Sunday, July 08, 2007

  • Sunday, July 08, 2007
  • Elder of Ziyon
(This chapter is a bit different, as I became fascinated by the story of Abu Ghosh and saw it as a great example of how things could have been in 1948. Here is a classic example of the exception that proves the rule.)

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The village of Abu Ghosh was established in the 1500s on top of a Biblical site known as Kiryat Ye'arim. Within the town are some extremely important historical finds, including a Crusader church and evidence of the Roman Tenth Legion camping there during the siege of Jerusalem in the first century. It is named after the family that lived there, which for a while levied a toll on pilgrims coming on the road to Jerusalem. The original Abu Ghosh was regarded with some fear as a robber by the Christian visitors to Jerusalem in the 19th century.

Unlike most Arab villages in Palestine, Abu Ghosh enjoyed excellent relations with the Jews. They sold land willingly to Zionists in 1912, that was to become Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim. During the 1920 riots they assured their kibbutz neighbors that they would defend them, if necessary. There were no attacks on Jews from Abu Ghosh in 1921, nor 1929, nor the years of Arab terror from 1936-39. They emphatically did not support the al-Husayni family from Jerusalem, a mere ten miles away, and generally were more supportive of Husayni's rivals the Nashashibis. Husayni rewarded their impertinence with at least one attack on their leaders in 1946.

Of the 36 Arab villages in the hills around Jerusalem during the 1948 war, only Abu Ghosh (which was a crucial village in keeping the road to Jerusalem open) remained somewhat friendly to the Jews. (One of them, Yousef Abu-Ghosh, was even a member of the Jewish militant Stern Gang.) But after the first cease-fire in 1948, the residents of Abu Ghosh were told by the Arab Legion to get behind the Arab lines and abandon their village. They, along with hundreds of thousands of other Arabs, became refugees. Some of the Abu Ghosh refugees were treated with exceptional cruelty by the Transjordanians as being too friendly to the Jews.

Most of the abandoned Arab villages in crucial areas around Jerusalem were destroyed by Israel in 1948 and 1949, as the Jews feared being at the mercy of the Arabs in traveling the roads in their own state. One exception was Abu Ghosh, which was left untouched. The few families who managed to stay there remained as Israeli citizens.

Many of Abu Ghosh's former citizens infiltrated into Israel to move back to their old village in 1949 and 1950. In general, Israel treated them as they treated other Arabs who tried to sneak back into Israel - fearful of an Arab fifth column, and largely unaware of the previous friendship between Abu Ghosh's citizens and the Jews, they would deport them back to Transjordan.

Finally, after one such roundup of Abu Ghosh infiltrators in early 1950, the town publicly appealed directly to the Knesset to allow them to stay. Public pressure from Israeli Jews mounted immediately to the defense of Abu Ghosh's Arabs, and almost every single family came back to their homes.

Abu Ghosh shows how the events of 1948 could have turned out had the Arabs treated the Jews as equals. While some of what Israel did to the residents of the village may be regrettable, it also shows that Israel had no policy of ethnic cleansing Arab villages and that her wartime decisions were based on real life and death circumstances.

Abu Ghosh was not unique. There were other Arab villages that were, effectively, Zionist during the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, these were the exceptions, and many Arabs whom the Jews considered friends ended up supporting the bigoted ideologies of the Mufti al-Husayni and Sheikh Qassam and cheered the death of every Zionist.

Today, Abu Ghosh remains a sterling example of Arab-Jewish cooperation. Prominent resident Jawdat Ibrahim, who won $20 million in an Illinois state lottery, invested some of his winnings in a scholarship program that benefits Jews as well as Arabs. A joint Arab-Jewish soccer team was created with the Arab members being from Abu Ghosh. A major music festival brings in Jewish as well as Arab fans.

The residents of Abu Ghosh are proud citizens of the State of Israel and the Jews are proud to have them as neighbors. The shortsightedness and bigotry of most of the Palestinian Arabs, however, keep them on the outside looking in. From there, they can see how the people they decry as "collaborators" are living with the hated Jews, and they can compare this to their own miserable existence at the hands of their so-called "brethren."

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