Once Upon A Time In The Mid-East

Arab

Once upon a time in the mid-east…. things haven’t really changed much, only gotten more so.

Many moons ago, I worked as a security guard.  One of my co-workers was a man even older than me.  As a young man, just after World War II, he had traveled to England to take advantage of the burgeoning British post-war economy, to get a job.  Instead, he enlisted in the British Army, and was attached to the British Palestine Peacekeeping Force.  Their job was to prevent violence, and protect the newly-minted state of Israel.

Many Jews had lived in what became Arab Territory.  Either voluntarily, or under political pressure, they were convinced to leave farms and lands that they had worked and lived on for generations, and move inside the imaginary boundary-line of Israel, into imaginary safety, and start all over again.

He said that, as they patrolled around in Palestine, it was easy to see who had occupied the properties.  Jewish farms were green and lush with fruit, grain and vegetables.  They had bright homes and barns, and greenhouses to get new crops started.  Arab homesteads were dusty and brown, with perhaps a scrawny goat wandering around.

Did the Muslims who were leaving Israel take possession of these ready-made sources of shelter, food and income??  They did not!!  Usually the homes and outbuildings were burned, the greenhouses torn down, all the glass smashed.  The patrol was supposed to be neutral, but he said that it was difficult not to have sympathy, and side with the people who tried to build things up, rather than the hooligans who just wanted to tear things down.

One day they were called out to a problem.  They were trucked to a nearby Arab village near the new border.  They debarked, and marched into the village square/market.  There they came upon a small clot of idlers, with more drifting in.  As in my StOp! Ed post, the local imam or mullah was working the mob up, to march to the nearest Jewish settlement and attack.  Knives, machetes, clubs, slings, rocks, and bottles were in evidence.

My co-worker recounted that, in English, and in his best brash British bluster, the Sergeant-Major commanding the squad, waved his hands as if shooing flies, and told them that ‘You chappies ought to just break this up now, and get on with your business somewhere else.’

He got back the equivalent of, ‘No speakee English, you Tommy Brit invaders.’, so he went to plan B, and literally read them the Riot Act.  For those of you who think that being read the Riot Act is just a euphemism for your Mom coming down on you, think again.  There is an actual British Riot Act.  The solemnity of having it read to potential rioters is supposed to make them think twice about causing trouble.

Our Sovereign Lord The King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the Act made in the first year of King George the First for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies.

God Save The King

The rules state that it must be read three times, before any official violence is unleashed.  The SarMaj read the ponderous paragraph of it once in English.  Then, because some of the miscreants might be Jewish, he read it in Hebrew.  Then he read it in Arabic.  Then he circled around and read it again in all three languages.

All this time, the crowd is growing in size, and the mood is getting nastier.  Knives are waved at them, and small fake sorties are threatened.  Finally, he got the Act read three times in three languages, and ordered them in Arabic to disperse.

Wasn’t gonna happen, so he started giving the squad, orders.  Present arms!  The Arabs watched.  Insert cartridges!  They slapped magazines into their Lee-Enfield rifles. (They’d been unarmed all this time.)  The Arabs waited.  Charge weapons! Rifle bolts back, and then forward to cock. (Now they’re finally ready for action.) The Arabs wondered.  And, the SarMaj shouted, At the knees, aim!

He said that, by the time he got his rifle up to his shoulder, and his eyes on the sights, a single piece of paper, and dust, was settling to the ground.  The little plaza was empty.  Maybe some of them understood English, or just understood superior firepower.

Sadly, nowadays, little altercations like this happen much faster and more violently.  The Gentlemanly British rules of war have been replaced by Kill Or Be Killed.  Perhaps they were what Mr. Ed, the talking horse’s ass was thinking about.

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