Friday, September 05, 2008

Gaza, 1971

Just saw these two articles in the Time magazine archives, from August 9, 1971:
Robert Aroyo, his wife Preeti, and their children Marc-Daniel, 7, and Abigail, 4, had lived in Israel only eight months. Born on Malta, raised in England, Aroyo abandoned an advertising job in London to bring his family to the land of promise, where he felt they all belonged. Settled in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kiron, the Aroyos often spent Sabbaths touring their new country. One bright Saturday they set out south to visit a seaside nahal, or fortified camp, in the Sinai below El Arish.

Mahmoud Slieman Zak, 15, sat in the shade of an old building beside the highway that bisects the strip and gossiped idly with a friend. He was an indifferent pupil in school and wanted only to become a fulltime member of the Palestinian guerrillas for whom he had already been on eleven grenade-tossing missions. That morning Mahmoud fondled a grenade, wondering whether a target would present itself.

Carefully, the Aroyos checked with Kiron police before setting out on their trip to the nahal called Yam. The police saw no danger in their driving back to Tel Aviv by way of Gaza. Aroyo, therefore, was unconcerned as he reached the town of Gaza. The only thing he noticed on the road ahead of him was an old abandoned Seven-Up bottling plant.

Mahmoud's heart leaped. From the orange license plate on the slowly approaching car, he knew it was an Israeli and not a silver-tagged Gaza vehicle. Mahmoud' s friend, Wasfi Mussa Masharawi, 16, sauntered out into the middle of the street, forcing the car to slow to a crawl. Mahmoud tossed his grenade into a rolled-down window. The grenade had a four-second fuse, and he was gone before the explosion.

Aroyo braked his car to keep from hitting the boy who had walked out into the road in front of him. He never saw the missile that flew through the open window of his Cortina and landed on the back seat beside the children. All he heard was a muffled explosion and Abigail's cry, "Daddy, Daddy!" The back seat was bloody when he looked. Beside him Preeti moaned, "My back is broken."

Wasfi Mussa Masharawi watched indifferently as the man staggered out of the car, cradling a bleeding girl in his arms. He ran away when the man pleaded with him for help.

Abigail was dead by the time the Israeli military helicopter arrived. Marc-Daniel died soon after. Aroyo buried them on the Mount of Olives, smoothing the dirt over their graves with his own hands. Then he hurried back to the Beersheba hospital where his wife was being treated for injuries to the spine and pelvis that took six months to heal.

...After the tragedy Aroyo was a crushed man, hut he strained to be compassionate. "I do not hate the people who did this," he said.

Israel connected Gaza to its electric grid, drummed up potential business and even encouraged tourism to aid the territory. But Gaza's 390,000 residents were—and still are—unremittingly hostile. So far this year seven Israelis and 206 Arabs have been killed in the Strip. Last week alone seven Arab guerrillas were shot to death, two of them killed in a fight at the Shati camp, one of eight United Nations refugee camps in the Strip.

One reason for Israel's failure to pacify Gaza is the nature of the land. It is an elongated, desperately poor 25-mile finger of desert, which has little more than citrus groves in the way of resources. Some 11,000 Gazans have found work in Jordan's occupied West Bank and 5,500 others in Israel itself. But the Palestinian who "collaborates" with the Israelis is a marked man. Last February, 61 Arabs were wounded when guerrillas blew up the main post office in the town of Gaza where they were cashing their Israeli paychecks.