85. Coming By Real Estate

84. Persecutors And Protectors
April 4, 2024
86. Rough Sea At Dancing Ledge
June 7, 2024
Me, with much to learn, in Hama, Syria, en route for Palestine in 1964. photo Werner Krueger

Me, with much to learn, in Hama, Syria, en route for Palestine in 1964. photo Werner Krueger

T he massacre on 7th October 2023: We have grown used to the casual, frequent killings of homeless, stateless Palestinian youths full of hatred, of the rarer murders of the Israelis who now own Palestine. This slaughter was different: the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, mostly quite unconcerned (if anyone in those killing fields, save young children, can be unconcerned) in that historic land grab. What follows? Netanyahu, delaying his legal difficulties, becomes hero as he kills 34,000 Palestinians, Gazan folk, mostly women and children, quite unconcerned (if anyone in those killing streets can be unconcerned) in the massacre. The Palestinians have enough of a battle to simply survive. Meanwhile, America provides lots of money and arms and little Britain, the happy poodle, wags its tail.

I learned of Balfour when visiting Palestine in 1964. Peole told me of British complicity in the mass immigration that enveloped their homeland, filling refugee camps. When the Gaza blitz began, an Israeli army officer asked the world to remember who started the bloodshed. His short memory pointed to 7th October 2023. It goes back much, much further. Palestine, populated Palestinians, was a province in Roman times, flourished as such under the Turkish Empire. A Muslim land with small minorities of Christians and Jews. As a Holy Land, sometimes target of Crusaders A Holy Land which, in the late 19th century, Zionists. armed with an ancient book, claimed. God ordained It. Thus began the immigration. By 1914, increasing immigration set the natives worrying. In 1917, Mr Balfour, safe in Westminster parliament, made his Declaration, granting the world’s Jews a homeland in Palestine: not a state, mind you, that would take Palestinian approval. With the end of WW I, the Turkish Empire was temporarily shared out. Britain held Palestine, Jordan and Iraq, France. Lebanon and Syria. It would all be resolved democratically, so they said. Today, Israel is described as the only democracy in the Middle East. But where was the democratic election which passed Palestine to foreign immigrants? But God overrides democracy.

In 1933 came Hitler, a fully-fledged anti-semite (Palestinians are also semites), who supported Jewish emigration anywhere far away. Immigration became a flood. The Palestinians resisted and soon there was a nasty, vicious war complete with massacres on both sides. The British drew a map, sharing out Palestine. The Palestinians pointed out that Palestine was Palestinian. The Zionists said God’s intention was clear – it was theirs. The Holy Book said ‘Thou Shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods’, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ - but all books need editing. Clever lobbying, particularly in America, supported God’s gift. With less funds and fewer friends, where was Palestinian power? Hitler turned killing Jews into an industry, a holocaust of such proportions that even the nastiest foreigner felt sympathetic. I was raised on the horrors that befell victims of a ruthless regime. Peace unblocked a flood of refugees. In Austria, as a child of an occupying army, I remember those ‘DPs’ (Displaced People). One section was of Zionist boat people heading for Palestine to create another racially-pure land. What land they acquired was entailed only to Jews; only Jews could work it. God seemed to act the very devil with his conflicting promises. At primary school nuns taught that God smiled on Catholics like me. So many Gods – so many truths.

In 1948 came a full-blown war as Palestinians tried to evict Zionists. The British passed the problem to the new United Nations, who drew another map no one liked. Well-armed and well-trained Zionist forces declared an independent Israel. Many natives passed into concentration camps. Everyone said ‘there should be a two-state solution’. That has been repeated all my life. Palestinians say ‘Palestine is Palestinian’; Zionists reply ‘All is God-Given to us’. Netanyahu says he is fighting for civilisation. Look at Gaza! Civilisation? Meagre letters home survive from my 1964 visit. Passing through Damascus, we stayed with a Christian Arab family: “ …Our host took us … to the library where he works. Here we met a very interesting Lebanese man and spent much of the time arguing politics. The longer one is here the more one can’t help sympathizing with the Arabs over the Israel problem. A severe error on somebody’s part! As this man said – why didn’t we depopulate part of Germany for the Jews?” I remember Jordan/Palestine clearly. Nasser looked down from every wall. He would put the world right. My companion, a German student, bore the Holocaust heavy on his shoulders, cringing each time Arabs said: ‘Ah. German. Very good. They killed Jews.’ As for me: ‘British? The Balfour Declaration’. That was how I learned of Balfour’s cheeky promise. In Amman we met two Palestinians who, as boys, had had their tongues cut out by Jewish terrorists: punishment for saying the wrong thing. In Jerusalem, a boy led me up steps for a view towards his grandfather’s ethnically-cleansed house in the Israeli-occupied zone. Hitching out of Jerusalem, we lost a lift. The truck driver’s fee was that we must say we hated Jews: neither would pay it. The single photograph from that trip shows I had much to learn: in Syria, you don’t wear shoes in people’s houses. But I learned how fast victims became persecutors. The fate of Palestine constructed such hatred. The neutral United Nations spoke an unpalatable truth: ‘the October 7th massacre didn’t come out of a vacuum.’ That sent the Israeli government into a fury of indignation. I hitched onwards with a Palestinian from Jerusalem, driving back to his job in Kuwait. (Where is his home now?) Asked to keep him awake, I held forth on God’s gift to Israel. Sometimes, in his rage, he forgot that this was my allotted task. Sleeping briefly in the Great Syrian Desert, we woke to the rising of a misshapen red sun over a wasteland of dark pebbles. He dropped me at the edge of an as-yet-unblitzed Baghdad. I hope he arrived safely, that he had a good life.

Three years later, Arab states, planning to liberate Palestine, attacked Israel and lost the ensuing war. Israel seized Gaza and the West Bank we had visited - Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho. Legally, they remain occupied Palestine. Who will return them? Years later still, I crossed Pakistan with two Palestinian students returning to Karachi. They had been to visit their families in the Occupied West Bank, but the Israeli occupiers ordained they shouldn’t be allowed in. Hatred is explosive. As I write, the score is 34,000 Palestinian corpses, mostly women and children, but young Americans, ashamed, too, at complicity, are protesting against the atrocities. Previously, an old man waking at night, I would turn on the radio: The World Service. Now, angered by ignorant politicians in the face of such savagery, at my impotence, I have switched to the music programme.


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