John Roy Carlson's Cairo to Damascus - Archive of all posts in the series.
Friday, July 11, 2008
This post is the first in what will be a new series featuring the writing of John Roy Carlson. My first series of posts featured excerpts from Carlson's 1943 book, Under Cover, in which Carlson disclosed what he had discovered infiltrating the American Fascist underground in the late 1930's and early 40's. All the posts in that series are collected on this page. The top post includes an introduction to Carlson.
This new series will feature selections from Carlson's 1951 work, Cairo to Damascus, in which Carlson travels the Middle East during Israel's War of Independence. I'm certain many will find the reminders we unearth from this work of great interest. From the Preface:
I have written this book with the hope that it will bring both Arabs and Jews into truer focus for the reader; that it will help reveal what they are and what they are not, what may be expected of them and what is impossible. I pray that these ancient Semitic peoples will reconcile their differences, that Palestine refugees who, in the main, left their homes because Arab leaders urged them to do so--expecting a short war and a quick victory--will be resettled. The only alternative to peace is disaster for Arab, Jew, and Christian, for none may hope to prosper alone. Together they may ultimately build a prosperous and democratic Middle East. To remain apart, at dagger's point, means only that Communism and anarchy can be the ultimate victors.
Posts in this new series will be collected on this page.
In early 1948, using a similar tactic to that of his Under Cover years, having created the false persona of an American racist and established correspondences years earlier with British fascists, Carlson arrives in London on the first leg of his trip. pp. 31-33:
I was delighted. I hurried to the address Canning [a British fascist] gave me. It was a small, quiet apartment house of dark brownstone at 76 Eaton Square, in the exclusive West End section of London. I found myself in a dark, narrow hallway...
...I was ushered into a semidarkened room. Swarthy young Arabs prowled about, escorting athletic young Englishmen into side rooms in an atmosphere of almost melodramatic conspiracy. Suddenly a door opened and an intense man in his thirties, with piercing black eyes and short black mustache, stepped out -- instinctively I knew it must be Shawa Bey -- accompanied by a tall, blond Englishman. The two shook hands briskly and the Englishman left. Shawa Bey turned to me.
"Come with me," he said curtly. I followed him into an office and he closed the door carefully after me...
...I looked at Shawa Bey. How many British mercenaries was he hiring? And on what conditions? When were they to enter Palestine? By what route? It was too risky to ask...
...Shawa Bey began to talk more freely. "The Jews think America is going to help them in Palestine but she won't because there's too much feeling against the Jews in the States. The Arabs are well armed and well equipped. Many have been infiltrating into Jewish territory. We are confident of winning."
"I plan to go to Palestine myself," I said. "I want to be there for the Arab victory."
"I wouldn't go now," Shawa Bey remarked. "I'd go a little later. Once the war starts, it won't take us long." We discussed some of the persons I'd met so far. "I've known Captain Canning for a long time," he said. "He has helped the Arab cause. Another good friend of the Arabs is Miss Frances Newton. She has been of great assistance."
I asked about the Mufti.
"He's in good health. He's in Cairo now. He goes back and forth between Cairo and Damascus. He has headquarter everywhere in the Middle East." Shawa Bey paused." These next months are very important. The Jews will learn that quickly."
I rose to go. In the outer room, young British veterans of World War II in civilian dress were waiting to be interviewed. Within a few months I was to see them fighting and dying for the Arab cause under Arab names. I was to see them buried in unknown graves, in Moslem cemeteries, unhonored and unsung. I was to see them as prisoners of war in Israel. Izzed-een Shawa Bey rose to his feet.
"Good-bye," he said." We might meet again in Egypt or Palestine."
If we did, I hoped he wouldn't recognize me!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
It's still January 1948 and Carlson has arrived in Cairo. He quickly comes into contact with the Egyptian police state and the insults of the crowd. pp. 48-49:
Half of my day in Cairo was spent keeping out of jail. I began the morning determined to photograph a near-by mosque, magnificent with its slender stately minaret silhouetted against a breathtakingly blue sky.
I focused my camera but hadn't even pressed the shutter when I became aware that someone was watching me. A short distance away stood a policeman, dressed in a shapeless black wool uniform and the ever present red fez. I closed my camera and nonchalantly moved on. Glancing in a showcase, I saw him nearing me. A moment later a heavy hand plummeted down on my shoulder, and another grabbed my camera, nearly ripping the shoulder strap. He pulled me over to a traffic officer and the two jabbered excitedly. A surly crowd gathered. It was decided that my fate should be sealed in the Karakol Abdin Kism -- the Abdin District Police Station.
Flanked by the two policemen, and followed by a crowd yelling "Yahoodi" -- Jew -- we walked on. Once I turned around, and beating my breast like and outraged patriot, I shouted: "I am an American!"
"Then you are worse than a Jew!" someone yelled in perfect English.
Those in front rushed up, tried to jab me with their sticks, and threatened me with the whips. Most Egyptians apparently carried one or the other, handy for warding off flies, urchins, or would-be thugs. Had not the police flailed back savagely, I might easily have been mauled. A few months later an American, Stephen A. Haas of Philadelphia, sight-seeing with his wife and an Arab guide, was fatally beaten while police looked the other way.
A Knife for Yahood... p.52:
...One peddler who came to my table was particularly insistent, although I repeatedly waved him away. He was a keen-faced young man.
"You will maybe like this!" the Arab demonstrated. What seemed to be an ordinary whip suddenly became a vicious, four-sided, ten-inch dagger tapering to a fine point. "This knife for Yahood. But maybe you Amerikans like Yahood, yes?"
I took no chances. "No, I hate Jews. Allah's curse on them."
"Ah," he grinned triumphantly. "Then you buy knife to kill Yahood?"
"No. I have one bigger, a Turkish knife. I kill Armenians and Jews with it."
Monday, July 14, 2008
March, 1948. pp. 67-71:
A dust cloud became visible in the distance. A welcoming shout went up. It turned out to be a column of soldiers, marching with their banners in the wind -- a contingent of about two hundred volunteers bound for Palestine under Misr el Fattat auspices. They were dressed in war-surplus khaki and the Arab headpiece...Their faces were bronzed by the Nile sun, their hands bony from toil. They were fellaheen -- those lowest in the social scale, usually tenant-slave farmers or unskilled workers. They joined the Green Shirt columns, and together marched past a guard of honor of Green Shirt officials. I began to photograph the scene with one policeman behind me, the other at my side. Suddenly, as the massed banners and flags passed by, a dozen Green Shirt arms shot out in the old-fashioned Fascist salute. To snap or not to snap! What would the police say? Nervously, I took two photographs of the saluting soldiers. Nothing happened...
..."Take a picture of my daughters," Hussein said. "I have named them Faith and Liberty." Hussein's wife was nowhere in evidence, faithful to the Moslem tradition that no decent woman ever shows her face to strangers. In his military dress and cap, hands on hips, jaw stuck out, Hussein on the balcony of his home imitated Il Duce. Hussein had neither the girth, the stature, the jaw, nor the snarl of the Italian Fascist whom he admired and tried to emulate...
...As we watched from the balcony, the Followers of Truth marched across the bridge in long thin columns, their khaffiyas flowing in the wind, their banners proclaiming in huge Arabic letter: GO AND FIGHT THE JEWS...THE ARMY OF ALLAH GOING TO FREE PALESTINE...I WANT TO COME WITH YOU. While the two feuhrers stood side by side with me, waving from the balcony, the columns marched to Misr el Fattat headquarters.
That St. Patrick's night, I witnessed the weirdest briefing session any American could hope to see. Green Shirts and Followers of Truth filled the courtyard, so that not even a crow could find a resting-place. On the iron fence was a banner, reading: THE ARMY OF MOHAMMEDAN GOD. FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE...
...From eight o'clock on,. for two hours, speaker after speaker mesmerized them with the most extraordinary supercharged emotional oratory I have heard in ten years of hearing the best among our worst Americans...It seemed to me the words were like savage thrusts into the night. They were like flying stilettos jabbing at my senses. I understood on ly a few words -- Allah, Yahood, Falastine (Palestine) attl, attl (kill, kill), Mujahed (Holy Warrior), Jehad (Holy War) -- but I felt the impact of every word, and the crackling thunder of every sentence as it ripped and lashed out into the night.
One speaker was a true firebrand. He was a thin wisp of a man, with a small, thin, pointed beard. His long deep-copper-colored face glowed with religious frenzy...He mixed pure fire with his words, and as he spoke he swayed slightly with the fluid rhythm of his words, as a cobra sways, at times speaking in a kind of hypnotic singsong -- half prayer, half chant -- then suddenly, his voice as brutal as a mailed fist, he exhorted, demanded, beat with the hammer of his eloquence on the ears of his men to fight for Allah and His Prophet. His words were like the thunder of a savage symphony, piercing the listeners and the darkness beyond...
As he finished, the bowels of the earth seemed to explode. The roar that came from the frenzied listeners is utterly undescribable to American ears. The least I can say is that it was like the snarling of volcanic monsters, bloodcurdling, awesome. The white-turbaned faces, roasted under the Nile sun, burned with the zealous fire of Islam; wherever I looked men stood screaming, shouting, eyes bloodshot, ready at the moment to tear the hearts of their foe with bare hands in the name of Allah and the Holy War...
...Hussein was an intense speaker. With powerful gestures and deep emotion he reinflamed the religious frenzy of his listeners.
"Death to Palestine's Jews!" he bellowed.
"Death to Palestine's Jews!" the mob roared back.
He exhorted them against British occupation of the Suez and the Sudan. The mob thundered its approval. As Hussein ended with the familiar words, Jehad, attl! attl! the same vibrant voice in the rear called out in Arabic:
"Hussein, our leader; Hussein, our savior; Hussein, protector of Egypt!"
Once again the monsters thundered into the night, the echoes reverberating from Cairo's moon-bathed rooftops.
The briefing was over. The Holy War was launched. The emotional crescendo on which this rally had ended found everyone perspiring, ecstatic, savage, ready to dismember any Jew, or burn his home. I could understand now how it was possible, after such meetings, for inflamed mobs to pour into Cairo's Jewish quarter, and smash and destroy Jewish shops. Hussein himself had incited a number of such riots on Friday, the Moslem Sunday, after his prayers. Cairo police with black shields and long black whips stopped such riotings -- after the "patriotic" fury had spent itself.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Carlson meets Moustafa, an Egyptian Green Shirt who becomes his close friend. pp. 72-73:
I liked this big shaggy soldier the minute I saw him. Though his hand played tricks, it was never with my possessions. Basically his character was honest and simple, uncorrupted by the greed and venality about him. Moustafa never professed to be religious: I never saw him kneel in prayer. A one-time captain in the Egyptian army, he had been born into a farming family of small landowners. They had given him a good elementary-school education, and in addition he could read and write English -- rare among Egyptians. But he was a natural-born fighter and detested farm work. When I met him he had just returned from an expedition: his next assignment -- due to come within a few weeks -- was to lead the Green Shirt contingents and Followers of Truth into Palestine and make guerrilla attacks on Jewish outposts.
I had planned to go later to Palestine by myself; but when I heard this news, I made a quick decision. How much better to go with Moustafa and his men! How much better to be an intimate part of the Arab guerrilla movement, than to go as the typical reporter, always the outsider and stranger. I broached the subject to Moustafa. "I will come along as your photographer," I suggested. A few days later, after we found we hit it off well together, he agreed. When he and his men would leave for Palestine, I would go with them.
"I will arrange it with Ahmed Hussein," Moustafa said.
I quizzed him on his views on Zionism.
"We are fighting because Palestine is our land and we want to die there. Even if all the world helps the Jews we know we will win because our God is the strongest. We are not afraid to die. The Jews are cowards because they want to live. The Arab would rather lose ten men than one gun. The Jews are the opposite. They want to save their lives and lose their guns. That is one difference between us. Besides, we have plenty of money," Moustafa went on. "Plenty of ammunition. Plenty of men, We even have a Tiger tank we stole from the British."
"How did you manage that?"
"We paid £500 to English soldiers who were riding in the tank. They stopped and went into the bushes where we paid them money. When they came out the tank was gone. Don't think we are without friends," Moustafa continued. "We have English deserters and Germans fighting with us. They make some of our bombs. We also have Czechs and Yugoslavs spying for us. They go right into Tel Aviv and tell us how things are. They are fine spies."
At Green Shirt headquarters, Moustafa introduced me to a fiery Egyptian who was training the volunteers. His name was Izzed-een Abdul Kader...Moustafa said dolefully, while Izzed-een watched me with his little, suspicious, red-rimmed eyes. "He is willing to kill anybody who is an enemy of Misr el Fattat. He is a very strong patriot."
"Will he kill me if he thinks I'm your enemy?" I asked curiously.
Moustafa spoke to him, then turned to me and translated his reply with a smile: "If he knows you to be a Jew or a spy, he will not only kill you, but he will drink your blood."
With this comforting thought I left Misr el Fattat headquarters for a long night of note-making...There were thousands of these volunteers and adventurers from all the Arab countries, armed and financed by pashas, sheiks, or the Arab League, trained on Egyptian army grounds by regular army officers on leave. Their role was to harass the Jew, cut off his communications, isolate settlements, strip and weaken him for the moment, now only a few weeks off, when the British would leave Palestine and the entire Arab world would declare a bloody, open season on the Jew. Then the regular Arab armies would invade Palestine and settle once and for all the impudent and fantastic Zionist dream of a Jewish state on Arab soil.
Blood-drinking is a theme that seems to recur as a cultural theme, both in the book (we will encounter such threats again) and in history, and not just when accusing Jews of the act. Also, the idea that "We are strong and they are weak because they love life and we love death," is a theme we also see repeating itself with frequency into the present day. Finally, note that while Moustafa may not appear to practice his religion, he is fully submerged in the Islamic cultural surroundings he swims in to such an extent that it does not matter. His prayer frequency is not a predictor of the degree of his fanaticism.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here Carlson (Arthur Derounian) finally gets a meeting with Hassan el Banna (al Banna), leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who lays out the Brotherhood's plan for a new Caliphate. pp. 91-92:
All that I had learned about Hassan el Banna and the unquestioned loyalty he inspired in his cutthroats only whetted my desire to meet him. It proved more difficult than I expected, because of his deep hatred of "Europeans." Finally one day, accompanied by my friend Gamal, I walked into Ikhwan headquarters for my audience with the Supreme Guide.
He approached us -- a short, squat ratty-faced man with puffed cheeks and fleshy nose. He was dressed in European clothes -- a black pinpoint double-breasted suit -- and wore an extra tall tarboosh, which gave him the illusion of added height. His thin beard, running from ear to ear, crawled up, then down his upper lip like an ugly black hirsute vine. His manner was mousy and furtive. His eyes, beadlike and deepset, were like two dark slits across his face. We sat in the shade under the shield showing the Koran above a pair of crossed swords.
The Moorshid spoke with a pious look on his face, his head bent slightly to the right, hands folded meekly in his lap. I disliked him instantly and thoroughly. He was the most loathsome man I had yet met in Cairo. Gamal sat next to us and faithfully interpreted.
"The Koran should be Egypt's constitution, for there is no law higher than Koranic law," the Moorshid began. "We seek to fulfill the lofty, human message of Islam which has brought happiness and fulfillment to mankind in centuries past., Ours is the highest ideal, the holiest cause and the purest way. Those who criticize us have fed from the tables of Europe. They want to live as Europe has taught them -- to dance, to drink, to revel, to mix the sexes openly and ion public."
I asked his views on establishing the Caliphate, the complete merger of Church and State -- the Moslem equivalent of religious totalitarianism, as in Spain.
"We want an Arabian United States with a Caliphate at its head and every Arab state subscribing wholeheartedly to the laws of the Koran. We must return to the Koran, which preaches the good life, which forbids us to take bribes, to cheat, to kill one's brother. The laws of the Koran are suitable for all men at all times to the end of the world. This is the day and this is the time when the world needs Islam most."
I could not help making a mental note that the word "Christian" has been similarly used and with similar fanaticism among Western exponents of authoritarianism.
"We are not eager to have a parliament of the representatives of the people," the Supreme Guide continued, "or a cabinet of ministers, unless such representatives and ministers are Koranic Moslems. If we do not find them, then we must ourselves serve as the parliament. Allah and the religious councils will limit our authority so that no one has to hear dictatorship. We aim to smash modernism in government and society. In Palestine our first duty as Moslems is to crush Zionism, which is Jewish modernism. It is our patriotic duty. The Koran commands it."
He was silent, and then nodded, to indicate the interview was over. And with this Gamal and I took leave of Ikhwan's Moorshid and Egypt's Rasputin.
"What do you think of our Moorshid?" Gamal asked.
"He is a holy man," I said.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Still in early 1948, still in Cairo, before the official end of the mandate. pp. 118-119:
It was about this time that I found plastered on the walls of Cairo buildings huge, luridly colored posters, violently anti-Jewish. One of them, showing a bloodstained dagger with the Star of David on its handle, and blood dripping from it, exhorted: "Arm Arabism!" Other posters read: "Don't talk to the Jews...Don't do business with them...Kill their business and they die...Consider them as our deepest enemies."
A large colored placard, printed in English. Arabic, Spanish, French and Italian, showed a sketch that purported to be the desecration of a holy relic in Jerusalem by the Jews, and read:
ZIONISTS' NEW YEAR PRESENT TO CHRISTENDOM
The Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent letter to the Times, said he would not entrust the Holy Land to the Zionists because he was sure they would lose no time in desecrating every relic of the Christ or the Prophet Muhammad to be found in the Holy Places.
The photo of the statue of the Virgin Mary in Ratisbonne Church, Jerusalem, battered beyond recognition and thrown on the floor of the church, shows that the Archbishop's apprehensions were well-founded. His prophecy has come true.
I was told that this poster was put up by the Arab League.
Certain committees, posing as "patriotic," either mortgaged or bought land from Palestinian Arabs, ostensibly to keep it from Jewish settlers. Arabs who refused to sell at low prices were branded tools of the Jews, and often murdered. Actually, the purpose of these committees was to extend the feudal powers of the landowner. I was told: "The Arab who sold his land to the Jews against our advice was killed at once. Anyone could kill him. No one would know who. The Arab's family and the families of other Arabs would know why he had been killed."
Here we learn that Hamas did not invent the idea of drowning Jews in spit. pp. 138-139:
Cairo's mood, the hour before our departure, was one of excitement or terror -- depending on your religion. Jews were imprisoned because they were Zionists, and beaten on streets because they were Jews. They huddled in their homes, afraid to leave, afraid to worship on the Sabbath because the Ikhwan had spread rumors that synagogues were used for "plotting." Newspapers daily whipped up new excitement with news from Palestine: FIERCE BATTLE IN HOLY CITY'S NO-MAN'S LAND...HAIFA EXPRESS BLOWN UP AGAIN...MARTIAL LAW PROCLAIMED...There were celebrations as news of the dynamiting of the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem, by a car carrying TNT and "flying an American flag," was announced, and later when Arabs ambushed a large convoy near Bethlehem, seized scores of vehicles, and killed many Jews. Under Arab League sponsorship, Fawzy Bey el Kawoukjy (who had spent the war years in Germany, marrying there) had begun to attack with his Yarmuk Army of Liberation.
Arabs everywhere were confident of victory. They gloated over their arms, their money, their numbers. "If we Moslems choose to spit on the Jews we could drown them," one said contemptuously. From another: "We are like a ball of snow. We have just begun to roll. We will crush the microbe of Zionism forever."
The Arab Goliath of eight States and forty-five million people would win over a tiny, sausage-shaped, "militarily indefensible" area, encircled by Arabs, and containing 650,000 poorly armed Jews and a fifth column of at least as many Arabs. There was no doubt that the Arabs would win easily. They said so.
Friday, July 18, 2008
On the way into Palestine with the Green Shirts, Carlson encounters refugees who left home willingly and British soldiers apathetic about doing their job of keeping arms out of the country (at least when dealing with Arabs)... p.160:
We headed toward a shanty town on the outskirts of Rafa, headquarters at the gates of the Negev, the great southern desert of Palestine, Rafa itself had boomed in the last few months, and served as an outpost for volunteer fighters, gun-runners, and Arab refugees already fleeing from Palestine. As early as the end of March 1948, Cairo was crowded with wealthy Palestinian refugees, both Moslem and Christian, who had left their homes voluntarily, even though widespread fighting had not yet broken out. By ten o'clock Moustafa and Zaki had located a gun-running truck leaving for Beersheba.
Yallah! We climbed into the truck and rode until we reached the Palestine border. There we were halted by British soldiers. Two tanks stood near by. Beyond was a large British camp. The Green Shirts had now hidden their own guns and insignia, and posed as native Palestinians. The English went through the formality of asking: "Any guns on the truck?" We said: "No," laughing. The soldiers smiled back, took down our license number and, lifting the wooden barrier, let us through. We were in Palestine!
Our first Kibbutz...p. 164:
Not far from Beersheba I saw my first Jewish communal settlement, Kibbutz Beit Eshel. With its well-tended orchards and green trees, Beit Eshel rose like an oasis from the bleak, dust-packed Negev desert around it. A kibbutz was always conspicuous by its water tower, silo and modern farm buildings, and contrasted sharply with the squalor of Arab villages.
Moustafa pointed at Beit Eshel with awe. "We have attacked it, but the Jews are well armed. They have built a Maginot Line around their place and fight you from under the ground. They are cowards." Later, I was to see astonishing examples of Jewish ingenuity -- and understand exactly what Moustafa meant. "After May 15 Beit Eshel will be ours. The Egyptian army will make it one with the desert."
"Insh'alla! Insh'alla! With God's help," I said.
Surrounded by Arabs and desert, a lone sentry in the wilderness, I could not imagine how Beit Eshel could ever hold out against massed troops and heavy artillery1 (1 But it did. On one occasion the settlement's armory consisted of twelve rifles and two machine-guns. The Egyptian army attacked in battalion strength with heavy artillery, and was repeatedly beaten back.) Inquiring discreetly, I learned that the kibbutz had already taken a toll of attacking Arabs. It was supplied by a daring airlift and sometimes by food and ammunition convoys that boldly ran the gauntlet of Arab soldiers all the way from coastal Tel Aviv, seventy miles across the desert.
Such sites in the desert must have engendered a great deal of envy and jealous anger on behalf of the Arabs, especially given what you read (and should know) about how the Arabs themselves lived among themselves (in squalor and bickering and squabbling and fighting) for centuries.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The double-dealing Bedouin King of Beersheba. pp. 165-166:
...we waited for Sheik Salaam, a Bedouin tribal chief. He was a short, wizened man with a face the color of burnt copper. He had tiny, cunning eyes and a tight and narrow mouth from which the words came sparingly. He was draped in a flowing black burnous, gold-braided at the neck. Around his waist was a cartridge belt, revolver, and a curved dagger, standard Bedouin equipment. He took Moustafa inside with him.
I learned the sheikh's record. Already wealthy through border traffic, he had bought land cheaply from Bedouins, and later sold it at extravagant prices to Jews, amassing even greater wealth. The vengeful Bedouins demanded an accounting. The sheikh promptly turned against the Jews, and emerged a top Arab patriot.
Moustafa came away empty-handed from the sheikh. "He is rich but he does not give baksheesh. He is not patriotic," Moustafa complained bitterly. "His enemies will kill him very soon."
The ruffians of Jerusalem. pp. 170-172:
...Moustafa and I were ushered into the presence of Captain Fadhil Rashid Bey, Arab military commander of Jerusalem. He was soft-spoken in contrast to the braggarts I had met so far. An Iraqi, he had been trained by Germans and, as he told me, had participated in the pro-Nazi revolt of 1941 in Iraq, which for two desperate months threatened to turn the entire Middle East into a Nazi camp. Moustafa gave me a flattering introduction as a correspondent and a German sympathizer, so that Rashid Bey and I got along famously from the outset. I took his photograph and he was pleased. I asked him deferentially how well he knew the Mufti.
"I am commander of Jerusalem because of the Mufti. I knew him in Iraq."
Rashid Bey's job was not enviable. He had no regular army, but a vast rabble of largely unemployed, impoverished, loot-hungry Arab hooligans, whom even the respectable Moslems feared and avoided. There was no dearth of experienced fighters. Many were veterans of the Mufti's 1929 and 1936-9 revolts. Some had spent the war years in Germany, had been thoroughly indoctrinated, and were now excellent propagandists. Others had served in the Axis-sponsored Moslem Legions organized under the Mufti's guidance. There was also the Mufti's Youth Corps -- Futuwas -- reorganized by Jamal Bey el Husseini, the Mufti's cousin and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. There were, too, a strong representation of Ikhwan el Muslimin thugs, select ruffians from Hebron, and thousands of other shiftless semiliterate marauders. They were undisciplined and outlaw fighters all, inept at teamwork, but dangerous when fighting individually or in small bands as guerrillas, with loot -- in any form -- as the primary objective.
These were the Arab gangs that, with the aid of technically skilled deserters from the British army, in recent months had blown up the Palestine Post and the Jewish Agency Building, bombed Ben Yehuda street, the principal Jewish business thoroughfare, and laid mines. As I strolled about I could see that they were in an extremely cocky and festive mood. They had made this last week in March a black week for the Jews. With foolhardy courage, the Haganah had sent a large convoy to supply Kfar Etzion -- a chain of four kibbutzim -- perched on a strategic hilltop commanding the road to Jerusalem from the South. The convoy had successfully charged through a fifteen mile gauntlet of Arab villages and numerous roadblocks, mines, and snipers' posts.
On its way back, however, the story was different. The Jews met Arabs under Abdul Kader el Husseini, a relative of the Mufti, who had served him the Iraq-Nazi revolt and was now commander of Arab forces in the Jerusalem area. At Nebi Daniel (site of a small Arab village named for the prophet Daniel) huge roadblocks halted the returning convoy. A fierce battle began. Cornered, the Haganah commander regrouped his vehicles on three sides of a square, with a ruined wall forming the fourth side. The battle raged for thirty-six hours between some two hundred Jews and more than three thousand Arabs who had surrounded them and cut them off from all help.
British forces were still responsible for "law and order." They were in Palestine to prevent precisely such battles as this. But when the British finally intervened, it was to strike a bargain with the Arabs. In return for the safety of the surviving Jews, the Arabs were to take all the Haganah arms and equipment. To prolong a hopeless struggle against odds of fifteen to one would have meant the eventual destruction of the Jewish fighting force as well as the loss of vehicles. The Haganah commander capitulated. The English escorted his men to Jerusalem. To the Jews it meant the loss of almost their entire fleet of armored trucks in Jerusalem. They also lost twelve men. The Arab toll in this "Battle of the Roads" was 135 dead.
The next day on sale everywhere in the Holy City were gruesome photographs of the battle: the burnt and mutilated bodies of Haganah men, which for some perverse Arab reason, had been stripped of clothing and photographed in the nude. These naked shots hit "Holy" City markets afresh after every battle, and sold rapidly. Arabs carried them in their wallets and displayed them frequently, getting the same weird, abnormal "kick" that our perverts derive from nude photographs of women.
Monday, July 21, 2008
In Jerusalem, still before the end of the Mandate. pp. 176-180:
Moustafa, Faris, and the others returned to Deir Aboutor late in the afternoon, grimy but exalted. I listened to their tales of triumph. One would think these two alone had captured Castel. Mohammed, one of the fighters, had a wrist watch and field glasses he did not have the day before.
"Where did you get them?"
"From the Jews."
"You told me once that Arabs buried dead Jews with their rings and watches."
Everybody laughed...Toward evening they were laughing no longer, but on the contrary were as glum as if their mothers had died. The Castel victory had been costly. Abdul Kader el Husseini, hero of the counterattack, and the only man with a personal following in the Jerusalem area, had been killed in the action. There was no one else to take his place. The funeral would be held tomorrow morning...
...I sensed the tenseness as Moustafa and a half dozen of us walked through the Old City to the Moslem quarter, where the dead chief's bier rested in his home. The crowd was heavily armed, and so thick that there was hardly elbow room. Not a single woman was visible.
We followed the mourners, walking in silence. When the crowd turned a corner to Husseini's house, I climbed aboard an armored car to take pictures. At that moment a volley of rifle shots suddenly crackled into the air. I head shouts: "Yahood! Yahood!" Mourning gave way to panic, as practically every Arab in the teeming mob of thousands simultaneously let go with pistol or rifle. The bullets hit live electric wires, which broke and swung on the road as Arabs tried to scramble out of their way. My position atop the car was, to say the least, highly untenable. I remember now that a bullet whistled past just as I jumped, crawling on all fours toward a space between two cars. Everyone was scrambling for safety. Within sixty seconds, the streets were completely cleared. Arabs were flat against anything that was handy: earth, streets, doors, walls. Some were still jumping over fences. It was all very undignified for a people who claimed that if they chose to spit, they could drown the Jews. Crouching between two cars, I managed to take a few pictures. Under each car were three Arabs, with others trying to crawl under. Of all the bizarre scenes I saw in the Arab world, perhaps this one of utter panic, hysteria, and fear was the most comic -- and significant.
What we had all thought was a Haganah attack turned out to be a rifle salute in honor of the dead commander. When they began shouting this intelligence, I saw Moustafa crawling from under the armored car dusting himself with an air of embarrassment. I showed him my scraped shinbone...
...Husseini's coffin, covered with a red, black, and green flag, was carried to the square below the Dome of the Rock, where Arab chiefs spoke their eulogies. All this took place within sight of the Wailing Wall...
...I was now before the entrance to the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam's holiest shrines. Standing near by was a short, plump, round-faced man with a magnificent spade-shaped white beard and an enormous white turban, who was the custodian, Sheikh Ismail el Ansary...
...Historically the rock was actually a jagged slice of Mount Moriah, the hill on which Abraham offered to sacrifice Isaac. The Jews prayed on it long before the Moslem dome covered it.
Solomon built his magnificent Temple here and housed in it the Jewish holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant. The entire area of the mosque, and the spacious stone courtyard surrounding it, were built on the site of the ancient Israel courts, where Christ preached and drove away the money-changers. Hardly a square inch here was without some direct connection to ancient Hebraic or Christian history.
None of these Hebraic-Christian origins, however, could be mentioned to Sheikh Ansary...
...After I had gained his confidence, El Ansary proved unusually outspoken. "Look here" -- these were the only English words he knew -- "whenever I pray, I pray to Allah to destroy the Jews. I pray to Allah to punish President Truman because he has been on the Zionist side. I used to pray against President Roosevelt, a very bad man. Now I pray to Allah that he destroy Mrs. Roosevelt because she is behaving very badly toward the Arabs."
"You sound like a Moslem Republican," I said.
"Look here, I pray against them for different reasons. Against Balfour and his family I pray that Allah confine them all to hell. The English are like sarratan [cancer]. May Balfour and Roosevelt take first place in hell. Allah, Allah, may this be done."
Propriety demanded that I say: "Insh'allah."
Despite his sixty-eight years, the man was as vigorous as an ox. "Look here, I will fight for Palestine to the last minute of my life," he said, with eyes blazing. "No Moslem is afraid of death. If he dies for Palestine that is a satisfying way to die. His parents are happy he fell in the Jehad. If we cannot win any other way, all the sheikhs in all the mosques in all the Arab countries over all the world will climb the minarets, and call on every Moslem to join the Jehad against the Jew in Palestine."
I turned the conversation to the Mufti.
"Look here," said El Ansary, "he is of the same blood as Mohammed. He is respected for his many good deeds. I pray for the Mufti in all my prayers to Allah."
I thanked Sheikh el Ansary for his courtesy and according to decorum, wished him long life and the blessings of Allah on him, his family, and his heirs. Bowing, I salaamed by placing my fingertips first to my heart, then to my lips, my forehead. He did the same in token of his respect toward me. "I shall remember you in my prayers to Allah," he said.
Looks like not much has changed in the Muslim proprietors of the Temple Mount in all the intervening years.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The contradictions of a sexually-repressed society. pp. 208-210:
Sammy and his lover couldn't seem to have enough of each other. They were promenading arm in arm on the beach, or with arms around each other's waists, giggling and carrying on like teen-age sweethearts. In this they were by no means alone. The beach was filled with amorous though less demonstrative men, both young and old, the young often with the old, sitting close together, or back to back, or stretched out full length on the sand.
"Take my picture," the English-speaking Arab asked. "Make me look like a soldier." He whipped out his pistol and, aiming it toward Tel Aviv, assumed a fierce look.
"Hold that pose," I said. "You look like Allah's messenger."
This gave me an opening for photographing everyone on the beach -- mementos of an all-male beach party. After I had taken a dozen photographs, one of the groups introduced himself to me as a member of the Gaza City Council. We chatted for a few moments and I asked:
"How does the war look?"
"See that water?" He pointed with his narghileh. "One month from now it will be black as far as the horizon with the nude bodies of floating Jews."
Just then Moustafa emerged from a clump of bushes to the left -- from a dark-shaded nook into which I had noticed Sammy and Ismail disappear. The two did not reappear until almost an hour later, arm in arm. The mystery deepened when two more members of the party vanished in the same direction -- and didn't return. As the afternoon wore on, one by one the trucks and cars, the lovers old and young, left the beach. "Let's go look for them," Moustafa said. We all rose. I deliberately fell in with the effeminate Arab whose photograph I'd taken.
"Our Bible says that Samson used to come to Gaza for his pleasure. Are the two friends for whom we are looking at a place where one may find public women for one's pleasure?" I inquired teasingly.
The Arab wheeled around, shocked, momentarily speechless. "We are very strict in Gaza," he gasped. "If we found any such places we would burn them. If we found any such women we would hang them." Quite upset, he left my company and did not talk to me again.
We walked to the clump of bushes, which thickened as we went through them, and emerged into a narrow, dusty, street. Ahead was an angular, three-storied, gray stone house, set off by itself, which appeared to be a hotel. Moustafa was on the verge of entering when the two men we were seeking stepped out. One of them was Abdul, a Green Shirt member. His companion, also a youth in his early twenties, was from Gaza.
"We were praying," Abdul explained, smiling.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Still in Gaza, just after the beach. One evening, Moustafa takes Carlson to a meeting they've been invited to, but refuses to say what it's all about. pp. 211-214:
"Moustafa, you aren't taking me to Abdul's prayer house?"
"You are too impatient Artour. Wait."
Finally we came to a high wall, followed it for a block, and then turned to find ourselves before a high wide gate topped with iron spikes. We banged on it. We heard the shuffling of feet, and a voice, echoing sharply in the deathly stillness, challenged us in Arabic. Moustafa answered; one of the doors was swung open by an Arab, and we found ourselves in a large courtyard. At the farther end was a house with lights shining from the first- and second-story windows.
"Is it all right to speak English?"
"Yes. You can also talk German if you wish."
That put me on guard. The Arab gateman now opened an inner door and motioned us into a large room lighted by two kerosene lamps, which cast a flickering light on a group of men standing near a large table covered with food.
DINNER WITH NAZI HERRENVOLK
MY GAZE swept past a well-dressed Arab in flowing robes, who was apparently the host, and fell upon seven men, six of them in uniform. The seventh was a brown-haired non-German, apparently a Slav. His right sleeve hung empty from the shoulder of his dark-green American officer's coat. All seven stared at us stiffly.
"Guten Abend, Kameraden! Good evening comrades. Heil!" I said, giving the short-arm Nazi salute as I had done innumerable times at Bund meetings.
A jet steam appeared to have struck them: the faces melted instantly and burst into smiles. The six snapped their heels, heiled back in unison, and all began talking at once in German.
"Ach, meine Freunde, meine Kunde der deutschen Sprache ist unglucklicherweise nicht so gross wie meine Liebe fur das deutsche Volk. Ah, my friends. Unfortunately my knowledge of German is not so strong as my love for the German people." Over and again I had used that at Bund meetings.
One of the Nazis translated my effusion into Arabic, much to the delight of our host. Seeing me so well received, Moustafa added his praise of the manly, bold, loyal Armenian who had been living with the Arabs. As usual, my American citizenship was an incidental detail. Our host, beside himself, kept repeating: "Ahlan wa sahlen, mit ahlan wa sahlen! Sharraftuna! Hallet el-baraka! Welcome and welcome again! What an honor! What a pleasure! What a blessing from Allah!"
The only one to speak English among the Germans was introduced to me as Gerhard. He had a long face, dark hair, and sideburns, and had perfected his English at a British prisoner-of-war camp. As we sat down to a lavish dinner, I asked him:
"How did you escape?"
"Through the Mufti's help. Twenty of us crossed the Canal in a boat one night. Cars were waiting for us on the other side."
"Only twenty have escaped?"
"Oh, no., More, hundreds more -- some by hiding under merchandise in trucks. Others are disguising themselves as Arabs and carrying false papers, and others get through by bribing. Customs officials at Ismailia are friendly. Der Gross-mufti makes all the arrangements. In a few days we expect twenty-five more comrades here. They will come with guns."
"Naturlich. Stolen from camp or sold by English soldiers. The Arabs get much equipment that way."
"Who is our host?"
"He is a relative of the Mufti. Many of the Mufti's cousins and nephews are in Gaza and rule the city. In a few weeks Gaza will become the capital of the Mufti's Palestine government. The Egyptian army will also make its headquarters here."
"How many Germans in the Suez camps?" I asked.
"Many thousands. Perhaps 12,500 or more of the Afrika Korps. There are also many high officers, even some generals. Sitting at this table are a captain and two lieutenants. I was a lieutenant with Rommel," Gerhard said. After a moment he shook his head. "These Arabs make big talk but do not fight like an army. They are not trained,. They do not know discipline. We fought with them against the Jewish villages. We know. That man," he said pointing to the amputee, "is a Yugoslav Moslem. He lost his arm in Haifa. There's another Yugoslav recuperating at the Civilian Hospital here in Gaza. If you want to know about the Arabs as fighter, go see him. He has been with them longer than I have."...
...It was eleven o'clock as Moustafa and I rose to leave. There was much salaaming and hand shaking back and forth. The Nazis...pumped our hands. Our host said, "Sharrifna tani, marra, insh'allah. Come again when Allah wills it...
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Wherein we meet and Yugoslav Muslim in hospital who fought with the Arabs...and Jew hating literature spread by the Mufti to incite the foreigners against the Jews. pp. 217-218:
...While Moustafa indulged in blind-alley flirtation with two Armenian nurses, I strolled through the wards. One of the patients introduced himself to me as Nazar Chalawitch, a former captain in Yugoslav quisling Pavelich's army, now an Arab fighter who was convalescing. I told him I was Gerhard's friend.
"How did you get hurt?" I asked.
"Fighting with the most stupid, the most cowardly, the most inefficient soldiers I have ever seen," Nazar exploded. "The Germans and I gave the Arabs many good ideas to destroy the Jewish villages. They are afraid of anything new. They say it will cost them too much money. They are waiting for Allah to help them!"
Deeply embittered, he went on: "If those Arabs had followed orders we'd have cleaned out the Jews long ago. Take this village outside Gaza [Kibbutz Kfar Daron]. We made a perfect plan to attack it with three columns: 34 Germans and eight Yugoslavs in one column, 210 Ikhwan in another; a hundred Followers of Truth making the third column. We were to assemble exactly at midnight and march from three sides. The Germans were on time. Ikhwan came three hours late. The others -- just before sunrise! We couldn't surprise the Jews. We attacked anyway -- lost about forty men. A bullet went through my hip."
pp. 222-223, in a disintegrating Jerusalem:
The Palestine Post ran a daily column listing casualities. By May 1, 1948, 5,104 had died (189 English, 1,236 Jews, 3,569 Arabs) and 6,632 had been wounded.
I strolled over to the Public Information Office and wandered into the small canteen operated there for the correspondents. Jewish and Arab newspapermen still mixed: coolly, suspiciously. The Jewish boys came mainly to get a beer, potatoes, and coffee, and had cigarettes for sale -- all rare in the New City. When Jews tried to buy food to take home, Ahmed would say: "If I sold it to you the Arabs would cut my body into small pieces." I met an Arab here, named Nassib Boulos, working for the British as a string correspondent for Life magazine. Boulos always hovered around the American newsmen,. trying to get a line on each one. He came over to my table.
"I hear you're a Zionist."
"I don't know what Zionism is. I haven't seen enough of the Jews."
I had a premonition that Boulos would cross my path later on, and make trouble. In the days that followed, a series of nasty anti-Jewish booklets and leaflets began to circulate among correspondents, anonymously signed "AMO" -- the Arab Military Organization, and adjunct of the Mufti's Arab Higher Committee. Addressed to "British Soldiers! British Policemen! British Civilians!" they sought to incite non-Arabs against the Jews. One of the leaflets was in doggerel:
Put a bomb in the [Jewish] Agency Buildings
Wipe the Synagogues all off the earth,
And make every damned son of ZION
Regret the day of his birth.
From the lampposts hang all the RABBIS
But hang HERTZOG1 highest of all
And when you have hung all the Jew-boys
Then blow up their damned WAILING WALL...
You will find you are down as the Heroes
Of the Last and the greatest Crusade,
And then you will all go to HEAVEN
And I WILL BE THERE AS WELL.
And we all charge our glasses,
AND DRINK tO JEWS THERE IN HELL.
1Dr. Isaac Halevy Herzong, then Chief Rabbi of Palestine, later Rabbi of Israel.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Ali looked at me intently, with a savage glint in his eyes which made me uncomfortable. We were along; he was armed, and I knew that I was no match for a man whom I felt instinctively was a killer...Ali opened up gradually, first by confessing that as a boy he had beaten a playmate to death because he caught him stealing. Growing up in a Cairo slum -- with no schooling or formal training -- Ali had developed a fanatic sense of right and wrong. All wrong was to be punished by death in order to end the progeny of wrongdoers and eliminate evil from the world.
"Who will determine what is right and wrong?" I asked.
"I make the judgment," Ali said. He had been jailed. "It was my own fault. I was careless," he explained, then told me this story. He had been delegated to do away with an Egyptian official in Cairo. Planning the attack carefully, Ali had made a sketch of the official's itinerary and marked with an X the spot from which he was to fire his revolver. In his excitement Ali had lost the diagram.
"I didn't need the paper. I remembered everything," he said. "I was at the place an hour early. I had the gun in my coat pocket, with my hand always on the trigger. I was afraid I would shoot myself, so I went into a doorway to change the position of my gun. Four men followed me. They beat me on the head, and took me to the karakol. They had found my diagram on the street. In my house the police found another sketch. They beat me again, and once again in the karakol. I confessed because I did not want to be beaten any more. I was in jail two years." Ali's appetite had been merely whetted. "I want revenge. I failed in my duty once. I must clear myself before Allah. I must kill Jews, many Jews. I must kill till my arm is tired. I must not stop killing Jews till the bodies are this high..." The wild Arab brought one hand to his chin. "I must do one more thing...For this I need your help Artour."
"Your wish is my command, Ali."
"I want you to come with me the next time we fight the Yahood. When I catch a Jew alive I want you to be with me -- with your camera."
"Why do you want me with my camera?" I asked curiously.
"I want you to take one picture of me holding the living Jew by the throat. I want you to take another picture while I stab the Jew in the neck. Then I want pictures as I stab him again and again in the neck, in the face, in the heart, in his belly...with this knife!" Ali whipped out a vicious blade. "After I have killed the Jew I want you to photograph me drinking his blood."
"While it is still warm, I suppose."
"Yes, while it is running warm from his body," Ali affirmed.
"Okay, I'll take the pictures!"
What else could I say?
Interesting on a couple of levels, not just for showing the fanatical hatred the 1948 generation had to face (and may have lost to), but the psychology of Arab shaming Arab and seeking to regain honor by killing Jews. That would seem to be an interesting psychology to explore.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
It was dusk when we decided to call it a day. Arabs usually retired from fighting after sundown, and expected the Jews to do the same. The Jews, however, did the opposite. The Haganah did its best work under cover of darkness. Sneaking unseen upon the enemy, it combined daring with the element of total surprise and usually succeeded in terrifying the Arabs. Another advantage of night attack was that the darkness hid the numbers of the wosefully small -- though superbly trained -- Jewish units. Under these conditions events proved that one inspired Haganah Commando was easily worth ten average Arabs.
This was true here too. For by nightfall the Jews had captured the strategic heights of Katamon and our Holy Warriors had clambered into trucks and rolled back to Deir Aboutor in the silence and gloom of defeat. Later, from Deir Aboutor, we heard the muffled blasting of Jewish sappers as they moved forward consolidating their positions. In the Monastery of St. Simeon, Jews found instructions in German as well as Arabic, a wholly reasonable discovery in view of Iraq's history during World War II. (See Chapter XXII).
The following morning Moustafa took me aside.
"Artour," he said, "You remember Hamid Sharkaf?"
I remembered Hamid Sharkaf. I knew him as John Kenny, a twenty-one-year-old boy from Glasgow, with red cheeks and an ever present smile. Before he deserted from the British army on the Arab promise of £15 a month, he had been attached to the Royal Engineers. His specialty was mine-laying and demolition-bomb-making; he also taught the Arabs how to use their British machine-guns. "Hamid Sharkaf" was the name he had taken among the Arabs, after the fashion of many of the British deserters.
"He is dead," Moustafa said, genuinely sorry.
"How did he die?"
"At Katamon. We killed him last night by mistake. He wouldn't retreat with the rest of our boys, so when the Jews chased him to our lines, we took him for a Jew and killed him."
"He was Catholic," I said, "Who buried him?"
"The Arab soldiers. They dug a grave in the Moslem cemetery by the Dome of the Rock, and the imam said a prayer."
So died -- and so was buried -- many a British soldier!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
To everyone's astonishment the Arabs were losing on nearly every front. Haifa, the leading port in the Middle East, with an Arab population of seventy thousand and a priceless oil refinery, had fallen to the Jews within thirty hours. Palestine's second port, Jaffa, an all-Arab city adjoining Tel Aviv, had crumbled into Jewish hands. Some fifty thousand Arabs had fled Jaffa.2 Farther north, Safad, Tiberius, and the fortress city of Acre -- which even Napoleon could not capture from the Turks -- had all been seized by the Haganah in a series of brilliant maneuvers. What innate power motivated these sons of David? I didn't yet have the answer from the Jewish side. But with the Arabs I had been learning some of the reasons why the Jehad was daily proving such a failure.
Moustafa, however, seemed to have no worries. Toward evening one day I found him sitting on a rock. I walked up quietly and say beside him.
"Things are not going so well with us, Moustafa," I said.
"The Jews haven't tasted real Arab steel and lead yet," Moustafa said confidently. "Artour, you have seen only the work of untrained volunteers. You are making a mistake if you judge the power of the regular Arab armies from these Holy Warriors. What we are doing here is tiring the Jew, worrying him, keeping him running here and there until the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and fighters from Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the Moslem countries of North Africa join the Jehad." He paused. "Then you will see slaughter, Artour. Then you will see us march to Tel Aviv."
"How long will it take us, Moustafa?"
"Thirty days -- not thirty-one -- but thirty days to conquer Tel Aviv!"
I wasn't too sure of this, but I said insh'allah anyway.
The footnote is important. Keeping in mind that this was written down in 1951, shortly after the events in question by a person who was there. That doesn't mean that there can't be an inaccuracy in the relating of fact -- far from it when describing certain events the author couldn't personally know -- but they do describe what was accepted by those who were present at the time, and they contrast sharply with modern revisionist accounts.
Arab leaders -- particularly in the Mufti's Arab Higher Committee -- urged residents to clear the fighting areas, promising them that Palestine would be cleared of Jews within thirty days after the Mandate ended. After the Jews had been pushed into the seam Arab leaders said, Palestinians could return to their homes and at the same time share in the Jewish booty. They implied that those who refused to leave were pro-Zionist; such people were threatened with reprisals.
In contrast, I know of instances where the Jews begged the Arabs, particularly the Christian elements, to remain, guaranteeing their safety and full respect for property. These Christians, however, joined the fleeing Moslems, fearing the promised retribution following the promised Arab victory. As an instance, the Armenians, who had always got along well with Arab and Jew alike, joined the panicky Moslems, horror-stricken by the memory of the Turkish massacres.
Wealthy merchants, physicians, bankers, politicians, and other leaders were the first to leave. Later came the poorer elements until, by the time the Mandate expired, those remaining were largely only the ill and aged, the looters, and the innocents.
The exodus figure of 750,000 or more Arabs is sheer propaganda, a fictional number that cannot be supported by the facts. The populace in the country from Jerusalem north to Jericho was not disturbed by the fighting, nor were the Arabs and Christians resident in the congested areas within the quadrangle formed by Ramallah, Tulkarm, Jenin, and Nablus -- Palestinian territory now annexed by Jordan. It must also be pointed out that many of the Moslem so-called refugees were homeless, nomadic wanderers in the first place. Poor, nonrefugee Arabs, such as those in Gaza, have claimed refugee status in order to qualify for American aid.
Monday, August 4, 2008
When you let loose the mob, you can't control it. Set the rabble against the Jews, and they'll prey on all the weak, even each other. An insight into who persecuted the Christians, as well as another look into the source of the refugee crisis. Remember, the Mandate hasn't even ended yet.
IN THE midst of this growing turmoil, I had a personal problem. If, despite Moustafa's confidence in Allah, the forces of war should turn against us, what would I do with my suitcase, packed with my precious notes and the invaluable film record of my experiences so far? My suitcase was stored in our arsenal, where my bloodthirsty friend kept vigil; if the Jews forced us to flee, it would be lost. I decided the safest place for it would be the Vank, the Armenian monastery in the Old City, which was built like a fortress, and whose sanctity had always been respected.
One morning, therefore, I trudged over with it, gave it into the keeping of an Armenian family, and took the opportunity to pay my respects to the Patriarch, spiritual shepherd of some ten thousand Armenians in Palestine. I was ushered up a narrow flight of steps to his reception-room. It was large, rectangular, thickly carpeted, lined with upholstered chairs. On the walls were stately paintings and photographs of the princes of my church. Here one seemed to rise above the tumult outside and step into a calm and reverential world.
I faced Guregh II Israelian. He was a short man, wearing gold-rimmed glasses, with a long, patriarchal beard that was black in the upper portion, graying toward the tip, and completely white at the end. A large, pyramid-shaped black hood rose above his head, and at times seemed to overshadow him. It magnified both his face and stature, so that even while sitting he seemed a towering figure. His deep brown eyes, seemingly calm, glowed with dormant fire. Beloved by Jew, Arab, and Christian alike, he was one of the last of the old-time shepherds of the Church who guarded his flock with a paternal hand...
...I heard a sudden commotion outside the door. A scout rushed in, breathless: a group of Arabs were trying to force their way into the monastery! Hurrying with the Patriarch to the window, we saw the Arab gang milling about the entrance, wild disorderly hoodlums armed to the bursting point. They were banging away at the iron door of the monastery with their rifles, screaming to be allowed entrance.
"They say they will shoot their way in," the scout reported.
"Asdvadzim, Asdvadzim!" My God, my God!" The Patriarch
raised his hands in supplication. "Assor vertchu tchika? Amen orr, Amen orr gookan!" Is there no end to this? Every day, every day they come!"
I heard the crack of a rifle shot, another, then a third. The Arabs were attempting to shoot out the lock.
From the posture of supplication, his arms raised heavenward, the Patriarch suddenly brought his hands together. He clenched them tight into two massive fists, then in a mighty rage of wrath he shook his fists at the hoodlums. And in that act of defiance he symbolized the defiance of the entire Armenian people toward the brutality of the Turk, the tyranny of the Nazis, the intrigues and betrayal of those who regarded us as weak and spineless because we were not of the Anglo-Saxon race and did not sit in the councils of the chosen. In the Patriarch I saw an Armenian people fighting its oppressors, its betrayers, it tormenters.
The Patriarch was no longer the disturbed cleric of a few minutes ago. He was a fighting man, in full command, the leader of his people, the guardian of his church. He wheeled around to the scout: "Go tell them that I forbid anybody to enter. They may try to shoot down the door if they wish, but as long as I am here they will not desecrate our holy Vank, they will not spill Armenian blood. They will not enter!"
I have seldom seen anyone, let alone a Patriarch, so enraged. There was little for me to do but stand by, fascinated, and watch the bolt of lightning smite the Arab. How could one help but admire this man of courage and fortitude? Surely our commanders at Musa Dagh must have been fighters of equal rank. . . . The storm was over. Into the palatial reception room there came again the calm of a sanctuary. "It's the lawless brigands who are the troublemakers," the Patriarch said to me. "The decent Arabs fear them, and that is one reason why most of them have fled from Jerusalem. If I let in one, a hundred will follow, then a thousand. They would plunder our Vank. . . ."
On that bitter note, I left him and returned to Deir Aboutor.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
This section gives a good sense of the tenuous thread things hung on as the Mandate ended, how those who were present at the time felt the balance of power to stand, just who was fighting on what side, and just how long international institutions have been trying to come up with solutions and coming up empty...
ONLY a few days now remained until the British mandate over Palestine expired. Tension had reached the exploding point. The United Nations Trusteeship Council showed marked impotence. First, it proposed a truce, which neither side obeyed. Then it tried to postpone partition. There was a proposal to send United States Marines to enforce-no one was sure what. The Council suggested a special British High Commissioner to rule over Jerusalem. Later it thought a Red Cross official might do better. A dozen last-minute schemes and a hundred speeches were delivered in an atmosphere of great theatrical importance-but far removed from the reality in Palestine.
At Lake Success, Sir Alexander Cadogan, the British delegate, read a telegram to the Security Council stating that "all units of the Arab Legion had left Palestine for Trans-Jordan prior to the end of the Mandate." I smiled when I read this. For I had seen the Arab Legion in Gaza, in Hebron and in Katamon.
Far better than I, the defenders of Kfar Etzion had tasted the sting of Legion guns. They, too, knew the truth. . . . For weeks these settlers in their hilltop kibbutzim had beaten back assaults by the Arab Legion and guerrilla bands. At four a.m. on May 12 -- two days before the Mandate's end -- guerrillas joined with Arabs from Hebron and the Arab Legion to launch an all-out attack on Kfar Etzion with two battalions and two thousand irregulars. They hammered at the isolated community and its 164 men and women defenders, with cannon, mortars, and heavy machine-guns. The tanks charged sixteen times, followed by wave after wave of howling fanatics. Kfar Etzion sent desperate calls: "Tanks penetrated our rear into the farmyard. . . . Overrunning the dining-room and children's house. . . . Swarming in from all sides." Ferocious hand-to-hand fighting followed. When Kfar Etzion fell, the Arabs found sixty-two dead, forty-two gravely wounded, and three survivors. The rest had fled to the three adjoining kibbutzim -- making a combined defensive force of about 350 Jews.
In the next few days these kibbutzim, too, underwent Kfar Etzion's fate. After their surrender they were plundered and burned. Thus ended the tragic saga of Kfar Etzion, the first major triumph of the British-trained, British-armed, British-led, so-called Arab Legion -- while at Lake Success and in London, British spokesmen soberly repeated that the English and the Legion had pulled out of Palestine.
On the night of May 13, the last night of the British mandate -- the night before the Jews would proclaim the establishment of the first independent Jewish State in two thousand years -- I stood watching the burning buildings of Kfar Etzion glowering against the sky. The ravished settlement was symbolic of the Holy Land, a Holy City set afire by the torches of colonialism. I watched far into the night, then went downstairs and prepared for bed. Moustafa and I slept on adjoining cots. I lay on my cot. Moustafa was removing his jacket.
"I feel suddenly frightened, Moustafa. I cannot explain why."
"It is because you are afraid of the future. You will see that the Arabs will win. Allah is on our side."
"Do you still believe what you said about Tel Aviv?"
"Of course. Every Arab believes it. Every Arab knows that we will be in Tel Aviv one month from tomorrow. We will sit in the cafes by the sea, drink coffee . . . eat baklawa and enjoy the Jewish girls!"
"And hang all the Haganah from the trees?"
"Yes, I am sure of it."
He paused for a moment, and grew confidential.
"Artour, I can now tell you our big plans, since they are not secret any more. The Egyptian armies have already crossed into Palestine, and beginning tomorrow will march on Jerusalem and on Tel Aviv. The Arab Legion will march on Tel Aviv from the east and meet the Egyptians coming from the south. The Syrians and Lebanese armies will attack from the north and northwest, and march on Tel Aviv also. The Iraqi regulars will support the Syrians and Arab Legion. You can see" -- and here Moustafa, quite excited, drew out a piece of paper and traced the plan roughly -- "how the Arabs will come all together at one time on Tel Aviv!" He looked at me triumphantly. "Are you frightened now, Artour?" he said, blowing out the candle, and thumping into bed.
In the darkness I said: "No, Moustafa, I believe you."...
...Could 650,000 Jews defy the might of forty-five million Arabs, the massed might of the Arab armies?...
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The first day of the end of the Mandate, the first day of an independent Israel, the first day of overt invasion. The Jewish area of Jerusalem is being shelled...indiscriminately.
They took the boy to the operating room. For the next hour I looked for him in the crowded wards. Finally they brought him out. The color had left his face. His brown eyes were closed. He was whimpering, still under the anesthesia. They laid him on a bed that had been used, the sheeting soiled. (Two patients were often placed in one bed.) Gently the nurse rolled him over on his left side, and I saw that his arm was gone. In its place was a thick, round bandaged stump. He lay quietly on his side, consumed by fever and pain. I moved closer to take his picture, and I heard him cry softly: "Ima...Ima...Ima..." -- the plaintive cry of a boy for his mother. I took five photographs, and a strange thing happened with the, All came out blurred. It was I who had moved. I must have been too moved to hold still. Moved and angry. Angry is not the word. Enraged is more apt. Enraged that a boy of eleven should have to go through life without his right arm. What had he done? Whom had he hurt?
Above the groaning in the wards I heard another Arab shell land near by. It struck near St. Joseph's Convent, whose upper floors were later damaged by shells. I ascertained that the shelling came from a hilltop a quarter of a mile beyong the Garden of Gethsemane. The guns were British guns.2 [2On my way to Jericho some time later, I drove past the Garden of Gethsemane, and saw these British guns firing from their emplacements on a promontory on the Mount of Offence.] The shells bore British markings. The hands firing the artillery were those of the Arab Legion -- British trained. The conception of terrorizing the New City with indiscriminate round-the-clock bombing was British-inspired. It was planned by Glubb Pasha, British commander of the Arab Legion. The beleaguered Jews were fighting not only the Arabs, but in effect, the English as well. Not Arab shrapnel, but actually an English-made, English-directed shell-splinter had smashed that boy's arm. The cruelty of it, and the unfairness of blaming only the Arabs for a policy instigated by His Majesty's Government! The voice was Jacob's but the hands were those of Esau!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
SUNDAY morning was even more radiant than the Shabbat -- and even more frightful! The British Broadcasting Company had reported "restrained joyfulness" in Egypt. "This is like the Crusades all over again. Only this time the Arabs have gone out to save the Holy Land," it said. Cairo boasted: "This war will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades."
Tel Aviv had been bombed by Egyptian planes, and Egyptian and Arab Legion forces were marching upon both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, bound on their mission of "extermination and momentous massacre." The Jewish sector of the Old City, which had survived for centuries, had a night of terror as Arab gangs attacked its few hundred Haganah fighters, who defended some two thousand civilians, most of whom were elderly orthodox men and women who had refused to leave their homes.
A difference in culture....female soldiers. p. 268:
We climbed to the roof. Cozy sandbag shelters had been erected and a canopy furnished shade for the half dozen young men and two Haganah girls -- both buxom, and pleasing to the eye. One was dressed in khaki trousers, the other in shorts. The latter who had just turned eighteen, was married to the dark, curly-haired leader of the group, a Jew from Poland. She showed the Auschwitz concentration camp number tatooed above her wrist. Her parents and her husband's parents, as well as most of their families, had been liquidated.
"With Europe we are finish. In Israel we begin new life."
Her husband spoke to her in Hebrew. She turned to me and said gayly: "Moshe wants you know he will be father in six months."
We all laughed. "Congratulations. I wish I could give you a gift. Wait. For you, Moshe, I have cigarettes. For the baby I will bring something later."
Morale here was high. Many couples in the Haganah fought side by side as friends, fiances, and not infrequently as man and wife. I guessed that roughly one out of twenty of the front-line fighters was a girl. The presence of women, sharing risks with the men, was one of the greatest morale-boosting factors in the Army of Israel, in contrast to the Arabs who did not even use women for desk work. Most of the girls were either native-born -- sabras -- or had been in Israel long enough to get over their European experiences and imbibe the invigorating spirit that the New Land bred. I asked the married girl about her companion, who seemed a few years older.
"She sharpshooter. Verry verry good sharpshooter soldier."
Next time: We meet the New Jew.
Monday, August 11, 2008
A truckful of Portzim [stormers -- a unit of the Palmach] drove by the Pantiles, and from my rooftop I was able to get a good look at these amazing fellows. They were a rough-and-tumble bunch, uniformly young, averaging about nineteen years, grimy and disheveled, as though they had just come from a free-for-all campus tussle. They were dressed in half a dozen shades of khaki, in American and British uniforms, fatigue clothing, camouflage suits, overalls. Some wore helmets, others knitted stocking-caps. A short time ago they had been carrying books to school.
Fighting with the precision of a well-coached eleven, in small, well-drilled teams, they usually attacked at night for two reasons; first, to hide their small numbers; second, to add the element of surprise to that of terror. Frequently they added the illusion of greater strength by noise-making devices, one of which -- I saw the instrument -- simulated a rapid-firing machine-gun. By such ruses as these, adroit diversionary tactics, superb cunning born of necessity, extraordinary proficiency in the use of small arms, and a brand of courage rarely paralleled, the Palmach and its supercommando Portzim became the terror of Arabs from Dan to Beersheba. They were a symbol of the "new" Jew.
Neither the Haganah nor the Palmach "happened" overnight. Groundwork for Haganah's role in the war for independence was laid in World War II, when more than 120,000 Jews -- men and women -- out of 400,000 then in Palestine registered for service with the Allies4 [4Contrast this performance with that of about 9,000 Arabs (outside the Arab Legion) who at first enlisted with the British, but most of whom later deserted at the behest of the Mufti.] About 26,000 actually served as commandos, parachutists, intelligence agents, and in numerous other capacities. Especially trained Haganah units performed dangerous missions for the Allies behind the enemy lines. Hundreds received priceless training at British hands.5 [5The identical opportunity was open to all Arabs. The Mufti, however, was engaged in extensive Nazi propaganda and sabotage, and warned Arab youth against any aid to the Allied cause...] A typical instance was that of Moshe Dayan, who in 1939 was jailed for engaging in secret scouting work. He was released in order to fight for the Allies, and lost an eye on a mission to Syria. Later, as Colonel Dayan, he served as commander of the Israel army in Jerusalem.
The Portzim paused in front of the Pantiles for another truck to catch up. Like fighting gamecocks they now crowed in the song of victory -- Song of the Barricades:
On the barricades we will meet at the last
And lift freedom on high from the chains of the past;
Rifle on rifle our guns will salute
Bullet on bullet our guns will shoot...
What I saw on the night of the breaching of Zion Gate convinced me that I had witnessed an entirely new and regenerated species of Jew. Israeli is perhaps the better word. Here in the ancient homeland, the fighting, colonizing, and civilizing instincts were blossoming in full. No longer bound to the chains that linked them to the humiliation of the yellow badge and to the torments they endured in the Middle Ages, the Jews of Jerusalem emerged into the greatness inherent in every man -- every Arab, every fellah, everyone conceived in His image -- whenever man is fully liberated from the shackles of tyranny. Men were made greater than themselves, as during the period of our own War of Independence.
* * *
The next night I saw the Portzim at a Menorah Society social. Here I saw them play as hard as they had fought. They danced jigs and horas for hours. Among the girls there were no wallflowers. They were self-possessed and mature at fifteen. This was the new Israeli generation -- marked by a radical conception of woman's role in society. No longer the retiring, submissive woman of the Middle East -- nor the enslaved, bullied, chattel Arab woman -- but an equal partner of the man, whether at the front, at home, or at play. In this sorely besieged city, amid the rain of death and bombs, it was thrilling to see the linking of the hand of man with that of woman. Here was a partnership that energized both, and gave to each the fighting faith and strength to level mountains and work miracles on their native soil.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
British arms for the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem...
That the New City was still in Israeli hands was due to default by the Arabs, no less than the prowess of the Jews; and to what I firmly believe was divine intervention on scores of occasions. If the Arabs had seized the initiative from the first day and captured the strategic buildings, the outcome would have been far different. The British contributed to the Arab fiasco. They thought that the Legion, boasting British generalship and superior armor, would not only overrun the New City, but push onward to link up with other Arab forces in a giant pincer movement aimed at Tel Aviv, ultimately pushing Israel into the sea. The determined resistance of the Kfar Etzion kibbutzim (controlling the road over which Egypt planned to bring reinforcements) was the first factor to upset the Arab timetable; then Jewish initiative and the unexpected stand of Jerusalem, as well as Israeli successes elsewhere, frustrated the Arab plan -- as well as British intentions of re-entering Palestine via the back door on the heels of the Arab Legion. Mainly, however, the plan boomeranged because both Arab and British wholly underestimated the fighting prowess of what I've called the "new" Jew fighting for his homeland with back to the wall.
There certainly were enough Arabs -- hundreds of Arab Legion soldiers milling around in British khaki and khaffiyas. They were uniformly young and looked like a genuine fighting army. They were all heavily armed, and ammunition was being brought up constantly in boxes with English markings. There was shortage of neither of men nor armaments.
I got permission from a junior officer to visit the defenses on Zion Gate. One of the massive portals hung crazily from one set of hinges, the other was blown off. The passageway, about twenty feet wide and thirty feet high, was now packed tight with barbed wire, rails, and rocks. Above it the walls were manned heavily by Legion troops. Here, also, I found a concentration of several dozen British deserters, fighting with the Arabs. Immediately beside the Gate three heavy British armored cars lay in waiting for the Palmach. The Jews would certainly get a scorching reception if they tried another breakthrough.
I walked back to the monastery grounds, to the School of the Holy Translators...Sitting in a classroom chair behind a desk was the commander of the Zion Gate Front, Captain Mahmoud Bey Mousa, soft spoken and scholarly-looking, swathed in layers of an oversized kaffiya that covered his face except for eye and mouth...
...He was sitting literally on the proverbial keg of gunpowder, for stacked behind and all around him, under his bed near by, and all the way to the farther end of the basement, which was being used as an emergency hospital, were cases upon cases of ammunition with the usual markings of His Majesty's Army. I squeezed my bag between cases of ammunition under his bed, and then went to the top floor of the school to take photographs of the Jewish quarter. They were to prove of historic value, for less than forty-eight hours later the ghetto was reduced to ruin and rubble.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The beleaguered Jews of Jerusalem have finally surrendered to the Jordanian-controlled, British lead and armed, Arab Legion...
That night the Jewish quarter was put to the torch, and burned from one end to the other, a huge conflagration consuming everything that had survived the other fires. I photographed the holocaust from the school rooftop. The unburied bodies under rubble and those buried since the Mandate's end were cremated once again. Homes and hospitals and synagogues and shops were burned to their foundations. And the city wherein Jews had lived almost continuously for some 3,500 years was destroyed as never before -- a job more thorough than when Titus leveled it, for the old-fashioned Roman general had no dynamite, and neither guns nor shells with the markings of His Majesty's Army.
The Exodus was over, the graveyard sealed. The Jew had no reason, now, to return to the holy site of his antecedents. It was as Allah -- and the British Foreign Office -- wished matters to be...
...THE next day King Abdullah of Jordan, conquerer and new master of the Old City, arrived. He visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I waited outside. He emerged -- a neat, graying man of sixty-six, with a short, trimmed beard, deep-set eyes and thick brows. He was dressed in a suit of army khaki, which was probably borrowed, for it fitted him badly, his shirt cuffs coming down to his fingertips. Anxious to get his picture, I called out:
"Will Your Majesty please stand still for a moment?"
While the king didn't know English, he understood, and obligingly posed for a rare photo that I took as he stood in front of the Holy Sepulchre surrounded by churchmen of the Latin, Greek, Armenian, Coptic, and Syrian churches.
At that precise moment, I heard a rumble, then another, louder. I had a hunch where it was coming from. I rushed to the roof of the Armenian school. The sun shone radiantly everywhere except on the Jewish quarter. Over it hung motionless a pall of ghastly purplish-gray haze, with fires still raging here and there, and black smoke spiraling through. Only one wall remained standing of the huge sextagonal Hurvath Synagogue Beth Jacob, a landmark of the Old City, whose foundation dated from about the twelfth century. I saw the wall dimly through the dust put that enveloped the area. And now the seventh dynamite charge went off, and the last wall of the ancient structure joined the others in the huge burial mound that was now the Jewish quarter. The great Nissim Back Synagogue had been destroyed earlier. The underground synagogue of Yohannan ben Zakkai (reputedly standing for two thousand years), and twenty-six other synagogues, were buried under the rubble...
...Accompanied by an English-speaking Legionnaire, I began my tramp through the desolation. A horde of looters, including numerous children, shuttled in and out of the Miscab Ladach Hospital carting booty on their heads, or loading it on donkey and homemade wagons...The ultra-orthodox Moslem women gathered the loot with their black veils religiously drawn over their features. Legion soldiers were everywhere -- not to prevent looting but to preserve law and order among the wild beggars and thieves of the Holy CIty.
Climbing over the mountains of stones, I looked upon the pitiful sight that was once the glory of the Hurvath Synagogue. A particularly thorough job of demolition had been done here. On one wall, left partially standing, was a plaque with the Ten Commandments. Only this remained to warn a reckless world and an impotent UN of the words of the Law: "Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain..." Sheets of the holy scrolls were strewn all over the rubble. I rescued a small roll of parchment, burnt and discolored from heat, and tucked it inside my shirt.
"I will take it to America as a souvenir of the great Arab victory," I said to my soldier companion.
I found a scorched circular that somehow had escaped the fire. I read in English:
The Grand Synagogue "Beth Jacob" in Hurvath Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid at Jerusalem Jewry, of great historical significance, where all official, religious and national festivals and ceremonies are celebrated..."
It is an ancient and generally accepted tradition for the Jewish tourist, visiting Jerusalem, to attend, at least once, the Services conducted in this Synagogue either on a Sabbath or on a holiday...
For the sake of Jewish Jerusalem, we respectfully request all Jewish tourists coming to our City to pay honour to this House of God, to visit it and worship therein on Sabbaths and Holidays and to please offer their mnaterial contributions for its maintenance and to thus enable its further existence.
May all donors be blessed with Zion's blessings.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Secular nationalism as an antidote to Islamism? Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
"I'm Captain Moustafa Kamal Sidki, in charge of Intelligence in this area...I understand you are a reporter for Al Misri. May I see your credentials -- all of them?" Under the gaslight he examined each minutely, including those given me by Major Abdullah el Tel.
"The Arab Legion is no friend of Egypt," he said, heatedly.
"What's wrong with the Arab Legion?" I asked innocently.
"Everything," he snapped, eyes blazaing. "They're not Arab. They're British agents, British tools...I am a strong Arab nationalist. I was released from prison only four months ago with seventeen other officer."
"The charge must have been serious," I said, surprised at his candor.
"Yes. Plotting against the government. We were all nationalists -- the nucleus of something much bigger to come. We want to build the future of the Arab world on a military basis. We are in a coma now. It will take us at least ten years to awaken. Only military regimes can accomplish this, and at the same time protect us from our enemies -- England and the Jews."
"What is your program?" I asked.
"To rid Palestine of the Jew though it takes a hundred years. Out motto is: 'God and Nation, Egypt First!' We trust no one except the military. We have learned much from the Germans. All Egyptian officers respect German militarism and admire the way the Germans were able to fight against the whole world. The other Arab countries will follow our example -- when they see that we have the solution of the Jewish problem, the British problem, the home problem."
"You are speaking very frankly with me," I said. "I appreciate that."
"It's because I think you are one American who is sympathetic to us." His black eyes were fastened on me. "You are, aren't you?"
"Oh, yes, yes," I said...
The British thought they could buy influence with the Arabs by opposing the Jews and supplying the Legion. They were wrong. To this day people think that they can nullify the Jihadists by supporting the secular fascist nationalists. They underestimate the problem. As the Rousseau quote currently at the top of this page teaches...
"Will he listen to his inner voice? But it is said that this voice is only formed by the habit of judging and feeling in the bosom of society and according to the laws; it cannot, then, serve to establish them."
...new-fangled secular nationalism stands, in the Arab Middle East particularly, on someone's shoulders. It does not grow from sand sui generis and should not be mistaken for Western versions and expected to be dealt with in the same ways. Its roots are of the Middle East, Islam, and tribalism.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Not until the first streaks of gray showed on the horizon did I realize that I was in totally strange territory. I was lost -- on a narrow road dug into the side of a scrubby mountain. Not even the famous Tower of the Russian Church on the Mount of Olives, highest landmark outside the Old City, was visible. Before me spread range after range of Judean hills. Below me -- at the bottom of a chasm some five hundred feet deep -- was an Arab mud village. Behind me an escarpment rose to the height of fifty feet. From my left a husky young Arab came down the trail, prodding his laden donkey before him.
"Sabah il-kher," I said. "Good morning."
"Sabah il-kher," he replied, and moved on.
A moment later another Arab came down the road. He was an oldish man with close-set eyes, no brighter facially than the donkey on which he was mounted. He rode on it with his stubby legs astride, his sandaled feet sticking out on each side, keeping step with the donkey's hopping stride.
"Sabah il-kher," he said.
"Sabah il-kher," I answered.
A talkative old man, he stopped the animal and jabbered...
"Ana Inglisi. Muta'asif la ahki Arabie," I said. "Assalamu aleikum. Peace be upon you."
He looked at me a moment, his eyes narrowing into slits.
"Yahoodi! Anta Yahoodi! You are a Jew! You are a Jew!" he screamed.
I whipped out an identification card, the one issued by the Mufti's Arab Higher Committee in Jerusalem. He held it upside down.
It dawned on me that the old man was illiterate.
"Yahoodi! Yahoodi!" he screamed like a siren, in a voice that carried deep into the mountain crags and the village below. He jumped off the donkey, snatched at his dagger and, still yelling Yahoodi, Yahoodi, roared down at me.
I took to my heels down the trail. He was easy to out distance, but racing toward me was the young Arab I had met a minute ago. He was brandishing his dagger above his head; the sun's glare made it dazzle like a fiery sword. I felt for a moment as though Damocles' blade was about to fall on me. There was absolutely no escape! Below me was the chasm, with precipitous sides. I'd roll to the bottom without stopping. Above me was the escarpment. I'd be overtaken easily if I tried to flee. Flee where? The old man would have awakened the countryside -- racing through it like Paul Revere on a donkey souynding the alarm against the Yahoodi. A hundred daggers would have sought me out.
As I ran toward the young man I kept yelling: "Armani, Inglisi! Ana mish Yahoodi!" I girded myself for the inevitable hand-to-hand encounter on the mountaintop, for I had no notion of letting myself be stabbed in the throat. I noted the Arab's guard was open. I would try to knock him down the cliff with a quick right uppercut before the old man reached us, then push the latter down and flee. I have no idea what made me address the young Arab in English, for he was the last man on earth I'd expect to understand me, but I screamed just before closing in: "Hold back your knife till you've seen my papers!"
"You are English, or Armenian, which?" my incredulous ears heard him say.
"Read this quick. It's from the Mufti. Read this, and this. I'm a friend of all Arabs. I love the Arabs. I'm no Jew."
The old man was upon us, his dagger all set, the blood lust hot in his eyes. At his age he wanted to make sure of getting into Allah's heaven and there was no easier way than by killing either a Yahoodi or a Gentile. The young Arab grabbed him and held him back. The two struggled briefly on the mountain trail, a dagger in the hands of each. "Yahoodi! Yahood! the old man kept yelling, trying to get at me. Up the trail two more Arabs came into view and prodded their donkeys as they saw the struggle. The young man won out in the nick of time, for the newcomers had dismounted and were coming down upon us with their daggers out.
My benefactor began to argue vigorously with the old man; he showed my papers to the newcomers, and they, too, agreed I was a pro-Arab Christian and that every courtesy should be shown me. The old man kept muttering "Yahoodi!" At last he was quieted down and put his dagger away...
...We walked on for a while, then the Arab pointed to a fork in the road.
"That way is Jerusalem."
They all wished me peace and a safe journey, except the old man whom I had cheated of his place in heaven, for which he'd never forgive me.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
...When I arrived at the marketplace it was already teeming with traqffic, pedestrians, and idlers as taxis, trucks, and other traffic from Amman and Jerusalem passed through. Trucks were arriving with scrap lumber, metal, pipes, and assorted machinery from the direction of the Dead Sea. I decided to investigate.
In an Armenian barbershop on Jericho's main street, I met a young refugee from Jerusalem named Torkom. Together we got into a bus going in the direction of the Dead Seam then walked the remaining distance over the semi-arid backed earth. Vast brine evaporation-beds, dazzling white under the sun, met the eye in all directions, connected by miles of pipelines. Beyond them was the huge plant of Palestine Potash, Ltd. (a once highly profitable British corporation owned jointly by English and Jewish capital), which converted the fabulous mineral wealth of the Dead Sea into common salt, bromides, and chlorides of magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
Photographing as I went along, I saw, with Torkom, a sight that sickened me. The huge plant, stretching over many acres, with its generators, transformers, pumps, and a thousand and one irreplaceable items of machinery -- transported at tremendous cost from England and the United States was systematically being looted and destroyed: building by building, machine by machine, board by board. Hundreds of Arab scavengers, working with teams of donkeys, mules, and trucks, had already stripped away most of the vital working parts, and were now tearing at the corrugated tin, pipes, wire, boards, and small machines. What they could not take apart they smashed with sledge hammers. Instead of utilizing the giant plant, or at least expropriating some of the equipment for constructive purposes -- in a land so desperately in need of lumber, glass, ironwork and all else that was in such abundance here -- they were destroying everything, ruthlessly, cold-bloodedly, insanely.
The plant already looked like a miniature Hiroshima, minus the ravages of fire. And this wanton destruction was more or less officially sanctioned by the Trans-Jordan officials. A dozen Arab Legion guards were on hand to keep law and order among the looters.
Further on, I saw the remains of Hotel Kallia, a noted winter resort on the shores of the Dead Sea. Near by were the ruins of the cottages built by the Palestine Potash Corporation to house not only officials, engineers and laborers, but scientists and achaeologists. About a mile away I saw what was left of Beth Harava, a settlement founded by the Jews, who had brought water there to make the desert bloom, so that trees and flowers grew 1,300 feet below sea level.
When the war broke out the isolated colonists packed away their belongings, automobiles and all, and set sail during the night for the southern shore, site of a smaller potash concession. I found their homes stripped to the ground, with only the framework of a few houses remaining. I walked through one ruined home, where sash, doors, and flooring were all gone. Unable to rip off the toilet bowl, the Arabs had broken it in half. Overwhelmed by this destruction all about us, Torkom and I walked on to the shores of the Dead Sea itself. It was a silent lake, forty-seven miles long and ten miles wide. For thousands of years the Jordan had poured mineral sediment into it. I found wrecked boats; pilfered wreckage dotted the shore as far as the eye could reach.
Torkom and I silently hitch-hiked back to Jericho on a huge truck laden with plunder. Our scavenger friends drove straight to the bazaar and began to sell their loot as junk -- which was what they had made out of the once valuable machinery and equipment.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
In Jordan now, Carlson attends a film (the next few posts will be short). p. 366:
The film was an Egyptian tale about a Bedouin triangle in which a desert sheikh contrived to kidnap the fiancee of another sheikh the night before the wedding. The lover was killed and the girl murdered by her father for letting herself be kidnapped, and presumably kissed. As for the ending, nobody lived happily ever after. Thus Arab justice triumphed -- for there is no greater sin in the lexicon of Arab morals than feminine unchastity. No one cares about the morals of the male.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Now in Jordan...
Jordan had no streetcars, horse-drawn or otherwise, less than three hundred miles of railroads, and only 360 miles of roads. And it was probably the only Arab State that had not a single Jew. Jews, by an unwritten law, were forbidden to take up residence. This explained in part Jordan's commercial and cultural lethargy. The King proved kind to the Armenians, many of whom settled in Jordan after fleeing from Palestine. Displaying energy and resourcefulness, they had already achieved some prominence in many fields of endeavor, adding materially to Jordan's progress.
The next day I met a group of English deserters who were living in the Royal Air Force barracks on Amman's outskirts. I knew most of them from Jerusalem, and took their pictures. One of the boys -- I prefer to identify him only as Sidney -- gave me a message to take to his parents in Birmingham if I should ever get back to England:
Dear Mum & All:
I am still alive & having a wonderful time fighting the Jews in Palestine. I am joining the Arab Legion. As soon as it is possible I will send you my address. Your loving son always,
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Now in Syria...
...Storing my souvenirs at the Amawi, I took a bus to our consulate. Its distance from the heart of the Syrian capital impressed me as being symbolic of the distance I felt our officials maintained from the soul of Syria. They were trying hard to do a thorough job of understanding the Arab and fostering good will,m but they were limited by many handicaps: (a) they were Anglo-Saxons from far-off America; (b) they were essentially transients in the land; (c) they counted a great deal on local Syrians for data and interpretation -- and every Syrian had his own axe to grind. Objective reporting is unknown among the highly emotional and partisan Arabs. The Americans I met were extremely friendly and hospitable. But I could not help feeling that officially we were far removed from the realities of Arab life and Arab psychology -- a feeling that I found equally applicable to our legations all over the Middle East.
Our American officials' general anti-Zionist, pro-Arab attitude that I met in the Arab world impressed me as not a conviction arrived at intellectually, but a matter of policy dictated by State Department dogma, resulting among other things from the fact that we had invested enormously in Middle East properties and depended on the good will of the Arab world for forty per cent of our oil. I felt that if substantial deposits were discovered in the Negev our State Department attitude would be modified overnight.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
"...Those who say 'speak the truth' are the first liars of Damascus. Those who say 'keep pure' are the first to go to bad women...The men here are hungry for women," he went on earnestly. "I myself would like to meet one. But it is very difficult to meet one when she wears a veil: she is afraid to speak to a stranger. It is haram. It is not pure, and she can be punished for it. And every woman is hungry for man. When I see a woman my eyes say: 'I am dying to meet you.' And the girl shows the same picture in her face, but I don't dare speak to her, and she does not dare speak to me...Damascus is a small city. There are no secrets. When I see a man talking to a strange woman, I tell my friends: 'I saw this man talking with this woman ion secret.'"
"Why do you bother to do that?" I asked, curiously.
"Because I am hungry for the woman myself. I am proud to talk against her before my friends. I am hungry, very hungry, and because I cannot have her I do not want them to have her for themselves."
"But they may be talking innocently. Why condemn them both?"
"It is true they may not speak evil the first time. But they will meet again. No man would want to marry a woman who had been touched by another. I would not marry such a girl. Therefore I tell my friends that I saw such a girl talking to such a stranger to warn them against marrying the girl."
The Moslem code of perverted morality is so sever that hand-holding among teen-agers on the street or in the movies is frowned upon. It would be unthinkable for an Arab to be seen walking with his arm around a lady's waist. Innocent kissing in public would instantly land both parties in jail, charged with gross immorality. On the other hand, no odium and no penalties are attached to similar homosexual demonstrations in public.
"Do you think this code of relationship between men and women is normal?" I asked.
"No, it is not normal. It is wrong. But it is custom. The young men here try to change the custom, but the old ones are against every new thing. They say: 'We were raised without these pleasures. Why should we allow you to have them?"...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I AWOKE with a start: it was early dawn. As I looked at my watch, I heard the familiar roar of crashing bombs and the whirring of motors. Surely not in Damascus, one hundred and fifty miles from the battle zone! Through the window I saw a low flying plane about a half mile away, silhouetted faintly against the sun along the rim of the mountains fencing Damascus on the south. A small metallic object dropped from its belly; a powerful cloud of dust and timbers shot into the air. I became aware of two planes, not one. The one at my left was dropping bombs while moving toward the open desert, followed by the other...Hastily I dug out my camera, and from my window photographed history in the making -- the first Jewish bombing of Damascus -- catching two sets of dust clouds above the wreckage.
Ten minutes after the planes -- four-engine American bombers -- had disappeared into the desert, anti-aircraft guns shook the waking city. Shouting police halted traffic, shoved pedestrians into doorways, and helped spread panic, long after the planes had vanished...
...It was noon when I ventured out, heading in the direction of the Parliament, which obviously had been the target...Near by I saw a policeman guarding what seemed to be a garbage can. I went over to him, curious.
"This is an unexploded Jewish bomb!" he explained.
The bomb was, in fact, a garbage can, probably filled with scrap metal and dynamite and its lid soldered down. I saw no fuse. I had no idea what detonated these homemade affairs. I knew what I had seen: the ashcans hurtling to the ground became lethal block-busters when they struck. It occurred to me suddenly that this "dud" might well be a time bomb. I had no means of telling this to the policeman, so I got quickly away from there.
Psychologically, this terror raid by the Jews on Damascus had a more devasdtating effect than that on Amman. It have an entirely exaggerated view of Israel's strength. It cowed the Syrians, who had been given the impression they were winning decisively in Palestine. Had not their touted chieftain, Fawzy Bey el Kawoukjy, with a home in Damascus, proclaimed his personal victories? Arabs in the street couldn't get over the fact that the once lowly Jew -- four thousand of whom were cooped up in their Damascus ghetto, afraid to venture out -- had used four-engine bombers!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Still in Damascus: pp. 395-396
ONLY kismet could have led me to a tiny restaurant-tavern on the bank of the Barada River. The place was native, but the customers were largely non-Arab...Here I struck a friendship with Stefan Meyer, which opened strange new vistas for me. A thin, colorless youth, with watery eyes and hollow cheeks, Stefan was drinking native beer, and complaining to the proprietor in English.
...The oily one [the waiter] brought the beer. "Bring another glass, sadiqi, my friend, and join us in our toast: "To the great German people! To the great Arab people!"
When Stefan had finished his bottle and was in an expansive mood I plied him with questions. By this time I had made sure he "knew" about me: that I had been a member of the German-American Bund, an American Nazi and Jew-hater. "Now tell me about yourself," I said casually.
He had been caught by the English on a submarine off Italy and imprisoned in various camps. Finally, he and another German, a captain in the Wehrmacht, had escaped. They had been fighting with the Arabs since then. He and other Germans had fought in Katamon in Jerusalem (confirming Israeli disclosures that instructions had been found there in German). I noted that Stefan was well-dressed and smoked expensive cigarettes.
"I don't receive money from any Arabs. Someone else gives it when I need it," he said. "You will meet many Germans here. We have headquarters here and in Beirut. There are also many Yugoslav Moslems here. Some of them are living in a mosque. I will introduce you to them. Yugoslavs and Germans are everywhere in the Syrian army. Ach, we had a bloody time. These Arabs think you cn win a war by talking instead of by discipline and sacrifice."
"I've been with them. I know. Have you been hurt fighting?"
"I've just come out of the hospital. My body is still full of shrapnel. Here, feel this." Stefan rolled up his sleeve. His arm was lacerated with healing flesh wounds. "Thirty-two days in the hospital!"
"Tonight let's celebrate," I said. "Let's go to a night-club."...
Later, at the night club, Carlson meets an old acquaintance... pp. 397-399:
...I made sure all my Arab credentials were with me before turning around. I could not make out the three men.
"We have met before in Jerusalem. Do you remember?" the voice said.
...I wose and walked over to the table cautiously. When I saw who it was, I broke out in a delighted exclamation: "Fadhil Rashid Bey, my dear brother! What are you doing here?"
It was the former military commander of Jerusalem, whom I had photographed with Moustafa. Fadhil Bey had told me I was the finest photographer in the world. "Sit down with us, please," he said.
He was on his way to Baghdad. I introduced Stefan.
"Ahh, a German. Finest of the Europeans. Let us drink to the Germans."
We raised our glasses of arak...
"Let us drink to the few good Americans like our friend here," Stefan said. "I met him only today, but he's one hundred per cent."
"I know him from Jerusalem. He's two hundred per cent -- one hundred Arab, one hundred German," Fadhil Bey put in, raising his glass.
"We leave Truman out of this toast. He's a Zionist," I said.
"Let's wish him the first place in hell," Fadhil Bey roared. "Ahh, how Hitler was misunderstood in Europe," he resumed, after the arak had scorched its way down our throats. "He was a great man, a very great man. He was an enemy of our enemies, therefore our friend. He died, unrecognized, misunderstood."
"He should have been born Moslem. Then he would have been appreciated," I said.
"Heil Hitler," Stefan burst out, sentimentally.
"A toast to the memory of the great German fuehrer," Fadhil Bey said.
"May he come to rule again!"
My head reeled. Where was I -- in Berlin? What year was this -- 1938? Was Hitler really dead? I recalled that the Arab with whom I was sitting had taken part in the abortive 1941 Nazi putsch in Iraq. Caught by the British, he had been imprisoned in South Africa, had escaped, and eventually had been made military commander in Jerusalem by the Grand Mufti, with whom he had conspired in Baghdad..."Heil Hitler!"
Sunday, November 9, 2008
In Damascus, Carlson goes back to the hospital to meet some Yugoslav soldiers. pp. 401-403:
...Here I met Hayredin Dubravac, the only one among the Yugoslav Moslems who spoke English. He was a short, studious youth, wearing glasses and dressed in a rumpled white shirt and drab trousers. There was a beaten look about him.
"Ahh, from Amerika. How glad I am to see an Amerikan!"...
[After telling Carlson how little they had to eat...]..."I cannot understand this," I said. "You fought for the Arab cause. A few months ago I saw a Yugoslav who had lost his arm in Haifa. Why are they treating you this way?"
...After a while Hayredin spoke again. "There is a saying: 'If you have not been poor you cannot appreciate riches.' I am sure you will love America better after you have finished seeing the Arab countries. If I were in America I would not leave it even for a second. I would stay till I grew roots in the ground." Hayredin said this with such emotion that I swallowed hard. "The Syrian municipality pays us sixty piastres a day [20 cents] on which to buy food, clothing, and other necessities. We cut each other's hair and sharpen our razor blades on a stone. It has taken me nine days to get a pair of used shoes from the Islam Relief Foundation."...
..."I am Croatian, the son of a well-to-do father. I was studying to be a pharmacist when the Grand Mufti came and urged us to fight for Islam by joining the German army/ Thousands of us did what we thought was our duty. I was captured and made prisoner in Italy. After the war many of us were afraid to go back because we fought on the side of Pavelich. The International Refugee Organization offered us a choice of going to almost any country. When the Arab League promised to take care of the three thousand Moslems, I picked Syria because the Arabs are my religious brothers. But I am disappointed."
"Did you fight in Palestine?"
"Of course. Where do you think I got these clothes? Nowhere except from the Jews! Those who didn't fight have no clothes today. I fought four months. Many of my friends are still with the Arab armies. Those with technical ability are working for the Syrian government. Others are working as servants and laborers, receiving half of what an Arab gets. I have been offered farm work for 2.50 lira [70 cents] but I cannot buy shoes and clothing which will need replacement, and the heavy food I will have to ewat for the heavy work. It's more economical to stay here and do nothing. Our future is absolutely dark," Hayredin said resignedly. "No one wants us now. We can not get a visa to go elsewhere. We are stateless, homeless, friendless."
This was their reward for helping fight the Jehad.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
LATE in the afternoon Stefan took me to the Orient Palace, Damascus's leading hotel, to meet Captain Mahmous Zanovitch. "Mahmoud's real name is Keil," he confided. "Many of our boys use Arab names."...
...After Stefan's glowing introduction, Keil became friendly. He told me had served under Nazi General Hans Guderian, and fought in Smolensk and Stalingrad. Later he had joined quisling Pavelich. Keil was a career militarist, an expert trainer and technician, and was engaged in that capacity in the Syrian army.
"What is you impression of the Arab as a fighter?" I asked.
Keil grimaced. "I have no respect for the Arab soldier. But I don't want to talk about the Arabs. I want to talk about you Americans. You are pushing Europe into the arms of Cummunism. Germany was the only nation which could have stopped Communism, but Roosevelt and Churchill destroyed it..."
...I believe the only reason Keil saw me was to give me a piece of his mind. I was satisfied, for I had met, face to face, a Nazi trainer of the Syrian army. It did not surprise me, after I had returned to the United States, to hear Walter Winchell announce that the reorganization of some units of the Syrian army had been entrusted to Colonel Hans von Zempelhof.
A day later my investment in Stefan paid off richly again. "Tonight I'm having supper with Said Abdullah Harb," he said. "His real name" -- he laughed -- "is Herbert von Furst!"
When we arrived at the tavern-restaurant, I found a handsome, blond, blue-eyed German sitting before a bottle of cognac. Behind his chair was a pair of crutches. Cognac glass in one hand, he stretched out the other in greeting:
"Join me for supper," he said loudly. "Solid food disagrees with me."
A Jewish bullet had caught von Furst, and his leg had been amputated.
"My bad luck was when the Jews didn't shoot me in the head. Believe me, I'm finished with these Arabs, I hate it here. I was a hero when I was fighting from Jaffa to Jerusalem for them, but now that I'm a crippled they tell me to --" He paused. "When they took me to the hospital for a blood transfusion I wouldn't let them put Arab blood in me...I have all Aryan blood in me now. Those Arabs fixed me another way. They stole my suitcase. I had gold and jewelry of all kinds which I had taken from Jews. That stole everything -- the thieves!"...
...when I marry [an Arab girl] I will have a new leg, a wife, money, a house, a job."
"What kind of job?"
"Training Syrians. I'll train them in everything -- from bomb-making to artillery-bombing. My job is waiting. I will get 560 liras a month."
"Stefan told me that the Grand Mufti had helped you escape." I said.
"Ahh, yes. I know the Mufti very well. He cried when he saw I had lost my leg...Maybe he will give me the ten thousand liras [about $3,500] he has promised me for my marriage. Just yesterday he gave me two thousand liras."
"I've been promised two hundred by the Mufti," Stefan said, turning to me. "I'm meeting him tomorrow morning."
"I should very much like to come with you," I said to Stefan as casually as I could.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
[This post continues the series of excerpts from John Roy Carlson's 1951 work, Cairo to Damascus (link to in-print paperback). All posts in the series will be collected on this page. New visitors will also want to check out my posts collected from Carlson's important earlier work, Under Cover. See the top post of each collection for a short introduction to the material.]
The day before Stefan and I arrived I interviewed Kamil Mruwi, a short, energetic, impatient man with a clipped and brittle manner. Mruwi was editor of the Lebanese newspaper, El Hayet.
"Now that the Jews have a State," I said, "how do you propose to defeat it?"
"The Jews' problems have just begun. The Arabs are a patient people. We will not always be in a shooting war with the Jews but we will be in a state of war with them forever. The Jews can be destroyed by a boycott of their trade. Who will buy their products? Not America, and not England. The Jews can only survive through trade and export to the Arab countries -- and Arabs will not deal with the Jews. The Jews will starve. War will come. Maybe not for five or ten years, but when it does, the Jews will be swept into the sea like a tidal wave. They will disappear like Sodom and Gomorrah. You will see."
Stefan [Carlson's Nazi companion. -S] arrived itching to spend the money the Mufti had given him.
"How about meeting those Germans you wrote me about?" I said, after greeting him.
We took a tram to the German Hospital on rue George Picot...A group of give men got off the tram and walked toward us. We shook hands. All were originally escapees from various British prisoner-of-war camps who had fought with the Arabs. I was interested in their leader, Gunther Elmar von Hardenberg, once a major in the Wehrmacht. We were soon seated together at lunch while Stefan went off with the other Nazis...
..."What is your association?" I asked.
"The Association for Christian German War Refugees. Whenever a new German comes to Beirut I screen him personally, then register him with the Beirut police as a friend of the Arab cause. The police issue an identity card and all is in order."
Von Hardenberg was in his thirties, a tall, lean, handsome man. He showed me a photograph of himself receiving a second Iron Cross. "I was against Hitler, who wanted to attack Russia at the same time as attacking the West," he said. "We militarists knew Russia better than Hitler." Von Hardenberg had succeeded in escaping to Rumania with a group of anti-Hitler Nazis and eventually was captured by the British. Sent to Palestine as a prisoner, he claimed he was given a free hand to travel among the Arab States. "We Germans have to work with somebody," he said. "We cannot work with the Americans and we do not like the Russians or French. It is possible to work with the English..."
I saw von Hardenberg many times. He told me of frequent trips that German officers were making to Beirut, and stated that they were finding positions in various Arab armies. These Germans belonged to a secret group called Deutsches Hilfskomittee for den Nahen Osten, German Aid Committee for the Near East, of which he was chairman, von Hardenberg told me.
"Is it with the Lebanese army that the Germans are finding positions?" I asked.
"No. Lebanon is not militarist."
"Then I would say it was Egypt."
"It is Syria," von Hardenberg answered. "There are already many Germans working with the Syrians as trainers and technicians."