The West Bank village of Hizma, surrounded entirely by the separation wall, is the victim of daily harassment by the army and the police. That hasn’t stopped the residents from opening their homes and businesses to Israeli Jews — even the settlers who live next door.
Text and photos by Tamar Flesichman
For the 7,000 residents of the West Bank village of Hizma, life has become an endless routine of harassment by the Israeli authorities.
Land expropriation, home demolition orders, the total disconnect from East Jerusalem, the checkpoint that serves mainly settlers and forbids the owners of the land from crossing, and the constant harassment at the hands of the army and the police toward the village residents — these are only some of the daily experiences that have led to frustration and rage in the village.
Hizma’s residents have the distinct privilege of living next to both the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, and the adjacent checkpoint that bears the village’s name. Hizma checkpoint, like Pisgat Ze’ev and the separation wall that encircles the village, was built on land belonging to the residents.
Despite the separation between Hizma and the surrounding Israeli neighborhoods, a large portion of the village residents’ income is based on the settlers of Pisgat Ze’ev and nearby Adam. “They buy good from us because it is cheap here,” an acquaintance from the village tells me. Many of Hizma’s residents speak perfect Hebrew and welcome Israeli Jews to their homes, even those who are unmistakably religious settlers. Israelis often visit to shop or have their cars fixed in the local garages, stopping to have casual conversations, close deals, and shake hands with the locals.
Suffice it to say the Palestinians’ anger is not against Jews, but rather the Israeli army and police.
And while it is true that Palestinians in the are have previously thrown Molotov cocktails at both the checkpoint and IDF jeeps patrolling the area, none of that justifies the collective punishment of thousands of people.
For years the residents of Hizma have been suffering from harassment by the IDF and Israeli police, often on a daily basis. This is done through what is termed “breaking the routine” — a policy that leaves the civilian population helpless, and includes army raids, arrests of adults and minors, violent patrols at all hours of the day, body searches, and more. In one case a woman who married a resident of Hizma was not allowed to return to the village because her ID did not list Hizma as her hometown. In another case the village was put under total closure for several days, with the Shin Bet posting signs calling on the residents to turn in stone throwers to the authorities.
Years ago an Israeli acquaintance who returned from reserve duties told me about “harassment operations” that he and his friends took part in in Hizma. The most common terms used by IDF officers and soldiers are “to create a sense of persecution” with the goal of “keeping the residents in a constant state of uncertainty.”
The army has also begun dissuading Israeli Jews from entering the village, leading to drastic consequences for local shop owners and garages. There is no doubt that the IDF’s tactics have succeeded in instilling a constant sense of dread among Hizma’s residents.
+972 asked the IDF Spokesperson about the use of collective punishment in the village and the wall’s effect on residents. Without addressing the question itself, the spokesperson issued the following response:
In the past several months there has been a sharp rise in the number of violent attacks perpetrated by residents of the village of Hizma near Route 60.
There have been approximately 90 incidents in the area since October 2015, including rock and Molotov cocktail throwing attacks as well as the hurling of boulders and burning tires at civilians and security forces. One of the more severe attacks took place on May 11th, an explosive device was detonated in the area and seriously injured an IDF officer. Several Israeli civilians have also been injured in these attacks.
Tamar Flesichman is a photographer and anti-occupation activist.