My Personal Experience
with the Israeli occupation
By Khalid Amayreh
Khalid Amayreh continues to work as a journalist. He lives with his family in the Occupied Palestinian town of Dura with his wife and family. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Reprinted with permission of the author.
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, I was nine years old. This means that for the past 34 years, I have been "living" in the "Israeli era," or, to put more accurately, under Israel's dehumanizing military occupation.
Three years before I was born, three of my four paternal uncles, Hussein 27, Mahmoud 25, and Yosef 23, were killed by Israeli soldiers. They were simple shepherds who were grazing their herds near the village of Al-burj near the so-called armistice line, 20 km south West of the West Bank town of Hebron. With my three uncles, three other relatives, including a woman, were also shot dead.
In fact, the Israelis not only killed three men of my family but also confiscated the three hundred sheep upon which my family's livelihood depended to a large extent. This calamity condemned us to a life of misery and poverty for many years to come. Thus, my family had to live in a cave for 22 years. The misery, the suffering, the abject-poverty were conspicuous in all aspects of our life. Until today, the Israeli government neither expressed guilt for the crime, nor compensated us for our stolen property. Of course, our loss didn't stop at three uncles killed on one day and 300 sheep arrogated by the Israeli government. Much more was taken away from us six years earlier, in 1948, our land in al-Za'ak, Um-Hartain, our home, everything.
Under Jordan rule, the most important thing the Jordanian authorities cared about was loyalty to the king and his family. Connections with the King and his Mukhabarat (or intelligence apparatus) meant that you've got done. Shouting "Ya'ish Jalalat al Malik" (long live the king), would give you an automatic certificate of good conduct. No wonder, it was a corrupt regime based on sycophancy, favoritism, nepotism, graft and corruption. The King was the law, and the law didn't exist.
The Jordanian regime never really made genuine efforts or preparations to repulse a possible Israeli onslaught. The most immediate priority for the Jordanian regime seemed to make sure that Palestinians didn't possess firearms. A Palestinian would get a six-month prison sentence if a bullet cartridge were found in his possession. Like the Israelis would do later, the Jordanians enlisted the "makhatir" (clan notables) to inform on every gesture of opposition or dissatisfaction with the King's rule within their respective areas. This cronyism and police state structure gave rise to more corruption.
Those free-minded Palestinians who insisted on voicing their conscience were dumped into the notorious El-Jafer prison in eastern Jordan where they were often tortured to death. I know of at least one person in my town Dura who was tortured to death for his political views.
So, we had to bear two burdens, despotism and repression from the Jordanian regime and frequent, across-border attacks from Israel. I can't forget Israeli Mirages flying over my head in 1966 as they dropped their Napalm bombs on civilians in the village of El-Sammou.
In 1967, I was ten years old. I can remember when we were told to raise the white flags when the Israeli army surrounded our village, Kharsa, west of Hebron. We were told we would be shot and killed if we didn't raise the white flag aloft. The Jordanian soldiers left in disgrace and headed eastward, some put on traditional women clothes to disguise themselves.
At the beginning, the Israelis launched what one may call a charm-campaign. Some people prematurely began making positive remarks about the Israelis such as "Oh, they are better than the Jordanians, they are civilized!" But that feeling was premature and didn't last long, as the occupation army began adopting stringent measures against us.
Soon enough, the Israelis began confiscating the land and building settlements. They also would demolish homes as a reprisal for guerilla attacks. In our culture, if you want to express extreme ill will toward somebody, you say "Yikhrib Beitak" may your home be destroyed.
The Israelis sought to take full advantage of this weak link in our social psychology. They demolished thousands of houses. The demolition has never ceased. Home demolition would leave deep psychological scars in peoples memories and hearts. Children would return from school only to see their homes being destroyed by bulldozers driven by soldiers wearing helmets with the Star of David on them. That Star of David, which we are told is originally a religious symbol, symbolized hate and evil. Even today, I couldn't imagine a more hateful sign.
Phobias, deep stress, neurosis, and depression are among the disorders children of demolished homes would suffer.
I personally witnessed several demolitions when I was 11. The operation would begin by declaring the village where the doomed house is located a closed military zone.
Then, all men from age 14 to age 70 are asked to assemble at the playground of the local school, with their heads bowed down. Very often the soldiers would shoot over peoples' heads to terrorize them. Civility was always absent, and in these days, there was no Jazeera or CNN to cover Israel's shameful acts, so they felt at liberty doing as they saw fit.
Then, the commanding officer would give the doomed family half an hour to get all their belongings out. (These days they don't give even five minutes).
The scene of young children comforting younger children is devastating. The distraught housewives would struggle to get her utensils and whatever meager appliances out lest they be crushed. A child would hasten to get his favorite toy, or an enlarged picture of his late grandfather before it is too late. Then the commanding officer would give the go ahead and the house would become rubble.
Afterwards, the Red Cross would bring a tent, as a temporary shelter, or the tormented family would simply make an enclosure and sleep under the trees. These were indelible images of misery, an ugly testimony to Israel's Nazi-like savagery.
Born into a very poor family, I started working in Beir Shiva when I was fourteen as a construction worker and then assistant plasterer (Maggish). I was able to learn Hebrew as well as the Moroccan dialect spoken by many Jews who had migrated from North Africa. Like Palestinians, most Moroccan Jews worked in the construction sector. Some were street sweepers as well.
On some occasions, the people I worked for would not give me my wages. I worked for such famous construction company as Rasco, Solel Bonei, Hevrat Ovdeim. I still retain my old Israeli work card.
We were continually humiliated at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks at the A'rad intersections on the way to Beir Shiva. A Jewish officer would beat one of us savagely without a convincing reason. I made many Jewish friends then, but the psychological barrier remained intact. I did intermix with some Tunisian and Moroccan Jews in Arad, Beir Shiva and Dimona.
In 1974, I took part in anti-occupation demonstration in Dura (then I was an 11th grade high school student). The soldiers cornered me in one of the narrow streets of the small town, and beat me savagely on the head with the butts of their rifles. I was nearly killed. I hated them, as I never posed a threat to their lives. They displayed no humanity and I was only shouting "Falastin Arabiyya" "Palestine is Arab."