Since my visit to Herzlia I’ve reflected on my experience there and how it’s affected me. In one sense it was an ordinary ‘Trip to the Seaside,’ walking along the Beach promenade, enjoying the seaside and the early spring sunshine. On my way to the Beach I saw a Mosque in North West Hertzlia and on way back visited it. When I reached the Sidna Ali Mosque in a spectacular setting on a cliff above the beach. The building was on it’s own, close to a small village. My immediate feeling was that there must have been a previous community there before 1948. I felt upset coming upon what seemed to be evidence of a removal linked to the 1948 War which reminded me that Ilan Pappe wrote in the ‘Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ that there are in Israel demolished villages, ruins and buildings which show where palestinian refugees lived before they fled. Before sending this post I’ve looked at Wikipedia about the Sidna Ali Mosque. It’s described as originally a 13th century Mamluk construction built in honour of one of Saladin’s lieutenants who fought bravely against the Crusaders and died in a battle on the hill where the Mosque stands. It’s a place of worship in the depopulated village of Al-Haram. It was a palestinian arab village 16 Km north of Jaffa, next to the ruins of the ancient city of Arsuf, also known as Apollonia. It was depopulated during the 1948 war.
I’ve wondered how the authors in my first post would have reacted to any issues from what I’ve written above. I think Kapuściński would argue that Israel/Palestine has a history over centuries of leaders with their supporters maintaining primacy before being replaced by other groups, so in time that will occur with Israel. Sebald would reflect on the irony that Israel, a country created by Zionists who wanted to establish a Jewish State and later by holocaust survivors making refugees of the palestinians who’d lived there for a long time. Avneri accepts that as a soldier he was involved in clearing Arab villages during the 1948 war and it was terror which caused the palestinians to leave their homes in the belief they would return soon after Israel had been defeated by the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies. Additionally I’ve had a frank discussion with an Israeli I met since coming here. The view given was the establishment of Israel led to the palestinian exodus, however that was over 60 years ago and they now need to move on, recognise Israel to live in peace with each other.
In trying to make sense of my feelings I’ve turned to my South African experience based on finding in 1973 about 3 days after the event a recently cleared established village called Botshabelo near Middelberg, roughly 150 miles north east of Johannesburg. Where there’s a link for me with the Israel experience is in the apartheid policy called separate development which removed black urban dwellers without necessary permissions to live there to rural areas in what were called the Bantustans based on their tribal origins. In Israel what Pappe shows from Israeli Government archives in Plan Dalet (which is the letter D in the Hebrew alphabet) political and military leaders from 1946 onwards planned the systematic expulsion of palestinian communities from what became Israel in 1948. Extending what I’m writing to Germany is that at the Wannsee Conference in 1932 the Nazi Party planned the expulsion and liquidation of Jewish communities. For me what links Germany, South Africa and Israel are ideologies that justified the future policies in their countries.
In order to finish this post I want to link my Herzlia experience with what Avneri wrote about the nature of the 1948 War which included a type of civil war which led to the palestinian expulsion and a conventional war with the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies. What struck me from Avneri’s book is his and other Israeli soldiers actions in what I’ve called the ‘civil war’ which from the start included looting, destruction of villages, expulsion of civilians, rape and killing some non combatants. My limited South African military experience in 1967 prepared me for conventional war where discipline and training readied me for combat where I would unthinkingly kill ‘enemy’ soldiers. I think this is different from the israeli experience with palestinian arabs in 1948 because what they thought justified the soldiers actions was that the palestinians posed a threat. As I leave where I’ve been for the last 2 weeks for Jerusalem I’ve realised how deeply I’ve been affected by my Herzlia visit and will continue to reflect on it.
Thanks for responses to my first post, I appreciate any views. If you decide to respond I ask that you inform me whether you’d like what you write to be included on the blog.