''You don't win friends with Settlers...', to paraphrase the great Homer.
The Settler movement in the occupied Palestine territory of the West Bank is so much more disturbing than war itself. For it seeks to torment and break down, gradually and psychologically, to subjugate and humiliate, to reinforce to Palestinians their hopelessness and human inferiority. But Palestinians rise above in these harshest of circumstances. The Palestinian prisoners of Israel are so brave and large and inspire a cosmic kind of hope.
Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, is home to around 215,000 Palestinians, around 500 Zionist Settlers and 4,000 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. It is technically divided into H1 (under Palestinian Authority administration) and H2 (administered by 1948), but essentially all is controlled by 1948.
1948 is the name used by many Palestinians to refer to the occupied Palestine territory known as Israel. It is a kind of passive resistance of language to this morally illegitimate State.
Settlers homes surround and tower over Palestinians in Hebron, literally. Palestinian daily life is constantly overshadowed by Zionist Settlers who live directly above their shops and homes as well as by IDF soldiers who are stationed in 'security' posts dispersed throughout. Palestinians are separated by razor wire (to isolate them) and fencing mesh installed by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (an internationally funded NGO charged with preserving Hebron's cultural heritage) to prevent rocks and rubbish being thrown down on Palestinian people (the sewage water still gets through however). The misdirected hatred, which emanates from 1948, is inordinate and palpable; it abounds and it astounds.
Of course there is reciprocal hatred, which is surely justified. But mostly there is sadness. The perplexing and very unsettling thing, however, about Zionist hatred towards Palestinians is that it was the Zionists who created the catastrophe of Palestinian oppression, and now they hate them for it?!
I am told stories of Palestinians being offered ridiculous amounts of money for their homes and businesses, in the millions, by Zionists, so Palestinians will leave. Most resist and remain. Some are then harassed and become the victims of violence and even death because of their peaceful resistance. It is mafia tactics 101. This peaceful form of resistance is characteristic of Palestinians everywhere. I am in awe and admiration of their selflessness and self-sacrifice for something greater than themselves and their own personal and material gain. They are fighting for their lives with their lives. And for this their spirits truly shine.
The conditions for Palestinians here are inhumane and degrading and impossibly unjust. Impossibly, because one cannot comprehend the injustice unless experienced directly. I even contemplated not writing this post or sharing these photos because they can never do justice, and perhaps even trivialise, the situation here. No, words and images cannot capture what goes on here, it can only be imagined.
But still, they live in hope, with a depth of spirit that is powerful and quite special. I wonder how the collective spirits of Settlers and 1948 will fare in time? If their current demeanours are anything to go by, they are bearing the consequence of their actions right now. I don't think they're aware of it though. I feel sorry for them in a way, for they poison themselves with their hate and mistreatment of others. But mostly, I wish for justice, and that they’re brought to justice in a monumental way.
1948 torment of Palestinians is myriad and relentless. Many Palestinian homes and businesses in H1 have been closed down and their doors welded shut for…'security purposes'. If settlers wish to visit a grave site in H1 or if they’re celebrating a Jewish holiday many Palestinians lives are halted and all are disregarded, for 'security purposes' (this is a euphemistic rationale for any humiliation and wanton control the Settlers or 1948 wish to mete out). Streets are closed, shops are forced to shut and their world disrupted until the settlers and the IDF leave. If Palestinians protest the disruption they are answered with violence.
Settlers roam the streets with machine guns or pistols. They drive at Palestinians on the roads like they aren't there. Soldiers forcibly enter Palestinian homes on a regular basis to...and I can't believe I am just casually dropping this in...’occupy’ a level of their home to sleep in whenever they wish. What?!
Children (and adults alike) are harassed and beaten and murdered by Zionist Settlers all the time, and the Zionists are then protected by the IDF. In fact the IDF do not even have jurisdiction over settlers. Settlers are answerable only to 1948 civic law, and as I understand it, is technically un-enforceable in the West Bank. It's like the Catch-22 absurdity, but without the ironic humour. While Palestinians are subject to the holy and psychotic wrath of Settlers as well as the arbitrary and depraved whims of IDF soldiers, whose mean age is around 20 years of age, by the way.
Still, Palestinians, on the whole, laugh and smile and give of themselves with amazing magnanimity. There is a tradition in Arab culture that when a traveller finds their way to your home, they are invited in, fed and cared for for three days before being asked who they are and why they are there. No doubt an out-dated practice of Bedouin life I presume, but something that is ingrained in the fabric of culture and life here. I was invited into people's homes and many people's lives in the short time I was there and all over Palestine. Palestinian people are far greater than the occupation, and will outlive it I think. For, their deep belief in eventual justice nourishes them; their resistance sustains them; their hearts grow larger in spite of, or maybe because of, their suffering; and their smiles haven’t been beaten out of them.
1948 may have the land right now, but Palestinians have the spirit.