Saturday, July 31, 2010

what does the occupation do to Israelis?

In 1988, Israeli David Grossman wrote The Yellow Wind, an account of his travels through the occupied territories. In the chapter called Sumud, he talks with Palestinian Raj'a Shehade. The italics are mine.

Grossman: And what does the occupation do to us, the Israelis, in your opinion?

Shehade: I think about that a lot. First you must remember that it is not just an occupation. From a legal point of view it is an occupation, but it is actually much worse than an occupation: after all you do not work among us just to prevent violent attacks upon yourselves. You have taken other, exceptional steps, such as establishing settlements. Nor do the civil administration and military government work for the benefit of the local population, as they like to say they do. The military government itself is confused. The people there will tell you how much they have improved our lives. They won't tell you about the twelve hundred amendments and new laws they promulgated in the West Bank. Those are laws meant to make the current situation permanent, gradually but irrevocably....

What happened to you is what Professor Yeshayahu Liebowitz predicted immediately after the '67 war. He said then that it is impossible to be occupiers and remain moral. Even people with moral intentions are led into an immoral situation. The situation turns into a sort of monster with a life of its own, which can no longer be controlled. An unjust and immoral monster. You have two kinds of people in Israel...one kind simply disconnect themselves from what is going on. The second kind uses every means to achieve its goal. An honest sensitive man of conscience...should not do the work of the establishment. They want to cut the Arabs off from all the positive forces in Israel. Afterwards, you can't understand why the Arabs are so wild and violent. You see, you can't treat people in a certain way for years and not expect that they will react to it, right?

At the time that was written, the first intifada was about to begin. Since then the second intifada has taken place and Hamas has risen to prominence. In the last 22 years, the occupation has paved the way for a continuous land grab which the United States has done nothing to stop, even as "the right to defend itself" is endlessly repeated in reference to the country that is occupying and aggressively sending settlers to take land beyond its borders. The offense, the powerful, has a right to defense, yet those being pushed out - the powerless, have no right to defense! It's illogical nonsense, a smokescreen of semantics. A dependable acquiescence by the U.S. has allowed the monster that Shehade described, to thrive. It's time for Americans to stand up to the Israel lobby that has allowed it to happen.

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