Opinion

Let's Talk About (Anything But) the Occupation

Let’s enjoy our self-delusionary bubble. Let's not talk about the regime of control we Jews have created to keep Palestinians off-balance and in fear

A drug addict stands behind bars at a Hamas-run prison in Gaza City on May 10, 2017.
'Let’s not talk about the regime of control we Jews have created to keep Palestinians off-balance and in fear' MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Let’s talk about the Occupation.

Let’s open our eyes and look again at the daily brutality of the Occupation, and what it does to human beings living only a few miles from our homes, and what it does to ourselves.

No, let’s talk about how publicizing the daily travesties of the Occupation in the foreign press hurts Israel’s image abroad and feeds those seeking our destruction, and how we must punish any foreign government or Jew or Jewish organization that dares expose our dirty laundry in public.

Let’s talk about how we arrest Palestinian children in the middle of the night for throwing stones, terrorizing their families, to avoid exposing our soldiers to the hostile crowds of adults who might attack them if we arrested children in daylight hours. And about the kangaroo courts of our military justice system, in which these children are sentenced to prison terms without any idea of what is going on. And how Israeli settlers, by contrast, enjoy the full protection and due process of Israel’s civil court system.

No, let’s weaken Israeli courts by limiting their ability to reign in the abuses of the Occupation, pass laws making it legal to steal Palestinian land, and in the name of “diversity” add more settlers to the judicial bench.

Let’s talk about what the contributors to the new book Kingdom of Olives and Ashes: Writers Confront the Occupation – 24 of the most thoughtful, articulate, sensitive, insightful and renowned writers in the world today – have to report about the 50-year-old Occupation, edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, and sponsored by Breaking the Silence (and supported by the Moriah Fund, which I represent). 

No, let’s talk about the chutzpah of these writers to parachute into the West Bank and Gaza, where most Israelis never tread, in order to humanize the Palestinian victims of our policies. What do they know of our pain, our fears of violence, our losses? And while we're at it, let's also eliminate funding of artworks that portray the Occupation as unjust or challenge the settlement enterprise, and check if there are ways to keep people like this out of Israel. 

Let’s talk about the moral and psychological damage inflicted on our own soldiers by being forced to police another population, and how the daily abuse of power over men, women, children, the elderly, boomerangs when it is brought back to our own society. 

A visitor looks at the 'Breaking the Silence' exhibition at the Kulturhaus Helferei, Zurich. June 8, 2015
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

No, let’s entrap Breaking the Silence activists, by planting moles in their organization, or by painting them as disloyal, or twisting the words of courageous, patriotic soldiers who come forward to confess to being ordered to commit acts they are now ashamed of in the name of the State of Israel so they will incriminate themselves. Let's demand that Breaking the Silence expose the names of their sources, and if anyone dares to go on record, let's file charges for their arrest. Shooting the messenger will teach others never to step forward.

Let’s talk about how Israel turns Gaza into an open-air prison, how Gazans suffice with three or four hours a day of erratic electricity even in the blistering heat of summer and drenching rains of winter, how Gaza has never recovered from the massive damage and casualties of the last war, how Gazans struggle to live normal lives and celebrate weddings and go to the beach despite living under a repressive theocratic regime which executes its own "citizens" and is accountable to no one.

No, let’s talk about how Hamas uses its resources to tunnel under our border communities and prepare for another war, and how it’s the Gazans’ fault for electing Hamas the one time they were ever allowed to exercise the right to vote, and how they don’t rebel even though they have no arms with which to rebel, and how "they started!" the wars.

Let’s talk about the highly effective regime of control we Jews, despite our moral superiority, have created to keep an entire population off balance and in fear, since that minimizes the potential for another Intifada. About roadblocks that turn ten-minute drives into hours of aggravation and humiliation, about arresting Palestinian soccer stars, and imposing bureaucratic hurdles on Palestinian businesses simply because we feel like it, about the epidemic of drug addiction we do nothing to stop.

An Israeli border police stands guard near Bethlehem as Palestinians cross an Israeli checkpoint to attend Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque. June 23, 2017
MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/REUTERS

No, let’s talk about our security needs, because they are genuine, and because everything we do to the Palestinians, from stealing land to humiliating parents in front of their children to denying farmers access to their fields, to uprooting olive trees, to demolishing homes, to arresting anybody we feel like on the flimsiest pretext, can be justified on security grounds.

Let’s talk about Palestinian non-violent resistance, from demonstrations to boycotts, and whether that isn’t preferable to lone wolf terrorist attacks, full scale Intifadas or border wars with Gaza?

No, let’s talk about how all Palestinians want to murder us – although the vast majority of the population is docile, beaten down – and thank God we have locked up thousands, including children, because it helps us sleep safely at night. And let’s arrest Palestinian advocates of non-violent resistance because they undermine the narrative that all Palestinians are terrorists.

Let’s outlaw boycotts and anyone who supports boycotts – to hell with freedom of speech – and keep them from entering the country – because boycotts helped bring down South Africa’s apartheid government, and since our conflict is not about racism and we are also victims of violence, our cause can never be unjust, and most of all, because we don’t want people to remember that the settlements are not in Israel.

Let’s talk about the Occupation.

No. The Occupation will only end when we reach a final status agreement to end the conflict with the Palestinians, and we don’t want to hear about it until then. Who are these foreign (and Israeli and Palestinian) writers to hold up a mirror to our self-delusions when we work so hard to forget and ignore the Occupation each and every day?

No, let’s talk about anything but the Occupation.

Don Futterman is the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, an American foundation which supports Breaking the Silence and other civil society organizations in Israel. He can be heard weekly on TLV1’s The Promised Podcast