I have been hiding out here in Tel Aviv the last few days, recovering from a really turbulent few weeks and from the bitter news that my friends are being deported from Israel now.
Already 5 of the 8 detained internationals have been deported, following the Tel Aviv District Court decision upholding the Interior Ministry’s decision that these human rights activists pose a “security threat”. The judge seemed unsympathetic, ordering the immediate deportation of the activists, dismissing a request to allow for one more week to file an appeal.
My friends looked sickly as they arrived in court this last Thursday. They had already been sitting in Ariel settlement jail for one week, enduring poor treatment, the denial of their medical rights, some physical violence by prison guards, and a raid of their jail cell, confiscating their valuables.
Sadly, they were treated much better than most of the Palestinians sitting in the cells with them. In my one night in Ariel settlement jail, I shared a cell with two Palestinians, both being held for weeks awaiting a court decision for minor infractions that would at best receive a slap on the wrist had they been Israeli Jews.
The issue is not a bunch of Western kids serving time for trying to remove roadblocks in isolated Palestinian villages, but rather 36 years of occupation that has left a rotting scar on the lives of millions of ordinary people trying to make a decent livelihood.
The issue is the family who graciously hosted me in their home for two nights in the town of Iraq Bureen outside Nablus, displaying Israeli bullet holes left by recent incursions covering their front door, bedroom closet and kitchen. Their village has been without open roads for months, and the delivery of basic milk, water and food hampered without good reason.
All of this in a lookout surrounded by Israeli settlements, military outposts and watchtowers, and daily make-shift checkpoints set-up right in the village itself. The only justification Israel uses to stay here is the tired and lame mantra of security or terror, all the while ignoring the fact that their presence is the real fuel for growing despair and agony.
Let us not forget the real issue in the commotion of our experience as seasoned or unseasoned peace workers. Let us not forget that even as I was arrested and put in an army jeep, a call came in on the radio dispatch requesting permission for an ill Palestinian woman to pass a checkpoint so she can seek medical treatment. Let us not forget the dozens of Palestinian men I saw each day standing out in the blazing heat, being denied freedom of movement as punishment for attempting to enter their villages through the fields and around the checkpoints that would turn many away in any case.
As an Israeli-Canadian Jew in Palestine, I have come to witness and document countless human rights violations in the occupied territories, and come to the conclusion that Israel is moving closer to becoming a totalitarian state with a warped moral compass. ‘Never Again’, a famous slogan symbolizing Jewish self-determination after the holocaust, need not be replaced with ‘At Any Price!’ Yet many Jews still see Israel as The Golden Child that can do no harm. They send money, support Israeli policy unconditionally, swallow the propoganda whole, not realzing that their Golden Child has become a bully!
Israel’s greatest threat is not the Palestinians, nor Iraq, nor the United States, but rather biting its own tail in the name of reactionary military policies that serve only the army generals that make up the previous and current governments here. We, as Jews, must remember how much we have suffered so as to transform that pain to compassion, generosity and understanding. Otherwise, we are destined to fall prey to the victim-victimizer dichotomy, asserting that we are either prey or predator. Today, I say, “We Are All Palestinians.”
Avi Zer-Aviv was one of six human rights activists arrested by the Israeli army earlier this month for removing roadblocks in the villages of Iraq Bureen and Tell just outside Nablus. He was joined in jail with four other activists arrested for similar non-violent actions in Jenin.