(a refugee camp near Gaza). Terrible heat. It's after midnight,
we are on our way to arrest "wanted people" – small criminals
and tax-evaders whom the Shin Bet wants to blackmail. We surround
the area and storm into the house. The officer quickly climbs the
wall and I, his signalman, close behind him. We break into the "house":
a single small room, blankets on the floor, four kids aged two to
six or seven. They and the parents – a young woman and a not so
young man – all wake up in panic, weeping and yelling. They are
hysteric, and we, very young soldiers, too. We shout at them to
shut up and at the man to dress up, and "search" the home.
There is nothing to find, nothing to look for. Handcuffs, and out
to the lorry. Several arrested Palestinians have been gathered there,
and someone from the Civil Administration is 'taking care' of them:
slaps in the face, kicking. I want to say something, but off we
go to the Shin Bet camp. The man we have arrested is smashed at
the lorry's floor, weeping, sobbing in fear, with a broken voice,
'I beg you, I beg you...'" written by Sergeant (res.) Yotam
back to why I don't write on terrorism. Surprisingly, this accusation
comes mostly from American readers. At first I thought I should
be grateful for this rare token of altruism: Are people living in
the US actually more concerned about my well-being than I am?! But
as all too often the complaints ended with such cordial blessing
as "you racist anti-Semite", I gathered that pure altruism
might not be the true motivation. So why do people want me to talk
about terrorism? Surely not because they know too little about it.
As a mourning Palestinian mother said last week, international press
would pay more attention to a Jewish settler's dog injured in a
terrorist attack than to her dead child. Terrorism is the most popular
term in Middle East media coverage, and still people want me to
talk about it too. So why? I believe it is because those people
do not want me to talk about another term: occupation. Note how
seldom this term is used when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is
dealt with. In fact, when you hear someone say "terrorism"
over and over again, you can be certain he won't use the term "occupation".
and Occupation may look like twin brothers. Both are illegitimate:
occupation is acknowledged by international law, but for a limited
time, not for 35 years; resistance to occupation (which is what
Palestinian terrorism is about) is legitimate too, but not when
innocent people are targeted. Both are murderous: innocent Israelis
fall victim to terrorism, innocent Palestinians fall victim to occupation.
Terrorism is pervasive: it threatens all Israelis; Occupation is
even more pervasive: all Palestinians are under occupation, and
as we have seen above, while terrorism can get Israelis in pizza
places or discos, occupation visits Palestinians in bed, either
by a missile or because some Shin Bet agent wants to blackmail them
into collaboration. Needless to say, the number of Palestinian victims
of the occupation overwhelmingly exceeds the number of Israeli victims
of terrorism – if you like, one more reason to talk about occupation
more than terrorism.
especially since September 11th but even long before, has been trying
to convince the world that the Palestinian Authority, not just individual
Palestinians, is engaged in terrorism. True or not, the uncontroversial
reality is that the State of Israel, not individual Israelis, is
running the occupation. Israel sometimes claims that the occupation
has been forced upon it against its will. It is one of the most
ridiculous claims I have ever heard, but this is actually what Ehud
Barak's celebrated "analytical mind" was trying to sell
us: that because he had supposedly made some "generous offers"
to the Palestinians, and because they had supposedly rejected these
offers, Israel could not stop the occupation. Sounds ridiculous?
Ask some Israel fans and you'll see how seriously they take this
simple fact is that Israel is occupying the territories because
it wants to occupy them. It does not withdraw from them, because
it wants to take the land for settlements, for water and for regional
strategic considerations. It does not annex them, because it does
not want to give citizenship to three million Palestinians. Occupation
is the only way to satisfy both aims. It may be direct occupation,
it may be an indirect one: in fact, Israel is generously offering
the Palestinians both options. Israel's present message to Arafat
is expressed clearly and shamelessly: either you comply with the
occupation, or we replace you with some other "leaders"
who will. Shimon Peres prefers the former option, Sharon prefers
the latter. They both support the occupation, they have both done
more than any other Israeli politician for the sake of the Israeli
settlements, they differ in tactics but share the same cause.
of colonialism have proved that "an enlightened occupation"
is a contradiction is terms. Occupation cannot be tolerable and
therefore cannot be tolerated. Expecting a people to live without
political rights is both unreasonable and immoral. The occupied
Palestinians, in order to get rid of the occupation, use violence
– verbal violence, physical violence, violence against soldiers
and settlers and deplorable violence against innocent people. Thus,
the occupation becomes ever more violent and the deprivation of
political rights is inevitably followed by violations of human rights.
You cannot oppress one people for the sake of another without resorting
to atrocities. It starts with exploiting one's weakness (a sick
elderly mother, a sick child) to blackmail one into collaboration,
it goes all the way through torture, siege, starving and killing
and it ends in letting a pregnant woman die with her infant at a
Friedrich Schiller said, this is the curse of the evil deed: it
inevitably gives birth to ever more evil. Indeed, Palestinian terrorism
has increased step by step with occupation; the cruelest stage of
occupation, with the whole world singing the praises of Oslo while
the settlements were expanding rapidly and the cantonisation of
the territories by checkpoints and highways was advancing in an
unprecedented high pace, gave birth to the appalling phenomenon
of Palestinians whose despair had overwhelmed them to the point
of being ready to die in order to kill their oppressors. Just like
the 200,000 settlers, just like the hundreds of checkpoints, the
suicide bombers haven't always been there: they emerged in a specific
TO STOP TERRORISM
why don't I talk of terrorism? Because Palestinian Terrorism is
not the Occupation's twin brother, but rather its murderous offspring.
Like father, like son. Terrorism is horrible; but occupation is
too, and the former is the result of the latter. To stop the circle
of violence, to stop terrorism, the occupation must stop first.
Since a one-state solution seems unlikely under the present circumstances,
Israel must end the occupation by withdrawing all its forces, dismantling
all its settlements and letting the Palestinians establish a true
independent state in the entire territories occupied in 1967. This
is the only way to uproot terrorism, not bulldozing the Gaza strip
or aiming a cannon at imprisoned Arafat's head.
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has
a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and
is currently working on his PhD thesis. He teaches in the Tel-Aviv
University's Department of Comparative Literature. He also works
as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as
a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth.
Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter
from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
Now?! Well, Maybe Later
Horowitz Rewrites the Past
Say No to
a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War – Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace