September 25, 2018

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New Zealand army units vs. thieving Palestinian Arabs, November 1917

From “The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine,” published in 1922 under the authority of the government of New Zealand:

For a very long time there had been a feeling of bitterness throughout the forces on account of the many acts of the natives and the manner in which they were protected against the troops. Claims for damage, alleged to have been done by our men were always supported and the men had to pay up. This began as far back as Sinai where regiments were made to pay for damage alleged to have been done to the date palms there. Later in Palestine our troops suffered very much from the thieving propensities of the Arab. Here again if any damage were done to crops or stock of a native the claim was upheld, but no redress was ever obtained against a native for theft. At Rafa some natives attacked two of our men severely wounding one and killing the other and also stealing his horse. Subsequently the dead on the Rafa battle-field were dug up and stripped. This happened again after the action at Ayun Kara which took place close by Surafend and there is not the slightest doubt that these villagers were responsible. All troops round Surafend had been suffering from the depredations of the Arabs and could get no redress. Many times our men suffered by being fired upon by the native inhabitants and it must be remembered also that the murder of this New Zealander was not the first that had been committed by the Arabs in this district. An Australian had been shot here only a short time before.

The regiment considered what to do about the Arabs who were stealing from them, killing some and robbing graves.

In the end, they burned the village to the ground and 30 Arabs were killed or injured. The book refers to this as a “disturbance.”

[A]t the inquiry it was found impossible to get any evidence as to who took part in the disturbance. But such evidence as was obtained showed that parties from units outside the Division took part in the disturbance which was probably organised in the murdered man’s unit. The evidence showed clearly that many small parties came over from Ramleh, Ludd and G.H.Q. at Bir Salim.

It appears that the murdered man’s comrades feeling aggrieved that the murderer was not immediately brought to book went to the village and demanded his surrender. They were met by an insolent answer from the head man of the village so they determined to find him and the searching of the houses led to a collision with the natives which resulted in a riot.

There is only slight embarrassment in the book about this incident.

As a result of this disturbance the Commander-in-Chief did not forward names of officers or men of Anzac Units which were camped at Surafend at the time and who had been recommended by the Divisional Commander for inclusion in the Peace Despatch; but subsequently he relented out of consideration for the good work of the Division and forwarded most of the names in a supplementary despatch.

This is the sort of historical event  that no one wants to remember. It shows that the Arabs were murderers and thieves, and that the New Zealand army took matters into their own hands to destroy the entire Arab community in retaliation.

The former wouldn’t be reported today because it sounds like anti-Arab racism. The latter makes it sound like enlightened armies engaged in routine gross violations of human rights.

And who wants to talk about that unless the army is Jewish?

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