A cruel cat and mouse game

Palestinian and International activists take cover from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the controversial separation wall in the West Bank village of Bilin west of Ramallah May 19, 2006. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)


The Israelis call it a war, but it is really a contemptible and cruel cat and mouse game, with the mouse firmly held under the cat’s paw or locked up in a cage to which the cat has free and easy access.

A case in point is the operation the Israelis conducted in Jenin and Qabatiya a few days ago, just in time to underscore for the Palestinians the 58-year dynamic of their Nakba. This operation netted six dead Palestinian men, among them two brothers (20 and 22), one of whom died trying to protect the other.

To kill them, the Israelis first sent a force disguised as Arabs (a tactic they use often) to blend in with the population and relay advance information. These informants were then backed up by more than one hundred fully-equipped soldiers with tanks and helicopters - a grotesque use of force given the defenselessness and unwariness of their targets. On the Palestinian side, there were young activists in the various Palestinian factions, aspiring to resist their occupation.

When the operation in Jenin and Qabatiya was all over, the Israeli soldiers who had chased and slaughtered these six men no doubt tore back to their base high-fiving and congratulating themselves on their “victory”, discussing the fine points of their hunt, the dumbness and poverty of their cornered prey and the skill with which they executed their little pathetic exercise.

Once targeted, Palestinian youth do not have even a sporting chance. Considered “lawful targets”, they might as well be unarmed gladiators pitted against all manner of wild beasts. The Israeli supreme court routinely puts the stamp of judicial approval, not only on this kind of extrajudicial killing of Palestinians, but also on various schemes the ultimate goal of which is to control demographics and to seize Palestinian land and resources.

A recent example of the above is the Israeli court ruling a few days ago making it illegal for Israeli Palestinians married to non-Israeli Palestinians to live with their spouses in Israel. So much for the Jewish and democratic state, the only one in the world openly growing an ethnic majority at the expense of the indigenous population, a sizeable portion of whom has been literally camping on its borders ready to be repatriated for 58 awful years and counting.

So, given the incredible odds stacked against the Palestinians, where could they possibly be heading? For some time now, members of the Hamas-led Palestinian government have been roaming the region in search of support. Arab satellite TV stations relentlessly ask what they intend to do. Serious and defiant, they simply state and restate their position and appeal to international law vowing to stay the course.

Though their position sounds tenuous at best in realpolitik terms, Palestinians know in their guts that it’s the only option. Even if those who created the current humanitarian crisis in the first place (the US and its allies) manage to alleviate it temporarily through some convoluted mechanism, neither the Hamas-led government, nor any other kind of Palestinian government is capable of swerving Israel from its inflexible course. Israel’s project of annexing huge portions of the West Bank and sectioning it off is already well advanced.

What the Palestinians must do is to figure out ways to make Israel pay a price for what it’s doing - morally as well as materially. Israel’s case rests on power and the centrality of power in politics; the Palestinians’ case rests on injustice. For 58 long years, the bite of injustice, one ignominy heaped on top of another, has sustained their resolve to say “no” to their dispossession and to uphold their human dignity if not their human rights. As the nascent PA institutions crumble for lack of funds, as the people go hungry, as Israel’s Palestinian prison population continues to swell and Palestinian martyrs continue to fall, Israel, the occupier, must at some point start providing for the occupied.

This scenario, however, assumes two things: that Israel possesses some shreds of decency and that the international community will hold Israel to its responsibilities rather than get sucked into providing “humanitarian aid” to the Palestinians indefinitely.

Rima Merriman is a Palestinian-American living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank