About a week ago, on the highway between Hermesh and Mevo Dotan, two soldiers were killed and two were injured by a car that was driven by a resident of Barta’a. There are not many Israelis who know where these settlements are located and in what kind of reality they exist. But the vast majority probably have no doubt who was the terrorist here, and who, the innocent victim, and they hope for the fulfillment of the vow made by President Reuven Rivlin, who declared after the incident: “We will not rest until we bring all the collaborators to justice; we will not allow terrorism to become a reality.”
The problem is that terror has long since become the reality, and the entity that has allowed and is allowing this to happen is the State of Israel. Look at the map and find Barta’a, and maybe you’d even be interested in going there and seeing and hearing how its residents live and what their surroundings are like. I happened to do so a few days before the car-ramming incident, and it was completely clear to me – and not for the first time – that this reality is a product of the ongoing policy of terror pursued by generations of Israeli governments, and that it is this policy that gives rise to the acts of resistance against it.
What’s amazing is only that there aren’t more such acts, because it’s really and truly an intolerable situation. Barta’a al-Sharqiya is located east of Wadi Ara, between the Green Line and the separation barrier. In that location the fence makes a major detour into the West Bank in order to include in Israeli territory four settlements with names as fresh and pleasant as the fruit of the field and its fragrances: Shaked (Almond), Reihan (Basil), Hinanit (Daisy) and Tal Menashe (Dew of Menashe).
Within this enclave there are also four Arab villages, the largest of which is Barta’a al-Sharqiya. This entire enclave, with its fences, checkpoints and military forces, exists and thrives only for the benefit of the settlers who settled in it and next to it. The people who have been living for ages in the Arab villages in this part of the country suddenly found themselves penned in and subject to a diabolical maze of orders and regulations: They are not allowed to enter Israel to the west, while to the east, in the West Bank– their natural living space – two checkpoints were set up for them, via which they must leave and enter during opening hours and with the permission and good graces of the soldiers and private security guards posted there.
A few are also allowed to bring food and merchandise in their cars via the checkpoints, with restrictions. Palestinians who live outside the enclave – who are members of the same nation as those living within it, and often their relatives – are not permitted to enter unless they have “special permits.”
Farmers from outside the enclave found themselves cut off from their land, and they too must request special permits and must enter and leave through special gates and at predetermined opening hours, in order to cultivate their fields. The settlements of Hermesh and Mevo Dotan are also situated in the area of the West Bank, but outside the enclave. The point is that every such settlement that is built In the West Bank – in which not a single dunam belongs to the State of Israel – disrupts the lives of the Palestinian villages in the area in ways that a free citizen would find difficult even to imagine.
That’s the reality there, and it’s one of state-sponsored terror, the State of Israel. Because what is land confiscation on a huge scale, what are restrictions on freedom of movement, and with it freedom of employment and commerce, home demolitions, the imposition of curfews and closures, the building of innumerable fences and walls and the deployment of military forces armed to the teeth, in the heart of a Palestinian civilian population, in order to protect an Israeli civilian population that settled among it by force – what are all these if not terror, in other words, a war against unarmed citizens?
And so, in this situation a young Palestinian girl stands in the back yard of her home in Nabi Saleh and slaps an Israeli soldier who was sent to her village only in order to guard the settlement of Halamish, which also thuggishly stuck itself deep inside the area of the West Bank; and in this situation two young women arrive at the checkpoint in the heart of Hebron, each one separately, with a knife in their hand or their bag, and the armed soldiers – who are there in order to protect a violent Jewish settlement, which expelled tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians and incessantly abuses those who survived – shoot them dead.
And in this situation demonstrators emerge in the heart of the cities of Jericho, Bethlehem or the outskirts of the village of Beit Ummar, carrying stones and tires for burning and incendiary devices, to confront soldiers armed with machine guns and stun and gas grenades, who invade their communities and their homes day and night and injure and kill those who resist them and flee from them; and in this situation a young man comes from Barta’a and runs over and kills and injures soldiers – who are posted there only to protect the settlements that were generously built north and south of his village, and because of which the crowded village is doomed to economic and human strangulation.
What are the acts of these young people? Terror? No, this is a desperate struggle by groups and individuals, who from the day they were born have nothing to hope for, against an army that is a thousand times stronger than they. And what is this army defending: The security of its country? No, it is defending the choice of Israeli governments to use terror to impose the “state of the Jewish people” on the entire region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
I would like to make these things clear out of a belief in the power of words to shape consciousness. And sometimes political involvement as well.