The Invisible Israelis

Something is missing in the PLO report

The Palestinian Monitoring Group at the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization is continuing on a daily basis to report the events of the previous day. The report is concise and tends to be repetitive, with some omissions that are understandable and others that are not. (For example, they do not keep track of Israeli bureaucratic harassment, perhaps because they lack the manpower to keep an eye on all these events ). The report provides boring but necessary statistics that remind us where we are living.

Sheikh Jarrah protest
Michal Fattal

In the past week, a daily average of 174 occupation-related incidents were reported in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem ) and the Gaza Strip. What brought the average down was Saturday, which had a mere 138 events, mainly because there were no "wall construction events," which are counted on other days (at present at 19 sites ). This daily item also does not appear in the summary for May. That is perhaps one of the reasons why the daily average in May is much lower than what is mentioned in the daily reports.

Six Palestinians were killed during May - four armed men and a 65-year-old civilian by fire from the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip, while in the West Bank, settlers apparently shot and killed a 16-year-old youth who apparently threw stones. Outside this count, there was also a year-and-a-half old toddler from the village of Beit Ummar who choked to death after inhaling tear gas and a woman from the same village who was killed by an Israeli car.

A total of 70 people were injured, including 10 children and nine armed Palestinians in Gaza, both by the IDF and settlers. During the month of May, 289 Palestinians were arrested (two in Gaza ) and the largest number in the Jerusalem district - 66. Among these were 35 minors and 16 Palestinian security officers.

During the past few months, another sub-chapter has been added to the daily report - "Provocation" of the Palestinian security forces by the Israeli army. There were 22 such events in May, a rise of 83.3 percent over the previous month. What is considered provocation? For example, there were eight cases in which Israeli troops presented Palestinian security forces with a summons to the Shin Bet security forces - including a general intelligence officer from Jerusalem and three officers of the national security force who returned from training in Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. There were also three instances in which an Israeli unit was stationed right next to positions held by the Palestinian police or preventive security forces. The statistics also note 11 cases where Palestinian security officers were stopped and their vehicles searched, including three buses carrying 150 officers from the national security force at the Hamra roadblock in the Jordan Valley.

The choice of the term "provocation" in connection with the Palestinian security forces is interesting. Unintentionally, this term gives legitimacy to the army's others actions - raids, shooting and arrests. This term exposes, clearly without meaning to do so, the philosophy of coordination between the security forces, a philosophy that is distorted by the IDF and the Shin Bet when they treat Palestinians in uniform as they do any other person, that is, as part of an occupied people.

The IDF carried out 669 raids in civilian residential areas during May, 25 of these in the Gaza Strip. On June 19, a week ago Saturday, for example, there were 18 raids. They included one in the village of Azoun and another in the village of Iraq Bourin. In Iraq Bourin the residents were demonstrating against the expropriation of their lands when the army raided the village and declared it a closed military area. Clashes broke out with the residents. The army used tear gas and started shooting rubber-coated bullets. A wheat field went up in flames when tear gas grenades fell there. In a similar demonstration three months earlier, two youths were killed by live fire.

Of 35 raids on June 23, one took place in Gaza. A large force of armored vehicles and a bulldozer entered an agricultural area east of the large village of Abasan El Khabira. While the bulldozer was digging up the earth, intensive fire was directed toward the houses. The daily report takes pains to note that at 2:55 P.M. and at 7:30 P.M., fire was opened from Abasan in the direction of an Israeli patrol on the Green Line, and that the IDF returned fire.

The Palestinian group noted 82 incidents of settlers' violence during May. This is a 4.7 percent drop as compared with April but a 39 percent rise compared with March.

Mainly on Fridays, there is another clause in the report - "Demonstrations." On June 18, at 1:30 P.M. in Bil'in, at 1.40 P.M. at Na'alin, at 2 P.M. at the court checkpoint, at 2:10 P.M. at Nabi Salah. The court checkpoint in East Ramallah (on the way to the settlement of Beit El ) has for a decade blocked direct access to Ramallah from 19 villages.

The group's reports speak of "international peace activists" who participated in demonstrations and were also detained by the army. Spokesmen for the popular struggle committees reported that three activists were detained on the same day in Bil'in, a British woman and two Israeli women.

The omission of the Israeli presence in the demonstrations is systematic and not coincidental. Even in the weekly regular demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, according to the daily report, there is massive participation by "international peace activists." But we know that the demonstration's organizers, most of the participants and most of those arrested are Israelis. True, there are Palestinians who oppose any joint activity with Israelis against the occupation and who consider it part of the "normalization" (befriending the occupier, accepting the occupation as a normal situation ) that they reject (therefore they are cross with the Popular Struggle Committees, which consider Israelis active against the occupation as partners to all intents and purposes ).

It seems their influence has permeated the PLO's Negotiations Department as well, which is one of the strongholds for meetings with Israelis, even of the type that perpetuates the occupation. Perhaps in the political department they are afraid that mentioning the regular activity of the Israelis who oppose the occupation will cast suspicion on them as promoting "normalization" with the occupation.