Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 2009
The 1967 War Revisited, Part I
By Khalid Amayreh
ccun.org, June 6, 2009
In June 1967, when Israel launched the 6-day-war on Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Khalid Amayreh was 10 years’ old. In the following two-part article, he recollects the war, whose outcome and ramifications continue to trouble Palestine, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
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 recently. 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 40 or even 60 years ago as it obviously is now.
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, 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 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.” 4
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.”5
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.”6
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, 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.”7
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 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 began making positive remarks about the new occupiers. The reason for that is the often-made assumption that people tend to initially make positive statements about any conqueror.
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 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 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. (See the chapter “Telephone Terror” 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.
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. As I write these words, 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”: www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa). Of course it is wrong to desecrate cemeteries, Jewish or non-Jewish. However, it is a sign of ultimate hypocrisy 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 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, 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.
Phobias, deep stress, neurosis and depression are among the disorders children of demolished homes would suffer as post-traumatic effects.
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