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'Normality' in Palestine

salam max | 24.11.2004 15:48 | Anti-militarism | Repression | London

Three weeks ago, whilst Gaza was being bulldozed and
the world watched Arafat about to die, the Israeli
army invaded Jenin. Surrounding and closing off the
city for two weeks, they occupied houses to use as
bases, erected roads-blocks, and imposed curfew.

I had intended to visit a friend during the weekend,
but he explained his neighbours’ houses were both
occupied by the army, and that he could not leave his
home. I offered apologies, but he responded; “It’s ok;
this is normal!”

In occupied Palestine, what is normal and what is not
are very different things to what most of us are used

The Israeli daily newspaper, ‘Haaretz’, reported that,
the week before I arrived in Jenin, Israel soldiers
had shot dead a Palestinian boy “during confrontations
with protesters in a refugee camp in the West Bank
town of Jenin… An Israeli military source said the
soldiers had responded after coming under fire,” the
short news item continued, “but Palestinians said the
protesters were only throwing stones.”

My friend, let’s call him Ahmad, explained that the
boy had been carrying a plastic, toy gun. Ibrahim
Mohammed Ikmeil was just twelve years old. You often
see children here playing ‘Soldiers and Palestinians’
in the refugee camps; usually they all want to be the
soldiers, because they always win.

Ahmad’s five-year-old niece came home from school when
the jeeps arrived on the street, and burst into tears
in fright. She had been kept awake all of the night
before by the soldiers who had occupied the house next
door. Bored and on a night guard, the occupying
soldiers shot out randomly every ten or fifteen
minutes. “Just as you’re dropping off again, they
shoot. Why do they do this?” asked Ahmad.

The journey into Jenin was like a game of cat and
mouse as we tried road after road: all were blocked by
the army. It had just got dark, so everyone wanted to
get back to their families to break the fast of
Ramadan. At one point we turned around, back to the
main road which circles the city, only to find a tank
waiting for us at the end of the road we had just
traveled up… the only option for it was off-road,
through a farm.

“This is the life we are used to”, said Ahmad. We
finally found an unmanned temporary road block, a dirt
mound which Palestinians had partially dismantled
enough to drive over. It was well passed dark by then,
and dangerous to be out on the streets.

“But why should we hide, frightened in our homes? What
can they do to me? Break my bones? Arrest me? Imprison
me? It doesn’t matter.” And with that, we set off to
the other side of town to visit ‘Yusef’.

Yusef’s neighbourhood had also been occupied a couple
of nights back, and several families were made to
stand outside their homes all night. Instead of
gunshots, Yusef’s family had been kept awake all night
by the sound of children crying. He hadn’t left his
home that day, so although we didn’t hang around for
long, he was happy to have visitors.

The streets were virtually empty on the way home. The
few people we did see in town all looked nervously
into the headlights of the car we drove, checking it
wasn’t an army jeep.

Keeping your humanity cannot be easy in such
circumstances. Playing with the young children in the
house the next day, it was easy to see how strong the
family unit becomes during occupation.

What happens when that family unit is torn apart,
though? Ahmad told me that often journalists ask what
he thinks of suicide bombers. “I’m a peaceful man, but
look how they treat us here. If the soldiers came and
killed my niece or my sister, what could I do? What
would I have left? I would probably become a suicide
bomber myself.”

I wonder how Ibrahim’s family will cope with the loss
of their twelve-year-old son and brother. I wonder if
Israelis really believe that they can continue their
claim to be ‘the good guys’ whilst they kill
twelve-year-olds. No matter how high they build their
wall in this land, if the occupation continues then
the cycle of violence will just go on and on.

Leaving Jenin the same way we came in, the army had
already put the dirt mound back up again, and now cars
had to snake around the olive trees in the adjacent
field. But of course, this is normal.

salam max
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Hide the following 8 comments

terror built the fence

25.11.2004 09:30

Terrorism built the wall.

Terrorists operate in civilian areas and hide behind children, often using them to smuggle guns and explosives.

I wish to tell you about a familiy on kibbutz Yagur - they made the terrible mistake of going into a cafe on Haifa beach (Israeli and Arab owned).

The Grandmother, Father, Mother and two young children aged TWO and FOUR died in a violent blast.

The children were called Liran and Noya.

Terror is indiscriminate

Just get out!

25.11.2004 14:35

You are right; terror does not discriminate. But where does it come from?

The following is an extract from an eloquent speech made by Yitzhak Frankenthal, Chairman of the Families Forum, at a rally in Jerusalem on Saturday July 27, 2002, outside the Prime Ministers residence:

“… We lost sight of our ethics long before the suicide bombings. The breaking point was when we started to control another nation. My son Arik was born into a democracy with a chance for a decent, settled life. Arik’s killer was born into an appalling occupation, into an ethical chaos. Had my son been born in his stead, he may have ended up doing the same. Had I myself been born into the political and ethical chaos that is the Palestinian’s daily reality, I would certainly have tried to kill and hurt the occupier; had I not, I would have betrayed my essence as a free man. Let all the self-righteous who speak of ruthless Palestinian murderers take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what they would have done had they been the ones living under occupation. I can say for myself that I, Yitzhak Frankenthal, would have killed as many on the other side as I possibly could. It is this depraved hypocrisy that pushes the Palestinians to fight us relentlessly. Our double standard that allows us to boast the highest military ethics, while the same military slays innocent children. This lack of ethics is bound to corrupt us.

My son Arik was murdered when he was a soldier by Palestinian fighters who believed in the ethical basis of their struggle against occupation. My son Arik was not murdered because he was Jewish but because he is part of the nation that occupies the territory of another nation.

I know these are concepts that are unpalatable, but I must voice them loud and clear, because they come from my heart—the heart of a father whose son did not get to live because his people were blinded with power. As much as I would like to do so, I cannot say that the Palestinians are to blame for my son’s death. That would be the easy way out, but it is we, the Israelis, who are to blame because of the occupation. Anyone who refuses to heed this awful truth will eventually lead to our destruction.

The Palestinians cannot drive us away – they have long acknowledged our existence. They have been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make peace with them. It is we who insist on maintaining our control over them; it is we who escalate the situation in the region and feed the cycle of bloodshed. I regret to say, but the blame is entirely ours.

I do not mean to absolve the Palestinians and by no means justify attacks against Israeli civilians. No attack against civilians can be condoned. But as an occupation force it is we who trample over human dignity, it is we who crush the liberty of Palestinians and it is we who push an entire nation to crazy acts of despair. Finally, I call on my brothers and sisters in the settlements – see what we have come to…”

And the following are the words of another Israeli, Gabriel Ash, in an open letter to President Kastav in April 2002:

“The suicide bombings are the mutant flowers of Israel’s brutalising occupation, springing from the seeds of the 54-year-long dehumanisation of Palestinians. They are the ghosts of your brutality coming back to haunt you, the mementos of your war against memory….

For those ready to die, their spiritless hatred towards you is what remains after you have bulldozed their past and their future. Whether you like it or not, they are your bastard offspring. Everything they know about hate, you taught them. Everything they forgot about humanity, you made them forget. Give them a hug now, as they have proven themselves worthy of their parents – you.

The short answer, President Kastav, is really short: just get out!

Call the army home. Call the occupation off. And get out of the Occupied Territories. Just get out!

Don’t mumble how ‘difficult’ or ‘complex’ the situation is. It isn’t. You are the oppressor. You are the occupier. You park your tanks on plundered land. You fill your swimming pools with stolen water. You kill and destroy in order to inherit. So don’t bullshit about the ‘situation’. Just get out!

Stop abusing people. Stop abusing language. Stop spinning your own moral cocoon. Stop turning your country and your people into a metaphor of evil. Just get out!

Don’t wait for Bush. Don’t wait for Arafat. Don’t wait to negotiate with the mythical Palestinian leader who will finally accept your dominion. There is nothing to negotiate about. Just get out!

Take your rabid Jewish fundamentalists from Kiryat Arba and Beit El with you. Load them on buses and pump the gas pedal until the hills of the West Bank vanish in the rear mirror. Just get out!

Gather you thugs from the borderless “border police”, give them scholarships and send them to school again. Let them discover there is more to life than beating people to a pulp. Just get out!

Take you checkpoints, with all their petty humiliations and deadly snipers, with you. And just get out!

Send the Shit Bet packing. After 35 years, the world has had enough of your clever jailers and torturers. Take them with you and just get out!

Let your hideous bulldozers loose on the illegal settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa and Gilo. There is plenty of demolition work for them there. Let them continue until the mountain line bears no more memory of your rape. Then just get out!

Don’t apologise. Don’t justify. Don’t explain. There is nothing left to explain. Honestly. Just get out!

Don’t even worry about the thousands of olive trees, symbols of peace, you uprooted. Someone will plant them again.

Just get out!”

salam max

I do not disagree

25.11.2004 15:53

I wrote the above Salam Max and I do not disagree - I truly believe that there should not be an occupation and that the two states should live together side by side - one day maybe we can visit each other and work together on many issues and problems.

However terror against Israel started long before the occupation and many died before this date.

I believe peace is possible but both sides must learn respect for each other. This cannot be done while hate is taught - both by Palestinians schools and Imamas and Jewish settlers.

Peace can be done - it has worked with Egypt and Jordan and can work.

You are wrong to blame Israel for attacks which hit there own people - the blame lies with anyone who would indocrinate a person to blow themselves up - the book passes no further.

Postings like the one at the top of the page serve no use unless they also consider the suffering of the other side too. My point was that we bleed too and however one feels, the killings of the two children I named can also never be justified - anyone who would seek to justify this has no respect (and probably no children of their own).

Most Israelis now do not want the territories - most (not all but most) want out - the question is one of security.

Will the state that is set up (and it will be) - be one from which to launch constant attacks causing countless reprisals - or will its people channel their energies into building a peaceful and vibrant future?

We will wait and see


Apologist's crocodile tears

26.11.2004 16:22

Israel does want more territory otherwise it would not be building a wall inside the Occupied Territories to change the "reality on the ground" - allowing its USA and UK backers and other apologists for the racist and expansionist Zionist state to call for a two state solution.

The majority of Palestinians do not care about the number of states what they want is a fair and just state where all are treated equally and the land and resources are available for all to share.

The Zionists want the land they have stolen through ethnic cleansing they want to control the right to return, the water, the freedom of movement, the right to re-invade at will, the right to complete military supremacy, its internal racist policies and all the key factors which maintain it power over the Palestinians.

They may conceed glorified concentration camps as they have in the Gaza (while adding to settlements in the West Bank), they make conceed a series of Bantustans split by Israeli roads with Israeli checkpoints and they may even allow the millions of refugees to return to this self-imprisonment. They may offer other empty promises for a far-off Palestinian state but the reality on the ground will continue.

Justice for the Palestinians

Stop deluding yourself

26.11.2004 18:19

Dear 'Israeli', you said:

"You are wrong to blame Israel for attacks which hit there own people - the blame lies with anyone who would indocrinate a person to blow themselves up - the book passes no further."

If you really think the suicide attacks - which I am not condoning nor supporting - are purely the result of 'indoctrination', then sadly you are both wrong and deluded.

You must ask yourself why people are so desperate that they'd blow themselves up. Israel has created these conditions, through its dehumanising, brutal occupation. Only yesterday I saw in haaretz images of a Palestinian who was made to play the violin for Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint.

This humiliation, evoking memories of the nazi treatment of Jews in the concentration camps, is just one example of the way Israeli occupying soldiers treat Palestinian civilians.

It is not the Palestinians who are indoctrinating them into hatred of Israel, but the Israeli's themselves.

You say you are against the occupation, I am glad to hear this, it encourages me. But you must stop deluding yourself that the attacks are the result of a crazed Palestinian mindset: they are the horrific result of a desperate people robbed of life itself. I've met people who tell me they have no life - again and again, people in the refugee camps tell me the same - what have they got to lose, if they already have no life under occupation?

You also said:

"Postings like the one at the top of the page serve no use unless they also consider the suffering of the other side too. My point was that we bleed too and however one feels, the killings of the two children I named can also never be justified - anyone who would seek to justify this has no respect (and probably no children of their own)."

I recognise the sad reality for Israel, and I am sorry for the deaths of all civilians, men women and children; I am not seeking to justify these deaths, but search for the reasons they happen.

Israel has made it's own bed; so Israel is now lying in it, and it is not particularly comfortable. If you occupy another people's land, steal their resources, destroy everything they have, treat them as sub-humans, do not expect them to thank you for it.

Wake up to the reality of the press coverage of suffering Israelis: I wonder if you would complain about a long article in the Israeli press which humanises the victims of an attack in Israel, but never made mention of the suffering of Palestinians? Would you say all those articles serve no use? Is your posting of no use because it doesn't mention Palestinian children who have also died?

My posting above does not ignore the blood spilt inside Israel, it explains the reasons behind it. Perhaps you'd like to read it again; is ahmad (non religious, non-political, peaceful) being indoctrinated into hatred for Israeli's by crazed militants? Of course not. Are the Israeli army breeding hatred and resentment in Jenin? Yes, sadly, they are.

End the occupation; for this is the root of the violence in Palestine and Israel.

Salam, Shalom

salam max

Justice is not the right to murder

29.11.2004 09:14

Mr 'Justice for Palestinians' - What I am not allowed to be upset when children I know die in violence? Is that crocodile tears.

As you can see, myself and Mr Max are having an intelligent debate - we swap views - he puts his and I put mine. We have both agreed that violence is not the way but we will not agree on other things - but maybe we will understand each other better.

That is the purpose of a forum - from your response it is clear that you have a view an if anyone does not agree with it then they are worthy of only contempt. You accuse me of being an expansionist and a settler when you have no idea what I think. I believe in a two state solution with a viable Palestinian state and a Jewish state alongside each other. I absolutely believe Israel should exist, but also recognise that the settled areas of teh West Bank and Gaza are only land and that land should be for the Palestinians to live in.

So - Mr 'Justice for Palestinians' if you are incapable of a debate without resorting to insults - please go away; as I said - you have no respect.

Salaam Max,

I believe that indoctrination plays a part in turning people into suicide bombers:

Otherwise, how does one explain Kamikaze pilots in WW2 - that was indoctrination.

Syrian and Lebanese training camps exist where children are taught how to carry out succesful attacks

Schools teach songs glorifying suicide bombers

Extremist Imams convince would be bombers that 70 virgin brides await them in the life hereafter.

All quite indocrinating really.

I agree there should be no occupation - I hope that when the West Bank and Gaza are a Palestinian State, this will bring peace in the middle east and Jews and Arabs can live once again with respect for each other



Not the only thing though, is it?

29.11.2004 21:29


If i can accept, which i do, that a certain amount of ideological 'persuasion'/ indoctrination, call it what you want, is involved in suicide attacks (kamikazee, whatever), then can you accept that, as this article shows, this is not the ONLY thing which motivates people? Have you seen Arna's Children, for example?

One of the 'children' of the school goes on a suicide mission in Israel, killing others and himself. He used to be the happy, joker of the gang. But the turning point was when he entered a school which had been fired upon by the Israeli army. He found a young girl, bleeding, and took her to hospital but she died in his arms (please, see the film, if you haven't already, I can do it no justice by explaining the scenes here).

My report specifically shows how the Israeli soldiers, by their actions in the West Bank, are doing just as much 'indoctrination' against themselves - by creating such hatred and anger towards them (in this case, the killing of a 12 yr old boy, the harrassment, the occupation of civilian homes, imposing curfew, roadblocks, constant firing into the night to keep people awake).

The person i spoke to, I assure you, is in no way 'indoctrinated', not by Palestinians anyway - he has no desire to be a 'martyr', nor does he believe he'd go to heaven with 72 virgins or what-not; the suicide bomb is the last resort of a desperate people who don;t have tanks, airplanes, bulldozers, and all the modern weapons the Israeli has; he says himself that IF his own niece or sister were killed instead of that boy, what else could he do to respond?

Surely you can see this role the Israeli army plays in this 'indoctrination' of hatred and resentment?

(and, can I tentatively say, thankfully, there has been a brief period of quiet since the factions are preparing for elections - a good sign, no?)

salam, shalom

salam max

There may be a 'hunda'

30.11.2004 09:32

Salam Max,

I agree that it must cause hatred and resentment to see soldiers on your street - just as it did in Northern Ireland and I am sure that this contributes.

But let me try and explain something as best as I can:

Israel however was, when partitioned, a tiny scrap of land and since inception has been attacked repeatedly by several much larger nations.

The citizens of Israel comprise of two groups (which may or may not be distinct) -

1. Ideological settlers (I am not talking here of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza) - these are people who came to live in Israel, seeing it as the homeland to where there hearts have looked for 2000 years.
They came to settle in the years 1895 - 1948 and with land bought from absent Turkish landowners, farmed the land; much of which was previously considered barren.

2. Those who fled/survived; from the Nazis, pogroms, forced conversions (eg in Ethiopia, later on), state oppression (Russia) and wanted somewhere to live where the word 'Jew' was not a slander.

For both of these groups it was a dream to live in peace with the neigbouring Arab states. This is enshrined in the Declaration of Independance and whenever an Arab state has truly held out an olive branch, peace has been made (Egypt and Jordan).

However in 1967, the West Bank and Gaza strip became occupied and should have been given back - although later Egypt refused to take Gaza back and the Jordanians slaughtered 20,000 Palestinians in a few days.

These lands became occupied and it is here that i feel Israel has failed. They should not be in occupation and these lands should go back. The settlers should be kicked out and the land should be a Palestinian land where one day we can live together in two states.

But as you will appreciate, security has been a major issue. Before this Intifada, many attacks were made and the Israeli leadership has been trying to strike a balance between moves to peace and security.

To me security would be best if the army was not in the territories, but they are and you must understand that most of the soldiers do not want to be.

The soldiers on the ground are conscripts who want to be with their families and are scared. Most (and trust me I really know) are good people who would not cause distress and act with humanity in accordance with the army code of ethics (the only army with a written code of ethics). I have friends who have risked their lives to save Palestians; including one who saved a boy from a house fire.

However, there are a handful of bad apples. This happens in any army and it is these who stand out and are more visable to the Palestinian people and bring criticism on the their comrades.

Wherever an Israeli soldier does breach the code - if it can be proven, they go to jail.

As I say though, I really believe most want peace.

I hope this helps you understand that we are, for the most part, good people and should not be tarred with the same brush as a few bad ones.

i hear that there may be a 'hunda' in order that peace talks may resume.

Who do you think would be best to take over (please do not say Barghoutti) ? - I have split views on Abbas.




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