“On Saturday, a few hours before you were found and detained, I was imagining you hiding, and knowing that you would be caught soon. The army, the Shin Bet, and the best of Israeli spy technology were in hot pursuit. Collaborators have been asked to prick up their ears and open their eyes. I could imagine your parents keeping a stiff upper lip, fearing for your lives and for what is about to happen: raids, arrests and measurement of your houses ahead of being demolished or sealed off.
“In Israel, you are called terrorists. I refuse to label you as such because I know that Israel as a state, and Israeli citizens, have terrorized and are terrorizing you and your families and friends from the first day of your lives. I am not obligated to use the lexicon of the usurper. Dispossession and expulsion are the highest form of terrorism. But let’s be clear: If we had known each other, and you had revealed your intentions to me, I would have tried to dissuade you from shooting at the car leaving the illegal outpost on land belonging to the village of Burqa – an outpost that has embittered the lives of the neighboring villages more than the settlement that was there before.
“I would have asked you: What do you plan to achieve by opening fire and claiming a human life? Were you to have replied, ‘to remove the illegal yeshiva,’ I would have reminded you of the murder of the Salomon family in their home in the settlement of Halamish in July 2017.
A 19-year-old from the village of Kobar stabbed to death the father of the family, his son and his daughter. As a result, the settlement expanded, and an outpost was set up on the other side of the road, on land belonging to the villages of Nabi Saleh and Umm Safa. The army erected a permanent checkpoint (to protect the settlers, of course). Which, at time, blocks and regularly interrupts the movement of Palestinian traffic even more than before, and completely disrupts free access to and from the village of Beitillu.
Palestinian farmers are not allowed to work their lands anymore. A wild and armed outpost of one shepherd has been established there and, under the umbrella of the army and a private militia, keeps Palestinians from the villages of Umm Sufa, Jibiya and Kobar from reaching their orchards.
The Israeli settlement enterprise has taken another step toward ‘cleansing’ the expanse from Palestinians – an area stretching from the Talmon settlement with all its outposts in the southeast to Halamish. The attack at the Ein Bubin spring in August 2019 also failed to prevent expansion of the settlement bloc there and didn’t stop the hostile takeover of springs belonging to Palestinian villages.
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“You would have replied to me: ‘What are you talking about? The Israeli settlement enterprise doesn’t need excuses to banish us, to take over our springs, to steal our lands and to build villas on them for Jews from Tel Aviv, Brooklyn and Marseille, and then to surround those villas with flourishing gardens, while at the same time the water tanks on our rooftops are empty.’
“‘You are right,’ I would answer. ‘The Israeli settlement and land-dispossession enterprise does not need excuses. The settlements are not the answer: not to Palestinian shooting attacks and not to security coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
The theft of Palestinian land and expulsion of Palestinians is the very essence and foundation – the point of departure for the Israeli regime that has been imposed on you. But why help it along, why accelerate the process? Take for example the Evyatar outpost. Settlers had wanted to erect another settlement on the lands of Qabalan and Beita for a long time.
The army demolished structures the settlers had erected there several times until another fatal shooting there six months ago gave the defense minister the excuse to obey the settler lobby (as if there were a big difference between them) and refrain from demolishing the homes. The occupants were removed, but the land was not returned to Beita.
“‘True,’ you would have said, going on to explain that you can no longer contain the anger bottled up inside you. All the wrongs that the occupying state is capable of inflicting, all the chutzpah and arrogance of a nation of masters – Homesh embodies it all.
You would have reminded me that Burqa’s lands were seized by military order in 1978, ostensibly for military purposes, but the land was used for clearly civilian purposes: a settlement. In 2005, that settlement was evacuated, but the order wasn’t rescinded.
The landowners were denied access to their lands. In 2011, they petitioned the High Court of Justice, and in 2013 the High Court annulled the military order; since then a legal and public battle has been ongoing. The occupying state, ever so generous, now allows farmers to work their land, but it hasn’t removed the outpost – a yeshiva.
The settler lobby demands that the settlement be rebuilt. By chance, or not, an uptick in the number of violent attacks by Israeli Jews against Palestinians has hammered home the message, and the farmers are afraid to go there. Palestinian police officers rescue Jews who have lost their way in Ramallah, but they are not allowed to protect us from attacks by Jews. How long can we remain silent in the face of this injustice,’ you would say to me.
“‘You are right,’ I would answer. “‘But over the past few weeks, settler violence has been seeping deeper into Israeli public awareness. Even the minister of public security has understood there is a problem here ....’ You would have cut me off and said: ‘Nonsense. You know just as well as we do that settler violence sits well with the aims of your state. It’s all a pretense.’
“‘You will express your anger in a moment of shooting,’ I would then say, ‘and then you will be punished with a life sentence, and your parents and families will be miserable forever.’ You would answer, ‘We are all miserable in any event. We see no way out. We don’t see justice. We see no horizon.’”