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The element of surprise


Background to the 1956 Sinai Campaign
Uri Avnery Social activist
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זה בערך, החיים במדינה הזאת, עד 56’. ב-56' הייתה המלחמה, מלחמת קדש. מלחמת קדש לא צמחה סתם. בשנות ה-50' הראשונות, כבר מ-49' אפשר לומר, הייתה תופעה שקראו לה "ההסתננות". היו 750 אלף פליטים מסביב למדינת ישראל, מעבר לקו הירוק, מעבר לגבול. ובלילות ערבים היו מסתננים פנימה בשביל אולי לקחת משהו שהם הסתירו בבית שלהם, או שהסתירו בשדה, או לקצור. משהו. לקחת משהו. פירות, ירקות. והיו הורגים אותם, את כל מי שנתפס. ולאט-לאט זה קיבל אופי יותר אלים. זאת אומרת אנשים כבר באו עם נשק, ופה ושם הרגו אנשים. ואז זה עלה מדרגה, והשלטונות הצבאיים בגדה, בייחוד בעזה, המצרים בעזה שלחו מסתננים חמושים. והיו קרבות, והיו מעשים, ופה ושם נהרגו יהודים, ואז התחילו פעולות התגמול. די מהר כבר לא היה ברור מי "מתגמל" נגד מי, מכיוון שזה היה שרשרת, אחד הוביל לשני. פה הרגו אשה יהודייה עם שני ילדים, שמה התנפלו על תחנת משטרה מעבר לגבול והרגו 20 אנשים. וזו הייתה הסלמה משנה לשנה ולישראל הייתה בעלת-ברית – צרפת. למה צרפת? מפני שבאלג'יריה פרצה מלחמת שחרור ב-1954. אלג'יריה לא הייתה מרוקו ולא הייתה טוניסיה, אלג'יריה הייתה חלק מצרפת, מסופחת. והצרפתים, שאיכשהו דיכאו את המרד נגיד במרוקו ובטוניס, דיכאו את המרד בצורה הרבה יותר חריפה באלג’יריה. היה ממש טבח בשני הצדדים. וב-54' פרצה מלחמת שחרור ממש, בתמיכת מצרים ועבד אל נאסר. והצרפתים לא יכלו לסבול את הרעיון. לא יכול להיות שהאוכלוסיה באלג'יריה "שלנו" תתמרד נגד צרפת. לא יכול להיות. זה מוכרח להיות שמישהו עושה את זה. מי? נאסר. עבד אל נאסר. אז צריכים להפיל את עבד אל נאסר במצרים. מי יעשה את זה? ישראל. אז נוצרה ברית בין ישראל לבין צרפת, והיה ברור שישראל צריכה לעזור לצרפת להפיל את עבד אל נאסר. וכהכנה למלחמה התחילו להגביר את פעולות התגמול.‏

This was life in Israel until 1956. In 1956, there was the war, the Sinai Campaign. The Sinai Campaign didn't just suddenly happen. During the first part of the 1950s, you might say already from 1949, there was a phenomenon which was called 'infiltration'. There were around 750,000 refugees around the State of Israel, across the Green Line, across the border. At night Arabs would infiltrate and perhaps take something that they would then hide in their house or hide in a field or gather. Something. Anything. Fruit, vegetables. And [Jews] would kill them, all those who were caught. And as time went by, this became more violent in nature. That means people came with weapons and occasionally murdered people. Then it escalated and the military authorities in the West Bank, especially in Gaza, the Egyptians in Gaza sent armed infiltrators. There were battles, and here and there Jews were killed. Then the reprisals began. Fairly soon it was no longer clear who was retaliating against whom, because it had become a chain, one incident led to another. Here a Jewish woman with two children was murdered, there they attacked a police station at a border crossing, killing 20 people. And it escalated from one year to the next, and Israel had an ally: France. Why France? Because a war of independence broke out in Algeria in 1954. Algeria had not been Morocco and had not been Tunisia; Algeria was part of France, had been annexed. And the French, who somehow suppressed the uprising in Morocco and Tunisia, suppressed the uprising in a much stronger way in Algeria. There was really a massacre on both sides. And in 1954 a real war of independence erupted, with the support of Egypt and Abdel Nasser. And the French could not tolerate the idea, that there could be a population in 'their' Algeria which was rebelling against France. Intolerable. There must be someone instigating it. Who? Nasser, Abdel Nasser. So they had to bring down Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Who could do it? Israel. So an alliance was established between Israel and France, and it was obvious that Israel should help France to overthrow Abdel Nasser. And in preparation for war they started to increase the retaliations.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Egypt, Britain, France, 1956, Abdel Nasser

Duration: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017