By Gideon Levy, reposted from Ha’aretz, June 25, 2023
There aren’t many populations in the world as helpless as the Palestinians who live in their own country. No one protects their lives and property, let alone their dignity, and no one intends to do so. They are totally abandoned to their fates, as is their property. Their houses and cars can be torched, their fields set on fire. It’s all right to shoot them mercilessly, killing old people and babies, with no defense forces at their side. No police, no military: no one.
If some such desperate defense force is organized, it’s immediately criminalized by Israel. Its fighters are labeled “terrorists,” their actions “terror attacks,” and their fates sealed, with death or prison the only options.
Amid the utter chaos created by the occupation, the ban on Palestinians defending themselves is one of the craziest rules; it’s an accepted norm that isn’t even discussed.
Why aren’t the Palestinians allowed to defend themselves? Who exactly is supposed to do it for them? Why, when talking about “security,” it’s only about Israel’s security? Palestinians have more victims of assaults, bloodshed, pogroms, and violence – and no defensive tools at their disposal.
Which group are terrorists?
Over three days last week, 35 pogroms have been carried out by settlers [NOTE: other sources place the number much higher]. Since the beginning of the year, around 160 Palestinians have been killed by soldiers, the vast majority of them unnecessarily and most of them criminally. From baby Mohammed Tamimi to the elderly Omar As’ad, Palestinians have been killed for no reason.
There was no one to stop the soldiers from firing indiscriminately, no one to face the sharpshooters. No Israeli authority even considered holding back hundreds of rampaging settlers.
Through its actions and omissions, the IDF was a full accomplice to the pogroms –as were the police. The Palestinians were abandoned to their fates.
Abandoned, the Palestinian residents watched helplessly as the abhorrent settlers torched their homes, fields, and cars, afraid to even breathe.
Try to imagine hundreds of loathsome thugs at the entrance to your home, burning and destroying everything, and yourself hoping they don’t enter your house and hurt your children, and being able to do nothing about it until they finally leave. There’s no one to call or turn to for help. There are no police, no authorities, and no one to call for help.
Any step taken in self-defense would be considered an act of terrorism. Try to imagine it.
Is self-defense a terrorist act?
When the courageous fighters in the Jenin refugee camp – who are much more courageous than the well-protected IDF soldiers, as well as more just – try to stop military invasions of the camp with their less powerful weapons, they are, of course, considered terrorists, with only one fate awaiting them. The invader is legitimate, and the one defending his life and property is a terrorist.
The moral criteria and rules are incomprehensible in their absurdity. Each killing by a soldier is considered just, including that of Sadil, a 15-year-old refugee girl killed on the roof of her home last week. Any shooting in self-defense at an invading soldier is considered a brutal act of terrorism.
In another reality, one might at least dream about an Israeli Jewish force mobilizing to defend defenseless Palestinians. One might dream of an Israeli left mobilizing in defense of their victim, like what some remarkable individuals, including some exemplary Jews, did to help defend Black South Africans under Apartheid, fighting with them and being wounded and imprisoned for many years alongside them.
Accompanying students to schools for their protection is noble, but it’s not enough. It’s easy to talk but difficult to take action. This idea has never taken off during all the years of occupation, except for one or two attempts immediately blocked by Israel. It’s difficult to blame the left for this, but it’s impossible not to feel some bitterness about its inaction.
This week, more Palestinians will be killed for no reason, and their property will be destroyed. Children will wet their beds, fearing any rustle in the yard, knowing that their parents can’t do anything to protect them. Again, the Palestinians will be left helpless.
The invader is legitimate, and the one defending his life and property is a terrorist. The moral criteria are incomprehensible in their absurdity.
Israeli jounlist Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.
For a complete list of Palestinians and Israelis killed since 2000, please visit Israel-Palestine Timeline
NOTE: The entire West Bank has been under Israeli occupation since 1967; all its official entrances and exits are controlled by Israeli soldiers, making its Palestinian inhabitants virtual prisoners. Many are families that were ethnically cleansed from Israel during Israel’s founding war (see this and this and this) and its 1967 war. Israeli forces often invade them; one example is here.
Israel was established in 1947 through a war of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population, both Muslims and Christians, and it continues to steal other people’s land for illegal colonies known as ‘settlements.’ While Palestinians most often use nonviolent resistance, a small number use armed resistance against the invaders.