Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day of rejoicing, day of self-inflicted disaster

All over the world, tens of millions of refugees have been transferred and resettled in new places, but the Palestinian refugee camps still exist, a reminder of the destruction. Not their destruction, but the hope of ours. Indeed, the day of our rejoicing was the day of their disaster.

Dror Eydar..
Israel Hayom..
19 April '13..

1. Yet again we are being told the story of the Nakba (Catastrophe) and being tormented for establishing our state.

"It's absurd," said MK Ahmad Tibi. "At a time when Arabs were uprooted from their land, Jews were being brought by ship from their homes all over the world." Indeed, we are guilty of having fought for our independence and not waiting for the rioters' axes. We are guilty of having returned to our ancestral homeland, and we were willing to divide our poor man's lamb with Tibi's ancestors, whose answer was to declare a war of blood on the Hebrew yishuv.

The area where I grew up in eastern Petach Tikvah sits on the land of the Arab village of Faja, which was established in the 1840s by Egyptian farmers who came during the short period of Egyptian rule over Palestine. The name, which was taken from a corruption of the Greek word for "springs," appears in the Mishna with evidence of Jewish settlement. The few farmers arrived in a desolate area and took hold of the land there.

When the founders of Petach Tikvah arrived in the summer of 1878, the poor villagers enjoyed an economic blessing in working for the Jewish farmers and selling the land they had obtained decades earlier. That did not prevent the people of Faja from treating the fields they had sold to the Jews as their own. I spoke with Amnon Malamud, who grew up during the 1930s in a local neighborhood named Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) that lay east of Route 40 on land that had been purchased from the Arabs of Faja. He told of regular attacks by the villagers against the Jewish farmers. "They used to bring their flocks of goats and sheep to our fields," he said. Complaints to the British police were of no avail.

2. When the British entered the Land of Israel, the village began to grow. From 200 people in early 1920, it grew to some 1,500 people just before the state was established in May 1948. The growth stemmed mainly from the immigration of people seeking work. At the same time, since the riots of 1921, cells of attackers used the village as a departure point, planting bombs and taking part in raids on Jewish communities for the purpose of robbery and murder. The great Arab revolt began in 1936. In addition to strikes, it included many acts of looting and murder. The Arabs of Faja joined the party in August. The newspaper Davar reported: "Many gunshots were fired from various directions on the environs of Petach Tikvah. This is the first time during the riots that the village of Faja, which is surrounded by Jewish-owned fields, has fired on Petach Tikvah. The bullets of Faja reached the outskirts of Ein Ganim, the neighborhood of the Sephardim and Kibbutz Rodges [Kfar Avraham]."

In September, Davar reported: "Last night at 8 p.m., Arabs set ablaze the outermost hut in the Bulgarian section, on the border of the Arab village of Faja." The newspaper added that this was not the first attempt. And on and on it went.

In May 1947, a mother and her daughter were murdered in a neighborhood to the west that abutted Faja's border. The murderer knew the Sephardi families who lived in the neighborhood and had won their trust. That was how he was able to enter the little house so easily and slaughter both women who were there. The tracks led to Faja, and fears rose that with the success of the attack, the Arabs of the village would be motivated to attack further. The Haganah ordered the Palmach to capture the attackers. The unit was led by Shlomo Miller, the first child born on Kibbutz Givat Hashloshah (then in Petach Tikvah). The unit broke into the village's cafe, where the gang members had been spotted earlier. During the break-in, Miller was shot in the forehead and evacuated to Beilinson Hospital, where he died. The Palmach's demolition squad blew up the cafe, which was empty. On Nov. 30, 1947, a day after the U.N. decision to partition the country for the establishment of the State of Israel, two Egged buses were attacked near Faja. Some of the accounts tied the murderer of the two Jewish women to the attack. In any case, the first shot of the War of Independence was fired in Faja.

3. During the war, some of Faja's inhabitants fled. Others abandoned the village, and those who remained were expelled. One hundred years after the Egyptian farmers arrived, their descendants left the area. The village was finally destroyed by the Jewish National Fund. With the large waves of immigration, Petach Tikvah needed land for the new immigrants, who had fled for their lives from Arab countries and from Europe. The Mapai government did not hesitate to call the place Neve Kibbush (Oasis of Conquest). When justice is obvious, even the conquering of the homeland is a righteous act. Years later, the name was changed from Neve Kibbush to Kiryat Yigal Allon.

In the 1950s, a community center called Beit Shlomo was built on the ruins of the cafe where Shlomo Miller had been shot. I went there one evening. I stood in front of the door and tried to reconstruct in my mind the sounds of battle then, which wasn't easy to do in the tranquil neighborhood I saw before me. Still, for two years I had researched the history of Petach Tikvah's neighborhoods until the events I had read about, and listened to stories and testimonies about, became part of my own memories. When I started to leave, I turned and was struck with shock.

In front of me was a pile of stones, not very large, with a fence around it. Weeds peeked out among the stones. This was all that remained of Faja. Perhaps it had been the mukhtar's home. Perhaps it had been the village mosque, or perhaps the remains of the cafe where Shlomo Miller had been shot. For some minutes I stood there, rooted to the spot, overcome. It was hard to get myself out of there.

I thought about my emotional reaction all that night. When morning came, I understood. When I stood at that ruined pile of stones of Faja, history had struck me in the face and shook me. Not tattered pages from old books, not stories from the distant past. It had happened to me, to all of us. What had struck me in that early evening hour was the terrifying awareness that had things been reversed, it could have been an Arab historian standing there near the ruin of what had once been the first modern Hebrew settlement in the Land of Israel, documenting the failed attempt of the Jews to hold on to the place, an attempt that his fellow Arabs had succeeded in thwarting through blood and fire and columns of smoke.

4. That, in essence, is the story of the War of Independence: It was us or them. Unfortunately, there was no middle ground. Had the Arabs of this country won, had Ahmad Tibi's ancestors been the victors, the Jewish inhabitants of the country would have been slaughtered. That was what the Palestinian leadership and the Arab states had planned: ethnic cleansing by genocide. They said so openly. The secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam (also known as Azzam Pasha), announced just before the Arab countries invaded: "This will be a war of destruction and great slaughter that will remembered like the massacres of the Mongols and the Crusaders." He announced to the ancestors of Ahmad Tibi: "The conquest will be like an army field trip ... It will be a simple matter to throw the Jews into the sea ... We give brotherly advice to the Arabs of the land of Israel to leave their land and their homes and settle temporarily in neighboring sister countries so that the artillery of the Arab armies will not cut short their lives."

How ironic that from that time till this, the Palestinian refugees have remained a weapon in the war against us. All over the world, tens of millions of refugees have been transferred and resettled in new places, but the Palestinian refugee camps still exist, a reminder of the destruction. Not their destruction, but the hope of ours. Indeed, the day of our rejoicing was the day of their disaster.


Updates throughout the day at If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.Twitter updates at LoveoftheLand as well as our Love of the Land page at Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment