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Violence is a cruel reminder of a reality that is neither calm nor stable

When murder and violence flash in the West Bank, Israelis should remember that on the other days they don’t hear about terror, lots of violence is taking place. Those who choose to live in an illusion of calm and stability should consider themselves both privileged and lucky. And neither of those things can last forever. 

Days like today, ones that start out with a Palestinian stabbing an Israeli to death and end with Israeli settlers rampaging around, starting fires and hurling stones at innocent Palestinian bystanders – many of them children: days like today are a cruel expression of the dire situation we all live in here – but more specifically, illuminate the illusion of stability that Israelis live with.

A few months ago, the IDF was proud to announce that there were no fatal terror attacks in the West Bank at all in 2012, and it really is a feat. In fact, Evyatar Burovsky was the first Israeli victim of a fatal attack committed by a Palestinian in the West Bank since September 2011.

During this “calm” period, most Israelis continue going about their lives. They aren’t affected by the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a daily basis. But days like today, when the phrase “terror attack” is back in the news, Israelis suddenly remember that we are in a violent conflict. The government, of course, does a good job of reminding us we are the victims.

But on all those days when there is no violence against Israelis in the news, on all those days when Israelis can go about their business, the situation is actually not at all stable or calm. It’s definitely not calm for the Palestinian population, specifically in the West Bank where life under occupation is anything but free of violence.

Slavoj Zizek said it poignantly in an essay in the book The Case for Sanctions Against Israel:

What goes on in the Middle East when nothing goes on there at the direct politico-military level (i.e. when there are no tensions, attacks, negotiations)? What goes on is the incessant slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians in the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parceling of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land.

Knowing the daily situation in Silwan, in Issawiya, in Susya, Hebron, Al Araqib, being aware of the Palestinian prisoners and the children who are arrested, etc., I often think to myself how amazing it is that violence and terror aren’t more frequent, considering the untenable and tense situation in which Palestinians live. (And no, I don’t think this can be fully attributed to Israeli security. The fact of the matter is that when someone is intent on committing an act of violence, it will likely happen one way or another).

And just to be clear, as Zizek writes in that same essay:

And—to avoid any kind of misunderstanding—taking all this into account in no way implies any “understanding” for inexcusable terrorist acts. On the contrary, it provides the only ground from which one can condemn the terrorist attacks without hypocrisy.

To those Israelis who continue to passively or actively vote to continue living in this situation, to those who are fine with the status quo or who simply do nothing to challenge or change it, this bloody day should be a cruel reminder that there is nothing normal or fine about life here. Even on all the days when Israelis aren’t being killed or injured, there is nothing normal or okay here. Those who choose to live in an illusion of calm and stability should consider themselves both privileged and lucky. And neither of those things can last forever.

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    1. XYZ

      Oslo was a sincere attempt by Rabin and others in the peace camp to “do something about it”. IMMEDIATELY upon implementing the agreement the suicide bombings began. If people have grown disillusioned, then we only have to look at the Palestinians to see the cause. Israel was built up as a state in a situation of ongoing confrontation since even before the state came into being. Israelis are familiar with the situation and will continue to build the state and its society in spite of the challenges Arab rejectionism has confronted it with for the last century.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        “Oslo was a sincere attempt by Rabin and others in the peace camp to “do something about it”. IMMEDIATELY upon implementing the agreement the suicide bombings began”

        Not true. The suicide bombings started after the Jewish terrorist Goldstein massacred 29 innocent Palestinians – which, in retrospect, was exactly what the massacre aimed to achieve. What a pity Rabin didn’t have the balls to eradicate the viper’s nest of the Hebron settlement when he had the chance.

        Reply to Comment
        • Y.

          This is a common attempt to excuse the bombings, but actually suicide bombings per se started a year earlier (April 1993). Nor were bus attacks during the first intifada different except in MO (the bus being driven off a cliff rather than bombed, in neither case did the attacker expect to come out alive).

          Reply to Comment
    2. Mairav, this is a very poignant and powerful piece. Just a few days ago, I was talking to a close friend (Israeli and pro-occupation) about the experience of a young girl I know, Jenan, who was taken from her home at night and used by the IDF as a human shield. She was ten years old at the time. As they took her outside and prodded her down the street, she was sobbing for her mother. In the end one soldier told her that they had asked her mum which child they should take, and her mum had said Jenan, because she liked her other children better and if Jenan got hurt it didn’t matter.

      Obviously this is not the worst thing to happen in the West Bank. It barely makes waves when compared to the other things you point out. It stuck in my head because it just seemed like such a gratuitously cruel thing to say. Why? What for? If could do it, it would be the experiences like Jenan’s – the multiplicity of little things, one on top of the other, pebble on stone on brick – that I would give to all ordinary Israelis. For many people in the West Bank, events like this are just part of the fabric of daily life. Violence isn’t always about shooting and death. I don’t think our neighbours on the other side of the wall really grasp that – or the consequences that this type of violence can have.

      Once I caught myself thinking about where that solider is now and what he’s doing, the one who said that to Jenan. He’s probably in his late twenties now. Maybe he’s been to university, maybe he has a kid of his own. I wondered if he even remembers her. Perhaps he’s felt sorry. Perhaps there were too many Jenans during the years of his service and he doesn’t even remember her specifically. Perhaps he’s forgotten the whole incident by now. All I know is that Jenan sure as hell hasn’t forgotten him. His life has probably quietened down since he left army. She can hardly say the same for hers.

      “Those who choose to live in an illusion of calm and stability should consider themselves both privileged and lucky. And neither of those things can last for very long.”


      Reply to Comment
      • Once again Vicky says things well: “Violence isn’t always about shooting and death. I don’t think our neighbours on the other side of the wall really grasp that – or the consequences that this type of violence can have.”

        Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      Israel has become a cruel and corrupt society that enjoys doing to others what not so many years ago was done to them. I agree with you Mairav about being amazed that the Palestinians are being so calm and patient as their land is being eaten up by this cruel and greedy bully. To paraphrase Ehud Barak – if I were a Palestinian, I think I would probably join Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

      Reply to Comment
      • If something can be abused, it ultimately will be abused–parahprase of David Hume. The occupation structure breeds abuse. Any people placed as control within this structure, or protected by it, will evolve abuse. The problem is structural, not racial or cultural–but this structure allows a certain kind of culture to evolve. Being structural, change is possible, with legal will; there is no excuse for passivity save that one likes the way things are going.

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      • The Trespasser

        >Israel has become a cruel and corrupt society that enjoys doing to others what not so many years ago was done to them.

        Israel has become what it is mainly because it’s neighbours haven’t ever stopped attempts to wipe it off the map.

        >I agree with you Mairav about being amazed that the Palestinians are being so calm and patient as their land is being eaten up by this cruel and greedy bully.

        Palestinian Arabs are calp and patient solely because any inpatient and uncalm Arab is likely to be shot dead on sight, which proves to be a rather good deterrent.

        >To paraphrase Ehud Barak – if I were a Palestinian, I think I would probably join Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

        You could do now as well.

        Reply to Comment
        • Maryanne

          ‘Israel has become what it is mainly because its neighbours haven’t ever stopped attempts to wipe it off the map’

          If this is so, then more fool Israel. For what Israel has become is a place when its young are kitted up and given power to routinely humiliate, injure and even kill with impunity. Of course this corruption will pass into general Israeli society.

          This is the great and probably fatal failing of Zionism.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >This is the great and probably fatal failing of Zionism.

            You wish. I’d suggest you to learn about ancient Sparta.

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    4. XYZ

      I just heard an interview on the radio show “HaKol Diburim” (conducted by our friend Yuval Ben-Ami’s father Oded) with the former Israeli representative Eli Avidar in Qatar. He was asked about this supposed “breakthough” where the Arab Initiantive agrees to minor land swaps.
      He said forget it, there is no breakthrough and the Arab Initiative is NOT a peace plan. He said the Sheikh of Qatar told former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami in a secret meeting that NO Arab leader will ever agree to recognize Israel’s right to exist or agree to “end the conflict”. This means that an Israeli agreement to carry out the Arab Initiative (which includes the “Right of Return”) would simply be a temporary armed truce until the Palestinian refugees oust the Zionist regime. So there goes your hopes for peace.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        One thing at a time. First they accept that the settlement blocks will remain in Israeli hands in any future agreement. Ten years down the line maybe they will change their tune on refugees as well. I remember reading somewhere in the left wing press not so long ago that the Saudi plan is a once in a lifetime chance and it can’t be changed. It has been alive and well for a dozen years now and now look they are introducing changes.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          I am afraid I don’t agree. You could have added that at one time they would never say the word “Israel” but rather “the Zionist entity”, yet I heard Nasrallah today say “Israel”, but this is just tactics. The Gulf States who are talking about the “Arab Initiative” are terrified of the Iranians and view them as currently a greater threat than Israel, so they are talking like this to get American support against the Iranian bomb The Arabs are remarkably consistent in their ideology…recall they are an ancient civilization who, like the Jews, put great value in words, believing the whole universe was created by Divine speech (Genesis) so promises made by words are holy and this includes the historic confrotnation and even with the Jews (see Muslim Brotherhood ideologist yiid Qutb’s writings on the Jews in “In the Shade of the Qur’an) where he says the Jews are the historic enemies of the Muslms)

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Yeah, we are going to disagree. It took many years but we have gotten to the point where an Arab League delegation led by Qatar and a Muslim Brotherhood Egypt have accepted not just the 1948 lines but changes to them that are obviously going to be to our advantage. They certainly have yet to accept the principle of Israel as a Jewish state but to pretend that no progress has been made is a somewhat challenging task. Let’s see what else they throw into the next offer they make in 12 years.

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    5. Ken Kelso

      The Palestinians are known for supporting murder, so their’s no possibility of peace with them.
      Its worth noting 85 percent of Palestinians supported the close up shooting execution murders of 7 Israeli boys in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva massacre in 08 in Jerusalem. And that 75 percent of Palestinians supported the Palestinian Homicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa back in 2003, which murdered 21 civilians, including 2 families and left an 8 year old child blinded and orphaned and that in similar polls they supported mass murder against Israeli civilians.

      For people to understand the sicko’s Israel is dealing with, read this article.

      Arab Lawyers Union Honors Terrorist who Killed 21 Israelis in Haifa
      October 18, 2012

      The Palestine Committee of the Arab Lawyers Union recently bestowed its “highest honor” on female suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 Israelis in a 2003 attack on Maxim’s restaurant in Haifa, Palestinian Media Watch reported on its website here.

      Jaradat, who worked as a lawyer, also injured 51 Israelis in her bombing of Maxim’s. The lawyers union “created the ‘Martyr Hanadi Jaradat plaque of honor’” for her, according to an Oct 14 report in the Palestinian daily publication Al-Ayyam.

      A delegation “conveyed to the family of Martyr Jaradat the good wishes of the head of the Union, Mr. Omar Al-Zayn… and also emphasized the pride of the Arab Lawyers Union for what their daughter had done in defense of Palestine and the nation.”

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    6. Ken Kelso

      Y, your totally correct in what you say, the first suicide bombing was in 93, not 94.

      It should be pointed out, Danny opposed Israel killing Yassin and Rantisi.
      Just to let Danny the appeaser know, terrorism has went down 90% in Israel since these 2 Palestinian mass murderers were sent to hell.

      It was people like Danny that felt appeasing Arafat and not elimininating this mass murderer Arafat, was the way to peace.

      Arafat ordered Hamas attacks against Israel in 2000

      Arafat Paid Father of Dolphinarium Terrorist
      Israel National News ^ | Sep 13, ’04

      Maslama Thabet, leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades admits all orders to kill Israeli civilians comes from Arafat.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ken Kelso

      Danny, the Palestinians can have Ehud Barak.
      He was the first Israeli leader in history to try to divide Jerusalem.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ken Kelso

      Danny, i’m amazed at Israel’s calm.
      When the Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, the Kuwaitis didn’t like that and kicked them all out.
      When Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein’s government in 1970, Hussein killed 20,000 of Arafat’s fighters in a few weeks.
      As King Hussein said of Arafat. Arafat never comes to a deal where he doesn’t try to double cross you.

      Reply to Comment
    9. There is one other thing worth mentioning that Mairav doesn’t touch on in her article. The murder victim was from Yitzhar. As a community, it is notorious for regular acts of violence against local Palestinians (directed at both people and property). There are EAPPI observers in the area, supporting farmers to access the fields and children to get to school. In 2010 they wrote about a violent incident involving both Yitzhar settlers and the army with a title that resonates with the theme of Mairav’s piece, ‘An investigation into everyday suffering’:


      I chose that piece because of the title. There is a sea of other reports on Yitzhar out there. I wonder if all the people decrying this killing as an example of Palestinian bloodthirstiness and intransigence could name even one such incident.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it excuses a murder. In a place where there has already been so much violence, more is not an answer. But I am aware that many of the people so shocked by this killing do not share my pacifism, and if the situation were reversed – if it were a Palestinian community with a specific reputation for its hardline ideological nature inflicting this sort of everyday violence on Israeli Jews – they might no longer be so shocked at the murder. After all, these same people are able to defend the army’s arrest of children as young as five and the outright torture of minors who may or may not have thrown stones at a jeep, so I doubt they would find much difficulty in excusing the killing of a Palestinian who hailed from such a group. It takes unjust unfeeling reasoning to do it, but then that’s how violence works. People who engage in the process themselves should not be shocked when others do the same – especially if those others have a lot more to tolerate.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Mairav Zonszein

      Thanks for the comment Vicky. You add an important part of the puzzle.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ken Kelso

        Nine times more Jewish civilians have been murdered by Palestinians in the West Bank than Palestinians murdered by Jews in the West Bank.

        During the past 11 years, out of 50 Arabs killed by Jewish civilians, 27 were self-evident cases of self-defense against armed Palestinian assailants
        By contrast, the 215 Jews murdered in the West Bank (254 if Gaza is included) involved almost without exception clear-cut circumstances in which Palestinian assailants targeted their victims, often in home invasions involving the slaughter of entire families like the Fogel Massacre, Shefi family massacre, gang assaults on hikers or attacks on civilian vehicles. Other sources, like the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations (OCHA) confirm the relatively few murders committed by Jews and the much higher number of lethal assaults by Palestinian Arabs.

        Reply to Comment
        • I do not know where you take your figures from, but you are quite obviously excluding all the people who die at the hands of the army. Do you just take it on faith that the IDF can do no wrong, and that the thousands of Palestinian civilians who were killed by the army in fact deserved it some way? The settlements are a state-sponsored enterprise, which the army plays a major role in implementing and maintaining. Killings and assaults by soldiers can’t be divorced from killings and assaults by settlers. The army’s role in the situation arguably means that fewer violently-inclined settlers feel a need to kill, and instead content themselves with lesser violence against property. This is seen in a snippet from an interview done by Keshev with a settler from Itamar, Gad Tana: “On Saturday, for example, Arabs came to pick figs in the field bordering ours. Of course, we threw them off. We annihilated them. They are not allowed to come up here. If they come nevertheless, we immediately call the army or the police. When the army’s out of the picture, our men take care of them. On Saturdays, we chase them by foot with hoes and axes.”

          Tana’s words demonstrating army-settler collusion are particularly noteworthy because not long after giving this interview he was arrested in conjunction with the fatal shooting of a Palestinian man, Farid Nasasreh, and causing injury to other Palestinians. You mention the Fogel family, also from Itamar. Their murder is well-known. How many Israelis have even heard Farid Nasasreh’s name? Most will never have heard it, because five days after their arrest, the two settlers accused of killing him were released for lack of evidence – this despite the fact that the murder took place in broad daylight with a field full of eyewitnesses. Compare that to what happened in Awarta when the Fogels were killed. The army ordered all men and boys over the age of fifteen – every last one of them – to report for interrogation and to have mouth swabs taken to gather DNA evidence. Meanwhile, soldiers trashed people’s houses. Furniture got broken, food was slung out of the fridges and trampled on the floor. When Nasasreh was killed, no such attempt was made to gather evidence in Itamar, and there was no collective punishment. This is the difference between a Palestinian death and a Jewish death in the West Bank. The same pattern could be seen when Itamar settlers attacked an elderly half-blind shepherd, Ahmad Sobie, and left him for dead. Same when they gave a retired college professor in his seventies (James Delaplain) a broken rib and a punctured lung as he monitored the olive harvest near Yanoun – a village whose population was literally driven out by violence from that settlement, and is only returning through constant support from EAPPI. The army and the settlers collude in this whole terrible process, and the murders committed by settlers are only one symptom of it.

          I also take note that while you talk about settlers acting in self-defence against Palestinians, you don’t mention the number of Palestinians acting in self-defence against settlers – which suggests that you either don’t apply the same principles for defining ‘threat’ and ‘self-defence’ when the assailant is Jewish Israeli, or the idea of a Palestinian ever needing to defend him/herself against a settler doesn’t occur to you at all. This is precisely the double standard that Mairav has brought out in her article.

          Reply to Comment
    11. Ken Kelso

      Golda Meir 50 years ago talked about Palestinian child abuse by Pal leaders. Sadly nothing has changed.

      Hamas Schools Teaching Children How to Kill Israelis–with Real Guns
      Evelyn Gordon

      This is the reality journalists and diplomats consistently ignore, because it disrupts their comfortable theory that Israeli-Palestinian peace could be made tomorrow if Israel would just cede a little more territory. But the truth is that Israeli-Palestinian peace will never be made until Palestinian leaders do two things: stop teaching their children that killing Israelis is life’s greatest glory, and start providing their people with a decent life instead.

      It’s no wonder that, according to a new Pew poll, Palestinians are the biggest supporters of suicide bombings against civilians in the Islamic world.
      April 30, 2013

      The killing of the children in the Sbarro pizzeria in 2001 sums up the mental sickness (and I am being quite literal) of Palestinian society. It’s not just that they targeted women and children. It’s that they openly celebrated it afterwards.
      Young fascist students at An-Najah University, Nablus, West Bank, celebrate the killing of the babies at the Sbarro pizzeria.
      Littlegreenfootballs calls it the “University of Death” (and here).
      Picture from ADL. Also here.
      Picture credit Associated Press.
      The killing of 7 children in the Sbarro pizzeria, 2001 by a young Islamic fascist.
      The young Islamic fascist killed 4 year old Avraham Yitzhak Schijveschuurder and his 2 year old baby sister Hemda Schijveschuurder. And by “killed” we mean blew their limbs off, burned them alive.
      The young Islamic fascist killed 15 year old Malki Roth.
      The Palestinians celebrate the killing of the babies at the Sbarro pizzeria (also here)

      Reply to Comment
    12. “You have been demoted,” I said.

      Reply to Comment
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