What Did You Do at Work Today, Dad?

Quite a few Israelis, whose number is rising alarmingly, may find it extremely difficult to answer the above question.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israeli soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion detain a Palestinian protester during clashes following a protest against settlements, in the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah
Israeli soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion detain a Palestinian protester during clashes following a protest against settlements, in the Jalazun refugee camp near RamallahCredit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

An Israeli returns from a day’s work and his children ask him, “How was your day at work, Dad? What did you do today?” Most parents would give a light, nonchalant reply. But quite a few Israelis, whose number is rising alarmingly, may find it extremely difficult to answer. What will they say? How will they squirm? What excuse will they give and how will they get out of it, facing children who want to know and be proud of their parents?

What will the Arad municipal inspector tell his children, after standing last week at the entrance to the southern Israeli town and forcibly preventing asylum seekers who had just been freed from prison – after more than a year of detention without trial – from entering the town and finding shelter? How would the inspector describe that work to his children? Would he say, “I stood on the road and checked every car to make sure no black person was hiding in it”? “I pulled every black man out and sent him back to the desert”? I did it in the name of the law”?

An asylum seeker near the Holot detention center in the Negev.Credit: Ilan Assayag

A law forbidding entrance to a city because of the color of one’s skin has yet to be enacted in Israel. Security? That excuse, which always justifies everything, doesn’t hold water this time. “Did you carry out the mayor’s instructions?” “Yes.” “But Dad,” the child will ask, “will you carry out every illegal order you get from the mayor? Is that what you’re like? And what do you think of those who once treated the Jews like that?”

What will the Civil Administration inspector tell his children, after destroying – in blistering temperatures – the tents and tin shacks of 127 people, 80 of them children, who were left without a roof over their head in the Jordan Rift and near Ma’aleh Adumim last week? How will he explain his malicious behavior to his children? His wickedness? His inhumanity? Clearly, without these qualities, there is no way to carry out this filthy, heinous work – destroying shabby homes and abandoning their inhabitants in this terrible heat.

A Palestinian family whose home was demolished by the Civil Administration. What did the man responsible say to his own children that evening?Credit: Alex Levac

If the inspector tries to explain to his children that he was enforcing the law, the eldest child will ask, “Do you also treat the settlers like that? And where are those wretches, whose homes you’ve torn down, supposed to go? And what will become of Hudeifa, the 1-year-old baby, who has been crawling in the sand under the sun without shelter for two weeks already? Do you think about them, Dad, before you go to sleep?”

What did the Israel Prison Service guards who stood watch in the room of hunger striker Khader Adnan tell their children? Did they tell them they shackled him with his hand and leg to the bed, even when his consciousness clouded over? How did they not feel compassion for him, if only for a moment? Did they tell their kids about the pizzas and shawarmas they ate in his room, and the sunflower seeds they cracked in the face of a prisoner on his deathbed, the smell of the food driving him crazy?

And what did the doctors of Assaf Harofeh Hospital, who kept mum and enabled all that to go on, tell their children?

What do Israeli border inspectors tell their children when they come home from work? That for seven hours they interrogated a renowned U.S.-Palestinian author, one who had come to visit her family and set up playgrounds for children in the West Bank? Did they tell them that, after interrogating her, they expelled her solely because of her Palestinian origin? Did they say that they also expelled an elderly U.S.-Palestinian man, a native of Jerusalem, who hadn’t visited his homeland for 21 years, only because he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport?

What did the Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer tell his children the day he shot to death the teen Mohammad Kosba, whom he shot in the back as the boy fled? Did he say that because the boy threw a stone at his car, he deserved to die? That daddy killed a child because he can? That it’s OK to kill children, as long as they’re Palestinian? Did he tell them that Mohammad was the third son killed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in his family?

Perhaps these questions are not being asked yet. Their day will come.

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