Otherwise Occupied / EU’s Guidelines for Boycotting the Settlements - a Fable

Any resemblance between the fictional account herein and the reality of the Middle East is absolutely not coincidental.


A: This isn’t a mistake? Are you sure you want me to sign this?

B: Yes. There is no choice. This is the fourth time we are donating the same item to the same place.

A: I’m still convinced this comes under Pierre’s authority at the Humano-Sanitary Department. You don’t need a minister for this.

B: I’m afraid you’re wrong, Mr. Minister. After three times it goes to the political echelons.

A: I don’t understand what’s going on here. Find out what the defect is, buy it from another manufacturer and ask the first one for a refund.

B: There’s no problem with the product. The problem is that every two weeks they come and confiscate it.

A: Did I hear right? They confiscate mobile latrines?

B: They say they are illegal structures.

A: Who says? The Salafists? Al-Qaida? Is it against their religion or something?
B: Mr. Minister, the Jews − sorry, the Israelis are saying this.
A: Are latrines against the Jewish religion?
B: I see you’re in a joking mood today. They come with a bulldozer and a truck, two or three soldiers, two laborers, one or two inspectors from what they call the Civil Administration and up it goes, into the truck.
A: Are we talking about the same thing − a clause of the humano-sanitary aid code?
B: In 2012 they destroyed 15 latrines. This year they’ve already managed to destroy or confiscate eight.
A: Are you sure that these are Jews?
B: Shhhhh! The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University will add that comment to its list of anti-Semitic incidents.
A: I’m only familiar with the Anti-Defamation League. And seriously, in my time “Jew” was synonymous with wise.
B: What they’re doing is actually very wise. They stick to the law − even when they are destroying cisterns for storing rainwater.
A: There is a law against − pardon me − shitting in a toilet?
B: When we’re talking about a community of herders and farmers, half of whom live in tents and half in caves? Yes.
A: Oh, you mean the Israelis want to maintain authenticity, preserve the traditional way of life? They want people to continue going out to the hills or the fields?
B: Actually, we asked the members of several communities of cave dwellers and Bedouin why bathroom stalls are necessary. As I understood it, in the past, each family had more space − before the Israelis built a lot and restricted their movement, and each community had fewer people. Back then they didn’t have such great privacy concerns, such as women encountering men from a different family. Today, the men go to, ahem, relieve themselves during the day, while the women have to hold it in and go to the hills and fields only at night. I’m still waiting to hear some solidarity expressed by Israeli women for those who have to hold it in all day. In general, changes and urban practices are starting to permeate these communities. Once, I gave a ride to someone studying computers at the university who lives in a tent without electricity.

A: But why do I, the minister for international development, have to sign a purchase order for 11 bathroom stalls costing 113 euros each, not including transport? I sign off on budgets for projects worth more than 450,000 euros, excluding VAT.

B: Because we received a severe reprimand from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which is a Defense Ministry department with generals and officers who think everyone is their underling. The reprimand was delivered verbally − they never convey their bans in writing unless they are challenged in court under the Freedom of Information Act. They claim we are funding and encouraging repeat offenses, and when we told them that EU policy is to aid disaster-stricken areas, they said this was crude political interference in their internal affairs and that they’d summon the ambassador.

A: Disaster? Did I miss a disaster? Was there an earthquake? Did a volcano erupt?

B: No, Mr. Minister. I’m talking about Area C, remember? We must’ve sent you a million reports. Some 61 percent of the West Bank under Israel’s complete control has people living there with no electricity, no roads, no clinic, and no water. Development is forbidden − that’s why the population is so sparse there. In East Jerusalem, some 70 percent or so are needy and on relief. It’s similar to places that suffered earthquakes, but in those places the situation is only temporary, while for the communities in Area C and in Jerusalem the disaster is a permanent situation.

A: How is this possible? I actually saw a film about one of their communities there, in Area C. There were villas surrounded by so much greenery it looked like they’d been built in a rain forest.

B: Mr. Minister, those are their colonies and this is their law. For Jews only, remember? And you have to sign because this is really a political decision. We cannot yield on mobile latrines.

A: You realize what you’re turning me into? A Porta Potty deliveryman.

B: Um, Mr. Minister, you realize that ...

A: Can’t you come up with a document I can sign without looking like such a fool?