Hating the Occupation, Not the Jews

Palestinian attackers choose violence as a means of resisting a more pernicious violence, that of the occupation.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinian mourners pray over the bodies of Anas Hamad and Mohammed Ayad, who were killed after reportedly perpetrating car-ramming attacks, during their funeral in Silwad, January 3, 2015.
Palestinian mourners at a West Bank funeral in January 2015.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The gloomy, cold hall seethed with repressed anger, and the somber faces of the dozens of men sitting there clearly expressed it. This week there was mourning in the remote Palestinian village of Al-Karmil in the hills south of Hebron, after the killing of Rukaiya Abu Eid, a girl not yet 14 years old. She was killed by a guard she tried to stab at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot. On Israeli media she was termed “a 13 year-old terrorist” without the batting of an eyelid.

The grieving father refused to talk to us at first. “What do I have to talk about with the Israelis who killed my daughter?” It snowed on the way there and there was a mist around the mourning hall. Inside there was fury and cold. After a while the atmosphere became somewhat relaxed and the father, Eid, agreed to talk. He pinned his daughter’s desperate act on the reality of life under the occupation. “Every little child sees the crimes,” he said.

In Israel they chose to adopt the girl’s mother’s version, according to which Rukaiya left the house with a knife after a fight with her sister. In Israel they liked this explanation, involving no occupation or other such nonsense. A family quarrel. We had no hand in the unfolding of events. Even the notion that every Palestinian knows that if she only ventures out with knife in hand she’ll be shot to death by Israelis does not shock anyone here.

The dozens of Palestinian male and female youths who set out over the last few months to kill Israelis did not do so “because they’re Jews,” as Israel’s propaganda likes to portray it, with a (routinely) broad hint about the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews.

They set out to stab or run people over by car because they’re conquerors. They set out to kill their conquerors. They chose violence as a means of resisting a more pernicious violence, that of the occupation. They wanted to hurt Israelis, especially soldiers and settlers, because of the occupation, not because they’re Jewish. Their Jewishness has nothing to do with it. For the Palestinians, there’s no difference between a soldier who’s Jewish, Druze or Bedouin and a settler from the tribe of Menashe.

The attempt to present any violent Palestinian resistance as persecution of Jews because they’re Jewish is obviously meant to mobilize the world’s sympathy for the ultimate victim, the one and only, the Jew, while concealing the true victim in the story of Israel’s occupation. The conqueror as victim, and the only victim at that, in a total distortion of reality. This is also intended for internal purposes: Israelis like the role of victim. It unites them, conceals the Palestinians’ true motives, blurs the guilt and rids Israel of its responsibility.

One doesn’t have to justify Palestinian terror to understand this. Nearly every visit to a grieving Palestinian home portrays the same picture. For many years I’ve been amazed at how an Israeli journalist is received there, with no one knowing who he is and who he represents, only hours after the funeral. How would a Palestinian journalist be received in the house of Jewish mourners after a Palestinian terror attack?

The words repeat themselves: “We don’t hate Jews, we hate the occupation.” Sometimes they’ll say, “We hate the government,” and in extreme cases, “We hate the Zionists”. Not the Jews. Forget anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. Remember the occupation. In most cases, that of 1967, sometimes that of 1948, especially in refugee camps.

The thought that dozens of Palestinians have already set out to commit spontaneous acts of stabbing or car-ramming, with hundreds, maybe thousands or tens of thousands considering doing the same, should have provoked some thinking in Israel. Not the thinking of a victim who is being attacked again, but a consideration of what drives desperate children and adults to do this, in the knowledge that their chances of survival are slim.

But this might only raise questions that Israelis run away from as is from a fire. Little Rukaiya wanted to commit suicide because of her sister, or just to kill Jews because they’re Jews. There’s no other possible explanation.

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