.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Moshe Dayan, in Life magazine, after the Six Day War

One of the points I make in my Hasbara 2.0 seminar is that there is inherent value in digitizing the historical writings of Israeli leaders and putting them up online. What they have written  - articles and books - should be searchable and easily accessible. Nothing fights the lies better than having the actual words of these people, in context.

Here is an article I found in Life magazine, September 29, 1967, by Moshe Dayan. I digitized the text myself (page capture to paint program to OCR program for three pages) so might still be some mistakes but it should be reasonably accurate.

In this case, we see how hard Israel wanted to make the lives of the Arabs under their control as easy as possible, and some unexpected benefits that they received from the war.

 War has a dynamic of its own. So has peace. The six-day war between Israel and her Arab neighbors, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, was an outright military conquest. On the seventh day, with the retreat of the defeated armies, almost one million Arab civilians found themselves in the conquered territories (or. as we Israelis prefer to call them, "held areas"]. Their soldiers had fled across the Suez Canal and the River Jordan, and through the smoke of smoldering fragments from shattered aircraft, tanks and guns loomed a new reality,frightening and implacable,the reality of their world destroyed.
Their first reaction was one of shock and panic. Streams of Jordanian civilians in flight poured across the river from the west bank. held by Israel. Now, three months after the fighting, shock and panic have passed, but confusion and lack of confidence remain. Back across the Jericho Bridge to the west bank have come thousands of returnees who now say il was a mistake for them 10 leave their homes. However, at the site of the Damia Bridge, 30 kilometers north of Jericho. Jordanian families continue to flee in the other direction-eastward. They explain that. though they have seen Israel does not treat her Arabs harshly. they prefer to leave and dwell under an Arab regime -in Jordan,. in Kuwait or in Saudi Arabia-"for who knows what may happen tomorrow?" Better, thev say, o pack up their belongings now. gather up what little money they have and get away from this fickle stage called Palestine.
The six day war brought revolutionary changes in all the Israeli held regions which were formerly under Arab rule. But such changes differ basically from territory to territory-Syrian, Egyptian,Jordanian.
Of the 50,000 inhabitants of Syria's Golan Heights, for example. only about 7.000 have remained in this Israeli-held area. These are Druses. living at the foot of Mt. Hermon. a community which does not look to the Syrian government for its leadership. (When I last visited them, their representatives asked that every "man of valor" -all males from 15 to 50-be given a rifle. "for after all. the Syrian government and army are our foes, and we must be able to defend ourselves.")
The departure of the 70,000 or so Syrians from the area occurred during the war and was part of it. Here the operations were frontal and the Israeli breakthrough was carried out along the entire front, from the Jordanian to the Lebanese border. to a depth of 20 kilometers. This area, apart from the seven Druse villages, is now empty. As the Syrian troops retreated through the chain of villages, the civilian population took their famllies and their herds and fled eastward. afraid of being caught in the cross-fire between the lines or becoming targets of bombing and shelling.
After the war. the Red Cross did approach us about enabling the inhabitants to return to their villages, but the Syrian government did not back this request at least not firmly. Small wonder. The Syrian is the most extrerne of the Arab governments. and her leaders keep pressing Egypt and Jordan to continue guerrilla warfare against Israel "until her annihilation." The policy is inconsistent with any appeal to Israel's goodwill. It is equally out of keeping with an approach which sees the war as the breaking of a crisis and the restoration of normal civilian life as the necessary next step.
On the Syrian front, therefore, what is happening is what frequently follows an extremist policy of "all or nothing." The "all" is unobtainable. What is left is "nothing." The Syrian government concerns and occupies itself only with a renewal of the war against Israel. To the evacuees of Golan it says that "in the meantime." until Israel is destroyed, they must join their relatives in distant villages or enter a refugee camp and get fed by UNRWA.
If the Syrian heights suffer a severe winter, it is doubtful whether many of the abandoned villages will remain standing. Some were damaged and partly destroyed in the fighting. and the bituminous mud shacks will collapse if they are not plastered and shored up as they usually are each year before the rains. There will be nothing for the refugees to return to.
The problem of the Arab population in the conquered territories worries Egypt very much less than it does Jordan or even Syria. The areas captured by Israel from the Egyptian army are made up of two distinct parts-the Sinai peninsula. which is almost empty desert. and the narrow, fruitful coastal strip of Gaza. at the eastern edge of the Sinai. Gaza is tightly packed with some 400.000 people. most of them Palestinian Arabs who have been living in refugee camps for 20 years. Of pressing concern to Nasser are the problems of the larger Sinai peninsula - lsrael's new command of the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran. The Gaza Strip and its inhabitants do not interest him much. Egypt has never regarded Gaza as an integral part of her land. and in the two decades she was in control its population was never granted Egyptian citizenship. The Palestinian Arabs were looked upon by Cairo, as they are at present. only as instruments useful for military intelligence and for harming Israel.
To the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. the first signs of the new, postwar reality appeared when they were permitted by Israeli authorities to travel freely and visit relatives in Jerusalem or Hebron in the area on the west bank of the Jordan that was under Jordanian control. Only now that all the territories of former Palestine are in Israel's control can the Arabs renew contact with their kinsmen, who were separated from them by the arbitrary boundaries created after the 1948 war.
The process of uniting Palestinian groups is being encouraged in two ways, One is external. governmental: the Israel government is providing a single currency. a single set of laws. common newspapers and radio programs, and above all-free contact between Arabs in the Gaza Strip and those in the occupied area of Jordan west of the river Israel has no interest in establishing two Arab "states" under her control and prefers to consider the Strip and the west bank as parts of a single unit. The second way is internal, innate: the Palestinian Arabs are becoming, again. if not a united nation at least a homogeneous group of people. sharing a common past and faced by a common reality.
To sum up. then, in the south the territory of interest to Egypt, Sinai is empty of people; and the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip look not westward, to Egypt, but eastward, to the vine-covered hills of Hebron and Bethlehem. to their kinsmen, the Palestinians.
The heaviest concentration of Arabs in the "held areas" is to be found in the occupied area of Jordan on the west bank. There are more than 500,000 Palestinians living in and around Jerusalem in Nablus, Jenin and Hebron-city dwellers, farmers. Bedouins. This population, to whom must be added their 400,000 brother-nationals in the Gaza Strip. are at the very focus of the political and social problems that exist between Israel. and the Arabs in the conquered territories.
The west bank Arabs have spent the last 20 years under Jordanian control. King Hussein may not have been the knight of all their dreams, but he was their monarch. They held Jordanian citizenship and their representatives sat in parliament at Amman. These Palestinians not only enjoyed equal rights with the Jordanians but, by virtue of the education and experience gained under the British mandatory administration, they were entrusted with key functions and gained positions of influence in the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan." The crushing debacle of the six day war did not weaken their- -or their leader –bond with the Jordanian and the other Arab states. Indeed. the first reaction was to strengthen it. Their immediate mood was: "Together we went to war, together we suffered defeat. United we shall remain in our hour of trouble."
We Israelis sought to negotiate with them on the political future of the west bank. Our attempts failed. "Go to Hussein.t'they said. "He is our king and we are faithful subjects. He alone is authorized to speak in our name."
But after a little while it became evident that this phraseology of idealistic patriotism did not reflect-' the total political truth. When. for example, the rumors flew that Hussein might favor peace talks with Israel, the Palestinian leaders hastened to send signals to the king warning him that Palestinian Arab loyalty was to the general Arab front. If Hussein sought a separate peace, they told him. he could not count on the Palestinians. In such a case, they might consider their own interests and reach their own arrangernents with lsrael, even without him.
Then came the Jordanian call for revolt. From its radio station in Amman the government of Jordan instructed the west bank inhabitants not to cooperate with the Israeli authorities. An edict was issued prohibiting prayer in the Mosque of Omar since it was now in an area under Israeli control. Shopkeepers were ordered to go on strike and close their stores. Teachers and pupils were told to boycott the schools and cease their studies.
In some west bank cities, a number of shops and schools did indeed close. The reaction of Israeli authorities to this 'revolt' was not as Amman had hoped, for we took no drastic steps. No blood flowed in the streets. Our military governors simply shrugged their shoulders and explained to the local Arab mayors that the government of Israel is ready to maintain,at its expense ,the educational network in the west bank; but if the Arabs prefer not to open their schools, the Israeli taxpayer will be only too happy to be freed of the need to pay the salaries of the Arab teachers.
Our regime was not shaken; and the Palestinians began asking" themselves: What can this "revolt" accomplish? And where does it lead? Will closing stores and boycotting school classes rout the Israeli army? Moreover, why should Hussein, who asked for a ceasefire with Israel and laid down his arms, demand of them that they launch a war of rebellion? What right has he to plow with their heifer?
It is now only three months since the war and the new reality has not yet taken final shape. It would therefore be rash to prophesy.1 would only point out that today in the west bank the shops are open as usual and so are the classes in most of the schools. Not only this, but Hussein has deemed it proper in an interview with the official Jordanian news agency to attack the Arab raiders, the/Fedayeen. He called h an "unparalleled crime" to undertake terrorism and sabotage against Israel, for this "will serve the lsraelis with a pretext for acts of revenge and will lead to the break-up of the Arab revolt in the conquered territories."
It would, however, be most misleading to think of the current relations between the Palestinians and lsrael as wholly black. The general picture is almost the opposite. The abortive attempts at "revolt" and the incidents of noncooperation are isolated episodes. In the west bank. life is normal. ordered and peaceful; there is no tension. All the Arab mayors elected under the Jordanian regime continue to hold office and carry out their functions in close cooperation with the Israeli military governors. The people walk the streets of Nablus, Hebron and East Jerusalem without encountering road blocks, barbed wire, army patrols or permit checks. There is no need for us to take tough military measures to ensure order. The Arab shops are full of lsraeli visitors buying whatever is at hand. and the shopkeepers sit there raking in the cash -c-except that now they do it in two currencies. Israeli pounds and Jordanian dinars. Money is money. The municipal and state services-hospitals, public transport, sanitation, street-cleaning, water and electric power-cooperate normally, though perhaps with less bureaucracy and with fewer forms to fill in.
Nor are the relations between Israel and Jordan quite those of continuing belligerency: "Thc vegetable market of Damia." as Israeli border troops call it, is not only a piquant scene in itself but is symptomatic of the new contact between the two states. Day by day, more than 100 trucks roll through the subdued. low waters of the River Jordan north of Damill, traveling from the west bank into the Kingdom of Jordan. (The Damia Bridge was blown up during the war and is impassible to vehicles.) The trucks. laden high with farm produce- -watermelons, grapes, tomatoes and cucumbers--offload in Amman and return empty (except of course for the dinars) to Israeli territory.
These convoys of lorries crossing the river up to their axles in water offer a dramatic spectacle. It is as if one were watching a band of smugglers-or perhaps a mechanized edition of the ox-wagon caravans in old Wild West films. But of principal interest is the political side. All this is done with the joint agreement of the government of Israel and the government of Jordan. Both permit this "free trade' because it is desirable and helpful to the Arab inhabitants of the west bank and does not especially harm the economic interests of either. Both governments seek the welfare of the west bank Arabs, and-more to the point both seek their goodwill.
Israel,with official responsibility for the region, is of course eager that the people of the west bank should recognize that it is a progressive regime which worries about finding work for their unemployed and markets for their farmers. Jordan's approach is more pretentious. She is anxious to retain her ties with the Palestinians. even though she no longer controls their territory. More important. she wants them to look up to her as their patron-a patron who is cut off from them at the moment. but who may be reunited with them in the future and who is ready in the meantime to do all she can to help them.
This attitude of Jordan toward the west bank inhabitants thus obliges her at times to coordinate joint operations with the Israeli government, even though such co-operation is prompted by conflicting motives.
East Jerusalem constitutes a special problem. Israel now considers the area part of her state, and this of course has far-reaching political, social and legal implications. The Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem woke one morning to find themselves Israeli subjects. They are free to drive to Tel Aviv. They may work in Haifa. They can buy a house in Nazareth. But they must also conform to Israeli laws, pay the same heavy income tax as Israclis, adopt the same curriculurn in their schools as is followed by the Arab community which had resided in Israel all along. (In the west bank, which is not an integral part of Israel but which has the status of a conquered territory, Jordanian law prevails, and its inhabitants are not permitted to enter Israel. except to visit the Holy Places.)
The uniting of Jerusalem (under a Jewish mayor who is responsible for both parts of the city), its attachment to the state of lsrael and the granting of Israeli citizenship to its inhabitants have given the city's Arabs economic advantages and benefits in day-to-day living. but these developments have also deepened the conflict between them and Israel. Jerusalem contains the most sacred sites in Islam, after Mecca, and is the seat of the religious and national leaders of the Palestinian Arabs.
It was not only the orders of Amman but the prompting of their own will which led the Jerusalem Arab leaders to announce that they would not recognize the inclusion of Arab Jerusalem in lsrael, would not follow her laws, and would not cooperate with the Israeli authorities.
Ruhi EI-Khatib, the former Arab mayor, refused to join the municipal council. Anwar El-Khatib, former governor-general of the west bank under the government of Amman, sent a memorandum of protest. And the chief kadi, Sheikh Sai'akh, announced that the Shariah. the Moslem high court, would continue to give judgment in accordance with the laws of Jordan---even though it was located in Jerusalem.
The Israeli authorities carried out a few arrests and deportations, but this was not the main hindrance to the rebels.··Their decisive problem was, and is, their in· ability to interrupt. to confound the normal processes of life. Jerusalem is not Aden. The Israelis are not foreigners. and we do not rule by bayonets. In United Jerusalem, the majority of the population are Jews, and the closing of shops or the strike of a bus line does not paralyze the city. Jewish shops and public transport with Jewish drivers continue to operate.
Moreover, it is difficult to start a revolution unless the conditions are appropriate, The atmosphere and circumstances in Jerusalem arc far indeed from favoring rebellion. The voice of the Amman government sounds distant, confused, vanquished. The economy flourishes. And Israeli authority shows no inclination to be tyrannical or despotic: its chief desire seems to be to grant services.
This is the situation today. War, conquest. revolution, change of regime --these can be accomplished in six days, but the process of up-building is inevitably slow. Immediately after the fighting, the Arabs were in a state of shock. Then they hoped for a miracle-something that would restore the situation to what it was before; the wave of some magic wand-the Security Council. the U.N. General Assembly. the Khartoum Conference. But no miracle occurred. The genie did not pop out of the lamp of Aladdin. King Hussein wanders from capital to capital. Word comes that Egyptian army chief Abdel Hakim Amer has committed suicide. Nasser talks of "solutions." And in the west bank the government of Israel is in control. Representatives of Israel's ministry of agriculture talk over matters with the farmers, plan next season's crops and the mayor of NabIus recommends the construction of a concrete bridge at Damia so that farm produce can continue to be sent to Amman even in winter.