Creating people's geographies
A vignette that speaks volumes (though Pierre Tristram attaches a worthwhile read to this poignant photograph, excerpted below):
There are no good cancer cells and bad cancer cells any more than there are good Palestinians or bad Palestinians, let alone good or bad Israelis. This is what they’ve created together, with generous help from their friends, the United States, drug-pusher like, chief among them. This is the consequence of intransigence and indifference. Hamas, for all its monstrosity, could not possibly exist without an environment made propitious for its existence. That environment, Israel, more than anyone, enabled, by turning Gaza, and to a lesser extent the West Bank, into a hermetic garbage dump with its own methane for oxygen. Hamas is the cholera that Israel’s fixation on demeaning Arabs to the level of parasites has made possible.
To say that they deserve each other (as even I have in the past) is too easy, too convenient, too dismissive of the truth at the heart of it all. No, it’s not what they deserve, because this is not what the girl deserves. It’s not what 1.5 million people living on a literal and littoral strip of land no bigger than the average small meaningless American county deserve, nor is it what the 6 million-odd Israelis living in their New jersey-like strip of land deserve, although let’s not be coy with relativizing everything: Israelis aren’t living anywhere near the dehumanized conditions they impose on Palestinians, nor is their battle anywhere near the “existential” one Palestinians have not only been fighting, but effectively losing…
The only hope is in the girl’s grief, the moment it’s understood and accepted as universal, and the moment the origins of her grief are accepted as universally reprehensible.
The well-oiled machine of push-and-grab has been running for decades without ever stopping. Indeed, it steadily gained momentum and has almost a life of its own now. The ears of Israelis have become so accustomed to its constant sound — the rattle-and-hum of demolition and uprooting to make room for new settlers — that they no longer hear it. They hear their occasional calls for peace. They hear when they are shot at. But they long ago stopped hearing the monotonous drilling of the colonizing machine, and they cannot imagine the quiet that will result from turning it off.
I have witnessed this unrelenting machine in action. With my friends in Ta’ayush and other peace groups we have built homes that it has tore down, only to see them demolished again, and again, and again, five times over. The bulldozers always come back. … The machine of displacement never tires. It continues its work in the occupied territories and in Israel proper, from Rafah to the Negev, from Hebron to Jerusalem, from Budrus to Bil’in, from Jenin to Sakhnin. It grabs an acre here and an acre there. Let me be clear: no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible so long as it continues its work. But dismantle it, and everything is possible.
“AYYAM ZAMAN” is Arabic for the “old days”—a time before occupation, checkpoints, dodging bullets from Israeli military snipers, seeking shelter from the steel rain of incoming hellfire missiles or from deafening sonic booms. It was a time when tanks did not prowl the streets or bulldozers crush homes and people to death. A time when fishermen fished freely off Gaza’s coast, farmers grew their crops, children attended school, lovers married, families grew and businesses prospered as they had for thousands of years. Ayyam Zaman describes an era where borders existed without a single checkpoint, razor fence or military unit in sight.
Did they jump or were they pushed? Was Hamas’s seizure of Fatah security offices in Gaza unprovoked, or a pre-emptive strike to forestall a coup by Fatah? After last week’s turmoil, it becomes increasingly important to uncover its origins.
The fundamental cause is, of course, well known. Israel, aided by the US, was not prepared to accept Hamas’s victory in last year’s Palestinian elections. Backed by a supine EU, the two governments decided to boycott their new Palestinian counterparts politically and punish Palestinian voters by blocking economic aid. Their policies had a dramatic effect, turning Gaza even more starkly into an open prison and creating human misery on a massive scale. The aim was to turn voters against Hamas – a strategy of stupidity as well as cynicism, since outside pressure usually produces resistance rather than surrender.
The policy shocked even moderate western officials like James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank chief, whom the Americans had appointed to help Gaza’s economy before the Hamas election victory. “The result was not to build more economic activity but to build more barriers,” he said this week while explaining why he resigned in disagreement with US and Israeli strategy.