Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 2012
The 1967 War Revisited
Parts I & II
By Khalid Amayreh
PIC, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 11, 2012
Israeli occupation forces occupy East Jerusalem, June 1965
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, I was ten years old. Then, I didn't fully grasp what was happening to us. Arab radio stations transmitting from Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad had been galvanizing us into believing that Israel's days were numbered and that Arab nationalism, which nearly replaced Islam as our de facto religion, would soon tear up the Zionist entity into smithereens. We virtually worshipped Gamal Abdul Nasser, the legendary Egyptian president, who became a God-like figure. It was far more abominable to curse the ultimate leader of Arab nationalism, than to curse the Almighty.
So you can imagine the gigantic shock and disappointment we suffered when all of our dreams were crushed, when all these charismatic leaders proved to be little men who excelled in rhetoric but failed utterly in the confrontation with Israel. Four years before I was born, a great calamity had befallen my family. The Israeli army murdered three of my four paternal uncles, Hussein (28), Mahmoud (25), and Yousuf (23). The three, all simple and impoverished shepherds, were grazing their flock of sheep and goats near the village of Al-Burj along the so-called armistice line, 27 kilometres south-west of the West Bank town of Hebron. Together with my three uncles, a number of other relatives, including a woman, were also shot dead. In fact, the Israelis not only nearly wiped out my entire family, but also seized our herd, upon which our total livelihood depended to a large extent. This calamity condemned us to a life of misery and abject poverty for many years to come. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent didn’t run active services in our region at that time, so we were left to endure our fate alone. I remember my late father telling me that the Jordanian government gave us two goats free of charge, as compensation for the tragedy. My family viewed this as a kind of insult added to injury.
Thus, my family had to live in a cave for 22 years. The misery, the suffering, the poverty and the harshness of daily living were conspicuous aspects of our life. Interestingly, to this day, the Israeli government has neither apologized for the crime, nor compensated us for our stolen property. Imagine how vociferously Jews would fulminate if they were in my shoes. None the less, these self-worshiping Zionists still have the Chutzpah to accuse their victims of being "anti-Semites."
I don’t know when these Jews will say mea culpa to their Palestinian and other victims. Perhaps when kosher pigs fly!!
Well, I do realize that it is too premature, probably naïve, to even evoke such a question. After all, Israel is still murdering Palestinian children nearly on a daily basis.
Of course, our tragedy didn’t stop at losing three men and few other relatives killed and hundreds of sheep stolen by the Israeli government. Much more had been seized from us six years earlier, in 1948, including our farming land in al-Za’ak, in what is now Israel. We were not even allowed to retrieve our belongings, such as bed coverings, household utensils and probably some money that had been left prior to the expulsion at the hands of armed Jewish gangs.
Anybody who might have tried would have been shot on the spot. I know some people who had ventured to reach their former homes just across the border, only to be shot dead after having dug their graves.
The take-no-prisoners policy was consistent with the Israeli strategy of ‘cleansing the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants’ who constituted the vast majority of the population. To further effect this criminal policy, the various Israeli gangs, which came later to form the so-called Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), committed numerous wanton massacres against the Palestinians. Some of the most infamous massacres include Deir Yassin, Dawaymeh, Tantura, Lud and Qastal, but there were many others. The atrocities, carried out wilfully, knowingly and deliberately by the Jewish leadership, were aimed at terrorizing the Palestinians into leaving. The message was as clear as it was gruesome. “If you want to stay alive, you’ve got to leave.”
Israeli propaganda would tell the world later that the ‘Arab refugees’ left their homes willingly and were not forced into leaving by the Jews. Well, this is nothing short of fornication with truth, which reflects the brutal ugliness of the Zionist mentality.
Interestingly, the Zionists continue to shamelessly generate such big lies to deceive and mislead world public opinion. I strongly believe that Zionist Jews are God’s lying people, in addition to being the Nazis of our time. They lie as often as they breathe; they murder women, children and innocent men, and then concoct lies to justify or extenuate the horror of their crimes. Some Zionists would want us to believe that Jews don't do any wrong. Even evil acts of murder, including mass murder, are kosher since non-Jews are not bona-fide human beings. Unfortunately, this diabolically racist view is not held merely by a small unrepresentative minority; it rather represents the norm than the exception, especially among Orthodox Jews, such as the national religious sector and the Haredeem. Some influential Jewish sects, such as Chabad, are even more nefarious in their perceptions of non-Jews than the Nazi perceptions of Jews.
Luckily, some Zionists have begun of late to recognize the ignominy of their actions, but without feeling shameful or remorseful about it in any genuine manner, or indeed, without giving the slightest indication that they would be willing to reverse or undo, as much as possible, the historical injustices they meted out to the Palestinian people.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote in a book published in 2006 that, “The reality on the ground was that of an Arab community in a state of terror, facing a ruthless Israeli army whose path to victory was paved not only by its exploits against the regular Arab armies, but also by the intimidation and at times atrocities and massacres it perpetrated against the civilian Arab community. A panic-stricken Arab community was uprooted under the impact of massacres that would be carved into the Arab’s monument of grief and hatred.”1
Under the Jordanian rule, the most important concern for the Jordanian authorities was loyalty to the King and his family. The King was nearly ‘God on earth’ and the entire country, including the media, the security forces and the people rotated around his figure. Hence, the claim often made that Jordan was a king with a country, rather than a country with a king, had a substantial degree of veracity.
Connections to the King and his Mukhabarat (or intelligence apparatus) and immediate coterie would automatically put one in a preferential position. Shouting “Ya'ish Jalalat al Malik” (Long Live The King), would give one an automatic certificate of good conduct. No wonder, it was a despotic regime based on sycophancy, favouritism, nepotism and cronyism.
The Jordanian regime never really made genuine efforts to push back recurrent Israeli incursions, forays and raids on Palestinian population centres in the West Bank, let alone liberate occupied Palestine. Indeed, the Commander-in-Chief of the Jordanian army in the late 1940s, when Israel was created, and up until March 1, 1956, was a British officer by the name of John Baggot Glubb who came to be known among Palestinians and East Jordanian Bedouins as Glubb Pasha, an honorary title. So, who in his right mind would have expected a British officer to fight the Jews on behalf of the Arabs?
As far as Palestinians were concerned, the most immediate priority for the Jordanian regime was to make sure that they and other Jordanians didn’t pose a threat to the survival, security and stability of the Hashemite monarchy. A Palestinian would get a six-month prison term if a bullet cartridge were found in his possession.
And as the Israelis would do later, the Jordanians enlisted the ‘Makhatir’ (clan notables) to inform on every gesture of opposition to or dissatisfaction with the Hashemite rule within their respective clans and areas. This in turn created a kind of police-state atmosphere all over the country.
Those free-minded Palestinians who insisted on voicing their conscience were persecuted and dumped into the notorious El-Jafr prison in eastern Jordan where they were often tortured savagely, even to death. I know of a person from my town (Dura) who was tortured to death for his affiliation with the Communist Party.
Torture is still practiced in Jordan with the knowledge, blessing and encouragement of the United States and Britain . Some of the so-called ‘terror suspects’ held by the CIA were secretly flown to Jordan in order to be ‘softened up’ by Jordanian interrogators.
In the mid1950s, the Jordanian security forces on several occasions shot and killed demonstrators who were protesting the pro-Western policies of the government and the regime’s failure and inability to stop recurrent Israeli attacks. Some of these demonstrators were affiliated with or instigated by the Ba’ath party and the Communists who openly called for overthrowing the monarchy.
As a counterbalance to the leftists, who were quite active especially in the West Bank, King Hussein allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to operate relatively freely. So it was a kind of divide-and-rule policy. The leftists would accuse the Brotherhood of being British agents and the Brotherhood would retort by accentuating the atheism of the Communists and Ba’athists. Hussein’s relations with the Brotherhood remained relatively stable until the final years of his life when he introduced the one-man-one-vote law, aimed primarily at reducing to the minimum the number of parliament seats the well-organized Islamists could win. Notwithstanding, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Islamic Action Front, remains Jordan’s largest opposition party, despite government harassment and persecution.
The Muslim Brothers were not British agents or agents of any power. They wanted to create an Islamic state in accordance with the Sharia, or Islamic Law. In other words, their strategy and goals were diametrically incompatible with those of the Communists and the Ba’athists. Hence, the mutual sullen hostility.
However, to be honest, the Jordanian regime, especially with regard to how the state treated its citizens, was not as bad as other Arab regimes, e. g., Syria , Iraq and Egypt. In non-political and non-security matters, the rule of law was generally observed and applied. In general, an individual’s dignity was upheld as long as he or she didn’t criticize the regime or undermine the ‘security of the kingdom.’
More to the point, King Hussein was truly an astute leader. Far from behaving with vindictiveness and vengefulness toward his political opponents, even those who sought to assassinate him and overthrow his regime, The King nearly always pardoned them, showing magnanimity and gallantry unmatched in modern Arab history.
Despite its authoritarianism and despotism, the Jordanian regime never persecuted us in any way even remotely comparable to what the Nazi-like Israelis have been doing to us since 1967. The Jordanians never demolished our homes or bulldozed our farms or arrested our people for years without charge or trial as Israel has been doing to us. Yes, ‘wrongdoers’ were arrested and tried and often tortured, but their families wouldn’t be detained, their homes wouldn’t be bulldozed and their farms, orchards and olive groves wouldn’t be decimated as the Israelis routinely do. Jordan actually granted us full citizenship until the late King Hussein severed legal and administrative ties with the West Bank in 1988.
An outstanding exception occurred in 1970, during the so-called Black September events, when the Jordanian army battled with PLO guerrillas who The King claimed were planning to take over Jordan and end the monarchy. Some atrocities were committed during these confrontations and many people, Palestinians and Jordanians, were killed. Nonetheless, the ‘September events’ should be considered as a kind of anomaly in The King’s relations with the Palestinians.
In general, one can safely contend that there is no comparison between the Nazi-like Israeli occupation rule and the Jordanian era. The Jordanians were not really occupiers, they never behaved as occupiers. In many ways, The King was our king and the Kingdom was our kingdom. Yes, the regime was authoritarian and generally repressive, but, in all honesty, it cannot be compared to the Israelis whose barbarianism and savagery transcend reality.
Nonetheless, Jordan was (and still is) a weak kingdom, economically, politically and especially militarily. The Israeli army routinely carried out cross-border forays into the West Bank prior to 1967, murdering innocent Palestinian villagers, and the Jordanian army was generally too weak and two unequipped to repulse the Israeli incursions.
King Hussein must have calculated that maintaining a peaceable or even friendly modus vivendi with Israel was the best insurance policy for retaining his kingdom and the rule of his Hashemite dynasty. I think he was wrong in thinking this way. His non-hostility towards Israel didn’t prevent the Jewish state from pursuing its aggressive policies, which culminated in the occupation of the West Bank in 1967.
King Hussein did make a lot of contacts with Israel even before 1967. For example, on September 24, 1963 the director-general of the Israeli prime minister’s office, Yaacov Herzog, met the King in the London clinic of the King’s Jewish physician, Dr. Emmanuel Herbert.
Another meeting took place in Paris in 1965 and Israel was represented by Golda Meir, who was accompanied by Herzog.
It is also believed that Hussein had lots of contacts with the Israeli state through the alumni offices of Boston University.***
The 1967-war revisited
By Khalid Amayreh
As mentioned above, even before 1967, the Israeli army had been carrying out routine incursions into the West Bank, destroying poor people’s homes and killing innocent civilians, very much like what Israel has been doing in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon.
I still vividly remember how the Israeli army, including tanks and warplanes, attacked the small nearby town of Sammou ’, 25 kilometres south-west of Dura, in November 1966, destroying the town, virtually completely, and killing many civilians. You see the condescending Zionist mentality. They are never interested in genuine peace and coexistence with the peoples of the Middle East, but are only intent on subjugating and tormenting people with brute force. This was as much the case 45 or even 60 years ago as it obviously is now. In the final analysis, a country that builds hundreds of colonies and transfers hundreds of thousands of its citizens to live on land that belongs to another people obviously doesn't have genuine peace at the top of its national agenda.
On the 9th of June, 1967, we were told to raise the white flag when the Israeli army surrounded our small village, Khorsa, 15 kilometres south-west of Hebron. We were told we would be shot and killed if we didn't raise the white flag aloft. The Jordanian soldiers left in disgrace and headed eastward, a few donned traditional women’s clothing in order to disguise themselves, while King Hussein urged us via Amman Radio to fight the Israelis “with our fingernails, with our teeth.” Well, how could we possibly fend off the mighty Israeli army with our teeth and fingernails?
Frankly, the Arab armies didn’t really put up any real fight against the Israelis. These armies reflected the utter political, moral and ideological decadence and bankruptcy of most contemporary Arab regimes. Indeed, maintaining the regime’s survival was the most paramount priority and strategy for the ruling elites and juntas of that time. Fighting Israel was not a real priority for these Arab regimes, despite all the rhetoric and pretension.
Interestingly, this state of affairs remains unchanged even today, 40 years after the greatest Arab defeat in modern times.
For many years, Israel and its allies claimed that it was Israel that was attacked by the Arabs in 1967 and that all that Israel did was fight back for its very survival, which was at stake.
This is, of course, a big lie, as Israeli leaders themselves came to admit many years later.
The former Israeli President Ezer Weizmann (who was also a former commander of the Israeli air force) admitted in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 1972 that “there was no threat of destruction…but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could exist according to the scale, spirit and quality she now embodies.”
Similarly, the former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a notorious hawk, was quoted in Noam Chomsky’s book ‘The Fateful Triangle’ as saying that “in 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army’s concentrations in the Sinai desert didn’t prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
Yitzhak Rabin, another former Israeli Premier, had this to say about the so-called Egyptian threat to Israel.
“I don’t think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to the Sinai wouldn’t have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.”
This is not to say though that the Arabs, particularly the Egyptian and Syrian regimes didn’t indulge in a lot of sabre rattling, threatening to destroy Israel. However, the Israeli leadership of that time and the Johnson Administration, as well as the British and Soviet (Russian) intelligence knew quite well that Nasser was only indulging in bellicose rhetoric and nothing more than that.
But, Israel, nevertheless, decided to attack with the central purpose being territorial expansion.
Needless to say, territorial expansion had always been a central goal of the Israeli strategy.
For example, Chomsky quoted the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion as saying the following:
“The acceptance of partition (by Israel) doesn’t commit us to renounce Trans-Jordan; one doesn’t demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today. But the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.”
The historical defeat of the Arab armies in 1967 (historical because Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including al-Masjidul Aqsa, one of Islam’s holiest places) didn’t necessarily reflect any inherent Arab inferiority vis-à-vis Israel; it rather reflected the bankruptcy of the regimes and also west's embrace of Zionism.
In 1973, during the October or Ramadan war, the Egyptian and Syrian armies could have scored a decisive victory over Israel had it not been for the massive intervention of Israel’s guardian-ally, the United States . It is likely that the Arab armies could, under favourable circumstances, defeat the Israeli army.
At the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, the Israelis launched what one may call a PR campaign, employing Arabic-speaking Jewish immigrants from the Arab world and Druze officers. Some naïve people in our community, who had been disenchanted with the heavy-handedness of the Jordanian regime, prematurely started making positive remarks about the new occupiers.
Such people would speak auspiciously and optimistically about the fledgling Israeli era. They would make casual remarks like this: “Oh, they are better than the Jordanians, they are civilized and educated!” and “the Jews are educated people, they treat people with dignity and respect” and “under Israel’s rule, everybody is equal.” These people simply didn’t know what they were talking about.
But such feelings, which were not widespread among the people, didn’t last long, as the occupation army began revealing its ugly face by adopting stringent measures against us. Well, occupation and decency seemed then, as they do now, an eternal oxymoron. There is no such a thing as a civilized or enlightened or benevolent occupation. A foreign occupation is an act of rape, it is by nature a criminal and evil act, otherwise it would be something else.
Actually, the Israeli occupation is probably the worst occupation ever in the history of mankind, not only for its brutality, but for its durability as well.
Indeed, I would argue that, in many aspects, the Israeli occupation is probably worse than the Nazi occupation of Europe. The Nazis wanted to conquer, pacify and stabilize rather than ethnically cleanse and uproot non-German Europeans as Israel has been doing to the Palestinians.
Soon enough, the Israelis began confiscating the land and building settlements, employing all kinds of dirty and deceitful tactics, including bribery, shadowy deals, deception, tricks, falsification of land documents and outright coercion. They also resorted to the harsh policy of collective punishment such as demolishing homes as a reprisal for guerrilla attacks or membership in the PLO, especially the Fatah organization, founded and headed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In our Palestinian culture, if you want to express extreme ill- will towards somebody, you say “Yikhrib Beitak” – may your home be destroyed.
The Israelis sought to take full advantage of this weak spot in our social psychology. Thus, they demolished thousands upon thousands of houses. The demolitions, a clear-cut war crime under international law, have never ceased. Today, they do it mostly by bulldozers and by pinpoint bombing from the air. I don’t know for sure the number of Palestinian homes Israel has destroyed since 1967. However, I can safely claim that they exceed 30,000.
In fact, the wanton demolitions of Palestinian homes and villages started immediately after the war. Indeed, immediately after hostilities were over, the Israeli army utterly destroyed more than 170 homes in the Maghariba and al-Sharaf neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
In the third and fourth weeks of 1967, Israeli army bulldozers wiped out the Palestinian villages of Beit Nuba, `Imwas (Emmaus), and Yalu, all on the orders of Yitzhak Rabin.
Approximately twelve thousand people were driven away from their homes, many of them trucked to the River Jordan, others were sent wandering in the desert without food or water.
Eventually, the Israeli government, thanks to a generous gift of Canadian tax-payers’ money, built an infamy on the ruins of ‘Imwas. They called it Canada Park. This is Canada, which claims to be a guardian of human rights and the rule of international law!!!
Actually, Israel continues to behave in such a manner. The Jewish state is unearthing and destroying the ancient Muslim cemetery in West Jerusalem, the Mamanullah (or Mamillah) graveyard, in order to build the ‘Museum of Tolerance’ there!! Yes, Canada Park and Museum of Tolerance!! You see the depravity and brutal ugliness of these criminals?
On July 26, 2007, European rabbis held a protest and prayer vigil in Brussels over a 600-year-old cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania that they said was being used for construction. (See “Rabbis protest construction of Jewish cemetery”. Of course it is wrong to desecrate cemeteries, Jewish or non-Jewish. However, it is a sign of ultimate hypocrisy and moral duplicity to unearth and smash the bones of dead Muslims in Jerusalem in order to build a Museum of Tolerance on the site of the former Muslim graveyard while Jewish leaders would rave and rant and protest when a Jewish cemetery in Eastern Europe or elsewhere is desecrated by authorities there.
Home demolitions would leave deep psychological scars in people’s memories. Children would return from school only to see their homes being destroyed by bulldozers driven by soldiers wearing helmets with the Star of David engraved on them. That Star of David symbolized hate and evil and cruelty. Even today, I couldn't imagine a more hateful and evil symbol. It is very much comparable to the way Holocaust survivors view the Nazi Swastika.
Phobias, deep stress, neurosis and depression are among the disorders children of demolished homes would suffer as post-traumatic effects.
I personally witnessed numerous demolitions when I was eleven years old. The demolition, or blowing-up operation, would begin with declaring the village where the doomed house was located a closed military zone. The declaration would be made via loudspeakers fixed on the military jeeps' hoods.
In the process, all males between the ages of 13 and 70 would be ordered to gather at the playground of the local school, where they were forced to stand with their heads bowed down. Very often, the soldiers would shoot over the heads of people with the purpose of terrorizing them. And anybody daring to raise his head would be kicked in the back by heavily armed soldiers. Civility and simple human decency were always absent, as is the case in these days, and there was no al-Jazeera or CNN to report on Israel’s shameful acts, so the Zio-Nazis always felt at liberty doing to us as they saw fit. Then, the commanding officer in charge of the operation would give the doomed family ten minutes to salvage whatever meagre possessions they could. (These days they demolish our homes immediately without giving a grace period to get our belongings out).
The scene of young children comforting younger children is devastating. The distraught housewives would struggle to get their utensils and whatever mattresses and foodstuff out, lest they be crushed and irretrievable. A small child would rush to get his favourite toy or an enlarged picture of his late grandfather, before it was too late. Then the commanding officer would give the go-ahead signal and the house would become rubble in a few seconds.
Afterwards, the Red Cross would bring a tent, as a temporary shelter for the victims, otherwise the tormented family would simply make an enclosure and sleep under the trees, or, if the weather was cold, find a cave to live in until a permanent solution could be found. These were indelible images of misery I won’t ever forget, an ugly testimony to Israel's Nazi-like savagery.
Jeff Halper, founder and head of the non-governmental Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), an anthropologist and scholar of the occupation, observed that the Zionist and Israeli leaders going back 80 years have all conveyed what he calls “the Message to the Palestinians.”
The Message, Halper says, is “Submit, only when you abandon your dreams for an independent state of your own, and accept that Palestine has become the Land of Israel, will we relent.”
The implication and deeper meaning of the message is very clear. It is that “you (Palestinians) do not belong here. We uprooted you from your homes in 1948 and now we will uproot you from all of the Land of Israel.”
Halper reminds us that Zionism has been from the very inception a “process of displacement” and house demolitions have been “at the centre of the Israeli struggle against the Palestinians” since 1948.
Halper elucidates the policy of house demolitions. In 1948, he says, Israel systematically razed 418 Palestinian villages inside Israel, fully 85% of the villages existing before 1948. And since the occupation began in 1967, Israel has demolished 30,000 Palestinian homes. More homes, he adds, are being demolished in the path of Israel’s Separation Wall.
And contrary to Israeli propaganda that Arab houses are destroyed for security reasons, Halper points out that the 95% of these demolished homes have nothing whatever to do with fighting terrorism, but are designed specifically to displace non-Jews to ensure the advance of Zionism.
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