Comment by Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Today marks the passage of 41 years since the outbreak of the 1967 war, or the Six-day war, as it is known in the Israeli political phraseology. However, despite overwhelming Israeli military and political advantages, mainly due to Zionist influence and predominance in the West, particularly the United States, it is amply clear that the Palestinian people are keeping up the struggle for freedom and justice and self-determination.
This struggle, everyone must understand, will never come to an end, until racism and oppression come to an end.
In this somewhat lengthy article, I will present some of my personal recollections in relation to life under the sinister Israeli occupation. Interestingly, the nightmares of the occupation have only become more ghoulish. Now Israel’s Nazi face is exposed to all and Sundry.
Prior to the 1967 war , 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 and the West Bank.
This writer, for example, had lost three innocent members of his family to Israeli savagery back in the early 1950s. My three paternal uncles (Hussein, Yousuf and Mahmoud) were brutally killed by the terrorist state as they were grazing their sheep along the armistice line near the village of al Burj, about 30 kilometres south west of Hebron. I know of many other families that had children and relatives murdered by the Israelis.
Some of these doomed villagers had sought to retrieve belongings from their homes west of the armistice line. However, when they were caught, they were ordered to dig their own graves before being summarily shot and dumped in the trenches.
Israeli incursions into the West Bank before 1967 took the shape of real massacres, as happened at Kufr Qassem, Nahalin, Sammu, Khan Younis, and others.
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.
In June 1967, I was ten years old. I remember how we were told to raise the white flag when the Israeli army surrounded our small village, Khorsa, in the Hebron region.
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 was urging 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 despotic regime’s survival was the most paramount priority and strategy for the ruling elites and juntas of that time. Fighting Israel and liberating Palestine were not a real priority for these Arab regimes, despite all the rhetoric.
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 do 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, Noam 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 Transjordan ; 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.
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, as demonstrated by Hezbollah in its war with Israel in the summer of 2006.
At the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, the Israelis launched what one may call a charm campaign, employing Arabic-speaking Jewish immigrants from the Arab world as well as Druze officers. Some naïve people in our community, who had been disenchanted with the heavy-handedness of the Jordanian regime, prematurely began 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 really last long, as the occupation army began unmasking 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 tactics, including bribery, shadowy deals, deception, tricks, falsification of 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 in 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 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 the 15,000 figure.
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 from “democratic” and “civilized” Candada, 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!!!
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, which we are told is originally a religious symbol, 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.
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 located atop military jeeps.
In the process, all males betweens 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 belongings 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 the “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.
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. In 1967, the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel has probably reached the five-million figure. Indeed, in a few years, perhaps 4-6 years, there will be more Palestinians in mandatory Palestine (the area from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan) than there are Jews.
This fact alone is very important since it corrodes the Zionist myth that Palestine is a land without a people for a people without a land.
True, Israel is a powerful entity with a large stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Israel, through its powerful Jewish pressure groups in the US, also controls, I would say tightly, American politics and policies.
But Israel is already on the decline in many ways unseen by the casual beholder. In the final analysis, a state that murders children on their way to school and bombs homes and apartments that are packed with sleeping children, women and men, and then lies through her teeth about these crimes has no future.
Israel is doomed. May we all live to witness its ultimate demise.