My personal experience under the Israeli occupation

My personal experience under the Israeli occupation

by Khalid Amayreh

22 December, 2001

 When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, I was nine years old. This

means that for the past 34 years, I have beeen "living" in the "Israeli 


 Three years before I was born, three of my four paternal uncles, 


27, Mahmoud  25, and Yosef  23,  were killed by Israeli soldiers.  They

were simple shepherds who were grazing their herds near the village of

Al-burj near the so-called armistice line. With my three uncles, three

other relatives, including a woman, were also shot dead.

 The Israelis not only killed three men but confiscated the three 


sheep  upon which my family's livelihood depended to a large extent. 


calamity condemned us to a life of misery and poverty for many years to

come. My family had to live in a cave for 22 years. The misery, the

suffering, the abject-poverty were conspicuous in all aspects of our 


Until today, the Israeli government neither expressed guilt for the 


nor compensated us for our stolen sheep. Of course,  our loss  didn't 


at three uncles killed on one day and 300 sheep stolen by the Israeli

government.  Much more was taken away from us six years earlier, in 


our land  in al-Za'ak, Um-Hartain, our home, everthing.

Under Jordan, the most important thing the Jordanian authorities cared

about is loyalty for the king and his family. Connections with the King 


his Mukhabarat (or intelligennce apparatus) meant that you've got done.

Shouting "Ya'ish Jalaltil Malik" (long live the king), would give you 


automatic certificate of good conduct.

The Jordanian regime never really made genuine efforts or preparations 


repulse a possible Israeli onslaught. The most immediate priority for 


Jordanian regime seemed to make sure that Palestinians didn't possess

firearms. A Palestinian would get a six-month prison sentence if a 


cartridge was found  in his possession. Like the Israelis would do 


the Jordanians enlisted the "makhatir" (clan notables) to inform on 


gesture of opposition or dissatisfaction with the King's rule within 


respective areas. This cronyism gave rise to lots of corrupton, 


abuse, nepotism, hypocrisy and  sycophancy. Those free-minded 


who insisted on voicing their conscience were dumped into the notorious

El-Jafer prison in eastern Jordan where they were often tortured to 

death. I

know of at least one person in my town Dura who was tortured to death 


his political views.

In 1967, I was ten years old. I can remember  when we were told to 


the white flags  when the Israeli army surrounded our village, Kharsa. 


were told we would be  shot and killed if we didn't raise the white 


aloft. The Jordanian soldiers left in disgrace and headed eastward, 


put on traditional women clothes to disguise themselves.

At the beginning, the Israelis launched what one may call a charm 


Some people prematurely began making positive remarks about the 


such as  "Oh, they are better than the Jordanians, they are civilized!" 


that transient feeling didn't last long, as the army began using 


measures against us.

Soon enough, the Israelis began confiscating the land and building

settlements. They also would demolish homes as a reprisal for guerilla

attacks. In our culture, if you want to express extreme ill-will toward

somebody, you  say "Yikhrib Beitak" may your home be destroyed.

The Israelis sought to take full advantage of this weak link in our 


psychology. They demolished thousands of houses. The demolition has 


ceased. Home demolition would leave deep psychological scars in peoples

memories and hearts.  Children would return from school only to  see 


homes  being destroyed by bulldozers driven by soldiers wearing helmets

with the star of David on them. That Star of David, which we are told 


originally a religious symbol, symbolized hate and evil. Even today, I

couldn't imagin  a more hateful sign.

Phobias, deep stress, neurosis, and depression are among the disorders

children of demolished homes would suffer.

I personally witnessed several demolitions when I was 11. The operation

would begin by declaring the village where the doomed house is located 


closed military zone.

Then, all men from age 14  to age 70 are asked to assemble at the

playground of the local school, with their heads bowed down. Very often 


soldiers would shoot over peoples' heads to terrorize them. Civility 


always absent, and in these days, there was  no Jazeera or CNN to cover

Israel's shameful acts, so they felt at liberty doing as they saw fit.

 Then, the commanding officer would give the doomed family half an hour 


get all their belongings out. (these days they don't give even five 


 The scene of young children comforting younger children is 


The distraught housewive would struggle to get her utensils and 


meager appliances out lest they be crushed. A child would hasten to get 


favorite toy, or an enlarged picture of his late grandfather before it 


too late. Then the commanding officer would give the go ahead and the

house would become rubble.

Afterwards, the Red Cross would bring a tent, as a  temporary shelter, 


the tormented family would simply  make an enclosure and sleep  under 


trees. These were indelible images of misery, an ugly testimony to 


Nazi-like savagery.

Born into a very poor family, I started working in Beir Shiva when I 


fourteen as a construction worker and then assistant plasterer 

(Maggish). I

was able to learn Hebrew as well as the Moroccan dialect spoken by many

Jews who had migrated from North Africa. Like Palestinians, most 


Jews worked in the construction sector. Some were street sweepers as 


 On some occasions,  the people I worked for would not give me my 

wages. I

worked for such famous construction company as Rasco, Solel Bonei, 


Ovdeim. I still retain my old Israeli work card.

We were continually humiliated at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks at 


A'rad intersections on the way to Beir Shiva. A Jewish officer would 


one of us savagely without a convincing reason. I made many Jewish 


then, but the psychological barrier remained  intact. I did intermix 


some Tunisian and Moroccan Jews  in Arad, Beir Shiva and Dimona.

In 1974, I took part in anti-occupation  demonstration in Dura (then I 


an 11th grade  high school student). The soldiers cornered me in one of 


narrow streets of the small town, and beat me savagely on the head with 


butts of  thier rifles. I was nearly killed. I hated them, as I never 


a threat to their lives. They displayed no humanity and I  was only

shouting "Falastin Arabiyya" "Palestine is Arab."

In 1975, after I passed the high school diploma exam, I went back to 


construction sites in Beir Shiva.  My family was too poor  to send me 


college. For sometime, the construction site in Beir sheva was my 


There I worked for a contractor named Shimon, a Tunisian Jew. It was 


and very hot, but I did manage to make enough money to travel to Amman.

There I was able to get a student visa from the US embassy.

In July 1976, I traveled  to the US with only 200 US dollars in my 


There I studied at  Seminole and  Oscar Rose Junior College in 


then on to the University of Oklahoma  in Norman, where I obtained a BA 


journalism. Then in 1982, I obtained a Masters degree from the 

University of

Southern Illinois in Carbondale. I really wanted to be an engineer, but

seeing how the Zionists were turning the black into white, the white 


black, the big lie into a "truth" glorified by millions, I decided to

switch to journalism.

I  began writing letters to the editor, letters that would invite rabid 


nervous replies from Zionist students on campus. Then the Zionists 


make threats and use other intimidation tactics. A survivor of poverty,

misery, and violence, I didn't give a damn about their threats. I 


to cause them a lot of headaches till my very last day in the US.

I was very active in the student campus movement in the states.  I was

ambivalent  about the US. On the one hand I was impressed by the 


and freedom of speech, on the other I was frustrated by the coutnry's

wanton support of Israel's oppressive policies. That feeling is still 


much alive in me. Only the frustration and indignation have increased.

My letters to the editor can be found in such papers as "the Oklahoma

Daily" and "the Daily Egyptians" under the name Khalid Suleiman.

Occasionally, I used other names to elude the Zionists.

In 1983, I returned to the West Bank.

However, there is a little story that happened to me on my way back to 


While travelling from Istanbul to Cairo, I thought I should  travel

directly to the Ben Gurion airport (without having to travel to Amman 


as ) and then by car to the West Bank. The El AL officer at the Cairo

Airport assured me that everything would be ok, and I would be able to

travel to Hebron very smoothly. It was not.

When we landed at Ben Gurion, I was immediately arrested. The Shin Beth

interrogated me for five hours on my studies back in the states,  my

friends, the associations I was affiliated with, etc.

Then, I was told  that  the Israeli interior minister of that time,

Yosef Burg (father of present Knesset speaker Abraham Burg) issued an 


barring my entry into the country (my country). The order stated that I

should be deported back to Egypt within 24 hours.

To make things worse, the police confiscated my papers, including the

vital green "travel permit" issued by the Israeli military government 


renewed by the Israeli consulate in Dallas.  Without the permit, I 


not be able to return to Hebron. Was it that Burg wanted to banish me 


my country for ever as had been done to millions of Palestinians?

It was nearly 7:00 pm, and the soldiers took me to the old British 


where they told me to stay till the next morning. Three female soldiers

stayed next to me, and they were making all sorts of jokes about me. 


apparently didn't know I knew Hebrew. I was given an orange, I didn't 

eat it.

The next morning,  airport officials  forced me onto an Air Sinai plane

and within two hourse I was in Cairo again.

There, like a professional hijacker,  I slipped into the Jordanian 


Airways hall,  convinced a Palestinian clerk  to let me in. He did. On 


way to Amman from Cairo, I was overwhelmed by anxiety. The Israeli

authorities had stamped my Jordanian passport at the Ben Gurion 


which meant  that if the Jordanians found out that I had been in Tel 


they most likely  would throw me  into jail for "dealing with the 


Luckily the Jordanian Passport  official at Amman International airport

was so busy that he didn't examine the stamps on my passport. Good for 


Then I faced the problem of my confiscated travel permit. I had to be

smart, otherwise  I would stay a refugee  for the rest of my life.

So  I went to to the Main office  of the Red Cross in Amman and told 


that I had lost my Israeli travel permit in New York. (a good lie). 


the RC issued me a special VIP document in lieu of  the one confiscated 


the Israelis. Then I headed westward to the Allenby Bridge. There, 


I  was admitted rather respectfully, apparently with the Israelis not 


of what had happened to me 48  hours earlier at Ben Gurion Airport.

In 1984, I began my journalistic career. Slowly, the Israeli would soon 


getting  fed up  with my ideas and writings. Then  the Mukhabarat 


would summon me once a month on the average. They would ask me to 

become a

collaborator. I would tell them "do you think that somebody like me 


become a collaborator?"

The way the Shabak (the Shin Beth)  behaved convinced me that the 


state classified the Palestinians into two categories, collaborators 


terrorists, nothing in between.

The palce where the interrogation took place was crowded with 


being tortured. I would hear people screaming. I personally know at 


six people who died of torture in one year. One of them, Abdul Samad

Herezat, was a personal friend of mine. He died as a result of the "the

shaking technique."

The Israelis used a variety of torture methods against Palestinian 


including hooding, savage beating , electric shocks, sleep deprivation,

suffocation, and many other forms of physical and pshchological 


Israeli doctors would help administer the torture. Sometimes, they 


bring an inmates wife or sister and threaten to rape her in front of 


They would not rape the woman, but only threaten to do so in order to

extract confessions from the inmate.

During the first intifada (1987-93), the Israeli army used really dirty

tactics of collective punishment against the entire population. They 


confine people inside their homes for 30 consecutive days, and if one

ventured to get out, he would be shot dead.

It was like hibernation, and many ill  people would succumb to their

illnesses,  being  barred from leaving their homes. In Hebron, the 


lasted for three months after the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994. The

were like 90 days in hell.

I remember that in March, 1994, Israeli president Ezer Weisman visited

Hebron to offer condolences to the Palestinians. I  was asked by my 


to cover the visit, which required that I apply for a travel permit at 


Adorayem military camp in order  to be able to  travel  the 10 


to Hebron. I was stunned  when the officer in command told me "sorry 


can't go."

I retorted "but there are many journalists there." Then he said "Yes, 


are Jewish journalists, and you are not a Jew."

Earlier, the Israeli shabak officer closed my AL-Qods press office in

downtown Hebron and instructed all Arabic newspapers in the West Bank 


to publish my reports. Indeed, my fax machine was confiscated and they

would not give me a telephone line. Imagine I was only able to receive 


telephone line in 1995 after the installement of  the Palestinian 


Today, I am confined to my home town of Dura, near Hebron. I can't 


outside, I can't travel aborad, I can't even travel to the next 


The Israeli Shin Beth still controls our lives. Today a Shin Beth 


named Captain Etan called me, asking me about the PA latest crackdown 


Hamas. His meassage was "we are watching you."

In short, the Israeli occupation is perpetual misery, torment, 


enslavement, and dehumanization. I feel frustrated because I can't

communicate to you the full extent of this enduring evil. It  




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