FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"The War is With the Arabs"

by HANNAH MERMELSTEIN

I saw this sign as I was entering Nablus last week, again on my way to Ramallah, and again near Bethlehem.  The phrase is printed in Hebrew, presumably by Israeli settlers, on huge signs throughout the West Bank.  Israeli racism rarely shocks me anymore, but its blatant display still makes me stop and catch my breath as I translate it into other contexts.  Imagine driving through the middle of a predominantly black neighborhood in a US city or town and seeing a enormous sign that says, “The war is with the Blacks.”

I think about security.  Israel’s abuse of the word has rendered the concept almost meaningless in the region, but the importance of security on individual and communal levels cannot be underestimated. However, most discussions I see in the media about security ignore the Palestinian people’s right to security.  “The war is with the Arabs” is a new sign, as far as I know, but for years in the West Bank I have seen stars of David scrawled on Palestinian shops and homes, and signs like “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” (Kahane was an extremist political leader who promoted ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people; this sign is essentially equivalent to “Hitler was right” in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood).

But signs are not only created; they are also destroyed.  Since 1948, Palestinian people inside Israel have experienced erasure and denial of their identities that is perhaps stronger than that of any other group of Palestinian people.  I visited a friend in Lyd last week who lives on Giborai Yisrael (“Heroes of Israel”) Street.  Driving around the Palestinian neighborhoods in Lyd, we passed roads bearing the names of Herzl, Jabotinsky, and other Zionist leaders.  None of the old Arabic street names remain.  Even large cities with considerable Palestinian populations are now seeing Arabic names officially erased from signs.  In Arabic script, “Yaffa” will become “Yafo,” “Nasra” will become “Natzeret,” and “Al Quds” will become “Yerushalayim.”

Lack of security goes beyond denial of identity and history as visually expressed through signs.  A Palestinian friend with Israeli citizenship told me he has heard a rumor that a huge piece of land in Jordan is being cleared and built up for the eventual arrival of the Palestinian population of Israel after they are transferred from their homes.  “It may be conspiracy theory,” he said, “but I don’t know.”

“I’d like to think that Israel couldn’t get away with that,” I responded.

“Of course they can,” another friend from Lyd said, “and if the conditions are right, they will.”

Imagine living day to day thinking you might be expelled from your country in the near future.  Or in Gaza, wondering if you will be killed tomorrow, or if you will ever be able to come in and out of your country at will.  Or in the West Bank, if your son will be arrested, or if you will be able to get through the checkpoint in the morning to get to work.  Or in Jerusalem, if your residency will be stripped or your house destroyed.

Imagine little correlation between choice and consequence, an arbitrary relationship between cause and effect.  If you are just as likely to get shot and killed sipping tea in your doorway, or sitting in your fourth grade classroom, or participating in a demonstration, or joining the armed resistance, is it any surprise that some choose each?

A friend of mine from the West Bank once told me that she never feels safe, so safety is not a consideration for her in making decisions. As much as I may try, I cannot truly imagine this lack of control.

I met a woman in Jerusalem who was displaced from her home by settlers, physically removed from her house by dozens of Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night.  Twice a refugee (1948 and 2008), Um Kamel currently lives in a tent near her house that has been destroyed and re-pitched six times in the past six months.  This is perhaps the height of insecurity, yet Um Kamel stays strong and determined.  Many in Palestine would call it sumoud, or steadfastness.

This kind of strength is seen remarkably often in Palestine, and indicates a deeper security that comes in part from faith.  Faith in God, sometimes, but also faith in each other, in the justice of one’s cause, in the tide of history that has shown that no single occupation in Palestine lasts forever.  This, of course, is also Israel’s deepest fear.  That no matter how many walls they build, how many people they imprison, how many homes they destroy, how many signs they erase, and how many people they expel, true security will remain elusive, and eventually, Zionism will fail.  As many older Palestinian people have said to me, with security, “We have lived through many occupations. This too shall pass.”

HANNAH MERMELSTEIN is co-founder of Birthright Unplugged and Students Boycott Apartheid.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY and works with the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel and the Palestine Education Project. She can be reached at hmermels@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail