Last Friday, while standing on the weekly vigil of Women in Black, I noticed a young man get out of the car and stand near us for a while, then chat with Ruth Elraz, one of the veterans of the movement. A few minutes later, Ruth came over to me and asked me quietly if I wouldn’t mind having my living room ransacked. I looked at her, and she handed me a paper that he had given her. This is what it said:
“Dear people of peace, My name is Ron ____ [withheld], and I am a fourth year student in the Department of Visual Communication at Bezalel. As part of my final project, I am looking at the issue of the occupation, and using the living rooms of Israeli citizens as a central motif. I turn the living room into an arena where I demonstrate what takes place during a typical search by the Israeli army - I overturn the bookcases and shelves, dump everything onto the floor, overturn all the furniture, and create disorder. I also tie up the residents of the home in the usual army way, all for purposes of the filming (which takes about an hour).”
I looked across at Ron, handsome and hip looking in jeans, a tight black t-shirt, and shaved skull, but looking shy and embarrassed about this odd request. I continued reading:
“The final projects in Bezalel will be seen by the public at large and covered in all the media. I see this as a way to demonstrate the injustice of the occupation. For the peace movement, this is a golden opportunity to present our views, views that are considered anti-patriotic during these militant times, and do not get into the media… “Respectfully, with blessings for peace now, Ron”
More shocking than Ron’s idea is the shocking reality in which it is rooted - this kind of search and destroy mission is carried out on a daily basis in many homes throughout the occupied territories. Ron will not (I imagine) demonstrate the beatings that accompany the visits, when someone has the courage to protest them, nor the occasional tear gas. These events are not recorded, except in the collective memory of the victims and in human rights publications; no one hears of them who relies on the Israeli or international media for information.
The Israeli army now enters at will every major city, every tiny village, in the occupied territories, ransacking homes and terrorizing families. It can do this because it has tanks and troops surrounding each of the 8 enclaves into which it has split up the West Bank. This system keeps the population of each area under siege, and prevents the free passage of Palestinians from one area to another. This, as you can imagine, destroys all semblance of normal life - preventing access to medical attention, schools, jobs, and loved ones, unless these happen to be inside your home area. Some Palestinians can obtain permits to move back and forth, but these must be arranged in advance and are short-term. They do not allow for either routine movement or emergency needs. [See ]http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/index.asp]
It may be startling to hear, if all you do is rely on Israeli media or government sources, but did you know that 91 Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the last 40 days alone? Yes, some of these died in combat with Israeli soldiers, but how about the 18 children under the age of 10, or the 5 who died at military ‘checkpoints’ trying to get access to medical attention? or the 55 year-old man who was just trying to stop the soldiers from ransacking his home?
For me as an Israeli, both are awful - the ongoing terrorization of a civilian population and the dehumanization of us as a people by authorizing this behavior in our name…and then averting our eyes from the awful scenes.
I came home from the vigil yesterday and proposed to my family that we participate. “Anyway we’ll soon be starting the expansion,” (our flat is now a tiny 45 sq.m.), “so everything will be disrupted anyway.” Nobody said ‘no’, but that evening I looked around the living room and saw the books, the photos, the fruit bowl from my daughter, the bird sculpture from my parents, now dead. As careful as Ron would be, these felt like too much to risk.
The Palestinians don’t have the choice. Write to me if you live in Israel and feel you can participate, and I’ll send you Ron’s phone number. And read the story below by Starhawk, an American peace activist who was in the Balata refugee camp and witnessed a fairly benign search mission in a home. And then, pick up the phone and tell your representative in the Knesset, Congress, or Parliament that you’re sick and tired of your government averting its eyes from what the Israeli army is doing in the territories. Because it’s bad for Palestine, and terrible for Israel, too.
Shalom / Salaam from Jerusalem, Gila Svirsky
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