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As the World Debates Syria, Palestine’s Ignominy Continues in Silence

As the prophetic Orwellian concept of perpetual war is made manifest in Syria and Iraq, and the attention of the planet is understandably diverted towards the apocalyptic scenario currently being played out there, the subjugated and forgotten nation of Palestine limps quietly on under the curse of a media blackout.

Hebron, about 30km south of Jerusalem, has effectively been under apartheid rule for years. Settlers – under the protection of the Israeli military and thus all but immune to prosecution – frequently throw stones at Palestinian children and break into people’s homes. According to blogger Charlotte Silver, a recent military directive was issued on October 30th ‘preventing male Palestinian residents between the ages of 15 and 25 from passing all Israeli military checkpoints that surround Jewish settlements in Hebron’[1]. Palestinian-owned shops on Shuhada street, a main artery of the city and formerly its main marketplace, have been welded shut since by the IDF since the massacre of 29 Palestinians by a settler in 1994. The entire street was closed to all Palestinians in 2000.

Weekly demonstrations to reopen the street to everyone are held by Youth Against Settlements, a small local group of activists. Last month, Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron raided their offices, demanding that their operations be shut down by the Israeli army.

Yehuda Shaul, a former IDF soldier, wrote last month: ‘The foundation of Israel’s security policy in Hebron… is the “principle of separation,” which in practice means restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians in areas near Israeli settlements in the city’.[2] This restriction of movement has long been coupled with the destruction of Palestinian land; a report, for example, last year from stopthewall.org told of the burning and bulldozing of Palestinian farmlands by settlers around Hebron, close to the Ali Zahav settlement.[3]

Aside from providing protection for settlers responsible for violence, Shaul confirmed that the military themselves were under direct instruction to employ bullying tactics. ‘I regularly went out on missions to “make our presence felt,” which means raiding houses and conducting searches in the middle of the night, or violent patrols throughout the city… at any hour of the day or night, soldiers may enter their (Palestinians’)home(s) and search through their belongings.’[4]

The IDF killing in September of an 18-year old Palestinian woman Hadeel al-Hashlamoun (which Amnesty International described as an ‘extrajudicial execution’[5]) demonstrates, in a rather macabre parallel to the police violence that has birthed the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA, the willingness of the military to use deadly force.

This state-sponsored approach is odiously reminiscent of apartheid South Africa. In Refusal,Transition and Post-Apartheid Law, Karin van Marle describes some of the tactics which the ruling National Party employed to govern in South Africa:

‘…the state had to use the now-familiar tactics of forced-segregation: a night-raid, arrest of the adult members of the community for trespassing and bulldozing of their homes…’[6]

There is clearly palpable evidence of these methods in Hebron. And yet here, it’s going unnoticed.

***

The trademark gore of Daesh so prevalent in the Western conscious is choreographed by a powerful and prudent propaganda department, and moreover, is inanely fetishized by a receptive and sensationalist media every-ready to serve as a mouthpiece by pornographizing the group’s barbarism. This luridly appeals to the primality of a dehumanized audience, constantly stoking the fires of outrage and in turn sustaining the rationale for a ceaseless campaign of bombing.

Distinctly, in keeping with state-sponsored violence in the globalized age, the infringements and injustices perpetrated by both the Israeli settlers – effectively the proxy of the state’s expansionism – and the IDF lack the artistic panache of the brutal, unfettered terrorist. It is distinctly less dramatized, and as such doesn’t appeal as viscerally to the primordial, bestial cortex of the intellectually immobilized and eternally distracted Westerner . Thus, the occupation of Palestine only cultivates sporadic Western media attention, such as during the appalling situation in Gaza in the summer of 2014. Yet the anaemic utterances of disapproval are only tentatively articulated by our media when the transgressions of the infinitely superior Israeli aggressor become clearly and sickeningly disproportionate. The anguish of Palestinians in Hebron, for example, is outright ignored, as the West Bank is seen by the outside world of being a comparably tolerable and harmonious state of affairs than in Gaza; atrocities here are cloaked more convincingly in pretensions to legality and even-handedness.

Perhaps ‘Palestine fatigue’ is a another factor – the longevity of the fighting suggests the crisis’s ultimately insolvability and so engenders apathy from foreign quarters. Yet the proclamation of Cabinet Ministers last week that the war to destroy Daesh may ‘take as long as two years’[7] has ominous implications for The Occupation. So long as the checkmate between Assad, Daesh, Russia and the West ticks on with no signal of a fissure in the impasse, the Israeli settlers’ encroachment upon the rights and land of the increasingly quarantine and beleaguered Palestinians is doomed to be cast aside as a knot so tangled it’s not worth trying to undo.

Hebron serves as a microcosm of the daily humiliation, mistreatment and violence that the Palestinian people are subject to throughout the West Bank and across the occupied territories. But for the intermittent expression of unease, by and large the world is indifferent to Palestine’s elegiac suffering. Now, with the advent of Daesh’s horrors and the geopolitical posturing that have accompanied the group’s struggle with Assad, the waters in the Middle East have been muddied even further.

They have become so muddy, in fact, that the root of the region’s problem is becoming harder and harder to see.

Notes. 

[1] https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/hebron-bears-brunt-israels-crackdown

[2] http://972mag.com/the-only-way-to-end-the-violence-in-hebron/113525/

[3] http://www.stopthewall.org/2014/05/25/settlers-burn-lands-hebron-and-israeli-forces-bulldozed-lands-salfit

[4] see 1

[5] https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde15/2529/2015/en/

[6] Refusal, Transition and Post-Apartheid Law Karin van Marle p.47

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/03/ministers-two-years-destroy-isis-uk-airstrikes-syria

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Ben Morris is a journalist from South London. 

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