Normalcy in an abnormal world

Below I share a short article prompted by my recent (November 2022), relatively short trip, to Palestine/Israel. In this article I purposely resist too much comment, trusting that the incidents recorded speak for themselves.  What I do emphasise – you could say the clue is in the title – is the events set out below are unexceptional, barely worth remark according to the distorted worldview of the Israeli state and its thuggish underpinning, the settlers. 

In the same month Israel demolished 120 Palestinian structures. ‘Structures’ include entire homes and local infrastructure.  Forty-six adults and 47 children, a total of 93 people, were displaced by the demolitions. One hundred and ninety adults and one hundred and eighty-two children, a total of 385 were affected by these demolitions.

A perverse normality

In a cruel echo of my time in Hebron three years ago, I was this November (2022) again at a local Hebron hospital with Human Rights Defenders. They were taking a statement from an eleven-year-old lad who had been attacked by Settlers for riding his bike outside his Palestinian restricted area. A car full of Settlers stopped, and attacked him.  In fleeing, he fell into a ditch with resultant injuries to his face.

In 2019, I had also been with a Human Rights Defender at a Hebron hospital, at that time taking a statement from a sixteen-year-old Palestinian lad who had been attacked. 

Nothing unusual going on here. Just the quotidian, regular, perversities of a militarised, racist, state.

Same day. November 2022. Another echo

K…… (name withheld) is at the Human Rights Defenders’ Hebron office reporting Settler attacks on a Palestinian in the vicinity of his house.  K’s house is in Tel Rumeidah, Hebron, where there is a Settler enclave. One of its residents is the notorious Baruch Marzel, leader of a movement that produces and glorifies Arab-killers. (For those with a sense of irony, ‘Baruch’ is Hebrew for ‘Blessing’.)

K’s house abuts a road on a hill such that the roof of his house is parallel, and at the same level with, a section of the road. In other words, it is easy for Settlers to step on to the roof from the road, thus making the house and its surrounding yard vulnerable to attack. It is regularly attacked.  

The incident being reported this day (November 2022) included: a Palestinian injured by Settlers was not allowed by the army to take the direct route to hospital because settlers were blocking the way; a Palestinian ambulance was not allowed into the area because it was out-of-bounds to them. Eventually, people took him to hospital via a tortuous, long route that avoided the military barriers.

Why echo? 

Three years ago, I was at K’s house, again with a Human Rights Defender, who was taking a statement about Settler attacks on him and his house. In fact, K… regularly comes under attack (a) because he is a Palestinian (b) because of where his house is (c) because he is an activist, opposing Israel’s occupation.

Nothing unusual is going on here. This is daily fare. Unrelenting, repetitive, always causing injury – to Palestinians.  Frequently, and increasingly, lethal. More than 200 Palestinians, including more than 50 children have been killed this year. Twenty-seven Israelis were killed in 2022

Another incident

‘Look the Occupation in the Eye’, a small organisation that aims to do what its title suggests: to get Jewish Israelis to take responsibility for the Occupation, and the evil deeds it necessarily spawns. The protesters are nothing if not committed and tenacious. On this particular day, a day of persistent and heavy rain, they were standing at a road junction by a Settlement with their banners and shouted slogans. 

Coincidentally, police had stopped a car with some young Palestinians in it, about five of them.  The police had them get out of the car, this to facilitate a search.  The young Palestinians were required to squat on the soaking wet pavement, in the pouring rain, and this for some time. The ‘Look the Occupation in the Eye’ demonstrators did what they could to challenge the police, but to no avail. In the end the driver was taken away. When asked why he was taken the claim was a ‘weapon’ had been found, by which was meant, or so it was said, a knuckle-duster.

The relative efficacy of a knuckle-duster against, say, Israelis police guns requires no sophisticated understanding of ordnance. It’s difficult to think that they inhabit the same category: weapon.

The young Palestinians, meantime, were still squatting on the wet pavement in the pouring rain. Once the driver had been taken away, the young men were able to go to the car to wait of a friend who had a driving licence (none of the passengers did).

In UK terms, we would say that the ‘stop and search’ by the police suggests it was a consequence of racial profiling. They were stopped because they were Palestinians. What followed – being made to squat on a wet pavement in the pouring rain – was simply the meting out of a dose of standard-issue humiliation.

Daily humiliations

The meting out of humiliations is one of the tracks Israeli Apartheid runs on. It is highly functional, fulfilling the dual role of ‘othering’ Palestinians in the eyes of Israelis, whilst at the same time confirming to Israelis their inherent sense of superiority.  

These humiliations reach into virtually every aspect of Palestinian life: the military checkpoint Palestinian children must go through to get to school; to the roads and areas prohibited to Palestinians, no matter that the thoroughfares and places – for example, in Hebron – are within Palestinian towns; to Checkpoint 300, the caged interface between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem that Palestinians working in Israel have to cross via barriers and a glass-fronted soldiers’ booth where a barely-out-of-nappies, armed Israeli soldier watches with an air of disdain as the mass of workers, now conceived as supplicants, shuffle their way through – unless, of course, one is turned back.

So it is, and so it will continue, but only more so with the election of a government comprising avowedly racist and homophobic ministers, committed to annexing large swathes of the West Bank. 

Matters will now get worse. Palestinians I spoke to acknowledged this with a sort of weary resignation.

But something else is also going on. There was a palpable sense that notwithstanding how far into the darkness Israel is prepared to go, Palestinian resistance will outpace it, though the cost will be high. 

We in the West have a crucial role to play, and that is to affect the policies of our governments which at the moment support Israel in its criminal misdeeds. More on this in subsequent articles.

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