A video of an Israeli police officer assaulting a Palestinian man may have gone viral this week, leading senior officials to condemn it. It also served as a reminder that police violence is a part of everyday life for Palestinians in Israel.
The now-infamous video of an I卐raeli police officer beating a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem, which began circulating on social media on Thursday media, won’t leave me. I am trying to figure out precisely why these images are so disturbing and stomach-churning. After all, anyone who knows even bit about the reality in the eastern part of the city knows there is nothing new here. After all, the police’s violent, frightening presence in Palestinian areas is part of everyday life here.
I know this reality well. I know it from the rows of detained Palestinians who are made to stand against a wall, which I see at least twice a day in this city. I know it from the beatings during protests, from the Border Police jeeps that drive wildly in the Palestinian neighborhoods. Too many times have I almost been run over by one while crossing the street. I am guessing they must have thought I was Palestinian, and no police jeep will slow down to allow a Palestinian the right to cross in these areas.
Perhaps it is the fact that none of the Palestinian men present try to intervene or strike back as they watch the officer’s depraved behavior. They just stand there and take it. But the fact is that the officer could very easily claim that his life was in danger, meaning these men would quickly find themselves in court as the attackers. The statistics show that they are right.
Between 2011-2014, in more than 93 percent of cases in which citizens filed reports against the police, the Police Investigation Unit either refrained from opening an investigation or closed the case without taking action against the offending officers. Among the 11,282 complaints filed between 2011-2013, only 306 cases (2.7 percent) led to criminal trials, while only 374 (3.3 percent) led to disciplinary hearings. In 2014, only 2.5 percent of complaints turned into a trial, while three percent led to a disciplinary hearing. The rest of the cases were either closed due to lack of evidence or public interest — or were never investigated in the first place.
‘Erased from Space and Consciousness’ is the product of years of meticulous research to raise awareness of the hundreds of villages Israel destroyed during and following the 1948 war. But is awareness enough to remedy the injustices of the past?
By Tom Pessah
A youth walks among the rubble of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit’s original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village’s church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.
Kadman, Noga: Erased From Space and Consciousness – Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948. 2015. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 256 pp.
Noga Kadman’s Erased from Space and Consciousness is one of those rare books that profoundly re-shapes your perspective. Growing up inside the Zionist education system meant that even when I dideventually hear about the “Palestinian narrative,” it seemed distant — not connected directly to my life experiences as an Israeli.
Kadman’s book, a product of visits to the sites of 230 former villages and extensive archival work, traces the points at which the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 was submerged and normalized, until this massive break in the country’s history became almost imperceptible to younger generations of Israelis. Through documenting the points at which these Palestinian experiences were re-coded, the book enabled me to de-familiarize the familiar – to finally notice the ruins and the cacti I regularly passed on bus rides, and to start asking questions about their former inhabitants. As Edward Said notes, “there can be no hope of peace unless the stronger community, the Israeli Jews, acknowledges the most powerful memory for the Palestinians, namely the dispossession of an entire people” (p. 145-6). This acknowledgement can only happenonce we re-read our surroundings and fully perceive what has always been there — in the background.
After a useful forward by Prof. Oren Yiftachel and an in-depth review of the scholarship on the Nakba and its erasure, the book runs through three empirical chapters. The first examines publications from 25 rural Jewish communities that took over the lands of ruined villages, and describes how this transition was narrated there. The second describes in detail two government bodies established following the state’s founding — the Government Names Committee, and the Survey of Israel (the agency responsible for mapping) — both of which determined how the sites of former Palestinian localities would be officially named in Hebrew.
Palestinian citizens of Israel visit the remains of the village of Lubya in northern Israel, May 6, 2014. Lubya was destroyed in the Nakba, literally “catastrophe”, in which more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed before and during the 1948 War.
The third chapter discusses signs and publications by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which help mold the public’s perceptions of what became nature reserves and holiday resorts, which mask the sites of former villages. Extensive quotes from these sources are accompanied by historical photographs of the sites (new immigrants dancing among the recent ruins), contemporary photographs by the author (ancient cacti still visible among the newer JNF forests), and reproduced illustrations from when the kibbutzim were founded (pioneers marching forward to till the land, with a destroyed house in the background). The appendices include detailed lists of the depopulated villages (but not towns), their location, demographic and topographic features, as well as the communities and parks that were built atop them and the new names they were given.
The process Kadman documents included more than “erasure” or “silencing.” More precisely, the memory of the former Palestinian inhabitants was re-shaped into a form more palatable to Israelis. The mill used by the villagers of Jarisha, inside what is now Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park, is attributed to the “Ottoman period” on the JNF website, with no mention whatsoever of the villagers who used to live there (p. 122).
Furthermore the memory of certain villages became synonymous with filth and backwardness: Kibbutz Sasa wrote that “we are mired in the ruins of an Arab village, that even before its destruction we had to run around in it among fleas and dirt” (p. 74). Sometimes the old name remained long after the inhabitants were gone, preserved by informal agents such as Mizrahi immigrant transit camps (whom the Names Committee accused of “distorting the Hebrew face of our state” — p. 103).
In the lexicon of Kabri, one of the many newly-established Jewish community, the entry “orchards in Kabri” describes delicious fruits, without mentioning the residents of the Palestinian village, al-Kabri, who planted the trees (p. 64). The Names Committee listed Moshav Kfar Daniel as “named to commemorate Daniel Frisch, the president of the Zionist Organization of America,” (p. 101) but the name curiously echoes that of the destroyed village that existed on the same site – Daniyal.
Palestinians celebrate during a festival by a natural spring at Lifta, on May 16, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Palestinians came to mark the Nakba day. Lifta was a Palestinian village that was destroyed after the birth of Israeli state.
Moshav Ya’ad provides a somewhat different example, in which elements of the older village were actually re-associated with its original inhabitants. The moshav was built on the lands of Mi’ar in the Lower Galilee in 1974, decades after the village was destroyed. Perhaps this is the reason members of the moshav were willing to work with internally-displaced refugees, who managed to stay inside the State of Israel during the 1948 war and today reside nearby. Together they managed to prevent new construction on the site of the former village, and the ancient cemetery was fenced off and protected. However, the majority of Ya’ad members opposed placing a sign to explain the history of the destroyed village.
Yet even this modest example of cooperation is an exception. At most the first generation of kibbutz members sometimes expressed sorrow for the fate of the inhabitants whose land they took. Their questions (“what gives us the right to reap the fruits of trees we have not planted?” Kibbutz Sasa Passover Haggadah, p. 84) remained unanswered and inconsequential, and were not raised again by the following generations. In moshavim, less committed to a socialist ideology with universal pretensions, these dilemmas were entirely absent.
While Kadman’s research on the renaming of Palestinian locales remains groundbreaking, a decade after she began her study, her conclusions may seem too timid for some readers’ taste. During this period, Zochrot, the central Israeli organization trying to raise awareness of the Nakba among the Israeli public, shifted its emphasis from memorialization of the Palestinian catastrophe to actively reversing its results. Zochrot now explicitly calls for the return of refugees to the lands they were expelled from, so that they can live alongside the present Israeli inhabitants. Kadman is doubtlessly right to stress “the importance of memory,” and to document efforts to bring this memory to the consciousness of Israelis, but many Palestinians would argue that memory alone is not enough and cannot replace meaningful efforts to reverse the expulsion of 1948.
Nevertheless there is no doubt that exposing the memory of the former Palestinian locales and the attempts to cover it up is a crucial first step towards reconciliation. Kadman has provided us with a valuable tool for reconfiguring our own consciousness and perceiving the everyday traces of some 85 percent of the Palestinian population of what became the State of Israel – those who remain, to this day, “erased from space and consciousness.”
Tom Pessah is a sociologist and activist, currently studying at Tel Aviv University.
Israeli scum “settlers” take over a Palestinian building in the occupied West Bank. Mamoun WazwazAPA images
Steal my land, kick me out and yet I will protect you, you scum Ashkenazi terrorist!
On Monday Augus 10, 2015, the US government requested that a New York court “reduce” the bond the PA is required to post while it appeals against a ruling that found it liable for a series of attacks between 2002 and 2004 in Jerusalem and present-day Israel.
One of the reasons cited for supporting the PA is that the US regards it as playing an important role in protecting Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
And who is protecting Palestinians? How much in $$ is the US to allocate
to Palestine’s government for security against any and all encroachments
by Israel (and US)?
In fact, the settler’s must go, now or later. I would support US “aid” to Israel (coordinated with Palestine) for their immediate evacuation.
Should they so desire, they could apply to Palestine for housing in competition with the thousands of Palestinians who have been forced to live in camps for decades after coerced dispossession (by force) by Israel. That indeed would be money well-spent.
Any other US policy in support of settlements or in support of PA doing the dirty work (“stability”???) makes the US complicit in Israeli extermination policy. Of course, such policies guarantee war, death, destruction, oppression of Palestinians.
It seems the US has frequently enjoyed participation in brutal oppressions. This is not “news”!
Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Until there are none left.
—-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Now imagine the Allies asking Jews during the Holocaust to be “more tolerant” of Nazis!
Around 20,000 protesters marched through London waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans
By Anna Roberts4:55PM BST 09 Aug 2014
Thousands of demonstrators descended on the streets of central London this afternoon to protest at the bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces. Waving placards and the black, white, green and red flag of Palestine, the marchers converged on the BBC’s Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus.
Chants of “Free, Free, Palestine” were shouted across London’s busy West End as marchers then made their way to Hyde Park to be addressed by speakers including George Galloway and Diane Abbott.
Organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War, the march passed peacefully, according to most onlookers. Pupils from Ed Miliband’s old school, Haverstock, in Chalk Farm, north London, joined the march, accompanied by a samba band.
Yasmin Rackal, 17, said: “People shouldn’t stand by and watch an injustice. I have little brothers and sisters and if I was in that situation I would want people globally to fight for me.”
Sanum Ghafoor, 22, had travelled from Luton to take part. She said: “It is a massacre of the Palestinians, and the world is staying quiet. The British Government keeps supporting the Israeli establishment.”
One Jewish marcher said he was appalled at the “horrific” images of dead bodies and bombed-out homes being beamed out of Gaza.
But Dan Rosenberg, 43, said while many of his Jewish friends felt the same, they were too afraid to join the march for fear of being abused.
The father of two from north London, said: “It is horrific what is going on in Gaza. It is collective punishment. I don’t know how any human being can stand back while this is happening.
“But it is difficult being here. We have seen the anti-Semitic attitudes and you feel very threatened and scared, but we feel we have to stand up and represent.
“Even standing here we feel quite uncomfortable. You hear people say they think the Jews run the media. Those beliefs are unpleasant, ignorant and racist.
“I have Jewish friends who wanted to come but they felt uncomfortable being here.”
A public appeal for money launched on Friday night to help thousands of Gazans has raised more than £4.5m in less than 24 hours.
The Department for International Development has pledged to match the first £2m donated by the public to the Gaza Crisis Appeal, which will help pay for food, water and shelter
Will the people of Gaza continue to support Hamas despite the terrible consequences?
The Palestinians of Gaza are saying we are suffering because of the crimes of Israel. Even with the carnage and their homes reduced to rubble, they say, “Mr. Khaled Meshaal, we don’t want to emerge from this war without breaking the siege. We were dying slowly. Now we are dying instantly because of the F-16s and all the Israeli and American technology.” The Palestinian people have had enough. They do not make distinctions between slow death and instant death. They say, “Our families are targeted in their homes. However, we want to resist, to insist on lifting the siege.” How does the killing stop? What do you want?
Human beings have to defend themselves. If we are starved, if we are besieged, we have to defend ourselves. When [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu stops every effort to reach peace, the rest of the world ought to expect an explosion in the West Bank and Gaza. What do I believe Hamas needs or wants? Peace. But we want peace without occupation, without settlements, without Judaization, without the siege. We want to live on par with every single nation. We need to live in Palestine.
“You think the key is trust. We actually are enemies. They are the occupiers. The solution doesn’t start with trust. … How could I trust my enemy?”
Will you pledge not to eradicate Israel? Do you want to live in coexistence with Israel?
I do not coexist with occupation and with settlements. Do you think that Palestinians who suffer from occupation and settlements can eradicate Israel? No, this is beguiling, misleading propaganda. … We in Hamas believe in moderation of Islam. We are not fanatics. We do not fight the Jews because they are Jews per se. We fight the occupiers. I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians, with the Arabs, with the non-Arabs. I do coexist with other religions. … When we have a Palestinian state, then the Palestinian people can have their say. There are disproportionate standards, but we have the upper hand. Every single occupation ends, and the people are victorious.
How do you create trust between Israelis and Palestinians?
You think the key is trust. We actually are enemies. They are the occupiers. The solution doesn’t start with trust. The international community’s full mission is to say to the Israeli occupation, “Stop. Enough is enough.” They ought to compel Israel to withdraw. How could I trust my enemy? We had a number of negotiations. The negotiations failed.
Some suggest, to preserve Israel’s security, the sovereignty of a Palestinian state must be restricted.
Why does the world understand Israeli security issues and not take heed of Palestinian security issues? In order to have a Palestinian state, why ought that state be demilitarized? Who accepts a state without arms? It will be subject to the aggression of others. I cannot accept any tutelage of any other entity. If you say, “Come, you are Palestinian. We can give you a piece here and a piece there in piecemeal fashion”—no. No.
Do you need the approval of the military wing of Hamas to commit to any agreement?
We are not two heads or two bodies. We are one single movement. When the political leadership commits to something, then the military wing will commit itself, too. If the leaders take a decision, then every single person, whether militant or civilian, they will follow.
Why are you in Qatar and not Gaza?
This is a very reasonable question. You can ask not only Khaled Meshaal, you can ask the 6 million people in the diaspora. Why are they not in the West Bank? Why are they not in Gaza? Because Israel expelled the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967. I’m from the West Bank. Since 1967, I was expelled. I used to live in Jordan, in Kuwait, when I used to be a student. Then I moved to Syria and now Qatar. You have hundreds and thousands of Palestinians in America. They long to go back to Palestine. Although they are American citizens, Palestinians long for their home country. That’s why we insist on the return of the refugees, for me and for others to return. My natural existence is there, but I’m compelled to be here.
A Jewish settler walks past a Palestinian on Shuhada Street, in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Nayef Hashlamoun/Reuters)
HEBRON, West Bank—I first saw the boys through the rear view mirror of the car I was riding in, as they approached Shuhada Street. One of them was about the age of my daughter, who became a bat mitzvah last week. The other might have been 16 or so, like my older son. The boys hesitated at the top of the street and seemed to take a breath. Then they stepped into the void.
Shuhada Street, lined with small shops whose owners typically lived upstairs, was once among the busiest market streets in this ancient city. But in 1994, in response to a horrific massacre that left 29 people dead and 125 injured, the Israel Defense Forces began clamping down on Shuhada Street. They welded shut the street-facing doors of all the homes and shops, and by the time of the Second Intifada in 2000, had turned the bustling thoroughfare into a ghost street on which no one was permitted to set foot. No one, that is, who is Palestinian. Israeli Jews and foreign visitors are free to come and go along the road—to snap photos and make their way to Hebron’s three Jewish settler outposts, Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano, and Avraham Avinu. But there is nothing to buy, nothing to see, no reason to tarry. The stores are all closed. The few Palestinians who remain have been barred from the street where they live. If they want to enter their homes, they must do so through back doors, which in many cases involves clambering over rooftops.
One might be tempted to view Shuhada Street as just another casualty in an endless cycle of violent retribution. A Palestinian kills dozens of Hebron’s Jews, so Israel punishes the Palestinians of Hebron by closing Shuhada Street. But that is not, in fact, what happened. The victims of the massacre that impelled the Israeli government to shutter Shuhada were not Jews. They were Palestinians—unarmed Palestinians gunned down as they prayed at the nearby Cave of the Patriarchs by Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Jewish zealot with Israeli military training and a Galil assault rifle, who stopped firing only when he was overcome and killed by survivors of his attack. You can add Shuhada Street, and the vibrant urban life it once sustained and embodied, to the list of Goldstein’s victims.
My visit to Hebron had begun at Goldstein’s tomb, in a small park in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba on the city’s outskirts. The grave has become a site of pilgrimage and ecstatic veneration for some religious Israelis and sympathetic foreigners despite the Israeli government’s prohibition on monuments to terrorists. The massive slab of marble is inscribed with the words, “He gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land.” On the day I visited, the gravestone was littered with small stones, placed there in homage in accordance with Jewish tradition.
After puzzling over the epitaph (I was born in Jerusalem but my family emigrated to Canada before I learned to read), I brushed away the commemorative stones. A mass-murderer deserves no such honor. An Israeli army jeep rumbled alongside the park and I stepped back, nervous that I would be harassed for my action. The Israeli military presence in Hebron is intense—between 600 and 650 soldiers, military police, and commanders, or at least one for every settler—and its role is very clear: The security forces are there to protect the settlers, regardless of how brutal or inflammatory the latter’s actions may be, and regardless of the fact that, as Goldstein’s homicidal cowardice makes clear, it is the Palestinians who often need protection against settlers who, sure of support from the Netanyahu government, seek to make permanent their incursion into the city.
My companions and I then made our way to Shuhada Street, where an Israeli soldier checked our passports to ensure both that we were not Palestinian and that we understood the omnipotence of Israeli military authority. We passed the new Beit Hadassah museum, an exhibit of curated propaganda dedicated to legitimizing the presence of Jewish settlers in the city. Then we came to the end of the street, and I happened to glance in the rearview mirror, where I saw the two boys. I didn’t need to be the mother of children their age to fear for their lives and safety. I only needed to have been following the news.
Less than a week before, on Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate the displacement that preceded and followed Israel’s declaration of independence, there had been a protest in front of Ofer military prison in the West Bank town of Beitunia. After the protest was dispersed, two Palestinian teenagers had been shot and killed by the Israeli army. Video of the killings had surfaced on the Internet, and in my hotel room in Jerusalem I had watched as another Arab boy my son’s age, carrying the kind of backpack my son carries, doing nothing more than crossing a street—crumpled and pitched forward, motionless.
Now, several days later, I watched these Shuhada Street boys risk death for the sake of a liberty so rudimentary and fundamental that my own children are not even aware of its existence, or its importance, or its simple human beauty: the right to walk down the street.
I should have gotten out of the car and joined them. I should have taken out my cell phone and started filming. But I just sat in the car and fretted. Thankfully, the Israeli soldiers on duty that day did nothing more than lift their weapons and motion the boys back to permitted ground, and the boys obeyed. It was one of many such interactions—petty indignities and tiny acts of courage. It was nothing as dramatic as an incident, viewable on YouTube, in which settler girls take advantage of a school holiday to lie in wait for Palestinian children on their way home from school, then curse the other children and throw rocks at them while Israeli soldiers look on, periodically urging the rock-throwers to stop but doing little to protect the victims of the violence. Nothing as dramatic as another encounter, also captured on video, in which a female settler, flanked by soldiers, lobs curses at a Palestinian woman who had the temerity to walk out the front gate of her own house. “Whore! Whore!” the settler hisses.
I ended my visit to Hebron at a small community center run by Palestinian peace activists, where we shared plates of hummus and fresh vegetables and tried to find inspiration in the tiny outpost of hope. But the bright murals painted by Palestinian activists had been disfigured by Jewish settlers with splashes of gray paint, and we ate under the stony gaze of soldiers assigned to guard settlers whose vandalism is among the least of their offenses.
The litany of Hebron’s many immiserations is long. I could write paragraphs about the racially differentiated access to water, and about how settlers sometimes spray the ground with their hoses, taunting Palestinians who have severely limited access to water for drinking or cooking or bathing. I could describe the ugly anti-Arab graffiti I saw, the bumper stickers plastered onto walls with messages like, “Arab! Don’t even dare to think about a Jewish woman!” I could describe the achingly torturous journey an elderly resident of Shuhada Street must make just to leave her house, with its front door welded shut, because one day in 1994 a hate-filled fanatic massacred her townspeople.
But out of respect for the people who escorted me down the tragic length of Shuhada Street, I will try to close on a note of hopefulness. My guides were a couple of Jewish Israelis, raised in religious homes, who had served as soldiers in the West Bank and who, as a result of what they saw and what they did, now devote their lives to raising awareness about the injustices of the Occupation. My guides described in painful detail the structural inequality of a land where one ethnic group lives under oppressive military rule, and another under democratic, civilian authority. They described receiving explicit instruction to make Palestinians feel as if they were constantly under surveillance, constantly pursued, constantly harassed. They said their role, as described by Moshe Ya’alon, the current defense minister and former army chief of staff, was to “sear the hearts and minds of the Palestinians.” My guides told me of instances in which they were involved in “Straw Widow” actions, where they invaded a Palestinian home, shut the family into a single room, and then made free use of the house. Ostensibly these home invasions were conducted for security reasons, but just as often they were simple training exercises. Sometimes the homes were chosen because they had a satellite dish, and an important soccer match was on TV. “What hope is there?” I asked them, in response. They replied that they named their organization Breaking the Silence because they fervently believe that once people know what is happening in Hebron and the rest of the Palestinian territories, change is inevitable.
I’m not sure that I share their faith in the power of knowledge to create justice, but I want to. And that’s why, as Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing government broadcasts its contempt for the U.S. State Department’s commitment to working with the new Palestinian unity government, and announces the construction of 1,500 new settlement housing units in the West Bank, I, a Jewish American born in Israel, who believes in Israel’s right to exist within its own borders, am breaking my own silence.