Terror and Hypocrisy

children of 'Ain Qenya

An irate PULSE reader, a Zionist immigrant to Israel from Britain, has written to ask why I haven’t condemned the murder of a family living in the illegal colony of Itamar near Nablus. The reader, by the by, describes himself as a ‘lefty.’ It’s always interesting to see how political terminology entirely loses its meaning when employed by Zionists. Choosing to migrate from a safe, free country to join the side of the masters in an aggressive ethnocracy is not what would normally be called ‘lefty’ behaviour. Here’s another example – a “left-leaning youth movement” is establishing a new settlement in the illegally occupied and ethnically-cleansed Jordan valley. Hooray for the Zionist left.

As it happens, I think the attack on the Itamar family was repulsive. I have no idea how anyone could stab young children to death, even the children of racists and thieves. These murders were immoral and politically counter-productive. They gave Israel an excuse to whine about the bloodthirstiness of the natives and a pretext for building hundreds more homes in the West Bank (although Israel does these things without pretexts too).

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Yom Kippur

Summer Mist in Nablus

“Have you visited Afghanistan? Pakistan? Yemen? Do you have a weapon? Do you have a credit card? Give us your email address. Do you know anyone in Israel? Do you know anyone in Jordan? What is your novel about? What did you do yesterday?”

It only took an hour and a half to get through the border. They were closing early because it was Yom Kippur, yowm al-ghafran in Arabic, the Day of Atonement.

The driver who met me said he couldn’t go to Nablus, not now, it was getting too late, because the car had Israeli plates and settlers were throwing stones, he could take me to Ramallah instead, although it was further.

“Won’t we be alright with Israeli plates?”

“We need Palestinian plates. They’re throwing stones at Israeli cars because they don’t want Jews driving on the holiday.”

So we went to Ramallah, south through the West Bank. We drove down the confiscated Jordan valley. A couple of memorials to settlers shot here during the Second Intifada were set up at the roadside. To our east, closed military zones and then the hills of Jordan rising. To the west, ochre desert mountains and hardly any habitation.

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An Apartheid Distinction

I was at the border, a British national with an Arab name on my way into Palestine-Israel. The Jordanians were suspicious but not at all intimidating. It felt more like an unexpected cup of tea with an avuncular officer (which it was) than an interrogation. I learnt about Abu Tariq’s children and he learned about my reasons for crossing, my travels, and my career. He noted everything down before shaking my hand.

The bus through no-man’s land was full of Palestinian-Israelis, descendants of the remnant not driven out in 1948 – those the Israelis call ‘Arab-Israelis’, as if they were recent immigrants from Kuwait or Algeria. The sun bubbled the box of our bus. It was airless and sweaty inside.

Israeli border control is staffed by teenaged girls in low-slung military trousers backed up by men with sunglasses and enormous guns. The girls clocked my (Arabic) name, and my bags were searched. Then I was closely questioned. Then I had to wait. Fortunately it was Yom Kippur: they let me through an hour later when they closed up early.

Then by car through the the ethnically-cleansed city of Beesan (signposted in Arabic script with the Hebrew name – Beit She’an), and into the West Bank. The roadsigns here are very democratically scripted in Hebrew, English and Arabic, except for those in Hebrew only. But Palestinian towns and villages are never posted. A visitor travelling a Jews-only road wouldn’t realise that such places exist. Jerusalem is written in Arabic as “Urushaleem,” and then between brackets “al-Quds”, which is the actual, ancient and contemporary Arab name. In such ways the attempt is made to occupy the land’s abstract Arab qualities, to control history and memory, the past as well as the present and future.

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Two Schools in Nablus

“Most of the students from age fourteen have had a prison experience.” A great short film from 2008 on secondary schools in Nablus. Parts 2 to 4 over the fold. I challenge anybody to watch the girls’ terror in part three and remain unaffected. We must redouble our efforts to strengthen the Palestinians and to weaken their enemies.

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The Martyrdom of Shaden al-Saleh

This video (over the fold) concerns Israel’s 2002 murder of a Palestinian teacher,cultural activist and neighbourhood organiser, Shaden al-Saleh. Shaden was the mother of Saed Abu Hijleh, who witnessed the murder and gives his own account here. Saed teaches political geography at Nablus’s an-Najah University, writes poetry, blogs, organises, and provides me with wonderful food and information, for which I’m very grateful. He’s a well-educated member of the Nablus middle classes. He’s also been shot in the belly and in the shoulder and has been imprisoned five times. But his suffering is not unusual. Everybody in Nablus has a story to tell. I’ve just returned from the prison, and over the next couple of weeks I aim to convey a few of the stories I heard. An example of Saed’s English-language poetry is over the fold.

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