The soldiers have no choice but to shoot. They have no choice but to hit demonstrators, stone throwers and paramedics who volunteer during confrontations, to kill and wound those who brandish knives. Surprise that the soldiers fire even at youths who are handcuffed and blindfolded belongs to a different era.
It belongs to the 1970s or ‘80s, when we still thought that military domination over a population of noncitizens was an accident, a temporary deviation that would soon be corrected. When we hadn’t yet recognized that the soldiers’ role is to protect the spoils of war rather than our existence. When there weren’t yet cameras everywhere to shatter our naivete.
If the Palestinians don’t receive a clear message every day that they’re risking their own lives when they resist our rule, tomorrow they will march by the thousands and tens of thousands, empty-handed or armed with spades and stones, toward the Israeli settlements, outposts, checkpoints and military bases in the heart of a civilian population.
They will march and declare: We want our land back. We want water. We want to be able to travel. We want industry. We also want to plan, build and be built. Imagine tens of thousands marching to the settlements in Jerusalem, imagine the demonstrations of October 2000 multiplied by 100, imagine hundreds of flotillas and marches of return. Then our soldiers and policemen will have to shoot to kill and wound dozens, hundreds, thousands in a single day.
The measured but resolute shooting now keeps all this in check. It’s designed to teach the majority to keep quiet, to be afraid, to seclude themselves in their enclaves for fear that the army will engage in mass killing tomorrow. Not only in Gaza but in the West Bank. And in Israel in Sakhnin and on the coast at Acre as well.
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Guys, we’ve come a long way, we’re living in different times. There’s no fake news here. On the contrary, the fake news — that Israel wants peace — belonged to the ‘70s and ‘90s.
Today we speak the truth: The soldiers are in the West Bank to protect the settlement project. In East Jerusalem, which was occupied and annexed, the policemen and employees of private security firms are deployed to enable the settlers to embitter the lives of more Palestinians so that they’ll evacuate their homes for more settlements, which will embitter the lives of more Palestinians so that they’ll abandon or sell their homes and flee.
The settlement project is the essence. It’s Israel’s raison d’etre. It’s what is preparing the ground for minor and major expulsions.
The commanders have no choice but to fully back their soldiers who fire at paramedics, wound and kill them, shoot people in the back and in the groin, riddle with bullets a car that was just minding its own business.
They have no choice but to say that everything is according to the regulations, everything is proper. And indeed, there is no deviation from the orders and rules of engagement.
If we behave otherwise, the Palestinians will conclude that we recognize that they belong to this place between the river and the sea, that we recognize their right to live like anyone else, their right to water, space, planning, their land. The shooting only complements other activities that crowd the Palestinians into cages.
Go to the Triangle area — the Arab villages and towns in the center of Israel — and to the Galilee, and compare a Palestinian village that has become an overcrowded poverty-stricken town to a new Jewish hilltop community. Behind the huge difference there are planners, bureaucrats and ministers. Go to the West Bank and see those yellow gates attached to concrete blocks at the exits on highways. At any moment two soldiers can lock these gates and cut off a village, town or district to let more Israelis grab another real estate bonanza.
Those in charge of law and order have no choice but to ignore settlers who attack Palestinians in their villages, orchards, roads, grazing areas and wheat fields, take over their springs and agricultural pools. The attackers are doing on a small scale (though in a bacchanalia of sacred physical violence) what the bureaucracy of the Civil Administration, the military advocate general and the housing and agriculture ministries have done and are doing on a large scale. Removing people. Scaring them. Crowding them into pens. Forcing them to surrender. Deceiving them.
Guys, we don’t have to wait for the “deal of the century.” Annexation is already here. The West Bank does not exist. It’s only pieces that were torn for lack of choice from the West Bank and have become fenced-in reservations because today it’s impossible to implement the expulsion we implemented in 1948 and 1949. That is, it’s still impossible.
Every settlement produces ripples of ostensibly private violence and official violence with a license, and other slices of stolen land that’s given to selected members of the Chosen People.
Every new slice needs another company or battalion to guard it. The soldiers understand that they must do everything possible to protect the Israelis’ right to continue to settle, and that the settlements have a right to continue to expand, to build another mall and bypass road, and to create green parks for themselves from what were once Palestinian orchards or fields. And the people of Israel saw that it was good, and demanded more.
Is it any wonder that the shooting of a handcuffed boy doesn’t interest them?
The Palestinian doesn’t count. He’s not a citizen whose support the senior politician, formerly a military commander, is seeking. The Palestinian doesn’t vote. He isn’t included as a person in the calculations. The larger the number of settlers and the soldiers who guard them, the more Israelis who conclude that the Palestinian is superfluous.
At a time when some of us are reflecting on debating solutions, the settlements, the army, the military and civilian legal experts who defend the settlements and their architects are outlining the future. A future of blood, expulsion and destruction.