FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A 14-Year-Old Girl Forced Alone and at Night Into the Gaza Cage. Another Routine Mishap for Israel’s Occupation

Photo by blhphotography | CC BY 2.0

How did a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who has never set foot in the open-air prison of Gaza find herself being dumped there by Israeli officials – alone, at night and without her parents being informed?

The terrifying ordeal – a child realising she had not been taken home but discarded in a place where she knew no one – is hard to contemplate for any parent.

And yet for Israel’s gargantuan bureaucratic structure that has ruled over Palestinians for five decades, this was just another routine error. One mishap among many that day.

A single, abstract noun – “occupation” – obscures a multitude of crimes.

What crushes Palestinian spirits is not just the calculated malevolence of Israel’s occupation authorities, as they kill and imprison Palestinians, seal them into ghettoes, steal lands and demolish homes. It is also the system’s casual indifference to their fate.

This is a bureaucracy – of respectable men and women – that controls the smallest details of Palestinians’ lives. With the flick of a pen, everything can be turned upside down. Palestinians are viewed as numbers and bodies rather than human beings.

The story of Ghada – as she has been identified – illustrates many features of this system of control.

She was arrested last month as an “illegal alien” in her own homeland for visiting her aunt. The two live a short distance apart, but while Israel considers Ghada a resident of the West Bank, her aunt is classified as a resident of Jerusalem. They might as well be on different planets.

Ghada, we should note, suffers from epilepsy. After two days in detention, and over opposition from Israeli police, a judge ordered her released on bail. All this happened without her parents present.

Israel controls the Palestinian population register too, and had recorded Ghada wrongly as a Gaza resident, even though she was born and raised far away in the West Bank. She is separated from Gaza by Israel, which she cannot enter.

Presumably, no Israeli official wanted to harm Ghada. It was just that none cared enough to notice that she was a frightened child – afraid of being alone, of the dark, of fences and watch-towers. And a child who needs regular medical care.

Instead she was viewed simply as a package, to be delivered to whatever location was on the docket. Despite her anguished protests, she was forced through the electronic fence into the cage of Gaza.

She was finally released by Israel and returned to her parents last Thursday, two weeks after her ordeal began.

Was this not precisely what Hannah Arendt, the Jewish philosopher of totalitarianism, meant when she identified the “banality of evil” while watching the trial of the Holocaust’s architect, Adolph Eichmann, in Jerusalem in 1962?

Arendt wrote that totalitarian systems were designed to turn men into “functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery”, to “dehumanize them”.

Even the worst bureaucracies contain few monsters. Its officials have simply forgotten what it means to be human, losing the capacity for compassion and independent thought.

After five decades of ruling over Palestinians, with no limits or accountability, many Israelis have become cogs.

Most of the Palestinian victims of this “system” remain hidden from view – like the small children of Abu Nawar who awoke this week to find their village school had been levelled because Israel wants their land for the neighbouring illegal settlement of Maale Adumim.

But a Ghada occasionally throws a troubling light on the depths to which Israel has sunk.

Another example is Ahed Tamimi, who spent her 17th birthday in prison last week, charged with slapping a heavily armed soldier during an invasion of her home. Moments earlier his unit had shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, nearly killing him. She now risks a 10-year jail sentence for her justified anger.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and now a government minister, was so unwilling to believe Ahed could be blonde-haired and blue-eyed – like him – that he ordered a secret investigation to try to prove her family were actors.

Most Israelis cannot believe that a Palestinian child might fight for her home, and for her family’s right to live freely. Palestinians are expected to be passive recipients of Israel’s “civilising”, bureaucratic violence.

Soldiers helping settlers to steal her community’s farmland have scrawled death threats against her on the walls in her village, Nabi Saleh.

Oren Hazan, a parliament member from the ruling Likud party, told the BBC last week that Ahed was not a child, but a “terrorist”. Had he been slapped, he said, “She would finish in the hospital for sure … I would kick, kick her face.”

This dehumanising logic is directed at any non-Jew with a foothold in the enlarged fortress state Israel is creating.

But belatedly a few Israelis are drawing a line. A backlash has begun as Israel this week starts expelling 40,000 asylum seekers who fled wars in Sudan and Eritrea. In violation of international treaties, Israel wants these refugees returned to Africa, where they risk persecution or death.

Unlike Palestinians, these refugees tug at some liberal Israelis’ heartstrings, reminding them of European Jews who once needed shelter from genocide.

Nonetheless, Israel has incentivised its citizens to become bounty-hunters, offering them $9,000 bonuses for hunting down Africans. Progressive rabbis and social activists have called for Israelis to hide the refugees in attics and cellars, just as Europeans once protected Jews from their persecutors.

It is a battle for Israel’s soul. Can Israelis begin to see non-Jews – whether Palestinians like Ghada ot Africans – as fellow human beings, as equally deserving of compassion? Or will Israelis sink further into the darkness of a banal evil that threatens to engulf them?

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail