When I first visited the Gaza Strip after the Six Day War, I encountered a territory that bore stark witness to Egyptian aggression, callousness and inhumanity. For 19 long years, the area had been run directly by the Egyptian army. Under a “constitution” drawn up by the Egyptians, all legislative powers were invested in the Egyptian military commander, who controlled the civil administration. All political parties, except one endorsed by the Egyptians, were banned. The military governor also acted as the judiciary, and there was no appeal.
There were no elections. A puppet government automatically ratified all legislation that the governor brought before it. In 1965, even this façade of local autonomy collapsed when the Egyptian army dismissed the legislature.
The secret police probed everywhere. No one was immune from sudden arrest and unlimited imprisonment without trial or, at best, a secret trial. The jails were always full and torture was common. There was official censorship of the press and mail, and telephone lines were regularly tapped.
For nearly 19 years, the inhabitants of the Strip were prohibited from leaving their homes from 9 p.m. until dawn on pain of death. This curfew was enforced by roadblocks. Men between 18 and 40 were prohibited from traveling to Egypt unless they were fortunate enough to secure permits. If they failed to return at the expiration of their permit, the military authorities took steps against their families.
The Egyptians seized property at will, while refugees were prohibited from owning land. Thousands of young refugees were forcibly conscripted into the Egyptian army. Many were sent to fight Gamal Abdel Nasser’s war in Yemen; others were sent into Israel to murder, sabotage and disrupt communications.
Three-quarters of the able-bodied were unemployed. Medical and social services were almost nonexistent The Egyptians did nothing to help farmers, create housing or develop industry. The majority of Arabs in the Strip outside the town of Gaza were left to rot, without sewage, running water, electricity or roads.
INDOCTRINATION TO HATRED of Israel started at the very tenderest years. I saw pictures which children had drawn, with the encouragement of their teachers, depicting themselves killing Israeli children. The textbooks dripped venom. One text for the third grade, entitled Arabic Islamic History read:
“The Jews are always the same, in every time, every place. They live only in darkness. They secretly plan to do evil; they fight only from hidden places because they are cowards. We must purify holy Palestine from their filth in order to bring peace back to the Arab homeland.”
So harsh was the Egyptian rule in Gaza that Radio Mecca broadcast this protest on March 10, 1962:
“We would like to ask Cairo: What is this iron curtain that Abdel Nasser and his cohorts have lowered around Gaza and the refugees there? These are the very methods which the dictator Hitler used in the countries he occupied. Imagine, Arabs, how Nasser (who claims to be the pioneer of Arab nationalism) treats the Arab people of Gaza, who starve while the Egyptian governor and his officers bask in the wealth of the Strip…”
THE ONLY AREA in which the Egyptian army was active, aside from suppressing human rights, was in smuggling. There was a lively trade between its warehouses in Gaza – stuffed with television sets, French perfumes, Italian silks and US whiskey – and Cairo, with the cooperation of top officials in Egypt. Long convoys would arrive in Cairo biweekly loaded with contraband. When the Israeli forces captured Gaza in 1956 they found these warehouses. (Predictably the military governor and his cohorts had skipped with all the savings that Gazans had deposited in local banks.)
Egypt’s policy for the Strip was succinctly spelled out by the deputy governor, Muhammad Flafaga, in an interview appearing in the Danish newspaper Aktuelt on February 9, 1967:
Question: Why not send the refugees to other Arab countries? Syria would no doubt be able to absorb a vast number of them. Are you afraid that national bonds with Palestine will be loosened, that the hatred against Israel will vanish if they become ordinary citizens?Answer: As a matter of fact, you are right. Syria could take all of them, and the problem would be solved. But we do not want that. They are to return to Palestine.
UNRWA reported in 1956: “One of the obstacles to the achievement of the General Assembly’s goal of making the refugees self-supporting continues to be the opposition of the governments in the area.”
Ralph Galloway, an UNRWA official who quit in frustration, observed bitterly: “The Arab states don’t want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”
Some comments by readers of the original article:
|1. And these were the good years. No outsiders complained the Gazans were locked in a jail.
What awaits us Jews if Israel were forced to leave the entire W.Bank? The same “gratitude” that we received for leaving Gaza and creating 10,000 homeless Jews. No doubt, the world will scream that the W.Bank is a jail for 2.5 million Palestinians (assume the “settlers” are forced out, too), and Israel must do much more to give them a viable homeland, regardless of how they behave.
Roz – USA (06/04/2009 01:24)
6. Palestinian pawns
Since 1948, the Palestinians have been held captive first as you report in the story by Egypt and after the 1967 War, by the UN through their “good works”. It is also good to remember that all the Arab states hated Y. Arafat. He was their useful idiot in keeping the hatred for Jews and Israel at a fever pitch.
Colin Nelson – Canada (06/04/2009 17:28)
What I find outrageous is that this information is not screamed from the rooftops, so that people understand the history of this conflict better! This conflict is based on myth, deception, distortion of the truth, and revised history. This is the only case in history that refugees have not been resettled elsewhere, but most people are unaware, atleast outside of Israel. And why is not Israel not calling to light that there were Jewish refugees from the West and Arab lands?
Michelle Paquette Adams – USA (06/04/2009 17:54)
Eliezar Whartman, using the pen name Eliezer Ben Yisrael, was the Westinghouse Radio correspondent in Israel in 1967; he was the first to report Israel’s capture of the Temple Mount. He is often cited as the author of the well-known “Letter to the World From Jerusalem” that was originally published in the August 1969 edition of the Times of Israel under the name of Stanley Goldfoot.
On the other hand this note is from Margi and it appeared November 29, 2007 in
On November 24, 2006 , at the age of 92, a man named Stanley Goldfoot passed away. He is remembered by family and friends for his love for and devotion to Israel and the Jewish people. Stanley Goldfoot was born in Johannesburg , South Africa . Subsequent to his hearing a speech about the Zionist vision by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, he headed for Palestine where, at the age of 18, he joined a HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz. After the rebirth of the Jewish State of Israel his main goal, which he eventually realized, was to establish a Zionist English newspaper, “The Times of Israel.”
In the first issue of “The Times of Israel”, Stanley Goldfoot wrote his famous controversial “Letter to the World from Jerusalem”, which caused quite a stir. The article is still relevant and, in his memory, I am sharing it with you.
Stanley Goldfoot could certainly be another of Whartman’s or Ben Yisrael’s pen names or, more likely, his actual name before he changed it after settling in Israel, but, according to Margi, Goldfoot died in 2006 and the article on his visit to Gaza that was published in June 2009 makes no reference to his death. If someone can enlighten us, please send your information to email@example.com
This is the Letter to the World published in the Times of Israel in 1969.
|I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite-like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people.
I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city, you did not live in it, you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.
There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves- a humane moral code.
Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.
For two pain-filled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land, return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and swell in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voiced the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem.
Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back- a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?
I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job- British officers, Arab gunners, and American-made cannon. And then the savage sacking of the Old City-the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps, even latrines.
And you never said a word.
You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war – a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.
Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift “to save the gallant Berliners”. But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital – but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.
And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything?
The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of “justice” and need for the “Christian” quality of turning the other cheek.
The truth – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old prejudices seep out of every word.
If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.
For the first time since the year 70, there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword- but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace, but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to.
We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. “Next year” and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time- “in Jerusalem”!
This article was published June 3, 2009 in the Jerusalem Post