Tuesday, May 07, 2013

  • Tuesday, May 07, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
A couple of days ago a group of Palestinian Arabs visited the ruins of an Arab town that was destroyed in the War of Independence, Zer'in. It was written up in an Israeli Arab newspaper, Panorama.

The article notes that participants in the tour stopped to gaze at ruins of houses demolished and the remaining ruins, especially the mosque and the school and the one house which still exists, "to witness the history of this stricken village."

A writer for the Palestine Post in 1948, Dorothy Bar-Adon, lived near Zer'in. She wrote about it a couple of times - how the snipers from the village would take potshots at the Jews, how the Iraqis took over the village and how the Jews had to counterattack to be able to live. I have mentioned an excellent article of hers beforehand and reproduced it.

This is the complete text version. It is truly a must-read to understand how the Jews felt in 1948 about the Arabs who fled.

THE Count [Bernadotte] seems rather hurt because the Israeli Government is "not inclined to permit" the refugees to return. He “appreciates Jewish misgivings on security grounds“ but he thinks the danger to Israel would be "slight”.

Now, the Count is a busy man who flies around a great deal and sees things along broad lines; the bird's eye view. We who don't fly around and who would be living next-door to these refugees, should they return, have the lowly worm's eye view. But it’s also a view. Therefore we see these Arab refugees in clear cut outlines as individuals: as neighbours; as men who lived across the road or just beyond the pine grove; or on the other side of the Wadi; in contrast to those of the bird's eye view who see them as "The Arab refugee problem" composed of so-and-so many souls (approximately) who cost such-and-such pounds (approx) to maintain daily on starvation (approx.) rations in order to ease consciences (approx.)

In order to consider these refugees as individuals and to consider their proposed home-coming from the worm‘s eye view, let's look at Zer'in. I've written about Zer'ln on previous occasions. I do so again on the pretext of Thoreau who wrote, "I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well." As our close neighbour, we knew Zer‘in well. And Zer’in, being typical of tens of Arab villages, I've used it for close-ups when the scene became too panoramic and bird's eye.

So you may recall that this historic village of Jezreel where the Kings of Israel were crowned, maintained friendly relations with our village for some thirty years without incident, even during past disturbances. There were times when I became quite lyrical about Zer'in, comparing it to a “cameo” set on the mountain: that's what it looked like. Then the delicate cameo began sniping. And if the Iraqis had taken the notion, our village and others would have been in direct and easy cannon range. Yes, we were close neighbours: uncomfortably close with all the strategic plums in Zer'in‘s basket.

People here didn't believe, as I wrote at the time, that the fellahin of Zer‘in were responsible for the much publicized arrival of the Iraqi general and his troops. In fact, some of them had previously complained like the other villagers, that if the British would guard the borders, hell wouldn't pop in Palestine.

None of us know how many of our former good neighbors left the village before the Iraqi general’s arrival; nor how many volunteered or were coerced to remain behind fighting until the night when, after losses to our troops, the stronghold fell. One thing we do know; that on the night of the first unsuccessful attempt to capture Zer'in, the barbaric war cries of the women urging their men on, were plainly heard by our soldiers. We assumed thaw the women were of Zer'in and not Iraqi A.T.S.

Visiting Zer'in after its capture wasn't a pleasure jaunt. Their own counter attacks had added to the original damage.

There was all the emptiness and gapingness of a battered village. Stray cats and donkeys wandered in and out of houses where we had once sipped black coffee and talked of "Shalom" through the nargiieh smoke. An elaborately beaded make-up bag, made especially for brides’ mascara, hung forlornly on a caved-in wall. Saddest of all was the paralysed woman whose family had deserted her in the rush. Mumbling about the will of Allah she sat under a pomegranate tree, her day broken only by the meals brought to her by the Jewish troops. Of all the impressions of that wry day, the memory of the woman left behind under a pomegranate tree stayed on.

There was sadness that day; the sadness of a deserted village; of destruction; of fellahin torn from their field. But sadness was hardly the predominant emotion. We'd have been saints or liars if we said so. The predominating emotion was relief. Only here on the spot could we realize the horrible potentialities of this “delicate cameo” which had been sniping at us from a height. Only as we walked over the ground and surveyed Zer'in with other eyes than in the lyric past when we come to eat roast lamb — only now could we thank our lucky stars for the ultimate victory. Our losses were not as the wishful thinking of some Arabs caused them to write then, "Oh Jewish mothers, if you could see the bodies of hundreds of your sons strewn in pieces on the rocks around Zer'in" etc. -— but the number was high tor the subordination of a small village whose strength lay in her height.

And now comes the bland proposal that the Arab refugees be allowed to return to their homes. The idea may not sound too preposterous to those in high places when it's couched in that highfalutin ‘rehabilitation' language. But when you reduce it to its simplest root, Zer‘in — and every single Jewish town and village had its personal Zer‘in — it's unthinkable that anyone should not consider it unthinkable.

We knew the fellahin of Zer'in. Our farmers helped them in agricultural matters Those of us with a weakness for that delightful vegetable, bamya, had to cultivate our own this year. We miss our “tehina” and that spicy bean which adds piquancy to the coffee. It's too bad that the fellahin couldn't sell us the bamya and the coffee spice. And he’d probably prefer bringing us the bamya to doing whatever he is doing at the moment. It's certainly too bad that anyone with the broad wheat fields he had, should be troubled now about where his next meal is coming from. It's too bad. But frankly, we're more relieved than sad. If he wasn’t living under an olive tree, we might have been. If he wasn't the refugee, we might have been. We prefer it this way. If we said otherwise, we'd be saints or liars. That's war. That's the worm's eye view.

Neither the fellahin nor we were responsible for the spectacular arrival of the Iraqi general in Zer'in. But one thing is certain. The notion of re-installing Zer’in as a sniping cameo over our heads is fantastic. The blood of every Jewish soldier who fell there in order to ensure the fields in this part of the Emek would cry out against it, to say nothing of those still living here.

When the children used to cry, "Zer'in is sniping down at us again," we answered casually, "Really?" or "You don't say." The casualness was part of the general "carry-on" act, put on for ourselves as well as for the children. But one's sense of humour and causalness and "carry on" wears thin. We are not prepared to accept with open eyes the Count's "slight" danger.

We can regret that our once good neighbours are living under olive trees somewhere and hungry. We regret too those of our soldiers who will never be hungry again because they fell on the slopes of Zer'in. We can regret a great deal. But still, the idea of such a menace being re-established on the mountain over our heads is fantastic.

The onus for "rehabilitation" rests squarely with those who opened the borders to the Iraqis, thereby setting the first stone rolling in than whole catastrophe. What do the British intend doing about it? For the whole high-sounding “Arab refugee problem‘ is only Zer’in multipiied; complicated; and soaked with sudden British crocodile tears.

We who were good neighbours can feel more poignantly for the fellah whom we once called by his first name, than England who brought him to this present plight. For us, he isn't the "Arab refugee problem," he's a man with a name with whom we had no quarrel. It’s sadder to think of a man with a name living under an olive tree, hungry, with his wife and children with names, than to think of the "refugee problem" living under an olive tree, hungry. And more than once we inquire with concern “I wonder how so and so is fairing now." I think most often of ten year old year old Fatma with the dark eyes and chubby cheeks. It happened like this. American jitterbugging of a sort and Arabic hoochy of a sort can be made to coincide at a given point. So at a wedding, we managed a twosome. Fatma was delighted and followed me like a shadow for two whole days. Where is she now? Often her dancing feet and dark eyes protrude from the bird's eye "Arab refugee problem" in a very personal, worm's eye way.

But the idea of Fatma's father being "rehabilitated" over our heads at this stage in the game is fantastic. In other words, the average man - devoid of Britain's beatific fair playness - would answer any invitation to rehabilitation at his expense for the benefit of Britain's keeping face, "So sorry, old fellow, but - ".


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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