39 army raids, 28 arrests: Just another day in the West Bank
In 2009 Israelis enjoyed unprecedented security as Palestinians suffered more settler violence than ever.
"The year 2009 was the quietest for Israelis from the security point of view and the most violent for the Palestinians from the point of view of attacks by settlers in the West Bank." Just as he was saying this - as an example of one of the absurdities that characterize the political situation - Palestinian Agriculture Minister Ismail Daiq received a phone call from the Jenin district to inform him that five artesian wells in the village of Daan had been destroyed that morning. One person was shot and wounded in the abdomen when he tried to lift the pump to save it from damage. This was not an attack by settlers but a raid by the army.
And that wasn't the only routine event on Wednesday, February 24. The negotiations affairs department of the Palestine Liberation Organization collects information daily from all the districts of the occupied territories (Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Jerusalem) and publishes it in a daily situation report by the Palestinian Monitoring Group. For the sake of convenience, the report categorizes the events and then provides details for each district.
That Wednesday, a total of 212 occupation-related incidents were recorded. Examples include: four physical assaults (which took place in the West Bank, and included civilians being beaten in Nablus and Jerusalem); one injury (a civilian hurt in a clash in Daan); eight military shooting attacks (two of which took place in Gaza, two were in the midst of raids, and one came from a military outpost; 39 army raids (one in Gaza); 28 arrests; and 12 detentions at checkpoints and in residential areas. The items on the checklist include home demolition (none that day), the leveling of agricultural land (one, in Gaza), and construction of the separation wall (at 22 locations).
The report also includes categories for property destruction (seven cases, including the destruction of wells and crops); checkpoint closure (eight cases at five checkpoints, including instances of impeded access); mobile ("flying") checkpoints (23); permanent closure of village access roads (seven); closure of main roads (40, (including four in Bethlehem and 14 in Hebron, and the village of Jaba east of Ramallah); closure of main crossing points (four, including the permanent blockade of Gaza); disruptions at school (three cases, including the throwing of two tear gas canisters); violence on the part of settlers (one, in Sheikh Jarrah); demonstrations (one, in Hebron). The checklist also includes Palestinian attacks (none on that day).
The philosophy behind the situation report is clear. An "event" is not just a fatality, assault, shooting or demolition. It is something that entails permanent damage, and stems from the policy of imposing closures, building the wall and maintaining the blockade of the Gaza Strip. But even without these occupation-related items, the vast majority of the incidents are not made known to the vast majority of Israelis.
No statistics can express the emotional and social distress that accompanies every event and non-event, such as the incarceration of 1.5 million people inside the Gaza Strip or the fact that tens of thousands still have not been able to reconstruct homes that were damaged during the Israel Defense Forces offensive in the winter of 2008-2009. Even without asking, it is possible to know that the reason for the destruction of the wells in the Jenin district is that they were dug "without a permit." But the sovereign that destroys is also the one that controls the water resources and decides on an unequal division of water between Palestinians and Israelis. The statistics do not include the practical difficulties that stem from this discrimination or the permanent insult it creates.
In 2009, Israel destroyed 225 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and uprooted 515 Palestinians from their homes, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported. Thousands more in Area C and in Jerusalem live in constant fear that their homes will be destroyed and they will be uprooted from their places of residence.
How does one count fear? Like the fear that was felt in the homes of some 700 minors the IDF arrested in 2009. The Palestinian branch of Defence for Children International represented 218 of these minors. Forty were released, 28 on bail and 12 without conditions. Seven minors were kept in administrative detention - that is, they were detained without a trial. A total of 192 were brought to trial, of whom 23 were aged 12 or 13, and 46 were 14 or 15. The majority - 123 minors - were aged 16 or 17.
Sentences of less than six months were imposed on 121 of those arrested - 63 percent - while 31 of them received sentences of between six months and a year, and 32 were sentenced to between one and three years. Eight of the minors were jailed for more than three years.
The majority (117) were sentenced for throwing stones, 33 for possessing and throwing Molotov cocktails, 11 for being members of a banned organization, eight for conspiring to kill, seven for possessing and hiding explosives, and 16 for possessing and manufacturing weapons.
For the moment, let us not discuss the arrests and trials of the military system, which is said to be a way of maintaining law and order but actually maintains the occupation. Let us put aside, for now, the fact that in military tribunals it is often advisable to admit to offenses the defendant did not commit, since the detention time while the proceedings are underway might end up being longer than the actual sentence for the alleged offense.
But how is it possible to quantify the personal and collective rage expressed by the stones being thrown and created by Israel's military tribunal system?
Any news item we report that deals with Israeli rule over the Palestinians is misleading. It creates the impression that whatever has been reported is all that has happened on the Palestinian side and that otherwise everything is normal, or even flourishing. Any news item that is published in Israeli papers is a sign of what is missing, what no one wants to know.