‘There is a curfew,’ says somebody at the office. I look at him and continue my work. ‘Yes, they have imposed a curfew on a number of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, including Issawiye and Beit Hanina,’ he says. I complete my work and walk to a pizza place nearby to get some sandwiches. ‘Don’t you know that you have to hurry home, there is a curfew in Dahiya al-Barid, and they will start imposing the curfew in thirty minutes.’
Annet and I walk up the hill, pass through a supermarket to get some groceries. “Sorry, no bread,” says the owner. It seems that residents of the neighborhood rushed home, getting food supplies and wait for what will come.
At the top of the hill, a woman approaches us, and asked us: “American? European? You have to go home, there is a curfew.” Still, we could see cars, men, women and children on the street.
At night, suddenly I hear blasts. The blasts are different from the sounds of Apache helicopters firing missiles or tank shells. We’ve become familiar with that sound coming from the north. I look out the window and see fireworks. “How appropriate,” I say silently. Israel celebrates “independence”, that is, on the expense of Palestinians locked up in their homes, that is, if their home is not destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, attack helicopters or tanks. Israel celebrates “independence” while Palestinians have been yearning for freedom all along Israel’s existence. In every settlement on the West Bank, that is, colonies that have been built on confiscated Palestinian land, fireworks shoots into the sky. “How appropriate to celebrate with fireworks, even from the Psgot settlement that overlooks Ramallah, where all residents are confined to their homes and shelters,” I sigh.
Israel celebrates “independence” on the expense of refugees, the ultimate victims of dispossession, expulsion, and destruction. Refugees that have their shelters being bulldozed, shelled, destroyed, who are looking for relatives that might be killed, injured, detained or missing. Refugees that have experienced the horrors of Israeli war crimes committed under the eyes of the world.
Israel’s “independence” in 1948 followed mass expulsions and ethnic cleansing that led to the death of 13,000 Palestinians, the expulsion and displacement of 750,000 Palestinians, and the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages. How appropriate to celebrate this “independence” when there has been ongoing dispossession of land, homes, and identity. In the past 18 months the world has witnessed an escalation of destruction, expropriation of land, property, homes, arbitrary detention, torture, mass killings, suppression, and oppression.
The world has consistently failed to understand or acknowledge Israel’s continuous assaults on Palestinian life, property, and identity. No state should be above accountability for human rights abuses. No state should be above accountabilility for grave breaches of humanitarian law, war crimes, and other acts that contradicts any human norm of behaviour. The security of the State of Israel does not require nor justify attempts to ethnically cleanse or exterminate an indigenous population. Israel’s security does not require nor justify the ongoing oppression and denial of fundamental human rights and freedoms, including self-determination. The scale of military attacks launched against the civilian Palestinian population, including regular and consistent shelling and bombing of civilian areas, a shoot-to-kill policy aimed at Palestinian civilians, imprisonment of communities, deliberate improvishment, denial of access to humanitarian aid and assistance, and assassinations - all amount to war crimes and acts of state terrorism.
As the world realised with apartheid South Africa, mere words of condemnation will have no bearing until the underlying racism is exposed for what it is. Israel has chosen to ignore repeated UN resolutions for 54 years. The time is well overdue for concrete measures to be taken. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself. Key countries in Europe and the United States are again asserting that “constructive engagement” or “persuasion through negotiation” is preferable. In so doing, they fail to comply with their own legal obligations as parties to the Geneva Convention, to hold Israel to account for its violations and to take effective measures.
- picture shows a foot sticking out from the rubble of one of the homes destroyed by Israeli forces in the Jenin refugee camp Tuesday, April 16, 2002..