The Changing Lexicon of the Occupation

The term 'infrastructure' helped us believe that terrorism has an independent framework that is totally unrelated to the occupation.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The military lexicon that has taken over the Hebrew language has added an important new term: “terror from the atmosphere.” It refers to terror attacks that have no explanation in the Shin Bet’s profile books. The kind of attack that has no “directing hand” or established terror group behind it and for which there is no advance intelligence.

Are they harbingers of a new intifada? There is concern among those who know only two basic situations: intifada or calm, control or rebellion.

“There are now about 100,000 people who have scores to settle with the army,” said a high-ranking army officer recently, explaining the new threat. Only 100,000? Not six million civilians who, for the past 46 years, have had scores to settle with the State of Israel?

Do they include the owners of homes that were demolished in the Jordan Valley and the southern Hebron hills? The families of tens of thousands of Palestinians in which at least one family member is imprisoned or has spent part of his life there? Those whom the concrete wall has cut off from their fields or makes their lives miserable with checkpoints taking days off their lives?

It is fascinating to see how the State of Israel has succeeded in creating the atmosphere of joy and merriment that differentiates the rest of the inhabitants of the territories from those 100,000.

When no organization takes responsibility for the terror attacks, when there is no place to break into at night, when a 16-year-old Palestinian boy - “with no infrastructure” - who murders a soldier is too insignificant a foe for the mighty columns of troops, a suitable target must be invented.

Incitement and “atmosphere” will do the job. Even now, they are used to describe the Palestinian consciousness and culture that must be destroyed to “wipe out” terrorism. They will replace the word “infrastructure,” which was used until now to define the enemy.

“Infrastructure” served us well in the war against Fatah and Hamas. It gave legitimacy to killing leaders or rank-and-file activists, firing bombs at the homes of civilians, and mainly it engraved on the Israeli consciousness the conviction that terrorism had an independent infrastructure, a kind of separate identity that had nothing to do with the occupation or the actions of Israel and its emissaries in the West Bank.

And what do we do when suddenly there are terror attacks “with no infrastructure”? We have to find a replacement term that will take up the work of the term “infrastructure” and strengthen the complete separation between the occupation and its outcome. While the term “atmosphere” is not as strong and defined as “infrastructure,” it will do if Israel manages to attribute its creation to the Palestinian side and mark targets there that can be hit.

If a fatal “atmosphere” is the result of frustration, despair over the lack of progress in the peace process, helplessness against powerful forces biting off what remains of the territory that is supposed to serve as the Palestinian state, we must push off the blame onto the Palestinian side.

“It’s not Hamas. It’s the Palestinian Authority and the messages they are broadcasting about the destruction of Israel. ... I don’t think we can bring the peace process to successful completion without the complete cessation of incitement,” said Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.

That is how one builds a case, manufactures blame, shrugs off responsibility and constructs the separation fence between occupation and “atmosphere.” As if the concrete masses of Ofra and Efrat, of Har Homa and Har Bracha, were not to blame for creating the “atmosphere.”

Honestly, construction blocks do not constitute any sort of incitement? Bulldozers do not express hostility toward Palestinians? And neither do cabinet ministers engage in incitement. After all, Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s showcase project is not aimed at the Palestinians. No, this builder of new housing units is aiming his war at Obama’s America. What does he care about the invisible Palestinians?

How interesting that of all people, it is the army that understands who is responsible for the “atmosphere.” The “scores to settle” that the high-ranking officer spoke of are evidence of that. He knows where the real infrastructure that creates this atmosphere lies. He knows, and he is keeping silent.

Funeral of Eden Attias: Victim of 'atmospheric' terrorism.Credit: Rami Shlush

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