Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Returning to Nablus: Collateral damage

Alice Rothchild writing from Nablus, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 2 April 2008

"Since 2003, a health and human rights project developed by members of Jewish Voice for Peace has organized yearly delegations to Israel and Palestine, joining with partners such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Palestinian Medical Relief Society. We document conditions on the ground, bring our stories home, and work on moving the political conversation towards a change in US policy. We focus on issues related to the occupation, its impact on the civilian populations, and the consequences of Israeli incursions, restrictions of movement, and collective punishment. In mid-October 2007 our delegation visited an apartment in Nablus that was the site of an attack by Israeli soldiers days earlier. While we were aware that there are almost nightly Israeli incursions into Nablus, the reality was still jarring and painfully surreal.......

For me, there is so much that is truly obscene in this description, both in its particulars and as an example of daily occurrences in the occupied territories. Israelis have a right to demand security, but I wonder what is happening in the mind of an Israeli soldier when he threatens to shoot an unarmed Palestinian man clutching his wife and child in his own home, or uses another as a human shield to move from apartment to apartment, or shoots an elderly man in the doorway of his apartment? How do repeated acts of collective punishment and humiliating and terrorizing civilians possibly contribute to Israeli security? Think of the tens of thousands of Fedaas whose lives are constricted and traumatized by these experiences. Think of the children who have never met an Israeli who did not carry a gun. Look at what we know and what we choose not to see. Consider our media, where the suffering of the innocents in the Israeli town of Sderot periodically bombarded by homemade rockets from Gaza, is squarely in the public eye, while the innocents in the city of Nablus under frequent attack by a heavily-armed military, stand invisible and unheard.

Alice Rothchild is an author and co-chair of Jewish Voice for Peace, Boston. This article is an excerpt from an updated version of her book, Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience to be republished in 2009."

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