For Palestinian Parents, Jail Is Better Than Having Their Kids on the Streets

Did any of the judges consider that perhaps demolishing a house does not deter but rather has the opposite effect?

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces (unseen) in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 18, 2015.Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A friend whose son was recently arrested on suspicion of participating in an anti-occupation demo admits to a sense of relief. Especially during this period, she says among friends, it’s better her son sits in jail.

That way she doesn’t have to worry that the Israeli arrogant belligerency and absence of any personal-professional horizon will push him into doing what so many other youth are doing, trying to stab a soldier or settler.

“It’s our right to fight the occupier,” she added, “but to take someone’s life, no matter who, will change him inside forever.” And not for the better, she meant. (Thousands of Israeli mothers should also be worried by the change for the worse in their sons, due to the freedom to kill Palestinians that the state gives them. But it seems that most of them don’t worry. On the contrary, they are proud of the supposed heroism of their sons, drafted to trample a nation in its homeland). The other argument, that it’s better that he be in jail now lest soldiers or settlers kill him, was not mentioned.

Despite the serious content, the thought my girlfriend shared with me was refreshing. Here is someone who does not deny the dybbuk that has taken hold of young Palestinians, who continue to emulate one another in suicidal lone attacks. Similar reflections to hers are not heard in interviews given to the press, certainly not right after a Palestinian family is informed that soldiers, a settler or some other Israeli civilian has killed their underage or youthful daughters and sons on suspicion of stabbing, carrying a knife or ramming with a car.

The swift extrajuridicial executions are one of the reasons that the families and many other Palestinians, including journalists, disbelieve the official Israeli versions of events and repress the possibility that the youths chose death in advance.

The Israel Defense Forces demolished an apartment last week in the Qalandiah refugee camp, with the blessing of High Court justices. Two days ago, two teenage girls from that camp were shot – one dead and the other left seriously wounded – when they went out to stab Israelis outside a Jerusalem market. Did any of the judges think, even for a moment: Perhaps we were mistaken? Perhaps demolishing a house does not deter but rather has the opposite effect?

“There is no point in collecting the chairs and dismantling the mourning tent. We’ll have to erect another one soon, anyway,” an adult in one of the many mourning tents said recently. They know well what the impact is of nighttime raids on dozens of homes, unending arrests and interrogations to collect more scraps of incriminating and humiliating information, home demolitions, verbal and physical violence by soldiers and the cordoning off of villages and cities. Collective revenge encourages more lone-wolf attacks and also helps bury the internal Palestinian debate, public and journalistic, about the phenomenon.

Silencing the internal Palestinian debate on lone-wolf attacks has other causes. For example, the fact that the authorities know the identities of the suspects in the murder of the Dawabshe family, but don’t bring them to justice. The horror at the murder expressed by Israelis has been exposed as a hypocritical short fuse.

Another is the featherweight sentence judge Dana Cohen Lekah gave to the Border Policeman who savagely beat up 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem. Not even Abu Khdeir’s American citizenship caused her to pretend that Israeli justice does not discriminate between Palestinian and Israeli violence.

Another factor is the holding of over 30 corpses of slain Palestinians. This is collective abuse, lacking any security-based reasoning. And these are just some of the immediate causes that oil the wheels of the phenomenon of youths going out to commit suicide.

The fact that the executions and official acts of revenge are repeatedly raised in these pages leads to the conclusion that either the politicians, army personnel and judges in Israel are stupid, and the nation that encourages them is blind, or that they are consciously interested in escalation and the expansion of Palestinian acts of desperation.

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