"Eyewitness tells of occupation, woe to victor," Dayton Daily News (June 27, 1976)
Review of With My Own Eyes, by Felicia Langer (Ithaca Press, 1975), 166 pages.
Reviewed by Gordon Welty
Wright State University
Dayton, OH 45435 USA
This book gives the eyewitness account of a Jewish lawyer in Jerusalem, recounting the police brutality and legal injustice she has seen visited upon Jews and Arab Palestinians, particularly in the "occupied territories" since the "Six Day War."
After the June 1967 war in the Middle East, Palestinian leaders claimed that the victorious Zionist juggernaut had "swallowed a serpent." Prior to that war, there were a quarter million non-Jews (the official title) left among three million Jews.
An upshot of the war with the Zionist occupation of the West Bank of Jordan, the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip as well as the Syrian Golan Heights, where many refugees from the earlier wars had fled, was the imposition of Zionist military rule over one and a half million more Palestinians. While the Zionists might proclaim "woe to the vanquished," there were Jewish people in Palestine, such as Langer, who more profoundly recognized it was "woe to the victor."
In the recent months the Palestinians who are denied citizenship, held under military bondage, dispossessed of land and homes, have expressed their fervor for self-determination and freedom so strikingly that it has stunned the U.S. popular press. We read of Arab school girls who clash with Zionist security forces, of soldiers firing into crowds of unarmed Palestinians, of stunning municipal election victories for sympathizers of the PLO, the Palestine National Front and other progressive forces. Should we have been surprised?
Not at all. There were mass demonstrations of Arab laborers in Nazareth during the summer of 1959 against "political and social discrimination." These were described at the time as "riots" by Nathan Alterman. Thus the sentiment of the people ran sharply against Zionist domination of Palestinians even before the June 1967 war. It should also be noted that these explosions of popular sentiment preceded the earliest mass demonstrations of Sephardic (Oriental) Jews against the social and economic discrimination they suffer at the hands of the immigrant Askenazim and American Jews in Palestine.
Langer provides us with an extensive anecdotal documentation of many cases of torture during interrogation, of expulsion into the desert, of expropriation of land, of dynamiting and bulldozing of houses. This has been the Zionist behavior towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank of Jordan from 1968 through 1973 (when the eyewitness account breaks off).
Why, one asks in conclusion, did the Zionists strive for the occupied territories and the conquest of a troublesome people? We hear stories about the fedayeen; these are largely stories, no explanation at all. Instead it seems that land and even more important, control of the Jordan River, its tributaries and watershed was the object.
The mid-April march of 20,000 chauvinists into Jericho demanding Zionist settlements in the West Bank illustrates the lust for land. The lust for water can be traced back to the early 1950's and is a political economic concern that runs through both domestic and international Zionist policies since. Recall, the first target of AI Fatah was the Ilbon water-works; since then the Palestinians and Syrians have been expelled from the land around Al Qunaytirah, as Langer evocatively describes. The people are not troublesome once they have been expelled; it is the watershed as much as the "commanding heights" that are pacified.