Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Life in Gaza Before-And After-The 1967 War

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Life in Gaza Before-And After-The 1967 War

Article excerpt

"AYYAM ZAMAN" is Arabic for the "old days"-a time before occupation, checkpoints, dodging bullets from Israeli military snipers, seeking shelter from the steel rain of incoming hellfire missiles or from deafening sonic booms. It was a time when tanks did not prowl the streets or bulldozers crush homes and people to death. A time when fishermen fished freely off Gaza's coast, farmers grew their crops, children attended school, lovers married, families grew and businesses prospered as they had for thousands of years. Ayyam Zaman describes an era where borders existed without a single checkpoint, razor fence or military unit in sight.

Then, on June 6, 1967 everything changed.

The Israeli people were told they were under "imminent danger," with a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan and other Arab nations their only hope. In truth, the Israeli government deliberately lied to its own people; the invasion had been planned years earlier. Declassified American intelligence reports for May and June 1967 prove Israel's sole threat was the realization of peace with Egypt-because peace kills the Zionist dream of a Jewish-only greater Israel, the driving ideology behind Zionism since 1897. By 1973 several Israeli officials had confirmed that Israel was under no threat. In 1982, as Israeli invaders laid siege to Beirut, Prime Minister and former terrorist Menachem Begin described the 1967 aggression as a war of "choice."

That the Six-Day War was launched under false pretenses serves as little comfort to the millions of people in the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights, however, who watched their lives transformed from ones of freedom to oppression in less than a week. Nor could they have known that, 40 years later, most would still be living under apartheid, increasingly at risk of starvation, and enduring an ever-more sadistic and deadly occupation, protected, endorsed and supplied by the one nation founded upon human rights and democratic values-the United States.

Yet even reality cannot steal one's past. Elderly Gazans remember life under Egyptian rule rather than Israeli occupation. Mustapha Al Jamal, known as Abu Kamal, was born in 1932. The father of eight sons and four daughters witnessed everything from the same home he lives in today. How is his life different, then and now? "Before '67 we lived in peace," Abu Kamal recalled. "All of it [Gaza] was open land. Egypt was open to us. There were no borders, no customs...I could take the train from Gaza to Cairo. We had two trains per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.'

Pausing for a moment, he gazed south, taking a long, deep breath while motioning at the horizon.

"But now," he lamented, "Gaza is under siege. Wherever you go, anywhere, it's closed by the Israeli occupation."

Abu Kamal continued: "Our curriculum was Egyptian before '67, as was our currency. Israel eliminated the Egyptian currency and required that we use Israeli currency. Then they imposed a curfew in order to do a census of the Palestinians. We were then issued identification cards by the Israeli Liaison Office.

"Of course, we are still occupied," Abu Kamal pointed out, sitting in his barber chair-the same one he owned over 40 years ago. "But today the occupation is much more aggressive than it was in 1967, much more aggressive. When Egypt was defeated in '67, Israel took the stage, seizing control of Gaza, thus ending both Egypt's administrative and civil control, including the Palestinian police. Today I fear walking in the streets because of shooting and chaos. …

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