A Day in Our Lives as an Occupying, Dispossessing Nation

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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IDF soldiers at a shooting range last September
IDF soldiers at a shooting range last SeptemberCredit: Amir Levy
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Have we, Israeli Jews, developed a mutation in our genetic material due to the extended and unstoppable process of dominating another people and grabbing its land? If pollution and radioactive radiation cause mutations, why wouldn’t the orders and the power to invade, destroy, loot and kill that have been given over the years to masses of armed 18-year-old Israelis cause genetic – and not only psychological and behavioral – changes in them and, later, their offspring?

Let’s take one day in our lives as an occupying, dispossessing nation: November 23, 2021. Dozens of soldiers and officers from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank – not counting the planners, legal advisers and commanders involved behind the scenes – destroyed and confiscated dwellings, tents, sheep pens, a road and even a future mausoleum. In a single day, according to B’Tselem, 22 Palestinians in Jerusalem, the South Hebron Hills and the Ramallah and Nablus areas lost their homes.

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At the end of that day, did the service members feel a transcendence? Or lethargy, as after a day of paper-shuffling? Fatigue, due to their early rising? How can we explain that they, and tens of thousands of soldiers and officers and jurists before them, are convinced that what they’re doing is all right?

How many soldiers who shot at the knees of protesters along the border of the world’s largest prison, the Gaza Strip, wake up in distress over the permanent disability they caused to these lifers? Is their indifference to the disaster they have inflicted on others the result of brainwashing and the lies force-fed to them by schools and mass media, or did they inherit it from parents and grandparents who did the same thing?

These questions came to my mind when I read the statement of Nave Shabtay Levin, 17, about his intention to refuse the draft, even at the price of going to jail over it.

IDF soldiers at a shooting range last SeptemberCredit: Amir Levy

“Like all Israeli children, I was raised on a violent, racist military heritage,” he wrote. “By third grade, we all already knew the ‘heroic’ stories of the state’s founders, how brave soldiers had expelled people from their homes so that we could live here instead. ... When we weren’t studying, we played – we dressed up as soldiers, held toy rifles and pretended to be those soldiers. ... As we grew up, the indoctrination grew with us. In middle school, they told us to learn Arabic. Not so we could talk to and make friends with girls our age ... but so that when we broke into their homes we could tell them to gather their family in the living room. ... When people hear we’re in high school, they immediately ask, ‘What will you do in the army?’”

Are Nave and conscientious objectors Shahar Perets, who is scheduled to return this week to military prison, for the fourth time, and Eran Aviv, who received a draft exemption after 114 days in a military prison, a mutation of a mutation, or did the genetic change skip them?

Or perhaps these are not genetic changes, but rather a sui generis rewiring of our brains due to communication between our nerve cells and the practice of subjugating Palestinians? Between our nerve cells and the intoxicating process of plundering their land and passing it on to Jews? It’s only reasonable to think that our neurons have been affected during the decades that we have been developing an anachronistic but sophisticated model of settler colonialism. Throughout the world – including those parts that have been built upon the destruction of Indigenous peoples’ lives by the European settlement and supremacy enterprise – the brain wiring has changed and there is an admission of the horrific crimes committed. But don’t forget: The recognition came late. In many of these states, the Indigenous peoples were reduced demographically, economically and politically to tiny minorities due to deliberate and unplanned genocide in tandem with the mass migration of settlers.

The epidemic of Jewish supremacy is expected to claim more and more victims. Whether the minds of conscientious objectors did not become addicted to power or these young adults are antibodies to the supremacy epidemic – for the sake of the future of this place, may they multiply.

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