The Mirror Does not Lie
By Amira Hass
Jewish writer says to fellow Jews - "Take a good look at yourselves and see how racist you have become."
Ha'aretz - 11/1:  How perfectly natural that 40,000 persons should be subject to a total curfew for more than a month in the Old City of Hebron in order to protect the lives and well-being of 500 Jews. How perfectly natural that almost no Israeli mentions this fact or, for that matter, even knows about it. How perfectly natural that 34 schools attended by thousands of Palestinian children should be closed down for more than a month and their pupils imprisoned and suffocating day and night in their crowded homes, while the children of their neighbors - their Jewish neighbors, that is - are free to frolic as usual in the street among and with the Israeli soldiers stationed there.

How perfectly natural that a Palestinian mother must beg and plead so that an Israeli soldier will allow her to sneak through the alleyways of the open-stall marketplace and obtain medication for her asthmatic children, or bread for her family. (Sometimes Israeli soldiers do have the guts to disobey orders, although, generally speaking, when encountering such situations, they order the woman to return to her home.)

How perfectly understandable that the Israel Defense Forces is seizing control of an ever-increasing number of rooftops atop the homes of Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron and that Israeli soldiers positioned on those rooftops from time to time open fire on other Palestinians, while, down below, at street level, the Jewish settlers are free to show over and over again - at the expense of the windshields, windows and tires of the parked cars of Palestinians - who's really the boss. How perfectly natural that a Muslim house of prayer like the Ibrahim mosque should be shut down and declared "off limits" to thousands of Muslim worshipers.

The ease with which a curfew has now been imposed on Hebron and the perception of that curfew as a completely natural occurrence are not the products of the past few weeks. (Incidentally, the residents of the village of Hawara, in whose vicinity and on whose lands the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar was built, have also been placed under curfew; their curfew was imposed more than three weeks ago.)

After the massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein in the Ibrahim mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the ones who were punished were the Palestinians, with the punishment taking the form of curfews, closures, "disengagement," the shutting-down of entire streets and the continual, hostile supervision by Israeli soldiers and police officers. And there was an additional punishment meted out to the Palestinians: economic disaster.

However, Hebron is only a microcosm, an illustration of the general picture.  The protracted curfew imposed on Hebron and the way that this curfew has been accepted in Israeli eyes as such a natural event convey, in a nutshell, both the entire story of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in general and the essence of the kind of Israeli thinking that has developed in the shadow of obvious military superiority. The curfew in Hebron and the ease with which it has been imposed only illustrate the entire story of discrimination and uprooting that the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of the Israelis - a never-ending story that unfolded as far back as the Oslo era and the period of the so-called "peace process."

Jews live in Hebron today either because of "ancestral rights" or because they can show proof of Jewish ownership of a given property in the not-too-distant past. It is so perfectly natural that Jews should be able to live wherever they want in the Land of Israel - on both sides of the Green Line. It is so perfectly natural that a Jew who was born in Tel Aviv should be able to move to Hebron or to Yitzhar. And it is so perfectly natural that Palestinians cannot enjoy that right and cannot move to Tel Aviv or to Haifa - even if their families own lands and houses there.

It is so perfectly natural that, to this very day, Israel is developing and expanding the Jewish community in Hebron, just as Israel is developing all the Jewish settlements in the territories. And it is so perfectly natural that, to this very day, the Palestinians must deal with various limitations imposed on any planned development for their own communities, because most of the lands on the West Bank - which is their primary land reserve - are under Israeli administrative control. No, the Palestinians do not need the kind of legroom that Israelis do. 

It is so perfectly natural that Palestinians have to obtain a travel permit from the Israeli authorities (only a minority of the applicants are granted the permit) in order to enter East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip, within the context of Israel's closure policy, which was launched in 1991 and which continues until this very day. On the other hand, Jews are free to travel from the West Bank to Israel and back, using well-built highways that have been constructed on lands that have been expropriated from Palestinian villages.

During the summers in Hebron, sometimes days, even weeks go by without running water in the faucets of Palestinian homes. On the other hand, the  Jewish neighbors of Palestinian Hebronites - in the Old City of Hebron orin the nearby Jewish quarter of Kiryat Arba - experience no problems or shortages as far as their water supply is concerned.

The same situation prevails in many Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank: Whereas the Palestinians have no water, the residents of the Jewish settlements enjoy green lawns. The reason is that Israel has, in effect, imposed a quota on the water that the Palestinians are allowed to consume - that is, on the right to use water resources that are supposed to be jointly accessible for both Israelis and Palestinians in the single land they share.

This is a tale that must be recounted over and over again - almost to the point of exhaustion - because it depicts a situation that is so self-understood in the eyes of Israelis that they cannot even see that there is any problem whatsoever. How perfectly easy to regard the Palestinians as a violent and cruel people and to ignore the cruelty that has accumulated day after day for 33 long years and which has been directed during that long period toward an entire community. This is the kind of cruelty that is characteristic of every occupation regime. This is a cruelty that intensified during the Oslo years because of the gap between the fine talk about a "peace process" and the reality.

The curfew in Hebron and the fact that this curfew is regarded as a completely natural phenomenon in the eyes of Israeli society reflects the twisted sort of thinking that developed in the minds of Israelis during the Oslo years. According to this warped thinking, the Palestinians would accept a situation of coexistence in which they were on an unequal footing vis-a-vis the Israelis and in which they were ranked as persons who were entitled to less, much less, than the Jews. However, in the end, the Palestinians were not willing to live with this arrangement.

The new Intifada, which displays the characteristics of both a popular uprising and a quasi-military one, is a final attempt to thrust a mirror in the face of Israelis and to tell them: "Take a good look at yourselves and see how racist you have become."

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