With My Own Eyes: Israel and the Occupied Territories 1967-1973

An attorney who defended Palestinians in Israeli courts, Felicia Langer was an exemplar of accompaniment and focused, righteous indignation. In With My Own Eyes, she recounts some of her experiences in the first years of  the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Those were the days when Israelis referred to their “benign occupation.”

Langer left Israel years ago, and lives in Germany.  Here are some reflections and testimonies from this text from 40 years ago…

The Arabs preferred going to jail rather than accept the boons with which the conquerer tempted them. He destroyed their houses so that they would leave, but they went back to their ruins. He banished the sons, yet the parents refused to go. ‘We are born here, and here we’ll die’… a people that does not understand the language of force.

Walid al-Disi: “When they took me to write the confession he told me I had to write it with my own hand; I told him I didn’t want to. He threatened me with bringing my parents and putting them in prison. He threatened me with blowing up my house, as Nimri’s had been. What I wrote about the arms was written because of the beatings and the threats. The rest is true and I do not deny it. I gave myself up because they had come and arrested my father.”

Zayid Sha’ur:  “They tied my hands behind my back to a chain that was at shoulder height or even higher.”

Ziyad Abu Maysar: “We will not put up with the occupation and annexation of our lands, and we will not give up the right to manage our own country; we don’t want a custodian.”

A judge: “You have no idea how incited they are. That’s why I have imposed heavy fines, even prison sentences. But it isn’t enough. I tell you, the solution is entirely different. We should follow the example of Hussein’s time. When they wanted to break a demonstration, they opened fire, and that was it. One death would deter the others”.
Langer: “How can you talk like that?” I asked him. I had known him for some time, but now he appeared to me in a completely different light. He was small, a major in the army. He talked like an educated man who kissed his children goodbye every morning before going to work, as did the parents of the children he had judged the night before and for whom he was now considering such drastic solutions.

Ishaq Ali al-Ma’raji: “It went on for twenty-one days. The longest in my life. It was in Jerusalem, in the ‘Moskovia’ prison. I was swollen all over. The blows on the head weren’t too hard, but they were all in the same place. That’s where its bandaged now. There is a wet wound there, with pus which does not heal. I thought I would go crazy from those blows on the head. They said I knew a lot about the organizations. What could I do, if I didn’t know a thing? They took to beating me on my hands and legs. They poured hot water over me, then cold, then hot… I wanted to die.”

Nabil Qabalani: “When I began to consider my situation in Jordan, I became convinced I had to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in order to fight the Israeli army, so as to free my people’s own land, from which I had just been banished.”

Langer: “At the Damun prison the guards also tried to break the strike in a most violent fashion. They tried—on the third day of the strike, when the strikers were by then physically weak—to make them drink milk by force. But they did not succeed and the strike continued. The administrative detainees sent a memorandum to the prison authorities, demanding either their freedom or their trial. Among the detainees there were people who had been in prison for thirty months without trial.”

Yusuf Abdallah Udwan, deported through the desert: “Our feet were inflamed when we arrived in Amman. The skin of my shaved head had peeled off because of the sun. The desert was a nightmare.”

Yusuf Hussein Umar’s Fate: For providing food to terrorists he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Langer:  “All those who act proudly during their trial pay the price for it. Whoever dares to express his credo during trial, talking of his homeland, of the Palestinians, of the revolution, gets his due in prison when the sentence is pronounced.”

A Statement by Young Israeli Jews, 1971: “We do not want to serve in an army of conquest, for it has been historically proved that conquest means foreign rule, foreign rule means opposition movements, opposition movements mean oppression, and oppression means terror and counter-terror. We have not been born free in order to be oppressors, and oppression is not a good reason to die….In view of our firm opinions we refuse to participate in the oppression of another people. We do not want to do to another people what was done to our fathers and our grandfathers.”

The frontier police patrolling the [Gaza] Strip carry apart from their sidearms, clubs and some of them even whips. They stop people, beat them savagely and (literally) break their bones, with the aim of imposing fear and fright. The thrash people as if they were cattle. The savage beatings and thrashings result in many people fleeing the frontier police on sight. This is the true cause for what is later described in the press as “shooting at people trying to escape.” In this way hundreds of people, including women, children and old people, have been wounded.  — from newspaper reports gathered by the League for Civil Rights

At his trial, Muhammad Dahman was asked by Langer: “Where are your parents from?” “From occupied Palestine, from a village near Majdal (today Ashkelon).” The prosecutor: “What do you think of the ‘Liberation Forces’ organization?” “I think every Palestinian in an occupied area should join it. I personally didn’t, but that was only because of personal reasons. Every Palestinian must defend his country,” said Dahman. “Indeed?” said the prosecutor. “Why certainly, it’s only natural, don’t you think? Just as you have your duty, I have mine.”

 

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