Like many other families seeking alternative forms of open-air entertainment these days in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, Lubna Abdul Hadi and her family wished to enjoy a family picnic in nature last Saturday. But a routine picnic, attended by grandparents, parents and two infants, held in a public space near the West Bank village of Jibiya, near an illegal settlement called “Zvi’s Farm,” was interrupted by armed settlers.
The settlers argued that the location belonged to them “because the Bible says it does.” The assailants did not make do just with verbal threats – they started moving items belonging to the babies, pouring drinks and throwing food into the fire the family had built.
Such cases are not uncommon near the Wild West settlements in the occupied territories, but this time the victims were not West Bank Palestinians, who are routinely abused by settlers using pseudo-security-related pretexts. Abdul Hadi and her parents live in Nazareth.
They explained to their assailants in Hebrew that they were Israeli citizens just like them, and that they had a right to picnic quietly in open public spaces. The assailants, who did not anticipate this complexity, responded with a shameful show of racism: “You’re not Israeli, you’re Arabs; we did you a favor by letting you remain (in Israel); go back to Nazareth.”
But the most shameful thing was the settlers calling in the army to evacuate the family. Instead of protecting the ones who were attacked, the soldiers, who are used to doing the settlers’ bidding, drove the family away, declaring that the public space was now closed. The IDF said in response that the event and the conduct of the soldiers would be investigated, but assailants in this lawless land are never investigated.
In 1955, Black activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, thus becoming a symbol of resistance to the policy of racial segregation. Lubna Abdul Hadi, in her refusal to leave on the orders of the settlers, exposed to many Israelis the nature of the racist policy prevailing in the territories.
Even though the family was ultimately forced to leave, their insistence on their rights, despite their fear and concern for their children, was an act of courage worthy of deep appreciation. Hopefully, this act will at least partially open the eyes of Israeli citizens so they can see what is done in their name on a daily basis in the occupied territories.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.