Ramallah: More of the same

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

Due to the hot weather I already couldn’t sleep. As I finally thought I would be dreaming, I heard sounds of Apache helicopters hovering above my appartment, followed by machine gunfire minutes later. ‘Ramallah, again,’ I thought.

The tools of repression being used against Palestinians in the attempt to quash the intifada are many. The Israeli response to this uprising can be summerised in a few words: more of the same, but much more. This morning, Israeli forces occupied the entire area of Ramallah and El-Bireh. Again, they occupied the building of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees. Again, they surrounded Ramallah hospital, Sheikh Zeid hospital, and the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Again, ambulances were prevented from movement and medical treatment obstructed.

Israeli occupation forces invaded Ramallah and El Bireh with a total of one hundred military vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and military jeeps, backed by two Apache attack helicopters, firing heavy machine gunfire, occupied the entire area and raided the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority for the second time in five days. During the invasion the helicopters shelled Um as-Sharayet neighborhood and ‘Amari refugee camp. During the raid Israeli forces wounded a number of Palestinians and killed 26 years old Yasser Sawalha, who was a member of the Palestinian security forces.

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

During the previous Israeli invasion of Ramallah on March 29, which lasted more than a month, Israeli forces also surrounded the same hospitals and occupied the building of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees. Six staff members of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee are currently held hostage in the yard of the building. Also, Palestinian journalist Ali al-Jayousi is also held by Israeli forces. Israeli forces imposed a curfew on a number of neighborhoods, including Um as-Sharayet and ‘Amari refugee camp and arrested a number of residents.

Few of the repressive measures undertaken by the Israeli occupation since September 2000 were without precedent. These include regular attacks by the Israeli military with heavy machine gun fire, linked automatic 40mm grenades, tank fire and helicopter missiles on residential areas. More of the same opening fire at mostly unarmed demonstrations, extrajudicial punishments like home demolitions, collective sanctions like prolonged closures, and other illegal actions which had been routinely meted out to the occupied population throughout the length of the occupation. A constant feature before and during the latest escalation of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people has been the sheer disproportionality in the Israeli actions. What has changed is only the scale of repression.

Reading through news reports, eye-witness accounts, I get the uncomfortable feeling that there is a willing sadism on the part of the occupier, a perversity filtered down through their commanding officers from Israel’s bosses, war criminals, from the smug self-satisfaction of the settlers. It isn’t enough to attack Palestinian men, women, children and the aged, one must also beat up the already injured, the ill, and the handicapped. It isn’t enough to close down cities, villages and refugee camps, one must also bar schools and hospitals, one must also desecrate mosques and churches. It isn’t enough to physically torture prisoners, one must also destroy them psychologically.

As long as the Palestinian population’s resentment of what it perceives to be the theft of its land is compounded with genuine fear and distrust of Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers, security will never be a viable concept.

The Palestinians would need shoes the size of the earth in order to kick this world in the pants - this world that insists that victim and executioner are equal; this world which goes to extremes in its cruelty toward the victim and its sympathy for the executioner in asking the victim to please exercise self-restraint and control, while the executioner has been provided with a green light. The United States administration has a mean attitude that cannot be disputed, even meaner are those who demand that we keep quiet and give peace yet another chance.

The first picture shows an APC at dawn in the streets of Ramallah, the second picture shows an Israeli tank (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser).