One would think that a Palestinian safely living in the US would not feel the torment of a siege taking place 7000 miles away. But the simple truth is that every Palestinian shares in the misery of Occupation. One barely needs to close one’s eyes before the senses are filled with the sights, sounds and feelings of Israeli Occupation.
How can this be? To be a Palestinian means that one shares in a collective experience that is overwhelmingly shaped by Occupation. The last time I visited my father’s village, I had graduated college. The year was 1978 and I traveled to Jordan to visit my aunt before crossing the Allenby Bridge into the Occupied territories. I remember crossing the bridge by bus and meeting a University of Virginia graduate, Ahmed. He was going to the West Bank to see his father who had taken ill.
Once we crossed the bridge, the humiliation began. I was asked where in Israel I planned to go. I innocently said I had no plans to go to Israel at all. I had only planned to go to Ramallah, Beitunia, and of course the old city of Jerusalem. These areas were not Israel in any part of my mind. But the mind of the Occupier pays little attention to such sensibilities. They “let” me in, after a strip search and X-raying my shoes. Ahmed was not so lucky. He was denied entry and I never found out what happened to him.
That was almost twenty-three years ago and I yearn to visit today more than ever. But the agony of Occupation is ever present, casting its ever ominous shadow. Keeping family members from each other, this is just one of the torments of Occupation.
One does not need to look far for the torment. It exists with every Israeli shelling of our villages with Apache helicopters. It exists when Israel imposes collective punishment over an entire town. It exists when Israeli Occupation forces block all medical supplies from entering a town, crippling efforts to mend the broken bones of children and adults alike. This is the torment of Occupation.
There are so many episodes of humiliation, it is hard to choose which to recount. There is the Israeli soldier who forced a young Palestinian to lie on the ground and placing his boot on the neck of the boy proclaimed, “…your parents and your grandparents were servants to us in this land of Israel and you will continue to be our servants!” The degradation is built into the very nature of Occupation
Certainly there are atrocities on both sides, but the injustice is built into the fabric of Occupation. Palestinian violence aimed to rid itself from Occupation is episodic and a reaction to the daily violence experienced by the population as a whole. There is no moral or physical equivalency between the violence inflicted on the other. The humiliation and violence of Israeli Occupation forces is an existential component required to maintain the status quo. This is the torment of Occupation.
Apologists for Israeli Occupation have but one goal; to “prove” that all of the violence is squarely the responsibility of those wishing to be free. It is a spectacular Orwellian achievement that a recent opinion poll of US residents showed that 18.1% of Americans believe that Palestinians are to blame for the violence. To be the victim of Occupation and then be blamed for the human impulse of yearning for freedom, this is the torment of Occupation.
Thanks to the Internet and satellite television, Israel’s hegemony over the portrayal of Occupation is crumbling. They cannot count on influencing a few network television news outlets to control public perceptions. Below are some of the facts of the torment that can no longer be suppressed. The information below is from the Health, Development, Information, and Policy Institute (HDIP). These reports can be found at http://www.hdip.org and they cite all relevant sources.
– As of 2/13/01, number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of the new Intifada: 368
– Number of Palestinians killed under the age of fifteen: 56 [15.2%]
– Number of Palestinians killed over the age of fifty: 20 [5.4%]
– Number of Palestinians murdered by Israeli security forces AFTER being captured, or simply shot at close range without any provocation whatsoever: 32 [8.7%]
– Number of Palestinians murdered by Israeli settlers: 22 [5.9%]
– Number of Palestinians who died because they were not allowed to get medical treatment: 8 [2.1%]
– Percent of Palestinians killed who were NOT involved in demonstrations or clashes: 44%
– Number of Israelis killed in this Uprising: 35
– Number of journalists either shot at or beaten up by Israeli soldiers or settlers: 44
– Percent of Palestinian Red Crescent (like the Red Cross) ambulances hit by live ammunition: 68%
– Number of cases in which Palestinian ambulances were not allowed to go through a road block: 109
This is the torment of Israeli Occupation.