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On Memorial Day, Israelis must reflect on Palestinians' collective punishment

This year’s Memorial Day and Independence Day come at a time of increasing incidents of terror against the Palestinian population in both Israel and the West Bank. And yet, Palestinians are the ones being put under total closure. 

The Israeli military imposed a closure on Palestinians in the West Bank as of 6 p.m. local time Sunday that will continue throughout Memorial Day and end following Independence Day Tuesday night at 23:59 p.m. This means that in addition to their routine lack of freedom of movement, Palestinians will be under curfew and only emergency humanitarian cases will be considered for passage into Israel.

General closures in the West Bank happen on almost all major holidays. The logic goes as follows: when Jews are observing a national holiday, whether mourning or celebration, the Palestinian population under occupation who are both prohibited from commemorating their own memorial day and lack an independence day of their own must be on extra lockdown. This is so that the Israeli security establishment can more easily preempt any possible disturbances to Jewish Israeli citizens’ freedom of movement; it is also the state’s way of reminding Palestinians who’s the boss of this land and to whom it really belongs.

An Israeli border policewoman turns an elderly Palestinian away as thousands of Palestinians try to make their way to Bethlehem checkpoint into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, August 10, 2012.  (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

An Israeli border policewoman turns an elderly Palestinian away as thousands of Palestinians try to make their way to Bethlehem checkpoint into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, August 10, 2012. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

This year, Memorial Day and Independence Day happen to come at a time of increasing incidents of Jewish acts of terror against Palestinians throughout both the 1967 and 1948 borders. In recent weeks there have been dozens of incidents of anti-Arab graffiti sprayed on cars, tired slashed and arson attacks on mosques, specifically in northern Israel. Known as “price tag” attacks, these acts were started by radical settlers in the West Bank and most prominently took the form of destroying Palestinian olive trees as a response to IDF actions against settlers, have become increasingly ubiquitous. In the last 24 hours alone, three different cars were vandalized in the vicinity of the northern Israeli town of Yokneam. Graffiti sprayed in such attacks usually includes some kind of racist message “Arabs out” or “Arabs are thieves” along with a Star of David – the same Star of David at the center of the Israeli flags being waved all over the country for Independence Day.

Despite the fact that these crimes have become a trend, and despite the fact that several Israeli government officials have called them acts of terror that must be reigned in, very few arrests have been made and even fewer assailants have been prosecuted. Former Shin Bet officials even stated Saturday that the state is clearly not interested in stopping such attacks, since it has all the means to do so.

A graffiti reading in Hebrew "Gentiles in the land are enemies", seen on a Palestinian bus in the East Jerusalem nighboorhood of Beit Hanina, on March 24.

A graffiti reading in Hebrew “Gentiles in the land are enemies”, seen on a Palestinian bus in the East Jerusalem nighboorhood of Beit Hanina, on March 24.

Moreover, despite the fact that the destruction of Palestinian property and harassment of Palestinians is commonplace and unchecked throughout the West Bank, the media only takes notice when such violence is also directed at the Israeli security establishment (as was the case last month when several Border Police officers were attacked by settlers from Yitzhar), or when it happens more prevalently within Israel’s 1948 borders, as has been happening in recent weeks.

On Memorial Day, Israel’s citizens (the Jewish ones) are expected to reflect on the loss of life and sacrifices made so that this place could exist, before immediately being thrown into celebration of a state that has no internationally recognized borders, no peace with its neighbors and which requires armed forces and walls to subsist. So here is the thought I leave you with:

Considering the constant and countless acts of violent, hateful and racist acts committed by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians going largely unchecked, this holiday, perhaps Israeli citizens should reflect on why they stand by as their government continues to put an entire nation through collective punishment.

Read More:
Visualizing Occupation: Freedom of movement
On Passover, IDF collectively punishes West Bank village
Settler violence: Think of it like burning down a Jewish business

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