came across reports from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in file CO 537/3855.

However, the Criminal Investigation Unit (CID) had clearly been on the scene, or in touch with those dealing with the fallout. The file, not only ran a report on the event, it actually named the victims. All five of them. Just like the Arab report but without the exaggerated ‘women and children’ section. This perhaps explains the difference between the CID report and the seventeen casualty figure that made the Times newspaper.

The CID report did not just name the five victims at Balad al-Shaykh, it also named all of those injured. With their ages. This is clearly a document with superior detail and an access to information not available to the sources Morris cites. Then, to reinforce the integrity and accuracy of this particular account, over the next two days, it added to the list of victims, as four of the seriously wounded, succumbed to their injuries. Another four names. Bringing the total fatality count to nine.

As evidence, copies of all of the documents referenced in this report have been uploaded to this site. You can view them here:

These are the names of the nine fatalities from the Balad al-Shaykh attack.

  1. Amadi Hussan Wasaf age 14 (died at scene)
  2. Ahmad Rashid Mahmoud age 20 (died at scene)
  3. Zihour Rahid Akkoni age 11 (died at scene)
  4. Rashid Ali Mahmoud age 80 (died at scene)
  5. Hussein Zahour Yuni Arwan age 24 (died at scene)
  6. Zemen Abdul Hamid age 25 (succumbed to injuries)
  7. Sherif Mohammed Eissa age 30 (succumbed to injuries)
  8. Ali Abdul Hamad age 20 (succumbed to injuries)
  9. Mohammed Yusef Hasal age ? (succumbed to injuries)

This means that probably, nine Arabs died at Balad al-Shaykh. Seven adult males (assuming Mohammed Hasal is an adult male) and two children.

There were thirty people injured. The vast majority (about 25) male.  Five of the injured were children. The male majority providing an indication of what actually happened. A mix of the two accounts. With a casualty figure stripped of the exaggeration of both sides. The Jews attempted a revenge attack for the events of the refinery, they were met with stiffer than expected resistance, they were forced to withdraw. Final fatality count. Nine Arabs, Three Jews.

This is how the Nakba myth is developed and propagated by sloppy historian activists who do not seem to care about the truth at all. An overestimate of twenty-one, became a massacre of sixty plus. In reality the death toll was probably nine. And all the while a file containing the truth was waiting to be uncovered in Kew.

As usual, this website conducts intensive research and fights to expose the truth. It is time to put the lie about Balad al-Shaykh to bed.


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30 thoughts on “The myth of Balad al-Shaykh. A massacre that never happened

  1. Great research David. Have you sent it to Morris or his publishers? I’m sure they’d be interested. (Unlike Pappe or his publishers!)

  2. Meticulous research David. Admirable work as ever and one only wishes that the major organisations were as driven and directed

    Please may I place a small half crown bet that your inevitable detractors will be here in due course employing the time honoured tactic of ignoring the subject and simply attacking you and your motivations. Your source material is solid and trustworthy but they cannot afford to give you a free pass in a game that they are now losing badly.

  3. First-rate research!

    I hope I can learn a thing or two about getting hold of British National Archives documents without being able to go there.

  4. I live in Canada. Some of the material is hard to come by if you can’t personally go to the National Archives.

    1. I am not sure how much I can help. I do not some of the files I have looked for are available for online download. How many of these there are, I cannot say.

  5. A good contact person would be of enormous value. The National Archives seems like a monster bureaucracy which is inaccessible via email.

        1. I only referred to it in the report because one of the activists who was researched, also protested outside Ahava.

          1. I am surprised you think it is a must read. I have heard him talk before. It is, IMHO, a mix of utopian & highly distorted nonsense.

            He isn’t really calling for equality, if here were, he would be campaigning for those people born in Lebanon, to be given equal rights in Lebanon. It’s a cause he would have backed for decades. He doesn’t do it, because it would weaken the ‘Palestinian cause’. So, as with most other anti-Israel activists, they deliberately accept and perpetuate suffering and inequality in the name of the cause. The day that anti-Israel activists actually begin to place the actual suffering of human beings on the top of their agenda, is the day they will capture my attention.

            There is a simple truth. Given the complexities and power struggles in the Israel /Arab conflict, the quickest way to ensure human rights for refugees who have been caught up in camps for 70 years would be for their host nations to provide full & equal rights. It is rather obvious, and any true ‘humanitarian’ would automatically place those human rights above a political cause. Just as European humanitarians are supporting accepting and assimilating refugees coming to Europe, so too they would press Arab states to accept and assimilate those who have been held as second class citizens in Lebanon and elsewhere. It is what is called consistency.

            If you do this, the Israel / Arab conflict would begin to defuse itself. It makes people like Robert hypocrites, waving the flag of humanitarian concern with one hand, and supporting the Apartheid and oppression inside nations like Lebanon with the other.

            As for the ‘equality’ nonsense. Yes, the day after Europe and the US open their doors to the less fortunate people of every nation, we can talk about Israel being a special case. In the meantime every nation looks after its own, inside Israel there is equality (comparable with most western nations), and Israelis have no reason to treat those that seek to harm them, with anything other than distaste and suspicion.

    1. Of course I wouldn’t like it. Anything that perpetuates the conflict is unwelcome.

      I do however think you misunderstand ‘whataboutery’. If I were to suggest he is hypocritical because other nations are worse than Israel, then perhaps you could try and apply that logic, but it does not work on the example I gave. I am neither deflecting, nor bringing other elements into the argument. It is a very simple exercise. If all peoples are equal, and equality is the primary concern, then automatically, those people born in Lebanon, are Lebanese. These are some of the very people covered in the argument. Not their neighbours, not someone else, but them. So I am bang on topic. The quickest and surest way to bring equality to *these* people in Lebanon is to petition the Lebanese government. He doesn’t. He chooses a longer route, one far more likely to fail, one that has not worked for 70 years. Or in other words, his solution is politically motivated, not one of humanitarian concern. No whataboutery involved.

  6. Actually he chooses a shorter route. I had my frustrations with Robert. He tended to pull his punches but he seems to have gotten over that.

    Robert seems to have reached a similar conclusion to me. There is one de facto state between the river and the sea. That isn’t going to change. So it is time to ditch certain language beloved of Israel apologists.

    Peace. Because when Israel and its apologists speak of peace they mean Pax Israeliana. Peace and quiet not peace and justice. Every thief wants peace and quiet to enjoy its ill gotten gains.

    Occupation. This talk muddies perception of the reality of the one state between the river and the sea.

    settlements. See above.

    Now the issue is simplified. The task is to work for equal rights, freedom of movement , the franchise etc. Now it is simple and understandable to Joe in the street. This makes the broad based movement Robert refers to possible. Regular people instinctively understand that people don’t live in history or narratives, they live in situations. This all makes your research irrelevant of course. I am sorry about that.

    Robert is intensely Jewish. He naturally is more concerned about what ” The Jewish State” is up to than what Lebanon is up to. Your whataboutary criticisms might fairly be directed at me but not so fairly directed at him. After all I don’t see you directing your energies towards any other racisms except a certain one.

    Of course the PA will have to get out of the way or be kicked out of the way.

    1. Oh Stephen. The position you take is built to fight the ‘greater Israel’ or ‘Israel is always right’ position. It misses the point entirely when confronting me. It may have escaped your attention, but I really have no issue with where those final borders are drawn. Give me peace, I’d be happy to provide land to make it happen. In the long run, how the people living there choose to live and work together is down to them, the more freedom and cooperation the better. If after decades of peace, they all decide that open borders, free movement and even some type of union is the way forward, I’d be in the crowd applauding. If I were Israeli PM, my first piece of legislation would be to embark on a major project of investment in Arab Israeli towns to address some of the inequality that exists. Attacking my position as if somehow, land or religion is the driving logic behind it, is to miss the mark completely.

      I work on simple factual logics. What is the most realistic path to take. Not the most utopian. When assessing the arguments of others I seek facts, logic, consistency. Provide them, you’ll have my respect, even if I still counter that some of the underlying assumptions are wrong.

      The research I undertake exposes factual errors, bad logic and inconsistency in the arguments of those that oppose Israel. Just like the article you link to. If Robert’s concern was solely with those inside Israel and the PA areas, he would at least maintain consistency. But he doesn’t. He drags people who should be Lebanese citizens into the frame as if somehow, Israel needs to provide an equality for other nations inequality.

      There is further inconsistency in the idea of open borders, beginning and ending with Israel’s borders. There is additional inconsistency in that he expects a nation he does not like, that exists 1000’s of miles from his own nation, will act in a manner superior to the mentality and actions of the nation he himself lives in. In fact, so absurd is his position, he claims that unless that far off nation acts in a manner far superior to every other nation on earth, he will boycott it.

      From a factual and logical position, he also falls flat. Israel will not allow millions of Arabs to settle in Israel. Nor will Israel, given the hostility of its neighbours, simply tear down walls because others ask it to. It leaves those who lead with this as the condition upon which Israel can be accepted, pushing a farcical and unachievable position. As I said earlier, far more likely to achieve rights for those refugees in Lebanon if you push Lebanon. From a humanitarian perspective, holding them hostage until Israel submits to your demands is entirely contradictory and hypocritical. For seventy years self declared ‘humanitarians’ have locked millions of people into refugee camps, because ‘they believe’, Israel should be responsible for them. Making new rules as they go along, to hold these people in perpetual third class citizenship. The camps in Lebanon are a stain on the entire left wing movement against Israel. A sickening and unforgivable crime against humanity.

      Even then, the historical narrative does not support him. Take the recent files I have check in Kew. Land that was purchased legally by Jews in the 1920’s. The Arabs now claim they should be compensated for it. Factually this position is so far wide of the mark we may as well all be living in Narnia. The Jews bought land. The Arabs violently objected to the Jewish presence. The Arabs sought conflict, lost their gamble, and now they want Jews to compensate them for lands that in some cases, the Jews already bought 100 years ago. It’s absurd. It doesn’t matter that the Jews acted in a shitty way a times too. The Jews won the fight, they have spent 100 years turning a backwater into a diverse and dynamic nation, and the gamblers want ‘compensation’ for a gamble they lost. The Arabs simply expect to be given a seat back at the high table, to demand that Israel ‘reward’ them for 100 years of rejectionism, hatred and conflict. It is nonsense. There is no way Israel can logically be expected to simply allow those that are so hostile to it, equal rights in deciding the future of the nation the Israelis have built.

      And those like Robert, sitting in Europe, a continent that incinerated European Jewry, or those in the rest of the world, that sat by and allowed it to happen. Look at how well Europe is currently treating their own refugees. Is Robert’s own nation one with open borders that happily accommodates and assimilates millions of refugees? Well the Europeans do not get to have a say in how Jews decide to defend themselves. And if Jews are unwilling to hand over that right, if they are adamant that Jews should be responsible for protecting Jews, well I think that is currently a logical position to take as well.

      And as for consistency. Whatever the initial ideas behind Zionism, Israel was built as a refuge for Jews inside a world that did not want them and was not willing to let them live. It is as racist an idea as a home for battered women is sexist. The day that the hard-left stand outside the home for battered women, telling the victims they have to open the doors to the angry men outside, well that’s the day they will at least show some consistency. However ridiculous they look. Because that level of stupidity, ill-logical, and non factual argument, is exactly how I see those screaming at Israel today. The louder they scream, the higher the wall Israel should build. These people are not a solution, they are part of the problem.

      1. What problem might that be David ? You see you and they are sides of the same coin. You scream they scream. President Johnson waltzes with Kruschev. Apologies in advance to Timothy Leary.

        You both hide behind the mantles of alleged history, narratives, complexity, to avoid facing up to the reality, the perfectly simple situation. ( no.Simple does not mean easy) . Full time anacdote traders. You don’t like looking at situations they are too uncomfortable.

        Robert is not asking for open borders ( I might but he isn’t ). Rather he argues for a full democracy in the de facto existing borders. I think.

        You see there is a street song/ rhyme ” I am a better anarchist than you “. Well to paraphrase it, I am a better Zionist than you. You think that Jews should be able to settle in the area between the river and the sea. I think they should be able to live anywhere they fucking well want.

        I don’t think you much care about Jews and/ or Judaism. You only care about the idol that is The State of Fucking Israel. That is the real point at which you depart from Robert. ( I am staying out of this not being Jewish but an umble Irish bog man).
        You think this reduces to what Israel will accept or agree to. Who cares . The point is that it has to be taken out of Israel’s hands. Given that Israel is THE most dependent nation on earth, it wouldn’t be difficult.

        See.I can rant almost as well as you.

  7. You present a solid case David but it is wholly lost on the recipient. It seems patently obvious that his objectives and those of others in coming here are not to engage with you but merely to ensure that when you do hit the bulls-eye, in no way can you be allowed a free pass without some attempt to demean or demoralise. For this reason the subject matter of your pieces is never discussed. That is too risky given the meticulous nature of the research and the evidence used to support it. It is far easier to make the discussion about character and motives hoping that this will skew the sense of the thread well away from the original intent. You are clearly doing something right if the old booby is having to work this hard to subvert your efforts.

  8. Excellent “….(Zionism) is as racist an idea as a home for battered women is sexist. The day that the hard-left stand outside the home for battered women, telling the victims they have to open the doors to the angry men outside, well that’s the day they will at least show some consistency.”

    1. Jose I seem to recall you used that analogy in another place at another time. No I am not referring to the time you got kicked off the JC blogs for threatening a female blogger with rape.Her name was Mary as I recall. Did she live in Brighton ? That bit I am not sure of.

  9. DNA testing has shown that most of the ‘Jews’ that stole Palestine are not actual Jews, but from European blood lines, which makes them not only liars and thieves, but murderers.

    So keep screaming anti-Semitism all you want, it’s a worn-out canard that no longer has much impact.

  10. People have first hand experience of the massacre. Just because you don’t want to acknowledge the fact doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. My friend’s grandfather was made to stand in a line with his wife behind and they shot them all. His grandmother who fled and was getting cancer treatment at home was thrown out in cold after they removed her from medical equipment. She died in snow.
    Israel stole the Arab land, killed them, tortured them and are still doing it.
    The Palestinians who accepted these European Jew refugees are being thrown out of their houses by the same people.

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