He was one of hundreds of refugees who held the demonstration on the Syrian side of the Golan border fence, to commemorate the Naqba -- "Disaster" -- the exodus of more than half the Palestinian people from the territory conquered by Israel in the war of 1948. Some of the protesters ran down to the fence, crossing a minefield. Luckily, none of the mines exploded -- perhaps they were just too old.
They entered the Druze village of Majdal Shams, occupied by Israel since 1967, where they spread out. Israeli soldiers shot, killed and wounded several of them. The rest were caught and immediately deported back to Syria.
Except Hassan. He found a bus carrying Israeli and international peace activists who took him with them -- perhaps they guessed where he came from, perhaps not. He does not look obviously Arab.
They dropped him near Tel Aviv. He continued his journey by hitchhiking and eventually reached Jaffa, the town where his grandparents had lived .
There, without money and without knowing anyone, he tried to locate the house of his family. He did not succeed -- the place has changed much too much.
Eventually, he succeeded in contacting an Israeli TV correspondent, who helped him give himself up to the police. He was arrested and deported back to Syria.
Quite a remarkable exploit.
THE BORDER crossing of the refugees near Majdal Shams caused near panic in Israel.
First there were the usual recriminations. Why was the army not prepared for this event? Who was to blame -- Northern Command or Army Intelligence?
Behind all the excitement was the nightmare that has haunted Israel since 1948: that the 750,000 refugees and their descendents, some five million by now, will one day get up and march to the borders of Israel from North, East and South, breach the fences and flood the country. This nightmare is the mirror-image of the refugees' dream.
During the first years of Israel, this was a waking nightmare. On the day Israel was founded, it had some 650,000 Jewish inhabitants. The return of the refugees would indeed have swamped the young Israeli state. Lately, with more than 6 million Jewish citizens, this fear has receded into the background -- but it is always there. Psychologists might say that it represents repressed feelings of guilt in the national psyche.
THIS WEEK, there was a repeat performance. The Palestinians all around Israel have declared June 5 "Naksa" Day, to commemorate the "Setback" of 1967, when Israel spectacularly defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, reinforced by elements from the Iraqi and Saudi armies.
This time the Israeli army was prepared. The fence was reinforced and an anti-tank ditch dug in front of it. When the demonstrators tried to reach the fence -- again near Majdal Shams -- they were shot by sharpshooters. Some 22 were killed, many dozens were wounded. The Palestinians report that people trying to rescue the wounded and retrieve the dead were also shot and killed.
No doubt, this was a deliberate tactic decided upon in advance by the army command after the Naqba day fiasco, and approved by Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. As was said quite openly, the Palestinians had to be taught a lesson they would not forget, so as to drive any idea of an unarmed mass action out of their mind.
It is frighteningly reminiscent of events 10 years ago. After the first intifada, in which stone-throwing youngsters and children won a moral victory that led to the Oslo agreement, our army conducted exercises in anticipation of a second intifada. This broke out after the political disaster of Camp David, and the army was ready.
The new intifada started with mass demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. They were met by specially trained sharpshooters. Next to each sharpshooter stood an officer who pointed out the individuals who were to be shot because they looked like ringleaders: "The guy in the red shirt ... Now the boy with the blue trousers ..."
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