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By Besieging The Palestinians, Israel Has Besieged Itself

Palestinians are besieged by walls and hundreds of checkpoints. But Israelis are besieged by fictions (and myths that never stood for any relevant archaeology or supporting documents).

Another round of violence has engulfed Gaza. After a botched intelligence operation in which one Israeli officer was killed as well as seven Palestinian members of Hamas, Hamas responded to Israel’s incursion by firing rockets into Israel.

Israel immediately instrumentalized a story of defense.

The Israeli army reported that the operation which sparked this round of attacks was “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security.”

And a bus that Hamas targeted was not full of soldiers but of “civilians.” Some Israeli agencies even tweeted a photo from 2015 which, conveniently, had some civilians standing nearby.

For us Palestinians, this portrayal by Israel is all too familiar. Whether it is Hamas or Palestinian children, the threat is always imminent and it’s always the fault of Palestinians.

But it’s not just Palestinians who are the victims of this messaging.

What’s interesting about this siege mentality is that through the messaging necessary to maintain the literal besieging of Palestinians, Israel has barricaded itself, and convinced its population that they are under a constant, relentless, existential threat.

We are besieged by walls. But Israelis are besieged by fictions — about us.

It’s true that rockets are being fired by Hamas towards Ashkelon. And yet, the Israeli narrative immediately divorced this reality from both Israel’s own botched military operation earlier this week, and the larger historical context of the onslaughts on Gaza.

This is by design.

It takes a lot of work for Israel to constantly portray itself as the victim. The IDF has a $17 billion budget, after all. Military prowess is one of Israel’s major exports, hitting a record $9 billion last year. (Israel weapon military complex is the nemesis for constant pre-emptive wars on States bordering Palestine).

Yet this erasure of Israel’s military strength relative to the Palestinians is part and parcel of a larger systematic denial — of the fact that Palestinians are living under siege.

The city of Gaza has been under a decade long siege that has turned it to an open air prison. The West Bank is increasingly asphyxiated through the acceleration of illegal Israeli settlements. (Why? can any settlement by apartheid occupiers be legal? The UN has said Not legal on many occasions)

And even Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are criminalized by their Palestinian identity and treated as second and third class citizens.

As a Palestinian, I am all too familiar with the suffocating reality of living in Palestine.

One of the most striking and painful aspects of maneuvering the daily routines whilst under occupation is this feeling of being blocked and isolated.

I cannot travel half an hour in any direction without being met with an Israeli checkpoint and armed soldiers demanding identification, sometimes strip-searching Palestinians and in certain instances even lethally attacking us under the pretext of security defense.

It is also difficult to travel outside Palestine; Israel controls exit points and the issue of documentation and visas.

Then there’s the Wall of Shame, another example of Israel’s attempt to brand its aggression as defense. Objectively speaking, it is a wall that enforces an apartheid system between Israelis and Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side of the wall, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians — even those with Israeli citizenship — report to two separate legal systems, and are fundamentally unequal before the law.

This doesn’t stop the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs from calling it a “security fence.” In fact, the violence of the wall depends upon this fiction.

For the wall doesn’t just lock Palestinians in. It locks Israeli citizens out of the truth of what their government is doing.

It shields Israelis not just from Palestinians, but from the visuals of what the occupation looks like — even from the its very existence.

It’s a wall, but it’s also a mask.

The Israeli side of the apartheid wall is neatly tucked behind trees and colorful murals, serving as a cloak for Israel, a mental siege that ensures that Israelis as a population are Not confronted with the product of their oppression.

This curtain (of a wall) is strategically arranged to not only impede Palestinians, but to conceal from the Israeli populace what is happening to us Palestinians.

This is intentional and strategic, like the Big Red signs set up by the Israeli government which warn Israeli citizens against entering Palestinian areas, which pose a “danger to [their] lives.”

My friends and I, while driving through the West Bank, often laugh half-heatedly as we recognize how tragic these signs are. Not only do they dehumanize us and reduce us to monsters, but they contain no reference to the occupation.

But they are there for a reason: They reinforce Israel’s narrative that its (Jewish) citizens are besieged by monsters, and they hide the fact of the occupation from anyone who might question it.

These are one and the same thing. For the violence perpetrated against us depends upon a narrative that denies it.

It’s in this way that our literal besiegement pushes Israeli society into its own metaphoric blockade.

What the Israeli government is doing is filtering access to reality, in a similar fashion to the authoritarian regimes of our time, re-shaping its own actions to fit an image of defense, safeguarding, national stability and security.

And like those other regimes, Israel does not only enact violence and violations on the Palestinians whom it oppresses. It also creates an entire society that besieges itself in a state of denial, fortified by a kaleidoscope of excuses that range from dehumanizing the other to drawing on historical traumas to isolating themselves and removing any prospects of self-reflection.

It becomes so routinized and the horrors so well concealed that new generations begin to simply act, without questions or memories of the bloody past, except through the lens of victorious battles and honorable soldiers.

What new generations of Israelis are left with are the Israeli flags that surround their homes — while Palestinian flags are often banned and criminalized — and an inherited imperative to “protect.”

There is no context to what they’re protecting from, only the anxiety from the monsters behind the wall. And when Palestinians rise up or protest, for Israelis, it’s a personal attack on them, not the occupation they sustain.

For the West Bank and Gaza, the siege is acutely visible and tangible. It’s meant to remind us that we are under Israeli control.

But on the Israeli end, it’s more subtle; it’s designed to make Israelis forget.

It is this concealment and forgetfulness that is the point of departure for Israeli policy, from the apartheid wall to the latest Nation State bill.

And the simple fact is that it’s not just hurting us. This isolation transcends Palestinians. You can see it clearly when Israel bans the entry of solidarity activists, even when they’re Jewish. Or when Israeli policy is exported abroad to silence activists from speaking out against the human rights violations enacted by Israel. You see it in the targeting of activists by sites such as Canary Mission that finds activists promoting “hatred.” These methods are exporting the siege mentality.

This, too, is not shocking. Authoritarianism is on the rise; what Israel is exporting is in high demand.

Israelis must be brave enough to challenge themselves and truly think about what it is they are preserving and fighting for. Many Israelis have gone beyond these justifications, taking on the responsibility of choosing not to remain in denial. Others can also join this process of un-learning and truly confront the reality they’ve constructed. Even if the last Palestinian is gone, Israel will still have lost.

It is of utmost importance for Israelis to challenge their own besiegement, not even for the sake of Palestinians, but for the sake of their own humanity.

No, You Can’t Be A Feminist And A Zionist

Palestinian Women Are Harassed And Humiliated At Checkpoints. Here Are A Few Of Their Stories.

Mariam Barghouti is a writer based in Ramallah.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Read more: https://forward.com/opinion/414142/by-besieging-the-palestinians-israel-has-besieged-itself/

Why is the Israeli army suddenly concerned about Gaza?

For years, Gaza has been on the brink of collapse. Jonathan Cook looks at the troubling reasons behind a sudden uptick in interest by the Israeli military

More than 10 years ago Israel tightened its grip on Gaza, enforcing a blockade on goods coming in and out of the tiny coastal enclave that left much of the two million-strong population there unemployed, impoverished and hopeless.

Since then, Israel has launched three separate major military assaults that have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, killed many thousands and left tens of thousands more homeless and traumatised.

Jonathan Cook. January 21, 2018

Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, an extremely overcrowded one, with only a few hours of electricity a day and its ground water polluted by seawater and sewage.

Last week Israeli military officials for the first time echoed what human rights groups and the United Nations have been saying for some time: that Gaza’s economy and infrastructure stand on the brink of collapse.

After a decade of this horrifying experiment in human endurance, the Israeli army finally appears to be concerned about whether Gaza can continue coping much longer.

In recent days it has begun handing out forms, with more than a dozen questions, to the small number of Palestinians allowed briefly out of Gaza – mainly business people trading with Israel, those needing emergency medical treatment and family members accompanying them.

A Palestinian with blood on his hands reacts as a wounded demonstrator is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops, near the border with Israel in the east Gaza Strip on January 19. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

One question asks bluntly whether they are happy, another whom they blame for their economic troubles. A statistician might wonder whether the answers can be trusted, given that the sample group is so heavily dependent on Israel’s good will for their physical and financial survival.

But the survey does at least suggest that Israel’s top brass may be open to new thinking, after decades of treating Palestinians only as target practice, lab rats or sheep to be herded into cities, freeing up land for Jewish settlers. Has the army finally understood that Palestinians are human beings too, with limits to the suffering they can soak up?

According to the local media, the army is in part responding to practical concerns. It is reportedly worried that, if epidemics break out, the diseases will quickly spread into Israel.

And if Gaza’s economy collapses too, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could be banging on Israel’s door – or rather storming its hi-tech incarceration fence – to be allowed in. The army has no realistic contingency plans for either scenario.

Nonetheless, neither Israeli politicians nor Washington appear to be taking evasive action. In fact, things look set to get worse.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week there could be no improvements, no reconstruction in Gaza until Hamas agrees to give up its weapons – the only thing, in Hamas’s view, that serves as a deterrent against future Israeli attack.

Figures show Israel’s policy towards Gaza has been actually growing harsher.

In 2017, exit permits issued by Israel dwindled to a third of the number two years earlier – and a hundredfold fewer than in early 2000. A few hundred Palestinian business people receive visas, stifling any chance of economic revival.

The number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza has been cut in half – not because Israel is putting the inmates on a “diet”, as it once did, but because the enclave’s Palestinians lack “purchasing power”. That is, they are too poor to buy Israeli goods.

Mr Netanyahu has resolutely ignored a plan by his transport minister to build an artificial island off Gaza to accommodate a sea port under Israeli or international supervision. And no one is considering allowing the Palestinians to exploit Gaza’s natural gas fields, just off the coast.

In fact, the only thing holding Gaza together is the international aid it receives. And that is now in jeopardy too.

The Trump administration announced last week it is to slash by half the aid it sends to Palestinian refugees via the UN agency UNRWA. Mr Trump has proposed further cuts to punish Mahmoud Abbas, the increasingly exasperated Palestinian leader, for refusing to pretend any longer that the US is an honest broker capable of overseeing peace talks.

The White House’s difficulties will only be underscored on Sunday evening, when Mike Pence, the US vice-president, arrives in Israel as part of Mr Trump’s supposed push for peace.

Palestinians in Gaza will feel the loss of aid severely. A majority live in miserable refugee camps set up after their families were expelled in 1948 from homes in what is now Israel. They depend on the UN for food handouts, health and education.

Backed by the PLO’s legislative body, the central council, Mr Abbas has begun retaliating – at least rhetorically. He desperately needs to shore up the credibility of his diplomatic strategy in pursuit of a two-state solution after Mr Trump recently hived off Palestine’s future capital, Jerusalem, to Israel.

Mr Abbas threatened, if not very credibly, to end a security coordination with Israel he once termed “sacred” and declared as finished the Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority he now heads.

The lack of visible concern in Israel and Washington suggests neither believes he will make good on those threats.

But it is not Mr Abbas’s posturing that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Trump need worry about. They should be listening to Israel’s generals, who understand that there is no defence against the fallout from the catastrophe looming in Gaza.

Hussein Ibish The Trump administration has made a grim situation worse for Palestinians

Zahra Lari Arab sportswomen like me are the role models for the next generation

 


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