Palestine diaries: the psychology of occupation
Emotions often come in short sharp stabs here. Horror, disgust, anger.
Meeting the woman who was beaten up by settlers whilst she was pregnant, causing her to lose the baby. Not once, but twice this happened.
Or hearing the story of a man who died a few weeks ago at a checkpoint, because he was detained after having a heart attack, even though his friend was pleading with the soldier to allow them through to get to the hospital.
Or seeing the wire netting above the market place, which Palestinians put up to prevent the rubbish and faeces thrown down by settlers living above from desecrating their market stalls.
I have never witnessed one community dehumanise another so blatantly as here in Hebron. Zionist settlers do not see Palestinians, only an Arab plague, polluting their holy land.
Amidst the dismay and distress, I sometimes feel amazed. Amazed at the easy cohabitation of the ugly and the beautiful; enduring so long it almost seems comfortable.
In the market (below the rubbish-covered netting) there is a stall of a woman’s cooperative that makes stunning embroidered purses and scarves, jewellery and rugs. I cannot pass without coveting it all, and sitting down to a cup of sweet sage tea with the women.
In the main streets of Hebron* Palestinians are relentlessly smiling and laughing, ‘welcome, welcome’. I’ve been blown away by people’s hospitality, ‘it comes from the heart’ as a new friend tells me, as we’re huddled round the heater in his home, drinking Arabic coffee and eating cake, delicious, beautiful cake, as though there is nothing to worry about.
The phone rings, his nephew is detained at a check point. We troop out and try to reason with the soldiers. We fail.
The boy lives 50 metres up the road, is he not authorised to pass? The solider responds “not on the list”.
It’s not the injustice that bewilders me, but the total, absolute, complete distortion of the situation. We have a United Nations that has established the right of Palestinian refugees to return home following the ethnic cleansing of 1948; that has consistently ‘deplored’ Israel’s failure to abide by resolutions; and ‘reaffirmed’ the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Despite these proclamations Israel’s twisted picture of events, bearing no more resemblance to reality than a mixed-up dream, is largely accepted by the international community.
This is the first article in a series of diaries from Bright Green contributors living in occupied Palestine. Stay in touch by following Bright Green on Facebook or Twitter.
*Hebron is also known as al Khalil.