Ha'aretz op-ed, Sept. 11, 2016–09–11
Shalom Ari Shavit,
Although I am surprised at your demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state 68 years after it received this recognition from the world at large ("I am to blame", Ha'aretz, 28.2.16), it is not my intention to address that debate. I wish to focus on but a single sentence in your article: "When every Palestinian child in Dehaisha and every Palestinian child in Balata will know that there is a neighboring Jewish people, with rights in this land – peace will be on its way", because the children of today will be the adults of tomorrow.
Well, let me tell you something about what a Palestinian child knows about the Jewish people. The only Jewish person that a child in Dehaisha or Balata knows is the soldier, who, in the best of circumstances, faces him with weapon drawn, and under circumstances less fortunate fires tear gas grenades, rubber or lead bullets, wakes him up in the dead of night and humiliates his parents, and all in an environment ruled by abject poverty and hopelessness.
A Palestinian child in Kusra, Jalood, Burin, Madame or Yanun is privileged to meet another Jew – the settlers. Those who set fire to cars in his village, uproot trees, destroy fences and toss smoke grenades into his room. Other Palestinian children see the bulldozers of the State of Israel uproot the olive or almond groves nurtured by their ancestors for years, and use the stripped land to expand the settlement that is already situated on their own family's land.
And if the Palestinian child is a Bedouin born in the Jordan Valley, he will see how bulldozers, sent by the Jewish state, destroy the tent which is his home, leaving him exposed to the sun's rays in temperatures exceeding 48 Celsius on ground devoid of any shade. Sometimes, as happened some weeks ago to 6-year-old Ibrahim, the child will need hospitalization following sunstroke. When a child from the Jordan Valley matures and wishes to wed, the Jewish bulldozers come to tear down the makeshift shelter built by his father to serve as the wedding hall and to provide some shade for the guests from the burning sun. Just such an event occurred only a few days ago.
Often a Bedouin child in the Valley also knows that he cannot turn on a water faucet to quench his thirst, because there is no water in the pipes; and if the water container for which his father paid an exorbitant price has not arrived, and there is no bottled water around – he will remain thirsty. His father and grandfather no doubt tell him how they once grew vegetables. But now not is there no water for irrigation, there isn't even enough water to wash with. The Jewish kid in the next door settlement, on the other hand, plays in the shade of green trees or splashes in the swimming pool, although the Bedouin child's family lived in the area many years before the Jews came along.
If the Palestinian child lives in the village of Duma, he passes every day by the ruins of the home of Saed Dawabshe, his wife Riham and their baby Ali, and is filled with anxiety lest a Jewish youth, possibly a neighbor living in an illegal outpost, will come in the middle of the night to burn him and his family, as his comrades did to the Dawabshe family.
The parents of the Palestinian child cannot call upon soldiers to guard their home, because they live under occupation. And the occupation army, which, under the laws of occupation, was supposed to guard them, is shirking its duty. Hence the child from Duma feels that even his parents cannot protect him.
And you, Ari Shavit, sitting safely in your air-conditioned home, demand that the Palestinian child, who lacks any human rights in his own land, whose daily encounters with the Jewish people are as just described, will "know that there are a neighboring Jewish people, with rights in this land". But isn't it the case that de facto not only do the authorities in your state not recognize the national rights of this child -- many among them, including within the authorities do not even recognize him as a human being.
Only few Palestinian children meet Jews under circumstances positive for them, Jews who bring a small measure of light into their lives. People such as the bereaved father Buma Inbar, who brings clothes to the children of Dehaisha and transports sick children to hospital, among his many generous deeds; people such as "Warriors for Peace", who assist in erecting shady shelters and some play corners for the children roasting in the heat of the Valley (and these, too, are often destroyed by the Jewish bulldozer); people like the Forum of Bereaved Families, who acknowledge the pain inflicted by both sides on each other; or the sea-women of Machsomwatch, who take Palestinian children for a day of fun at the sea – a matter of routine for Jewish kids, and a rare experience for Palestinian children.
The writer is a member of MachsomWatch and a lecturer emerita in the Seminary of the Kibbutzim.