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The logic of the occupation

What we can learn from the arrest of a well-known Palestinian activist’s wife.

IDF arrests Nariman Tamimi at Nabi Saleh weekly protest June 28, 2013 (Activestills)

Nariman Tamimi was due to stand trial today at Ofer Military Prison for a rare charge: violating a closed military zone order. Nariman was arrested in her own village during an unarmed protest, in which not even one stone was thrown. When she was brought before a military judge, it was proved – through video evidence – that she never even resisted her arrest as the army previously claimed. Yet the military prosecution insisted on proceeding with the case.

You can read Mairav Zonszein’s report of the affair here. Despite the light and even absurd charges against Nariman – violating a closed military zone order in one’s own land – the regional military prosecutor himself, Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch, represented the prosecution at one of the court sessions, highlighting the gravity the IDF attached to this matter.

What’s the special interest for the army in this case? The definition of a closed military zone in the West Bank is pretty arbitrary and people violate the orders every day. But Nariman is the wife of a well-known Palestinian activist, and one possible explanation has to do with the unifying logic of the IDF’s actions vis-à-vis the Palestinian population in the occupied territory.

The occupation is about control. People often miss that. There are many barbaric and violent moments in the West Bank and even more so in Gaza, but as a whole, Israel is not attempting to exterminate the entire Palestinian population, nor does it currently seek to drive them all out of the territory it controls. Such actions would not be tolerated by the international community, and many Israelis would object them too.

Instead, all of the agencies who deal with the Palestinian population, primarily the army and the internal security services, are looking for the most effective ways to control the population and prevent all forms of resistance.

The methods they use are extremely diverse and they change from place to place and from one period of time to another. Checkpoints or crowd control measures are the most obvious ways. A network of informers and collaborators is another. Handing some privileges to a local and national leadership is another such method. Israeli representatives often take pride in the asylum Israel has granted to some Palestinian gays, but sexual orientation is also used for control, and internal security operatives have been known to blackmail Palestinian gays, threatening that they will expose their identity if they don’t provide information. And so on.

One of the most important aspects of control, which is hardly ever discussed, is the complicated system of permits Israel uses. You need an army permit to travel outside the West Bank, to cross the border to Jordan, to export and import certain goods, to build roads and plant trees, to dig water wells in certain areas, to work in a settlement, to work in Israel, to study abroad, to visit relatives in Gaza, and so on (check out this visual presentation of permit system). Recently, I went with another Israeli friend to cover the weekly protest in a Palestinian village. Not many of the villagers participated in it. In the village square, my friend met a local carpenter he knew. The carpenter is very careful not to be spotted protesting. He has a work permit in a settlement – the very same one that sits on the village’s land, and which is the cause of the weekly demonstration.

The system of control later becomes that ultimate justification for whatever violent action Israel takes against the Palestinians because Israel always gets to operate as the force of peace and order, while the Palestinians become the instigators of chaos and violence. This way, the debate on the occupation is always construed in a way that serves the Israeli interest.

Whatever violent action Israel undertakes against the Palestinian population is justified with something “they did” – a protest, a terror plot, a road block and so on. In the 70s and 80s, when general strikes where a common feature in the Palestinian opposition to the occupation, the army imprisoned local leaders for years under administrative detention, expelled activists and forced merchants to open their shops. When schools and universities mobilized, the army shut them down. Later the IDF moved to act with the same degree of resilience and determination against the mass demonstrations, stone throwing, suicide bombings, rocket launching, and whatever other acts the Palestinian used in their attempt to defeat the occupation. The bottom line is that every opposition to the occupation is forbidden, in the name of peace and stability.

The same logic, by the way, is used against the Palestinians’ diplomatic moves – what Israel now calls “diplomatic terrorism” – and civil society boycott campaign. Effective resistance is always forbidden. Politicians and activists are always viewed as “a threat to peace“ or “instigators,” and they are always blamed with “harming the interests of their own people” due to the catastrophes they bring upon them, in the form of IDF retaliation, of course. The international community, it should be noted, is extremely welcoming to such arguments, since order is always viewed as preferable to chaos, especially in the Middle East, and especially these days.

In Nariman Tamimi’s village, Nabi Saleh, a couple of Palestinians already died during the protests. The army blames the protesters for their own deaths.

Tamimi’s own arrest was the fifth time she has been taken into custody. A mother of four and and a known activist herself, she was held blindfolded and handcuffed for nine hours – standard procedure – before spending nearly four days in prison. When she was finally brought before a (military) judge, Military Prosecutor Maj. Gilad Peretz acknowledged that one reason for requesting her continued remand was to keep her from participating in the weekly demonstrations at her village.

Nariman was lucky. The court decided to put her under house arrest on Fridays instead, thus releasing her from prison but still preventing her from participating in the protests.

Related:
When non-violence is criminal: Palestinian women stand trial for West Bank protest
No end in sight: Occupation marks 45th anniversary

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Danny

      Nariman and other Palestinians like her are heroes. Years from now, after Israel has been defeated and its occupation regime dismantled, Nariman and other Palestinians like her will be celebrated much like Nelson Mandela is today. I have no doubt of this.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Josh

      “operatives have been known to blackmail Palestinian gays, threatening that they will expose their identity if they don’t provide information. And so on.”

      But why would threatening to expose their gay identities be a fearful threat? Oh, right! Because palestinian society, which you choose to defend, is a vicious, homophobic, gay-persecuting society. Almost forgot.

      Reply to Comment
      • Menil

        Yeah, luckily Israel is a paradise for gays, where they can openly go to clubs in Tel Aviv where they will be freely massacred by Bnei Brak’s finest Jews.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Josh

      Menil’s reply doesn’t make much sense, but it’s satisfying to see that at least he didn’t try to defend the palestinian treatment of gays, instead trying to fling a childish “you do it too!” argument back at Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • That there is gay hatred in the West Bank is no license to threaten to evoke it to achieve other ends. After Romer v Evans and Lawrance v Texas in the US, gay persecution should–should–be legally proscribed; yet that does not license me to reveal a gay to, e.g., family, when the individual does not wish this.

        This is not a matter of the inherent goodness of Israel vs the West Bank (or Gaza), but whether those with power and immunity from consequence should use such tactic. If the tactic is foul, the cause itself is belmished.

        Reply to Comment
        • Josh

          “This is not a matter of the inherent goodness of Israel vs the West Bank (or Gaza)”

          That statement sums up left wing thinking. It’s all about weak vs strong, rich vs poor, race vs race, male vs female, but the most important issue of all, good and evil, is casually tossed aside.

          Reply to Comment
          • Recall that the infinite merit of the blood of Christ (the ultimate goodness in this metaphysic) was dispensed to cover all sorts of otherwise evil actions. To allow the security apparatus to threaten gay reprisal through public disclosure to gain either information or informant is an evil, covered by some greater dispensed merit. To truly be good is to act good at every possible opportunity.

            Nothing has been casually tossed aside–except, in the cases you instance, not I, those treatened homosexuals. If that is part of your good, I indeed what no part of it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vicky

            So, in summary: the Israel/Palestine conflict is designated by you as a battle between ‘good’ versus ‘evil’, with ‘evil’ being characterised by repressive attitudes towards gay people and ‘good’ represented by rainbow flags flying in Tel Aviv. The army that exploits this situation by threatening Palestinian gay people into becoming informants is de facto the ‘good’ side because of those flags, which are enough to cancel out land confiscation, home demolitions, child arrests, Shabak threats, the protests of Israeli LGBT people who really don’t like being used as your pink paint, and a whole host of other things.

            Pinkwashing is always crass, but it’s usually a bit more…subtle than this. Then again, subtlety has never been the strong point of people who like to imagine themselves into a ‘good versus evil’ Cowboys and Indians scenario.

            Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            “So, in summary: the Israel/Palestine conflict is designated by you as a battle between ‘good’ versus ‘evil’, with ‘evil’ being characterized by repressive attitudes towards gay people and ‘good’ represented by rainbow flags flying in Tel Aviv.”

            YES! Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better than that.

            Yeah, it usually is a little more subtle. But what can I say, subtlety is not my strong suit. How about this: the writers of 972 are defending an evil, homophobic, gay-killing society, and is party to the persecution of gays. Is that subtle enough?

            I’m surprised you mentioned cowboys and Indians. Leftists don’t usually like to talk about who lived in the land first.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            I actually see it as more of a tussle between right and wrong, moral and immoral, innovative and regressive.

            Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        The pot calling the kettle black. Criticize first your own homophobes, gay-basher and outright gay-killers; if you want to find a nice representative sample, go to the knesset – many fine homophobes (and other racists) right there for your viewing pleasure.

        Reply to Comment
        • Josh

          The pot calling the kettle black? I think my grandfather once used that expression. (He immediately apologized for using such a corny expression.)

          It’s a good thing you chose to focus only on politicians and not on the “Arab Street”. Say, maybe you should try to organize a gay pride parade in Schem. (Or “Nablus” as you homophobes insist on calling it)

          But why do you say that I should criticize “my own” homophobes? I thought leftists were against nationalism. There is no “my own”.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            “It’s a good thing you chose to focus only on politicians and not on the “Arab Street”. Say, maybe you should try to organize a gay pride parade in Schem. (Or “Nablus” as you homophobes insist on calling it)”

            Jack Teitel was not a politician, although I’m pretty sure he would have been welcome with open arms in any of the right-wing parties in the knesset today. After his parole, perhaps…

            Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            “Jack Teitel was not a politician, although I’m pretty sure he would have been welcome with open arms in any of the right-wing parties in the knesset today. After his parole, perhaps…”

            I know that that kind of talk may impress your fellow leftist homophobic comrades, but if you think about it for just one second that doesn’t even begin to make sense. Even Shas condemned that attack. And the State of Israel put Teital in prison! What are you talking about?

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            “Even Shas condemned that attack.”

            Yes, the same Shas that once said that earthquakes are caused by homosexuals.

            “And the State of Israel put Teital in prison!”

            It also put the Gush Emunim bombers in jail for a few months before releasing them for good behavior. Teitel may actually enjoy his prison term – lots of good pious Jews like himself sit there and study Torah as they await their parole.

            Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            Wow! Shas said that? That must make you very angry, Danny! Since homophobia makes you so angry, Danny, and since you freedom fighters care about gays so very much, I repeat: please arrange a gay parade in east Jerusalem (that’s “Al Quds” Danny)

            And since incitement bothers you so much, perhaps we should focus on article 7 of the Hamas charter, which talks about how every Jew in the world should be killed. If Shas talking about earthquakes bothers you, I’m sure that the charter of Gaza (half of the Palestinians) bothers you even more, right?

            All your recycled mumbling from the huffington post cant change the fact that there are open, huge gay pride parades in tel aviv and none among the beloved, gentle, indigenous, occupied palestinian people.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Decapitating overt leadership leaves only underground leadership, the latter more prone to violence, the strongest exemplar suicide bombing, although regular bombings can be as deadly. Nonviolent protest should be an ally of Israel in that both are opposed to such violence. But this latter would entail admitting the occupied have life interests and grievence, which would be the first step in evolving away from occupation. It still seems to me that “anything not compulsory is forbidden” is the bureaucratic goal.

      Reply to Comment
      • No matter what happen,it is not an easy task to gain freedom but we ‘re not going to let isreal go for free…in palestinian we stand…

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          … at a border crossing… to a job… in isreal…

          Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Thanks to Israelis like you, K9 (and retorts like this one of yours only serve to increase that tendency), people who once stood with Israel now stand with Palestine. Keep going.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            How so? I suggested that he will end up in a poverty stricken country which will have an economy dependent, at best, on day labor in Israel. This is either a reasonable estimate of reality or a decent prediction of the near future.

            I would personally prefer that all border crossings with Palestine be closed. There is no good reason to subsidize those who equate their freedom with my destruction.

            Reply to Comment
          • We will keep going. For another 3000 years.. I wonder if your kind will still be around? Something tells me, definitely not!!

            Reply to Comment
          • If all on the West Bank are seen as nothing but bombers, violence is all you will ever see. To repeat:

            “Nonviolent protest should be an ally of Israel in that both are opposed to such violence. But this latter would entail admitting the occupied have life interests and grievence…”

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You must belong to the school of thought that believes that all reality is imagined and in order to change reality we just need to think differently.

            Reply to Comment
          • No, I know there are violent people in your land–irrespective of security boarders, actually. Asserting that only violent people are out there is not imaginative but illusory, as is implicitly asserting that no social processes within the Bank will act against possible violence. What you fail to see is that the past 10 years of occupation has induced a nonviolence that can come to your aid–if the erradication of violence is your major goal.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            I couldn’t care less if 95% of the Palestinians are non-violent as long as they believe the other 5% to be justified in trying to kill me or my family. At this very moment the vast majority of Palestinians (including your ‘non-violence’ heroes) consider suicide bombers to have been heroes. Almost half still believe it is justified to murder Israeli civilians within the green line. I do not believe that peace is possible until the Palestinians radically change their approach to Israel and Israelis.

            The last 10 years taught the Palestinian leadership that they will not achieve their goals through the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli society. The goals themselves have not changed. This is based on reading pretty much every single English source I can find written by Palestinians, including people like Sari Nusseibeh. The people that you think I should see as my allies wish me gone or dead and demand an outcome which would make it so. Whether their tactics are violent or not is completely irrelevant to me as long as their end goal is one that inevitably leads to my exile or death. For all the good intentions and great words used by some of their activists at the end when asked point blank such simple questions as whether a Jewish state will continue to exist in their desired outcome they would answer no. To me this is the equivalent of telling me that I should prepare for the wonderful life of a religious minority in Syria or Egypt. Thanks for the non-violence, but not in the very least interested.

            Reply to Comment
          • tod

            “I do not believe that peace is possible until the Palestinians radically change their approach to Israel and Israelis”:
            if you continue to exploit their natural resources and keep them in cages surrounded by settlements funded by your government… it’s hard to image why they should start you respect you. every single post that you write is biased and solipsistic: why should they respect persons like you?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            They should not “start” respecting anyone.

            Sufficient is the fact that they never respected others’ rights from the very beginning, and now have to deal with the one of two possible outcomes of their religion-driven hatred.

            What goes around comes around, you see.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Couldn’t care less about respect. They don’t have to respect me. I don’t have to respect them. They just need to accept that I exist and that I am not going anywhere and that they are going to have to plan their future accordingly. On the whole the Palestinians still are convinced that if they just hang on a little bit longer we are going to pack up and leave or accept living as third-class citizens in an Arab Muslim state.

            Are you sure you know the meaning of ‘solipsistic’?

            Reply to Comment
    5. sh

      ” But Nariman is the wife of a well-known Palestinian activist”.

      She’s a very well-known activist in her own right.

      Reply to Comment
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