It’s the Israeli version of the feel-good story about the 100-year-old who finally got his college degree or the 100-year-old who just earned her high school diploma.
In a special ceremony last week, Yitzhak Pundak, a Polish immigrant to Palestine who turned 100 in June, finally received the promotion to the rank of major-general he had been promised by Moshe Dayan in 1954, but denied for almost 60 years.
Enthusiasm for slaughter undimmed
Even after all these years, Pundak still harbors an undimmed enthusiasm for slaughtering Arabs.
Israel’s Channel 2 asked Pundak what should be done about the current situation Israel faced, including rocket fire from resistance groups in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.
Pundak, in his dress uniform, answered with assurance:
Today, they shoot missiles – and we respond to them via the air force, in the tunnels. I’m sorry, if we sit in bomb shelters, then we’ll sit in bomb shelters all our lives … What should be done?
For each and every missile they shoot today, we respond with twenty artillery shells. If we kill 500, they’ll calm down right away. And believe me, I have a great deal of experience with this. I ‘took care of’ the Arabs … for five years.
History of violence
Born in Poland in 1913, Pundak settled in Palestine in 1933, immediately joining the Zionist Haganah militia. He participated in the 1948 war of ethnic cleansing – the Nakba – in which 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes.
In March 1948, Pundak commanded Battalion 53 of the Givati Brigade which attacked the Palestinian village of al-Falluja near Majdal in the Gaza district, with the loss of several of his men.
“Despite the tragedy,” Pundak explained in his own account on the Israeli army website, “the next day we exploded houses in Falluja, and killed 50 Arab terrorists in battle.”
Walid Khalidi’s All That Remains, citing a contemporaneous New York Times report, says that al-Falluja was attacked on 14 March 1948, when “a ‘Jewish supply convoy’ had engaged in a battle with villagers, as a result of which 37 Arabs and 7 Jews were killed, and ‘scores’ of Arabs and 3 Jews were wounded.”
Haganah demolition squads then came to the village and destroyed a number of houses and the three-story town hall. The Associated Press confirmed two days later that the buildings destroyed included the municipal hall and the post office.
The area was later occupied by the Egyptian army, and when the Egyptians left, most of the village’s 3,000 residents decided to stay put.
But within days, writes Khalidi, “the local Israeli garrison engaged in beatings, robbings and attempted rapes, according to United Nations observers at the scene.”
One of the refugees from the village was Ibrahim Hasan Alsaafin, the grandfather of Electronic Intifada contributor Linah Alsaafin, who died aged 84 in Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip last year.
Israeli historian Benny Morris, cited by Khalidi, writes that the decision to force out the residents of al-Falluja was probably approved by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Pundak was made commander of the armored forces in 1953 and served as military governor of the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip in the early 1970s.
Given his long history of violence against Palestinians, it’s no surprise that the decision to finally promote the centenarian was taken by Israeli chief of staff General Benny Gantz and approved by defense minister Moshe Yaalon, who notoriously called the Palestinians a “cancer.”
With thanks to Dena Shunra for research and translation.