Imagine that every day, when you go to work, you have to stop for one, two or three hours at checkpoints in order to be inspected by Israeli soldiers. If you are a Palestinian, then you are a potential threat to Israel security. You may stab them if they drop their guard for a moment, and thus they treat you aggressively. They push you against the wall, hit you with the gun, insult you, and order you to undress your clothes, which means in most cases being late to your work.
Imagine that your six-month-old son suddenly has breathing troubles and needs to be immediately transferred to a hospital. You rush from your town in the West Bank to the Palestinian hospital in the West Bank where you first have to cross Atara checkpoint. At the checkpoint, the Israeli soldier asks for your ID. You beg him to hurry up, explaining that your son needs urgent medical care. After an hour of deliberate delay, the soldier allows you access. Then you discover it’s too late: your baby has died.
Imagine that in the middle of the night, heavily armed soldiers raid your home, get everybody outside, take a photo of the family, and start going around the house, destroying things. They claim they’re searching for weapons when in fact their job is also to draft maps of each house, charting the rooms, the doors, and the windows, so if at some point there was a terror attack from that specific house, the army would be ready.
Imagine that you get up from your sleep to the sound of military Jeeps surrounding your home. Soldiers storm into your home, looking for you or your little brother, or sister, or even your son for crimes of throwing stones, or participating in demonstrations, or writing an “incitement” Facebook post, or publishing a poem that praises martyrs and condemns Israeli occupation, or working as a journalist who continuously exposes Israeli crimes. They seize you at gunpoint, blindfold you, zip-tie your hands behind your back, put you in the Jeep, and then take you to a military detention centre where you might spend days or months or years under administrative detention with no charge or trial.
Imagine that one day, Israeli troops come to your home, forcing you to leave it within hours, claiming that your home is illegal because you don’t have a building permit – these are rarely given to Palestinians. So you have no choice but to collect most of your clothes and property and leave the home just as the bulldozers are squatting to demolish it in order to build a settlement in its place. And then you find yourself homeless.
Imagine that you live in a crowded strip of population of 1.8 million people. You feel the occupation in every detail of your life. The buzz of the drones in the sky makes you feel continually under surveillance and prevents you from sleeping. The sounds of shootings, which you are obliged to live with almost every day, as Israeli boats attack fishermen who are only allowed to fish four miles from the coastline. The Israeli military tanks that often enter Palestinian agricultural lands near the borders, and the Israeli military tower that monitors Palestinians and fires at them whenever it feels necessary.
Imagine that every time you want to travel abroad for education, business or even medical treatment, you are required to obtain a permit from Israel that has total control over the Erez crossing: the only border open for Palestinians after Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007. And here luck plays its game with you. You have to wait and wait and wait until Israeli officers decide to have a look at your application. No one knows how long it will take for a decision to be made regarding your application. It is only up to Israel. What matters the most is the security of Israel, and no one knows the policies Israel follows, when accepting or denying Palestinians access through the Erez crossing.
These such scenes and many others become everyday “normality” to Palestinians, but unfortunately the news coverage focuses only on the individual attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israelis without addressing the political context that provokes such attacks.
One is led to believe that Palestinians murder Israelis for no reason except hate, but these attacks are not primarily ideological. They were motivated by frustration and carried out by youth—mainly teenagers—who “felt they had nothing to lose” when they are really throwing their whole lives away out of despair.
What is the meaning of a human life if it is deprived from freedom, dignity and basic rights?
When all this injustice happens, how does the Israeli occupation expect Palestinians to react? By submitting and not opposing the occupation?
It is humanity that pushes them to oppose occupation and sometimes act violently. If people are oppressed for decades, they eventually lose their fear. They hold onto the anger. They bear so much hate inside of them. And they are willing to put their lives and bodies on the line. If no one takes care of their rights, if international law and human rights which are supposed to provide them protection, failed to do so, resistance becomes inevitable.
And how does Israel response to these individual acts? By imposing more restrictions and practicing excessive violence against Palestinians. By threatening to show no mercy towards “terrorist” children. By sentencing children as young as 12 to up to 20 years in prison for allegedly stabbing or attempting to stab Israeli soldiers or settlers or even for throwing stones.
By shooting children even if they no longer pose a valid security threat, killing them or leaving them bleeding and injured. By slapping, beating, kicking, insulting and violently pushing Palestinians during arrests and interrogation. By using sexual threats, including threats of rape as a way of inflicting fear upon children and coercing them into giving confessions.
Such violations of human rights rarely make headlines, but Palestinians are well aware of them. And what the news calls “relative calm” within Gaza, it only means that Palestinians are not responding to Israeli aggressions. It is surprising how the media blames Hamas for violating ceasefire agreements by firing rockets at Israel with no mention to the Israeli daily attacks against farmers and fishermen.
Palestinians should not be expected to tolerate all these years of military occupation, systematic attacks, repeated massacres, arbitrary arrests and total control of every detail of their lives.
So as long as the occupation drags on, we can expect more attacks and grief. As long as this oppressive colonial system stands, and the United States continues to support it with billions of dollars in military aid, despair will spread and with it suffering.
And there will be no peace at all, for “No one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X.