Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Politics of Fear and the Dangers of Occupation

I have lost count of how many times I have been warned by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) about how dangerous it for me and others to travel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or to enter Palestinian cities.

On my first day in the OPT in 2004, myself and one of my team mates decided to take a walk down the settler road outside of our village to get an idea of our surroundings, including the illegal settlements. About one kilometre into our walk, an IOF jeep pulled over and the soldiers in it asked us what we were doing. We politely explained we were just going for a walk. The soldiers were clearly taken back and responded by saying but don’t you know that it’s dangerous and you should not be out walking. We responded that we were fine and after a few minutes the soldiers left, looking even more perplexed.

On another occasion, when I was leading a team of 15 internationals from Austria and Germany who had come to assist with the annual olive harvest, on a visit to Palestinian city of Qalqilya, the same thing happened. When we arrived at Qalqilya it was chaos, the whole city was locked down with only one entrance open for traffic in and out of the city which was home to 40,000 Palestinians. Palestinian cars, pedestrians, taxis, trucks carrying goods, furniture, as well as horses and carts with produce were banked up for hours as they waited to pass through the checkpoint, at the discretion of the occupation forces. As we piled out of the service (shared taxi) and lined up at the checkpoint to present our passports, the soldier on duty was clearly shocked to see so many foreigners wanting to enter the city. He looked at me incredulously and asked, “where are you going?” I responded that we were going to visit some Palestinian friends of mine (which was true).

He looked once again at my passport and then again at me and the 15 others internationals in line and then at my passport again. It was clear he could not quite get his head around that fact that we actually wanted to enter the city and we not frightened. After a minute or so, he paused and said, “you know it’s dangerous in there”. This exchange became a regular experience, as time after time both in 2004 and 2007, I had soldiers and occasionally illegal settlers tell me how dangerous it was to enter a Palestinian city or village.

During Ramadan this year, I was also told for the first time that it was dangerous to enter East Jerusalem. A friend and I had planned to take a tour of the old city offered by the Centre for Jerusalem Studies which explained the rituals and practices of Ramadan. However, when we arrived in the old city where the Centre was located, we were prevent by IOF from entering the souq (market area) that lead down to the Centre, which was located about 50 metres from one of the entrances to the Al Aqsa Mosque. According to the IOF soldiers we couldn't enter because "it was dangerous". I explained we were not going to the Mosque (although there was no danger even if we were); we just wanted to go to the Centre. The soldier refused to allow us or any other person who they thought was not Palestinian to enter the area. When I asked why, the soldier responded that it was against the law to allow non-Muslim/Arabs into the area. “No, its not”, I responded. When I asked him to cite which law or to produce a copy of it, he just repeated blank faced “it’s just against the law” (Two weeks later, I was able to pass freely into the area, past the barricade manned by IOF soldiers. Clearly “the law” had changed in that period of time).

On Friday, I was once again told that it was “dangerous” and “against the law” (but only if I was Jewish) to enter a Palestinian area. Myself, a Palestinian friend and another international friend on our day off decided we would make a day trip to Jericho in the Jordan Valley. I had never been and was keen to see the area. After 40 minutes we arrived at the checkpoint into the city and a young soldier asked to see the IDs of our Palestinian driver, my Palestinian friend, as well as my and my other friend’s passports. The soldier was clearly trying to be friendly and helpful, trying to put a human face on the occupation. He asked me to wind down the window and to my surprised asked me if I was Jewish or Christian (but didn't ask if I could have possibly also have been Muslim).

Although, I often describe myself as an agnostic leaning towards atheism, when I am asked in Palestine it usually just much easier to say I am a Christian because generally it would take to long to explain what an agnostic is and why I was one (perhaps it’s the Catholic upbringing/guilt that has prevent me from becoming a true atheist like other good socialists :)

So in response to the IOF soldier’s question, I said I was Christian but then asked him why it was relevant. The soldier responded that he could not let me enter Jericho if I was Jewish. When I asked why, he again responded with the familiar line of “it’s dangerous”. I responded saying, well even if I was Jewish it would not stop me from going to Jericho. No, he said, "you can’t it’s against the law". Once again, I responded "No, its not". After a few minute, the soldier responded with, "well its seems quite in there now but..." and then decided to wave us through.

While it is true there are laws that prevent Israelis from entering PA controlled areas, there are no official laws that prevent Internationals, Palestinians or Arabs who are Jewish from entering the West Bank or PA controlled area such as Jericho (in relation to the law prohibiting Israeli citizens entering the PA controlled areas, many Israeli Jewish solidarity activists defy this law and enter anyway, while in the case of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, the law is more often then not enforced).

The regular repetition of this fallacy by IOF soldiers and the constant refrain that "its dangerous" to enter Palestinian areas or zones is part of the politics of fear utilised by the Zionist state to advance the states interests and to justify and maintain the repressive occupation of 4 million Palestinians in the name of “security”. By promoting the idea the Israeli state (despite having the 4th strongest military in the world) is constantly in danger of being destroyed and is the perpetual victim rather then the oppressor, the Zionist state and their supporters are able to blur the line between reality and fiction and disguise its acts of aggression as defensive acts.

As veteran Israeli report, Amira Hass, noted last year in relation to the Lebanon war and the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, “the purpose of instilling such fear in Israelis is to win ongoing support for the IDF's policy of constant escalation … They [the IDF] need public silence about the free use the IDF makes of the weapons and ammunition that it puts into its soldiers' hands. This serial intimidation is meant to give the IDF a free hand while it expands its operational infrastructure …”. In addition notes Hass “The military establishment in Israel is joined at the hip with the political decision-making establishment, and hyping the security threat facing Israelis, while completely disengaging from the reality of the Israeli occupation, assures continued Israeli support for the myth that there is a military "solution" but not a political one. This in turn provides support for the ongoing regime of occupation and dispossession and for the privileges that this bestows on Israelis”.

The politics of fear function in a manner so as to ensure that the source of the conflict becomes mystified and decontextualised. As Amira Hass notes in another of her articles published in 2001, most Israelis, including the young soldiers who serve in the IOF in the West Bank and Gaza, fail to make the connection that the ongoing Israeli occupation, which controls every facet of the lives of Palestinians, is the reason for the Palestinian resistance. Hass notes, that individual soldiers and most Israelis “can’t find any connection between the hundreds of Palestinians civilians who were killed by IDF fire in the last year and the widespread popular support for the terror attacks inside Israel”. They do not see the “connection between the expropriation of Palestinian land for expanding settlements for Jews only and the ban on Palestinian construction on their lands or even to install a water pipe, because it's in Area C, meaning under Israeli security and civil command - and the stone throwing at Israeli cars”. Israelis, including individual soldiers, fail to see the “connection between the green lawns of the settlements when there's not enough water to drink in Palestinian villages and refugee camps next door - and the Palestinian gunfire at settlements and Israeli civilians driving on roads that are forbidden to Palestinian drivers”.

In addition, notes Hass, they apparently “can't see that an assassination of Palestinian leaders is not only a successful military operation but a proven recipe for encouraging more Palestinians to choose the armed struggle”. Instead, individual soldiers, many Israelis and supporters of the Zionist state and its policy of occupation, as Hass notes, have convinced themselves that the “Arabs” (ie. Palestinians) simply hate all Jews. They convince themselves of the racist notion that Arabs must be an inherently violent race (or Islam is inherently violent), rather that they are an oppressed people who are resisting their occupiers.

By decontextualising the reason for the Palestinian resistance, the Israeli Zionist state and its supporters are able to demonise and present Palestinians as crazed psycho monsters who supposedly want to rip the heart out of any Jews that comes near them, who don’t love their children and enjoy seeing them die and who enjoy violence for the sake of violence. In doing so, they can also create and maintain the myth that Israeli is not the aggressor and is simply acting supposedly in self defense

By maintaining the politics of fear, the Zionist state is also able to erect a barrier, both physically and psychologically, which prevents the majority of Israelis and others from coming to the OPT to see the reality of the human suffering being experience by the Palestinians as a result of the occupation. Instead, Israeli citizens are told time and time again, how dangerous it is for them to come here (other then to go to the Illegal settlements). However, little by little more Israelis and more Jews and internationals are coming to the OPT. And when they do, they discover that the Palestinians aren’t as murderous or as dangerous as they have been told time and time again. They discover that the whatever real danger they themselves may face has been greatly exaggerated and that their fears have been feed on racism, in order to pit one people against another, ensuring perpetual conflict and violence.

By breaking through the politics of fear, Israelis and international peace activists, whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish, have discovered that the Palestinians are just like them and that they too aspire to live a decent life, free of war, free of injustice and filled with love, respect and dignity.

Breaking through the politics of fear, what they discover is that in reality the people most in danger in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not in fact themselves. Instead they discovered that the people most in danger are the Palestinian people who are suffering under the brutal heal of the Israeli occupation: who endured home invasions, attacks on their villages with tanks and missiles, who endure repeated and ongoing artillery bombardment, aerial bombing, who endure house demolitions, abduction, detention without charge or trail and restriction of movement.

By breaking through the politics of fear, Israeli and international peace activists discover that the occupation and the injustices it perpetrates can not be whitewashed and that real peace can only be built when injustice, racism and oppression is opposed and the illegal Israeli occupation is brought to an end.


Yishai Kohen said...

We SHOULD prevent foreign nationals from entering the Arab-occupied areas:

'Olive Harvest' Activists Caught Destroying Jewish Vineyards

Jewish-owned vineyards in Samaria were once again destroyed by leftist “humanitarian groups” Friday. This time some were caught in the act and arrested.

Shortly after residents of the Shomron community of Dolev discovered Friday that a local synagogue had been burned to the ground overnight, they noticed that 3,000 plants in nearby vineyards had also been destroyed – the third case of major agricultural vandalism in the region in recent months.

Once again, vines had been torn from the ground and expensive irrigation equipment was damaged. They saw a group of foreign activists and Arabs heading toward an additional Jewish agricultural plot and alerted the police and IDF. The group fled, but three female activists from the United Kingdom were slower and were caught by police.

Destruction Under Guise of Humanitarian Assistance

Residents say the vandalism occurred under cover of the much-publicized PA Arab olive harvest. Local Arabs, joined by leftists – many foreign nationals – focus their harvest activities on trees abutting Jewish communities. This year, the IDF has been tasked with ensuring that Jewish residents do not leave their communities while the harvest activities are going on, citing fears of clashes. At least two administrative orders have even distanced to Jewish residents from all of Judea and Samaria for the duration of the harvest.

Adi Mintz, an area resident and member of the Yesha Council who is running for mayor of the region, said that the area residents have now received “clear a warning sign. Today it is synagogues and vineyards that are destroyed - tomorrow it will be the lives of human beings. The army must send in more forces to defend the residents of this area,” he said.

The owner of the destroyed vineyard, Shlomi Cohen, said the attack had caused NIS 60,000 of direct damage and would cost him an additional NIS 120,000 in lost produce. The damage was particularly severe because the attack took place during the shemittah (sabbatical) year, when Jews are forbidden to work the land.

British ‘Peace Activists’ Responsible

The three British women who were apprehended by police are accused of responsibility for the destruction Friday. Police also have evidence, however, that the women were part of the group that destroyed farm equipment in the nearby town of Neria in an earlier incident as well.

The women are activists with the International Solidarity Movement, a militantly anti-Zionist group that seeks to enable provocative actions against the IDF and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, under the assumption that their foreign citizenship will raise the threshold on the response of security forces. The lines between ISM and local terrorist groups are quite blurry. In the past, British terrorists even carried out a suicide bombing after being embedded in an IDF cell.

Most of the vandals also take part in clashes with the IDF near the Arab village of Bilin. The activists were recently handed a victory by the Supreme Court, which ordered the IDF to move the security fence in the area of the weekly protests.

Yishai Kohen said...

Here's more reality from today- more from your death cult:

IDF thwarts suicide attack in Hebron

Palestinian youth arrested near Tomb of the Patriarchs with weapons, letter proclaiming his intent to carry out attack and die as martyr

An 18-year-old Palestinian youth arrived at the junction leading to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Wednesday afternoon and aroused the suspicion of Border Police soldiers securing the area.

The troops called to the youth from a distance and ordered him to stop and lift his shirt, where he had concealed a firearm and two knives.

On further inspection of the youth's possessions, which were confiscated, soldiers found a suicide letter detailing the youth's intent to die as a martyr in an attack. One of the knives concealed on his person was inscribed with the words 'With this knife a Jewish soldier will be murdered.'

Security forces also said that the youth had shaved in the ritualistic manner associated with preparation for suicide attacks.

The junction in question has been the scene of numerous stabbing attacks and attempted attacks over the past several years. The youth apprehended on Wednesday was taken for further questioning.

Security officials noted that they would also investigate the possibility that may simply be part of a worrying trend wherein youths seek arrest to escape family or community pressures by arriving at military checkpoints with weapons and allowing themselves to be arrested.

Yishai Kohen said...

More from your vile barbarians, and don't forget to watch the video:

Video: Terrorists Firing Mortars From Schoolyard

Footage shows terror cell preparing to launch mortar shells near elementary school in Gaza, fleeing site after launches. IDF says terror organizations 'aware of our sensitivity to these areas and they take advantage of that, this is as cynical as their use of the civilian population gets'


A cell of three terrorists launching mortar shells towards Israel from a Gaza schoolyard was captured carrying out the attack by Israeli intelligence on Monday.

After the attacks are carried out the cell quickly flees the launch site, a courtyard outside an elementary school in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. IDF forces, who identified the cell as it was carrying out the attacks, struck the terrorists after they had cleared the public buildings.

The tall structure in the video is the school and the red circle tracks the terrorists as they prepare to fire the mortars. Military officials said Israeli forces withheld fire, fearing civilians would be harmed.

A senior IDF officer told Ynet on Wednesday that Palestinian terror organizations continue to abuse the civilian population in Gaza by launching attacks against Israel from their midst.

"They don't think twice about firing Qassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians," said the officer.

"We're constantly faced with very difficult and complex dilemmas, how best to defend Israel's citizens and strike at these terror cells while at the same time avoid civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. The terror organizations are well aware of our sensitivity to these issues and they take full advantage of the situation, this is as cynical as their use of the civilian population gets," he said.

Kim said...

Wow Yishai,
I am always impressed that I get a comment from you within 24 hours or so of me posting a blog. Its really nice to know your so keenly reading my blog and I have at least one avid fan :)

Toda! Shukran! Thanks!

Yishai Kohen said...

La shukr ala wajib. ;-)

Rob said...

Me too, Kim