An Israeli Arab family is having a picnic in the forest. Mother, father, grandmother, grandfather and babies. Suddenly an armed Jewish Israeli shows up with friends and demands that they leave the area. Why? Because it’s all his. Where is it written? “In the Bible!”
When they refuse, the armed man starts to grab the baby things, to pour their drinks on the bonfire and insist they get out. The mother and grandfather get hysterical, the father holding the baby tries to separate the armed man from his family and urges his wife to calm down, for the children’s sake. This situation, which was filmed and posted two days ago by the mother, Lubna Abed El Hadi, on her Facebook page, is infuriating and confusing.
Since when can armed Jewish Israelis just go about threatening an Arab family enjoying the outdoors? Where are the police? In the video, the family is heard telling the attackers: “We’re Israelis just like you and we’re allowed to be here.” One of them responds: “You’re not Israelis, you’re Arabs,” and “We did you a favor leaving you here,” and he tells them to “Go back to Nazareth.”
The mind struggles to grasp the situation – until the location of the scene becomes apparent. The Jews are settlers, the mother and her family are from Nazareth, but the young father is from Hebron. The location is in the West Bank, near the village of Jibiya and the Havat Zvi outpost. Now the scene is much easier to understand. The settlers (the armed man among them wearing a hat from Hashomer Judea and Samaria, which receives state funding) thought the family was Palestinian and so acted as they do every day in the Wild West of the territories.
They didn’t expect to be answered in fluent Hebrew, they didn’t expect the family to stand up for their rights, they didn’t expect them to understand that this area is not registered in any land registry and they certainly didn’t expect them to dare argue – babies versus rifles. Ultimately, the settlers did what has also become routine: They called the army to do the dirty work for them. The family continued to insist on their rights but the soldiers still made the Israeli Arabs leave at the request of the Israeli Jews. Without explanation or hesitation. Because that’s how things work in the territories. “I don’t want to use too much force,” the soldier warned. As usual, the IDF spokesperson said the incident “would be investigated.” But who will investigate the settlers?
Most Israelis apparently haven’t heard about the violence going on around Havat Zvi, an outpost built on state land and private land. And when they do hear about it, it doesn’t really sink in. But thanks to the boldness of an Arab mother with Israeli citizenship, who stood her ground and filmed this encounter, this small incident managed to fleetingly pierce the cloak of habit and indifference. In literature, this is called “defamiliarization.” When a familiar situation, through an artistic ploy, is rendered “unfamiliar,” thereby enabling the reality to be reexamined. This is what the Israeli Arab family’s presence at the picnic in the territories revealed for us: racism. Not just Israelis versus Palestinians in a national war, but Jews versus Arabs. The Jews are the lords of the land with rifles, the Arabs are requested to get out of their sight or else “they’ll help them” do so.
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At a time when Arab society in Israel is being wooed by the erstwhile inciter against them Benjamin Netanyahu, we should thank Lubna and her family who were brave enough to help us see the territories anew, to see what goes on there in our name, backed by our money.