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The Surafend Affair


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#1 ianw

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 10:46 AM

I came across a passing reference to this event and further research has thrown up some rather limited information. It sems a NZ soldier was killed whilst pursuing a thief in December 1918. In revenge NZ troops surrounded a village called Surafend , expelled the women and children and then attacked and killed a number of men and youths.

What surprises me is the tone of the Australian Official History (Vol 7 Page 787 and following) which starts by stating "All Arabs of Western Palestine were thieves by instinct" - and continues in like vein. The men responsible closed ranks and were unpunished . They also resented the dressing down that Allenby eventually gave them - in fairly strong language it seems.

I think cash compensation was eventually paid but I wonder how many Arabs were killed.

#2 John Hartley

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 11:24 AM

QUOTE (ianw @ Sun, 25 Apr 2004 11:46:28 +0000)
What surprises me is the tone of the Australian Official History (Vol 7 Page 787 and following) which starts by stating "All Arabs of Western Palestine were thieves by instinct" - and continues in like vein.

Ian

No real surprise to me in this. It seems entirely consistent with general anti-Arab sentiments that were commonplace then and, in my view, are basically unchanged today. I suspect that, then as now, no-one bothered to count the Arab deaths.

John

#3 Desmond7

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 12:03 PM

Similar sentiments reported by one of 'my' men who described the Arabs as 'robbers, thieves and cutthroats'.
In a letter home he said that one man had his throat cut in a tent and that on anotheroccasion, Arabs had draped goatskins/sheepskins over themselves as camouflage when they tried to infiltrate supply depots/camps.
Apparently retribution was swift and merciless. Basically, they were caught it was a bullet in the head, no questions asked.
Different times .... maybe? I'll go no further on that one.

#4 ianw

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 12:18 PM

I certainly concur that we should try to understand our forefathers' behaviour in the light of the mores and beliefs of the their time. At the same time one wonders how the past treatment of Arabs (and other racial groups) as sub-humans resonates down to our own times.

#5 Deleted_Desmond6_*

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 05:55 PM

And it further begs the question ... if the rankers despised the 'Arabs' etc. , who did so many of the officer class often view them in a more 'romantic' light. Did Lawrence's exploits in WW1 have a major influence on the sentiment of later generations of officers?
Fully agree with IanW that the subject of treatment of 'native inhabitants' and the longer term ramifications deserves wider exploration.

#6 Deleted_stevenbec_*

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 09:54 PM

The Affair or so its named was by soldiers from NZ and Australia.

It was in reply to a long stay near Richon le Zion were the men were constaintly being jobbed by the local Arabs untill one night one of the NZ soldiers was murdered.

The mixed force of Anzac's did as stated surounded the village let the women and kids go them armed with axe handles beat any arab man they could find.

They also attacked a bedouian camp near by as they were suspected.

The NZ history states some 30 arabs as killed or injuried, and I would say the death side would be small and only dieing of injuries.

Like anything to do with these people, the figures are always blow out of all credit by people who little understand the feelings of people who have had been there.

Although I'am not condoning this affair either am I condeming the men who did it.

You could read this book for what happened then and later when the Arabs rebelled against British Rule in Egypt. "Austrilians and Egypt 1914-1919" by Suzanne Brugger.
She mentions many of the events that we (that is aussie, NZer's and British) did against the local people.

S.B

#7 Max

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 10:09 PM

QUOTE (stevenbec @ Sun, 25 Apr 2004 22:54:33 +0000)
Although I'am not condoning this affair either am I condeming the men who did it.

???? Open season then!!!

#8 Geoff S

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 12:30 AM

People must remember that these men lived in very different times than we do today. When speaking to my GG father ( Anzac Mtd Div) about this incident about 15 years ago, he was not keen to give away any details. Was he involved? I don't know. Did he know who was involved? Many would have known the men/regiments involved,,word would have got around. Would he have given them up?- No chance. He, like many of his generation - hated the Arabs. On the other hand, the Turkish soldier was widely respected by the Australians.

It is important to remember that this incident was the culmination of some long standing hatred that had developed between many of the Australian and New Zealanders towards the Arab/Beduoin people over many years of war. The men involved were likely incensed by the fact that they were still being attacked and killed by 'non-combatants' when the war had already been won.

It is true that the Anzac Mted Div were offended by Allenby's harsh treatment afterwards. But, these men would always remain true to their own code.
Do I condemn it - no. Do I understand it - yes. This was an ugly incident, not uncommon during war.


Geoff S

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 06:51 AM

Yes,

I should also mention that I have on record numbers of soldiers who disappeared during that time with no body being found.

Now there were numbers of Turks trying to get home but they are mostly discounted for the missing men.

But with the raising of so called arab nationalizm by Lawrence? there were many tribesman wondering the country carring out all types of things on the locals (both Arab and Jew) and the Military.

Although is most cases of missing soldiers it was beleived/found that they were killed by those local Arabs not the Tribesman.

But you are right when you say that there were long standing hatered against the Arabs, not from any raceist veiw but because they were being robbed and attacked by them. And they would have hated any race who did it.

Also the was a standing order from the C in C that no action was to be taken against the Arabs which was widely ignorded.

S.B

#10 John Hartley

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 07:35 AM

QUOTE (stevenbec @ Sun, 25 Apr 2004 22:54:33 +0000)
Like anything to do with these people, the figures are always blow out of all credit by people who little understand the feelings of people who have had been there.

Although I'am not condoning this affair either am I condeming the men who did it.

Steven

I presume you hold these views sincerely and that they were not intended as a "wind-up" - althougth I find that this was the result.

"These people" ???????............

I do despair when I read of people unwilling to condemn massacres, "extra judicial" murders and the like, undertaken by the military against civilians - whether it was 90 years ago, or, in my lifetime - in Vietnam, Rwanda, Bosnia.

If we don't condemn, we condone.

Disappointing, very disappointing.

John

#11 Geoff S

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:42 AM

John,

I think it is very important that we do not pass too hard judgement on those men in 1918 from the comfort and security of our living rooms in 2004. I do not condemn it, because I understand it. Put simply for you. War is ugly. War is not fair. Innocents are sometimes killed. My GG father hated war. I know this because he always mentioned it, whenever he spoke about the War.
I have fortunately never had to fight in a war, so I choose not to harshly judge those who have.

Regards
Geoff S

#12 John Hartley

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 10:30 AM

QUOTE (Geoff S @ Mon, 26 Apr 2004 09:42:19 +0000)
I do not condemn it, because I understand it. Put simply for you.

Geoff

Thank you for being able to offer a simple explanation for what I have always felt to be an incredibly difficult and complex matter.

Perhaps, the simple explanation is best. So,

I understand, therefore I condemn.

John

#13 Geoff S

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 11:01 AM

John

Thanks for your personal insight. With over 1,000 posts on this site you are entitled to your opinion.

You, obviously know a lot more about fighting in a War, and this specific incident than I. Personally, I am very careful not to pre-judge or condemn with limited information & or knowledge of an specific event.

You obviously must be an expert!


Geoff S

#14 Max

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 12:55 PM

Geoff

Firstly, don't be so patronising. Secondly, you condemn the Arab for killing a NZ/Aussie (even though they are on his turf) but don't condemn the other way, it stinks of double standards.

Just because a man has seen combat does not give him/her the right to act like a savage whilst out of combat. Murder is murder.

Andy

#15 John Hartley

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 01:27 PM

QUOTE (Geoff S @ Mon, 26 Apr 2004 12:01:26 +0000)
You obviously must be an expert!

Geoff

In terms of knowledge about the anti-Arab attitude of "the west", over more than a century and how it has often been extremely violent and always repressive then, yes. Thanks for the compliment.

Like you, I have never had to fight in a war and, so, have no personal experience of what it must be like and what might drive men to do these sorts of things, but I can understand why they happen. I've never stuck my hand in a fire, either, but I'm pretty sure it's hot.

As you appreciate, to understands something is not, in itself, a reason to either condemn or condone. It is simply to understand.

I condemn those sort of acts that occured in 1918, as much as those similar that happened in WW2, Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, Rwanda, Chile and the Middle East today. When the security forces of a country attack civilians, outside of the law, then it is, in my view, always, always wrong.

John

#16 Deleted_Desmond6_*

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 02:02 PM

Let's all be honest with ourselves here ... take the Time Machine ...

1917 ... Mum hears that her boy has been cut up by 'arabs etc' . Sorrow obvious.
Family is told : - 'But we gave them a right good cutting up too to avenge your son.'

It was the era of Imperalism - the British Empire was at its height and the white man had coloured various portions of the world map in whatever colour was preferred. The Empire which runs on good-will and generosity has yet to exist. Our forefathers - if you're white of course - were brought up to believe that Britannia ruled the waves and that we could waive the rules if the natives got restless. It was most definitely morally abhorrent ... but par for the course.

But we surely must say that actions outside the code of war are wrong.
I can certainly see why these men acted as they did. They were a product of the times.
But then so were the SS etc. The action must be recognised as being wrong.

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:49 PM

Yes John,

I have been in that postion before and know some what of the postion both victim and assulter were in. Two years in Bosnia with the UN I saw enough graves to last a life time.

Interesting about this sorry affair is the use of the word "Massacar" to discribe what happened to the villagers.

The soldiers went into the town to inflict damage on the men and buildings because of the torment they had suffered. That some poor ****** died from that beating was a sad thing, but I dought the soldier ment that to happen.

Yet it is again the wicked British or now days the Americans who are to blame.

Why is it that no responsiblity is on the people that started them off? I know the locals would understand why their people were stealing or had to kill a westener.

When a bomb goes off in Bagdad who do the people blame? The Americans/British or there own people!

Sorry if I digresed

S.B

#18 Max

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 09:59 PM

QUOTE (stevenbec @ Mon, 26 Apr 2004 21:49:28 +0000)
Yet it is again the wicked British or now days the Americans who are to blame.

Why is it that no responsiblity is on the people that started them off? I know the locals would understand why their people were stealing or had to kill a westener.

I would respectfully suggest that this incident did not happen in down town Acton, but in the victims own country/territory.

Reverse the situation. A horde of foreigners have decided to have a war in your back yard, nobody asked you, they just did it. To add insult to injury they treat you like ****. What would you do? I think I would be doing worse than robbing a few soldiers.

Andy

#19 Geoff S

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 10:04 AM

John/Andy,

Irrespective of your personal opinions or knowledge of what may, or may not have occured at Surafend in December 1918 - the British Government and military were quick to utilise the experience of these Australian/New Zealand troops during the Egyptian civilian uprising in 1919.

These troops were well drilled on what was required to ensure Britain continued to rule over the Egyptian "natives". My point is that the British Government would have been aware, and indeed sanctioned extreme meaures were to be applied to ensure the obedience of the local population to British rule.

Is murder, not murder when its suits the Crown?

Interesting double standard


Geoff S

#20 Max

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 10:33 AM

QUOTE (Geoff S @ Tue, 27 Apr 2004 11:04:38 +0000)
Is murder, not murder when its suits the Crown?

Interesting double standard

The double standard, if that is what it is, is on the part of the British government and not me. Murder is murder, regardless.

Andy

#21 Geoff S

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 11:48 AM

FYI

Article from 'New Republic 3 September 1919'

'Not two score British were killed in the revolt. The British killed over 900 Egyptians according to their own announcements. The relative losses betray an almost unbelievable ruthlessness in killing unarmed civilians.'

Andy-Perhaps the British government and military establishment in 1919 had a different understanding of what constitituted murder.

Regards
Geoff S

It is not my intention to offend forum members by listing every murder commited on behalf of the British government by 'British' soldiers, as that would be an impossible task.

#22 John Hartley

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 12:02 PM

Geoff

As you'll have appreciated, my point about Surafend is that it is/was symptomatic of attitudes, of the "west", towards the Arab people that still exist today and still cause much grief in that part of the world.

You are entirely right about double standards. When a government wants something done and acts within international law, it is usually OK, however horrible the result. Successive British governments have a lot of blood on their hands from actions in the Middle East.

I've just read the letter to Tony Blair from the 52 ex-ambassadors and diplomats about current activities in Iraq. Whatever one's views on that war, this makes for a chilling condemnation on how it is being handled now. In my first post on the subject, I referred to that, in Surafend as now, nobody bothered to count the Arab deaths. The diplomats make the same reference - "The Iraqis killed by coalition forces probably total 10-15000 (it is a disgrace that the coalition forces themselves appear to have no estimate) and the number killed in the last month in Falluja alone is apparently several hundred, including many civilian men,women an children." It seems some things never change.

John

#23 Geoff S

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 12:38 PM

Andy/John

Thanks I do understand your comments/concerns, & can relate to what you are compelled to defend. I only wanted to illustrate the difference between a war crime & state sanctioned murder(War) is often based on perception & if you are the victor or vanquished, the powerful or weak, informed or uninformed, minority government or majority disenfranchise, etc.

Thankyou all-It was an interesting discussion - , I am not going to comment any more on the Surafend/Surafand incident, as I have no further interest in extending discussion on this sad episode involving the Anzac Mtd Div.

Cheers
Geoff S

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 09:54 PM

Mates,

I like wise just want to show the so called double standard but not by the British but by the Arabs and you who follow that line. Remember there are always two sides to any dispute.

I agree with you in full about how we treated those who we were occuping, but does that then give them the right to do what they do?

If they murder "ex" amount of our soldiers then we kill "ex" amount of their people, where does the blame fall.

Is it that simple to say, we are the occupier so its all right to kill us but we cannot kill them?

And like me I surpose we are getting what's happening now with what happened in 1918.

But is there any simularities?

S.B

Can I also say that the soldiers didn't go into the village to kill anyone, they went there to release their anger on the poeple who had done things to them.

That a man or more may have died is the most unfortunate thing about it but the soldiers would be guilty of manslaughter or accidental death not murder since there is no intent to murder. But to say that to the poor families that lost someone would be pointless.

Purhaps its the most saddess part of this sorry affair both for the arab and soldiers families.

But your right to say we should never condone the murder of anyone. A point I've argued many times else where.

Maybe they should have done an investivation on this instead of sweeping it under the carpert.

S.B

#25 RodB

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 02:12 PM

I think it's a matter of power, people never take seriously other groups who have no power to hurt or influence them. Whites over blacks in Aparthheid Sth Africa, Serbs over Kosovars, Westerners over Arabs, Brits over Chinese... the other mob are always a joke until they get their act together and figure out how to blow you up, get the atom bomb, induce fear. Then who's laughing ? That's when they cease to be just statistics. Mao was right.. One day the Arabs are going to get Their act together.



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