Herzlia 13 January 2014-A Trip to the Seaside

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Hi There,

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.

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6 thoughts on “Herzlia 13 January 2014-A Trip to the Seaside

  1. Alan Arnstein

    Hi Steve

    Is it not perhaps a little arrogant for Israelis to admit that they practised ethnic cleansing in order to establish their state, and then expect Palestinians to move on and recognise the status quo? And without offering any compensation or means of redress?

    A polite silence on the part of the oppressed was also what white settlers in South Africa wished for and tried to enforce with brutal methods.

    I remember a friend of my parents in Johannesburg who as an idealistic young Zionist had gone to fight in the 1948 war, and had come back very disillusioned by what he had seen. He never returned to Israel and it was my parents view that his experience there had contributed to his depression and early death.

    Best wishes and good luck for your work in East Jerusalem.

    Alan Arnstein

    PS feel free to publish the above if you wish.

    • Dear Alan,

      I agree with you. With your parents friend I’m not sure that he was prepared for the nature of some conflict in the 1948 war. From what you describe he may have experienced post traumatic stress disorder.

      Regards,
      Steve.

  2. Elizabeth O'Dell

    Dear Steve and fellow colleagues (just because I’m a social
    worker doesn’t mean that all of us are…thank heavens for
    a mix!),
    As an American mid-westerner who has only gradually learned the history of Israel and South Africa, I greatly
    appreciate your readiness to share your observations and
    to put yourself in a position of seeing and hearing for yourself. I have read ‘The Lemon Tree’ and have a close
    friend and social work colleague who grew up on the
    eastern Cape of South Africa and now lives in London, so
    there are people I can listen and talk to. But it is also
    important to hear

    • Dear Elizabeth,

      I’ve been very touched by the positive responses to my posts. I’ve realised here how complex the Palestine situation is. I’m of my comfort zone here at times because I have Israeli relatives, I’ve had to be straight with them about my work here and motivations for doing so. It was hard but the approach worked and we haven’t fallen out which is a relief. With my previous experience of living in South Africa I see parallels between racism in apartheid times and Zionism which drives Israeli expansion through annexing Jerusalem and West Bank settlement building.
      I’m about to start working on my project here with a first meeting in Hebron tomorrow. Hope my ‘barefoot doctor’ approach to practice supervision is acceptable to the staff there!
      Can I put your response onto the blog?

      Regards,

      Steve.

  3. an Israeli

    Hello steve,

    I just wanted to point out a few things that you might not be aware of:

    1. The 1948 war was started by the Arabs (Arab Palestinians and Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians etc.).

    2. The Arabs in Palestine did not have a state of their own here. They lived under foreign rulers like the rits, Ottomans etc.

    3. The population in Palestine was very small. In the begining of the 19th century the Ottomans counted about a quarter of a million people (Muslims Jews and Christians) in all of what was then Ottoman province – a land which has now more than 10 million people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
    The number of Arabs in Palestine doubled during the British mandate (from 1917-1948). So many of the descents of Palestinians nowadays that claim to have lived in the land for hundreds or thousads of years actually came to it during the British mandate as a resuly of the development of the land by both the Brits and the Zionist Jews.

    4. The Arabs (“Palestinians”) have a centeries long history of murdering, masacring or chasing out the Jews who lived in the holy land for centeries. Have no mistake about it, had the Arabs won the 1948 war not a sigle Jews would have lived in their territory let alone live in comfort, freedom and security as the Arabs who live inside Israel.
    Just a few examples of the actions of the Arab population against the Jewish communities in the holy land:

    a. In 1948 the Jordanian army conquered the old city of Jerusalem and chased out all its Jewish population from the Jewish quarter. The Jewish quarter which existed for thousands of years was burnt down, synagogues distroyed or been turned into stables.

    b. The Hadassah medical convoy massacre in 1948 where Seventy-eight Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members and Haganah fighters, and a British soldier were killed in the attack.
    Back then they apparently didn’t think much of the Israeli doctors and nurses. Nowadays they are the first in line to get the advanced Israeli medical services from the state of Israel and you see more Arabs than Jews filling up the hospitals and clinics in Jerusalem.

    c. The 1929 Hebron massacre – in which sixty-seven Jews were murdered by Arabs.

    d. The 1517 Safed pogrom, 1834 Safed pogrom etc. etc.

    The holy land has been a home for Jews for thousands of years but they were not able to rebuild their national home in it after they were kicked out by the Romans.
    The Arabs came to the holy land in the 7th century, they had no distinct national Palestinian identity. Many came in and out the country from neighboring Arab countries and when the first Zionists started to settle the land in the 1880’s it was mostly unpopulated, barren. The Jews settled on empty lands that they bought from absentee Ottoman landlord. No one chased the Arabs out of their villages.
    The Palestinian refugees problem started only after the Arabs refused the 1947 UN resolution to split the holy land to 2 states – Jewish and Arab and decided instead to attacj the Jews living in Palestine, with the help of their Arab brothers in the Arab countries.

    Bottom line, there was a battle over the land which the Arabs started and lost.
    If they had won you wouldn’t have seen any remains of Jewish presence in the land. The Arabs would have desroyed everything connected to the Jews – like they destroyed the Jewish quarter in the old city of Jerusalem.

    • Hi There,

      It’s hard to know how to respond to what you’ve written because I know we’re not going to agree with each other. I do, however respect your right to express your opinions. As I’ve written in previous posts the absence of joint accounts about significant events for palestinians and Israeli’s doesn’t help. From my reading what affected me most was Ilan Pappé’s account of how the expulsion of palestinian communities from what became Israel was planned by future leaders of the country from 1946 onwards, Plan Dalet as it was called. Yuri Avneri refers to israeli fears of being pushed into the sea by palestinians if they become the stronger force, and palestinians fearing being pushed into the deserts. In my view fear is a barrier to any settlement by either side, the common factor in my view with both sides is trauma, it may be that sharing of this issue could provide a more positive potential.
      In the interests of freedom of expression I’d like to include your response to my posts on the blog, do you have a view on that matter? Another question is how you accessed my blog, I’m new to doing something like this.

      Regards,

      Steve.

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