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Painful memories from Al Bassa
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כדילתרגם לעברית
Posted by Eid Haddad on June 11, 2004
1. AL BASSA GETS TERRORIZED.


For many years before the Nakba the palestinian militiamen fought for the independence of Palestine from Britain. Lots of the militiamen were villagers, who dreamed of an independent palestinian state. Some villagers were organised in their act of resistance, while some others were spontaneous. This spontaneity had a high cost, which the palestinian civilians had to pay in many cases. One of these cases led to a massacre on the road leading from Al Bassa to Akka (Acre).

One evening in the summer of 1936 a road mine exploded, as a british military jeep was on its way from Al Bassa military airport to Akka. The soldiers in the jeep were either killed or injured. One of the killed soldiers was an Officer and a son of an english Lord. No one knew who was responsible for that action. Any way the British discovered another mine by the road, which was still ready to explode. The British presumed that the militia men were from Al Bassa, because Al Bassa was the nearest village to that spot. The first thing which the british soldiers did was to launch an attack on Al Bassa and its villagers.

As the british soldiers were on their way to Al Bassa, they were seen by some Bassawis, which ran to Al Bassa and warned the other villagers. Lots of the villagers ran off in fear. Some villagers ran to the mountain (Jabal Al Moshaqah) to hide. Some ran to a nearby hill called Jubail (little mountain). My father was about 15 years old at that time, and my mother was about 12 years old. My parents were among those women and children who took refuge in Jubail. Some were not able to run away because of their bad health, and others remained because they did not want to stop their work. According to that which my parents told me, there was a very sick man from another village called Tarshiha. That man was getting treatment at the village´s private clinic owned by Dr. Zo´arob. One of the Bassawis and his son were at home hanging tobacco leaves to dry. A bassawi woman was in labour, and some women including a midwife were by her side. Some old Bassawis were playing cards in the café and smoking a nergili (a traditional palestinian pipe). Some pregnant women and women with little children were among the few who remained in the village.

When the soldiers arrived, they opened fire on the orders of their superior officer, whose name was Sergeant Ford. Some soldiers started attacking the remaining villagers either by shooting them or beating them. Other soldiers bombarded the villagers, who were hiding in Jabal Al Moshaqah. The soldiers used cannons to bombard the mountain. Some soldiers killed a man and his son by shooting them directly in the head, while they were hanging tobacco leaves. Others attacked the clinic where the sick man from Tarshiha was laying down to get treatment. A soldier killed one of the villagers by hitting him on the head with a wooden hammer called modaqa, which is still being used in the palestinian kitchen. That man died instantly while some of the villagers were watching helplessly. Another Bassawi was shot dead as he was standing by his house. A third man was also shot dead on the road near Jubail. Lots of Bassawis got wounded by the british bullets. A number of pregnant women miscarried because of the soldier´s terror including that woman who was in labour.

Later the soldiers gathered the villagers in the centre of the village. They separated the men on one side, and the women including the children on the other side. The women tried to protect the young boys in different ways from being sorted out with men. One of the ways which two women used was getting a boy dressed with a woman´s dress. That boy was my father. The soldiers had no mercy on any one. They beat the men cruelly with robes until they bled. The robes which they used were with several knots on them to cause the worst pain possible. They even used the bottom of their guns to hit the villagers. My grandfather Abu Elias (from my father´s side) almost lost an eye because of that beating. My other grandfather Abu Simaan (Akl Ballout) got one of his hands broken. Other villagers got physically hurt too in other ways. As the villagers watched, the british went on vandalising the properties and destroying the crops. Almost all the villagers´ water melons were squashed by the soldiers´ feet before being harvested. The british destroyed lots of private properties. One of the destroyed properties was the shop owned by my grandfather Abu Elias ( Eid Elias Bechara (Haddad)).

Later the soldiers chose some 30 young Bassawis and stripped them of their clothes. The British beat them as the villagers watched with their sad eyes. After a while, they transported them to an army base east of Al Bassa, located on the road leading to a village called Iqrit. The base was known as Samah base. There, the British interrogated the Bassawis by using all forms of physical torture. After some hours the British brought the Bassawis back with blood covering their bare bodies. The Bassawis thought that it was the end of the british madness, but things were not as expected. As the British wanted revenge for that action of resistance, they brought an empty bus and forced the young Bassawis to get on it. Later as the bus was on its way to the explosion´s spot, new orders came. The orders were to let the Bassawis free and to force 30 Zeebawis (Al Zeeb villagers/Al Zeeb is a neighbouring village to Al Bassa) on the bus instead of the Bassawis. Those orders came from the same Sergeant Ford.


2. A SHARED MEMORY FROM AL BASSA AND AL ZEEB.


In Al Zeeb 30 young men were forced on the bus without knowing the miserable destiny, which the British have planed for them. The british soldiers ordered the zeebawi driver to drive the bus on the spot, where the other unexploded mine was buried. The driver refused that order. Later under the threat of fire from the guns he drove the bus on that designated spot. The mine did not explode. The Zeebawis and the Bassawis, who were there watching that barbarian act of revenge, they cheered for the safety of the men. The Bassawis and the Zeebawis thought, that the British would let the 30 young men go free now. They were wrong. The British forced the bus again on that spot. The mine did not explode for the second time. The young Zeebawis tried to get off the bus, and the other villagers tried to free them too, but the british hunger for a bloody revenge prevented that from happening. The british soldiers started firing over the heads of the crowd, and at the bus. Then the driver was forced to drive on that spot once more.


As the villagers, Christians and Moslems, Bassawis and Zeebawis were crying with prayers, and as the young men on the bus were chanting Allah O Akbar (God is great) the driver drove the bus over the mine for the last time. The mine exploded and killed every one on the bus. As the parents, wives, children, relatives and other villagers watched the doomed bus burning and while being unable to save their beloved ones, the british revengeful soldiers rode off in their jeeps with a typical british cold smile on their lips, as a sign of satisfaction for the cold blooded massacre of those 30 brave men.


A lot of those, who were eyewitnesses to that unforgetable incident, are still living and telling the story to their children and grandchildren. As I was a child, and as I was a young man, I heard this story many times from different persons including my own parents and relatives. The names of those Bassawis and Zeebawis are still engraved on the minds of the tellers who lived that story.

Al Bassa had three makhateer at that time (makhateer is the plural of mokhtar, who acts as an official advisor and representative), one for the Bassawi catholics, another for the orthodox, and a third for the moslems. At the time of that incident the catholic mokhtar was dead, while the orthodox mokhtar Wadieh Azzam, and the moslem mokhtar Khader Al-Ahmad were living. Few days after the incident a new catholic mukhtar was oppointed, whose name was Jabbur Al-sabbagh nicknamed Al-Harruq. The catholic mokhtar Jabbur Al-Sabbagh was the one who filed a report of the complaints of the Bassawis to Akka´s Qa´em Maqam ( the ruler of Acre). The Qa´em Maqam filed an official complaint to the british mandate authorities in Palestine, but there was no official responce or refund for the damages.


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