(messages exchanged in response to my blog item that mentioned the ethnic cleansing of Palestine)
I was a volunteer in the Israel Independence war (the Naqba) 1948/49, and was a platoon sergeant in the notorious Batallion 42 (see Benny Morris,) and am horrified what Israel has become. I personally experienced atrocities, committed by both sides. Israel's victory in the Six-Day war was psychologically a disaster for Israelis. It made them into arrogant, racist, jingoist oppressors.
I was not a Zionist but joined because I felt that 2000 years of persecution was enough.
(I am a native of Holland and served in a Dutch brigade, under the British
forces, in WW-2)
Nearly all of my large family lives in Israel.
Abbie Lipschutz, Houston, Texas
((Thanks for your comment/input. One day, everyone on this planet will recognize their common humanity and abandon all our notions of specialness and uniqueness which lead to the racism and war that we witness. Then everyone will recognize that there are no winners in wars.
Not in my lifetime, I regret. I am 85.
Below is a piece from my memoirs:
A KNOCK AT THE DOOR
In 1967 someone knocked at the door of a house in Talbye, a formerly affluent Arab quarter of Jerusalem that had been occupied by Israel in the 1948 war. The Israeli women who lived there now, opened the door. She saw that the visitor was not an Israeli but an Arab.
"How can I help you?" she asked.
In broken English the Arab woman replied, "Please pardon me, but would you allow me to look around in the house. I used to live here before the Israeli army came in, during the Naqba in 1948."
"Certainly, come in," said the Israeli woman. The Palestinian entered, looked around and nodded. "Yes,," she said, "itís all so familiar." She hesitated. "There is something else. Before we left I buried my jewels under the floor of the bedroom. If I find them, you may have half."
"Oh no!" said the Israeli, "if we find them they are yours. I donít have any right to them."
They pulled up a plank from the bedroom floor and there, in a space, were the jewels, intact.
Haltingly, in a whisper, the Palestinian woman confessed, "there is something worse." She had difficulty controlling her voice. "On that terrible day when the Israelis stormed in, we had to flee for our lives. My husband left before me with the two boys. I followed an hour after him, taking the two girls. I thought he had the baby with him and he thought the baby was with me. When I arrived in Nablus, the baby was missing." Her voice broke. Between tears she blurted out, "I have really come to find out if anybody knows what happened to the child."
The Israeli woman too, was shaken. "In 1948 my husband was an officer in the Israel army. He died three years ago. When he came to this house he heard a baby crying and when he went in he found the child on the floor, wet and hungry. He changed it and cleaned it and had the baby fed. He liked the house very much and requested permission from the armyís command to come and live here and bring up the child as his own. We had three older children ourselves."
"What happened to the child, what happened to the child?" the Palestinian asked with a quaking, urgent voice.
At that moment the door opened and a young Israeli soldier walked in. "Imah, ani babayit leyomayim, Mother, Iím home for two days."
"There is your son..."
Both women now live in the house together, widows both, sharing their lives, sharing their son.
(( Wow. This is amazing. Are your memoires being published? ))
Response: A number of chapters have. The ms is at Grove/Atlantic. I cannot get them off the pot.
Here is another chapter:
Five of us were sent out on patrol and ambush.
It was a clear October night in 1948. H.Q. was in the monastery of Beyt Jamal in the Judean foothills, some twenty kilometers west of Bethlehem. The segment of territory our battallion covered ran from Wadi Fukin, near the place were David slew Goliath, through Beyt Natif, where thirty-two of our men were ambushed trying to reach the surrounded settlements of the Etzion bloc, and down into the valley of Hartuv and the Arab village of Zakkarieh. The village was situated on a tel, an ancient mound covering layers of settlements reaching back to antiquity.
The officer in charge of our patrol was a Sabra, a veteran of the Haganah who spoke Arabic fluently and was familiar with the customs of local Arabs among whom he had lived for many years. Over his battle jacket, made of coarse Ben Gurion green wool -all the heavy home products of the young Israeli army were called Ben Gurions- he wore an Arab keffyiah, wound around his neck like a shawl.
We proceeded to the house of Zakkarieh's mukhtar, the village elder who had a position similar to mayor where, we were received with the customary Arab hospitality, formal rituals and compliments. Even though I did not speak Arabic, I gathered that this meeting had been arranged beforehand and did not come unexpected.
The mukhtar seated us on a woven rug in his living room and brought out a rectangular brass brazier holding glowing charcoals on a bed of fine sand. On it he placed a copper pot filled with black Turkish coffee and several feendjahns, small pitchers with long handles, also made of brass, from which we poured the very hot and sweet coffee into demi-tasse sized mugs. With us around the charcoal bed sat a number of village notables and the mukhtarís two sons, twelve and fourteen years old. They were quiet lads, deferring to their elders. Their fair skins and blue eyes were surprising among this crowd of swarthy, bearded men. Blue eyes and the frequent red hair one sees among the Arabs in Syria and Palestine come from the seeds the Crusaders spread in these regions hundreds of years ago.
The mukhtar was an impressive man, tall, dark and quiet spoken, his keffiah held down with a double stranded black rope circled with golden threaded knots, a headdress that singled him out as a dignitary of great standing. He had deepset eyes and his bearing reminded me of Ibn Saud, or a noble Arab from the desert.
Conversation was low-key and the atmosphere was one of mutual respect. Sharing coffee from a feendjahn is a ritual akin to smoking a peace pipe with an Indian tribe.
We broke up at midnight as if we had come for a courtesy visit and were about to return to our Beyt Jamal headquarters, but instead went into the chill of the Judean night. We headed east into the hills, silently moving through deep ravines and settling, an hour later, behind a rock wall overlooking the trail that led through the wadi below. Our guns were loaded, resting near our right shoulders while we lay flattened against the cold ground. Soon the sharp air began penetrating our clothes and by two o'clock, an hour after we had settled down, we were all shivering.
Suddenly three figures appeared, moving stealthily along the trail. The patrol commander signaled us to be absolutely quiet until they were about to pass below us. At that point he shouted in Arabic for them to halt. They dropped the bags they were carrying and started running. Our mefaked fired a shot over their heads and they fell to the ground. When the five of us appeared, guns at the ready, they got up with their hands raised.
I recognized the mukhtar with his two sons, the very same people we had shared the feendjahn with only hours before. They were searched and in the bags they had carried we found guns and a large quantity of ammunition. The boys did not give any sign of fear, they stood by as quietly as they had been in their father's house.
The mukhtar was interrogated for some twenty minutes. His replies came in the same dignified manner as the conversation in his home. The weapons had been brought across the line in the sector that was in the hands of the Jordanian Arab Legion and they were being carried into Israeli territory for the local armed bands of Arab villagers who occasionally attacked or ambushed Jewish squads or patrols. Those thirty-two of our men who had fallen in Beyt Natif had been overpowered by such a group of irregulars from an Arab village.
When the interrogation was done, the commander of our patrol lined the three Arabs up against the wall. There was no protest, no sound from the boys, only twelve and fourteen years old. They were blindfolded and the four of us were ordered to aim. The order to fire was given. I turned away and heard the sound of three guns. When I turned back, the mukhtar and his two sons lay dead, their bodies motionless on the ground before the wall of heaped rocks.
I felt revulsion, but more than revulsion, I felt shame that I had not stood up and told the man in charge, "if you shoot the boys you shoot me too." I hadn't done so because I didn't have the guts. The best I could manage was to turn around and not be one of the executioners.
The sight of the boysí bodies lying crumpled against the wall will not leave me until the end of my life.