Vagaries of peace unkind to Arab tank

July 29, 1995|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

QABATIYA, ISRAEL OCCUPIED WEST BANK — QABATIYA, Israeli-Occupied West Bank -- Defeated in battle, humiliated under occupation, the Abdel Rahman al-Nasser now faces an uncertain fate in peace.

The al-Nasser is a Jordanian tank, captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and forced for 28 years to be part of a monument to the Israeli victory in a tank battle at this village outside Jenin.

The question is, when the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank, will they take the Abdel Rahman al-Nasser?

"It has to be moved," said Uri Hurvitz, 68, who was deputy commander of the 45th Israeli brigade, the unit that captured this part of the West Bank.

He said Israel had contemplated a military ceremony a month ago to move the tank and the stone tablet that honors 54 brigade members who died during the war. But he said the plan was scrubbed after complaints from Jewish settlers, who oppose the impending withdrawal of troops.

Israel is not yet sure what to do with the handful of war monuments it erected at battle sites in the West Bank.

"Nobody has approached me about it," said Menachem Sherman, chairman of the Council of Memorial Sites for Israel.

Some monuments have survived the tides of occupation. The al-Nasser sits beside a cemetery and memorial to Iraqi soldiers who helped the Arab Legion repel Jewish forces from the area during the first Arab-Israeli war, in 1948. The cemetery has been left unmolested, if untended, during the Israeli occupation.

Israel did put the al-Nasser, a U.S.-made Patton tank, conspicuously by the cemetery entrance. And it welded the gun turret into an unnatural pose bowed to the ground, said to symbolize humiliating surrender.

Mr. Hurvitz said he cleaned up the Arab cemetery from its battle scars in 1967. He said he then warned the local Palestinians not to molest either the cemetery or the tank, or "I'll bring the tanks and bulldozers and level your villages."

But Israel may be less than enthusiastic about carting away the old machine, since it picked the tank for the monument by mistake, said Foud Nazzal, 74, a school teacher who lives nearby and witnessed the tank battle.

Those who picked it thought its name referred to Egypt's president of the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser. But Abdel Rahman al-Nasser was a Muslim caliph of Spain, he said.

"They were cheated," said Mr. Nazzal, with a wide grin.

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