Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The 1967-war revisited, Part II
By Khalid Amayreh
ccun.org, June 9, 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:
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
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
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
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.
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 21,000 Palestinian homes. More homes, he adds, are
being demolished in the path of Israel’s Separation Wall, with the number
of homes demolished estimated at 40,000 in the past four years.
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 addition to the manifestly barbaric practice of home demolitions, the
Israelis really ‘excelled’ in the widespread practice of physical
and psychological torture, especially in the first few years of the
Occupation. In fact, a villager by the name of Salim Mahmoud Safi
from Khorsa, my village, was tortured to death in 1970.
Israel often imprisons the bodies of Palestinians killed or tortured to
death for years in order to further torment and inflict pain upon their
families. This is a well-known fact here.
Born into a very poor
family, I started working in Beer Sheva when I was thirteen as a
construction worker and then as an assistant plasterer (Maggish in
Hebrew). I did this usually during the summer break and occasionally on
Fridays. However, I was always careful not to allow my ‘job’ to seriously
undermine my school learning.
In Beer Sheva, or Bir al Sab’a as
the city is known in Arabic, I was able to learn Hebrew as well as the
Moroccan dialect spoken by many Jews who had immigrated from North Africa.
Like Palestinians, most Moroccan Jews worked in the construction sector
and doing other menial jobs. Some were street sweepers as well, and almost
all of the beggars in the streets were Jews originating from North
I was able to tour the city, which in the 1980s and 1990s
received tens of thousands of immigrants from the countries of the former
In the Old Town, I saw the old Palestinian homes,
which the Jews seized after expelling their original occupants and
proprietors at gunpoint. I also saw the town’s mosque, which dates back to
around 1911, when Palestine was still under the rule of the Ottoman
Empire. Israel converted the mosque into a ‘museum’ and later into a
‘House for the Artists.’ And when some local Israeli Muslim leaders
petitioned the Israeli government to rehabilitate the holy place and allow
the town’s Muslim community to pray there, the Israeli authorities said an
emphatic “NO.” This is how the ‘only true democracy in the Middle
East’ behaves toward its own non-Jewish citizens.
occasions, the people for whom I worked would not give me my wages.
I worked with such famous construction firms as Rusco, Solel Bonei, Hevrat
Ovdeim. I still retain my old Israeli work card.
As Palestinian labourers, we were continually humiliated at Israeli
checkpoints and roadblocks at the A’rad Intersection on the way to Beer
Sheva. I remember a Jewish police officer who spoke Arabic with an
Egyptian accent beating one of my relatives savagely without a convincing
reason. I made many Jewish friends then, but the psychological barrier
remained largely intact. I did intermix with some Tunisian and Moroccan
Jews in A’rad, Beer Sheva and Dimona. However, their sense of superiority
(and victory) over us always impeded the evolution of normal human
relations between them and myself. They viewed us then, as they do now, as
the Biblical equivalents of wood hewers and water carriers. We were
only good for making coffee and doing the hard, menial works for the
superior race, the chosen people. “Muhammed Ta’asi coffee” (“Muhammed!
Prepare the coffee for the Jews”) they would scream scornfully at us in a
Tens of thousands of Palestinians worked in
Israel as ‘day-labourers’, mostly in the construction and agricultural
fields. They would wake up one or two hours before dawn in order to be
able to reach the worksite before eight o’clock.
Work in Israel lured most able-bodied Palestinians who abandoned
agriculture, which was not financially very rewarding. Indeed, at one
point, a day-labourer became economically better-off than erstwhile
middle-class professionals such as teachers, clerks and other civil
The Israelis knew what they were doing. By the mid
1980s, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip became the second biggest market
for Israeli products after Europe. So, it was really a kind of indirect
slavery. We worked in Israel, building multi-story buildings for would-be
immigrants, and then we spent the wages we earned buying Israeli products,
even Israeli produce, as Palestinian agriculture fell into neglect as
greater numbers of Palestinians preferred to earn more money working in
Israel than working their land which comparatively yielded little money.
I said it was a kind of indirect slavery because Palestinian workers in
Israel, whose number in the mid-1980s reached more than 130,000, were
deprived of social benefits and health insurance, and they had no
political rights whatsoever!