Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Forgotten War

It would be easy to go into overdrive on Memorial Day, and post 25 appropriate shirim, or 250. Instead, I'll post a lesser one this evening, and one major one tomorrow, and that's it. If there's no attempt at comprehensiveness, no one will be slighted at the ones I left out.

Between 1968-1970 there was a small and forgotten war along the Jordan River, which was now the border between the Kingdom of Jordan on the East Bank, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (In those days no-one considered the West Bank to belong to the Palestinians; rather it was contested by the Jordanians who had conquered it in 1948 and the Israelis who had conquered it in 1967).

Yasser Arafat's PLO was encamped on the East Bank, and was doing its best to send squads of terrorists across the river, up the gorges into the hills, and from there into Israeli towns where they were to kill civilians. Throughout their century-long war with the Jews the Palestinians have always aimed intentionally at civilians. The IDF tried two tactics to thwart this, one to stop the PLO squads on the newly constructed fence along the river, or at latest to track them down and kill them in the gorges leading up from the Jordan valley. The second tactic was to hit Jordanian targets, with the rationale that Jordan was responsible for attacks coming from its territory even though the attackers were not Jordanian troops.

Both tactics, involving armed men willing to kill, were dangerous; in any number of those hunts in the gorges IDF troops were killed, though almost no terrorist squads survived. The attacks on Jordanian territory eventually provoked King Hussein to notice that his PLO guests were severely compromising his sovereignty; in September 1970, after they hijacked three airliners into his territory he cracked down. His forces killed thousands of Palestinians; the Syrians invaded Jordan to get him to desist; the Americans asked the Israelis to prepare to stop the Syrians; the IDF amassed troops near the meeting point of the three borders; the Syrians withdrew; and the defeated PLO fled to Lebanon, where it later precipitated a civil war that lasted 15 years and killed many tens of thousands.

If you've never heard any of this, it's nonetheless true.

Our shir of the day is Mirdaf, Chase (or Pursuit), and it's about those chases in the canyons and their price. It's part of the canon of shirim in which Israelis told themselves that war was not going to cease anytime soon, though it still ends with the hope that eventually it will. It was written by Yaron London, then a rising young journalist star, and today a smug thickset elder journalist of secondary importance. The music is by Nachum Heiman, an important music-writer, and the singer is Chava Alberstein, whom we've met and will meet again.

Hebrew lyrics
English translation
A good land with honey running in her veins
While blood flows through her rivers like water.

A land with mountains of copper
But with nerves of steel.

A land marked by a history of pursuit
Two thousand pages plus one more,
Until soon
All the oxygen in her lungs is consumed
In the heat of the chase.

A land that will be pursued by her foes
And she in turn will give them pursuit.

Although she will catch her enemies, they
Shall not entrap her in the palm of their hands.

A person on the sidelines observing her life,
Suspended like a leaf quivering in the wind,

Shall be fearful.
But, as if not in the least unconcerned,
She'll wait for the end of the chase.

The end of the chase is hiding in a crevice
Secreting its face in a hideaway hole,

But in the end it will come, like the sun
That ascends in the East.

Then no more will mothers lament
Nor will fathers their sons mourn,
Yes it will come;
Our feet shall not tire until then
From pursuit of the paths of hope.


Anonymous said...



The link for this video does not work. My browser, Firefox on a Mac, does not even recognize that the "Play" buttons are links.

David E. Sigeti

AKUS said...

The link worked for me.

I hadn't heard this song before ... interesting.

I spent years in miluim after this 9agter '73) in the Jordan valley when I wasn't in Sinai or Lebanon, and it was very quiet - the Jordanians made sure very few terrorists made it across the border. I only recall two or three chases after terrorists in all my service there (one surrendered after spending aday stumbling around the banana plantations near Ashdod Ya'akov, absolutely exhausted and happy to get taken away!!).

Its interesting that Jordan has never suffered from the same kind of vituperation directed daily at Israel even though the number of those killed by Jordan ranges between 3,000 and 13,000 by various estimates.

Friends of mine serving at the time reported the well-known stories of Palestinians crossing the river to surrender to Israel rather than face the Jordanians.

However, once again, foreign meddling made a bad situation worse, and the arrangements made to let Arafat go to Lebanon and turn Southern lebanin into a terrorist base (Fatahland) led to the 1982 war, and today's Hizbollah. If Hussein had killed him (and Hussein and Assad both loathed him) I think we would all have been a lot better off.

Indeed, when he was in our sights in Lebanon if the US hadn't intervened to allow him to go to Tuinisia, Barak would have taken care of him, and again, we would all have been a lot better off.

Joe in Australia said...

Works for me, also using Firefox on a Mac.

Barry Meislin said...

...reported the well-known stories of Palestinians crossing the river to surrender to Israel rather than face the Jordanians.

This fact: that in 1970, Palestinian fighters fled from the Jordanian onslaught into Israel, where they knew they would NOT be butchered, tortured, killed, etc. is just another inconvenient truth to be ignored, denied, forgotten.

Similar to the (more recent) inconvenient truth that when Hamas conquered Gaza, those Palestinians who could, fled Gaza into Israel, for the same reasons.

This simply does not fit the narrative, and therefore must be ignored by all the righteous.....

Or perhaps, in the words of all those righteous moralists: "n" number of rights does justify a "wrong"?....

(But perhaps they could enlighten us: What would be the case if circumstances were reversed?....)

Barry Meislin said...

Should be "'n' number of rights does not justify a 'wrong'"?...