September 5, 2023
Imagine that your family has lived in the same neighborhood for years. It is located alongside the homes of some of your relatives and surrounded by those of other close acquaintances. Your family’s business is also located close by. Even if you, your family, and your neighbors struggle to get by economically, this is your home. This is the life you know and love and the life you hope to be passing on to your children.
Then the neighborhood changes. New folks move in close by and begin to threaten the happiness and safety of your friends and family. It even becomes difficult to keep your family’s modest business open because these new neighbors harass and threaten you.
So, what would you do?
If this was taking place where I live, I’d be asking the police for help, calling up my elected officials demanding they take action. I’d be organizing with my neighbors to combine our political resources and utilize our power
But that only works if you are a citizen and have access to a legal system that will work for you.
For Palestinians living in under Israeli rule, this is not the case. This is not the reality even when they are living on the land that was envisioned as their state by those who negotiated the Oslo Accords and by those who still fantasize that a “two-state solution” is possible in Israel/Palestine.
In villages across the occupied territories, daily life has become unbearable as Israeli settlers work to push them off their lands and out of their homes so that Jewish hegemony can be enforced and the future of a Palestinian state blotted out.
Avishay Mohar, a self-described Israeli activist, recently described how the Settlers have been increasingly brazen using an aggressive strategy of “herding sheep into others’ fields, preventing access to water, blocking roads, killing animals and breaking into homes in the middle of the night…” of Israeli Jewish settlers as they work to drive Palestinian farmers from their lands homes in order to seize control of land that is not theirs.
Mohar saw that this is “the day-to-day reality of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, along the hilly ridges and in the South Hebron Hills.” It is resulting in a slow but steady “takeover of their land and resources. On the ground, it becomes apparent that the seizure of land by residents of settlements and illegal outposts, and the depopulation of the villages as a result, is being carried out by means of a recurring and extremely effective method, with the backing of the security forces. And it’s happening under the public’s radar….In addition to the constant fear of these threatening and sometimes violent neighbors, the combination of ruined crops, reduced grazing areas and lack of access to sources of water has precipitated an economic crisis among these Palestinian communities. The shepherds are being compelled for the first time to sell off many of their animals in order to pay for water and feed for the remaining ones.”
In a nation that sees itself as the quintessential democracy clearly calling upon the police for protection and on the courts for justice should be possible. But it is not.
The reality is that Palestinians do not have equal rights. They do not have the protection of the national institutions that govern them.
In this troubled place if you are Palestinian that just will not work. “For example, on July 20 in Kafr Malik (north of Kochav Hashahar), an elderly farmer was harvesting his barley crop when a settler brought his herd into the same field. When the farmer tried to drive the flock off his field, the settler summoned reinforcements, in the form of some 15 youths armed with clubs, who attacked the man and other Palestinian farmers who arrived on the scene. They broke a finger of the elderly farmer, stabbed him with a key and stole his ID card and the keys to his house and car. Another elderly farmer had his arm broken in the melee. Soldiers who were at the site before the altercation started did not intervene, and the police, as usual, refused to send a vehicle and directed the farmers to submit a complaint.”
Oren Ziv, writing from another perspective of the impact of ongoing settler aggression. “Palestinians from several of the displaced communities described the same pattern to +972: Israeli settlers arrive with their herds and prevent them from grazing on land where Palestinians have grazed for decades; then armed settlers would proceed to harass them day and night, even entering houses, without the army or police intervening. Everyone described the same, overwhelming feelings of fear and distress under the shadow of these settler invasions…The Israeli authorities, along with the settlers, have played a central role in the displacement. For years, the occupation apparatus has banned the Palestinian communities from construction; demolished their homes; denied them connection to water and electricity; stopped them from paving roads; issued demolition orders for schools built with funds from the European Union; established and recognized Jewish settlements; and, of course, stood by during settler violence…The whole system is being mobilized for the settlers…his is not a 16-year-old boy deciding on his own what to do…People plan and think about where and what to build. There is legal support, money, experience, and motivation. And right now the political conditions are a dream. They’re exploiting this opportunity [while] at the height of their power. This would not be happening without the support of the most instrumental entities on the ground, such as the regional councils, Smotrich’s settlement administration, [and] the Civil Administration.“
The Settlers’ goal, Israel’s goal is to create facts on the ground that Palestinian land is not Palestinian, that all of the land is Jewish And Palestinians are of no consequence or concern.
So, what would you do if this was your reality? How would you respond? Leave your home, your fields, your neighbors, and look for another place to live? Give up your heritage?
And if you would not go meekly into the night, how would you protest? Would you be like Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Gandhi and be willing to risk the violence of your oppressors as you sit in and non-violently protest? Would you be like Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela who saw the need to arm themselves and fight back against their oppressors?
What would you do?