Rape of the cities

Imagine that you have been locked inside your house for 10 days. You cannot leave your house because there are tanks and soldiers in the street, on every corner there are snipers who shoot to kill. Imagine you cannot go to work, your children cannot go to school or to the nursery and you have to do your best to explain to them what a tank is and what the soldiers are doing in the streets of your city.

For the world it is easy to explain; we, the Palestinians are terrorists and the Israeli government has a right and even a duty to defend themselves and it is an ‘understandable overreaction’ (words of the Australian prime minister) that the Israeli army invade all the Palestinian cities in order to ‘clear out’ the terrorist network and its leadership. For us confined to our homes, watching and listening to the horrendous news of dead bodies in the streets we wonder why the world is paralysed: we know that we are not terrorists but merely normal people like you wanting to live our lives as best we can.

Imagine you have no electricity, no water, no phone-line and food is running low. Just try to imagine this for one second. Then try to imagine that the soldiers knock on your door. You have no choice but to open the door even though your only wish is to spare your children from this terrifying experience: strange men dressed in strange army uniforms, shouting in a strange language and pointing huge weapons at you as they burst into the only safe haven you thought was left; your own home.

They order you and your family to remain in one room while they use your kitchen, they sleep on your couch or even in your bed, then leave their filth behind in your shower.

Before they leave, they destroy some family pictures, break the table and some chairs and, on their way out, they may even steal your brand new mobile phone, your savings, your computer and camera. This is done without any purpose or any reason, they just want to make sure you noticed they were here-in your house, violating the most intimate and personal sphere and humiliating your human dignity.

Imagine after 8 days locked inside your house, the soldiers, who are safe inside their tanks, announce that the curfew will be lifted for a few hours. Knowing that the soldiers are still on the street, you hesitate to leave the house but you know you need to go get more food for your family. Insecurely you move about the city, which is totally damaged: buildings hit by missiles, burnt out houses, a broken into corner-shop, cars parked in the street completely crushed as the tanks drove over them, trees uprooted, a lone boot lost by an even loner soldier tells a tale of resistance and fear.

You feel as if your city has been raped: the Israeli army said they invaded our city to arrest ‘militants and terrorists’, but surely tearing up the city and destroying the civilian infrastructure has nothing to do with their ‘mission’? How can destroying health clinics and schools possibly be part of the Israeli ‘war on terror’?

As you insecurely hurry back home in shock, you meet friends and colleagues you haven’t seen for days, quickly exchanging your words of love and hopes that we all will get through this without losing our minds or even our lives. Imagine that this is you; an army invades your city, the soldiers kill innocent people, they don’t let ambulances get to you if you have been wounded, if your child is sick, if you’re about to give birth. They destroy the infrastructure, cut the electricity and the water. They intentionally harm you as member of the civilian population. Imagine this for one second and try to think what you would do.

Today, this is life in Palestine. Some cities have been attacked and hit worse than others, but there is one thing in common for all of us: the civilian population suffers unnecessarily.