Which Side Are You On?
Originally posted on Medium
By Leon Rosselson
January 5th, 2018
Terror is the checkpoint on my way to school, the robbery of my land, the torture of my mother, the imprisonment of my innocent father.
This is my letter to the Guardian which they didn’t publish. I repeat the question. Why is the Labour Party silent? What happened to solidarity with the oppressed?
It’s not complicated. It’s not difficult to understand. An unarmed 16-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl confronts, attacks with her bare hands one then two armed soldiers in battledress who are illegally occupying her village and attempting to break into her house. She has every right to do this. She has just seen her 14-year-old cousin shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Of course, her slap of resistance is symbolic. The imbalance of power is obvious. The damage is only to the soldiers’ egos and, according to Miri Regev, Israel’s ‘Culture’ Minister “ to the honour of the military and the state of Israel”. The soldiers should have shot the girl, she added.
It’s a sort of children’s story, isn’t it? A morality tale. A slip of a girl challenging Israel’s military might. The small, the powerless facing down the big bully of a giant, knowing what the consequences will be: violent arrest, abuse, incarceration, torture. Israel has form when it comes to the abuse of Palestinian children. Children would have no difficulty in recognising who are the goodies and who the baddies. They understand unfairness and the difference between kindness and cruelty. They would know instinctively whose side they were on. As would anyone with a heart and a brain. So why are influential voices in the the Labour Party silent? Where is Thornberry? Where is McDonnell? Where is Owen Jones? Couldn’t Corbyn be more emphatic, more outspoken in his support for the girl?
Ahed has lived under occupation all her life. She has seen her home raided more than 150 times by the Israeli military. She has seen the olive trees of her village, Nabi Saleh, burned. She has seen the land and water resources of her village stolen by an illegal settlement, Halamish. Nabi Saleh is allowed 12 hours running water a week while Halamish fills its swimming pool and enjoys running water 24 hours a day. Think of the anger that injustice generates. She has seen the village’s largely peaceful protests met with indiscriminate violence, rubber bullets, live bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, skunk spray. She has seen members of her family and of the village assaulted, killed, jailed, permanently disabled. Yet the resistance lives on, a grass roots resistance that bypasses the collaborationist Palestinian Authority. And at the heart of it are the Tamimi family which is why they have been repeatedly targeted. What is happening in Nabi Saleh is happening also in the neighbouring villages of Bil’in, Budrus and all over Area C, the 61% of the West Bank totally controlled by Israel.
And now the jackboots have come for Ahed. Who will defend her? Where are the liberal Zionists who say they are opposed to the occupation? Where is Jonathan Freedland who claims to have principles? This is a test case. There is no sitting on the fence. If they don’t speak out now, nothing they say about wanting peace and a two-state solution will have any credibility. Justice is universal or it is meaningless. Isn’t it hypocritical to speak out in support of the oppressed in one part of the world — the Rohingya in Myanmar, for instance — and remain silent when it comes to Palestine.
Of course, defending the indefensible is second nature for Zionists — they’ve had plenty of practice — and some may well try it in this case. But there other recent examples of Israel’s inhumanity for them to wrestle with. On 15 December, 2017, Ibraham Abu-Thuraya, was deliberately shot by an Israeli army sharpshooter near the separation fence in Gaza. His legs had been amputated, he was in a wheelchair, he was no threat to anyone. A war crime. So was the sniper reprimanded, charged, brought to book? Of course not. But a sick joke became popular. Army rules say that soldiers have to fire at the legs. But this man had no legs so, of course, the sniper had no choice. I’d like to see the Jewish Labour Movement defend that.
My God, what is happening to this country? What is the occupation doing to us? laments Uri Avnery. What has become of our common human decency?
And there’s more. Israel has always had problems with asylum seekers from North Africa — Eritrea and Sudan, in particular — who manage to enter the country. As non-Jews in a Jewish state they are not welcome. They are, like the Palestinians, a demographic threat. They are referred to as ‘infiltrators’ and generally demonised. Nothing new there. Israeli policy is to make their lives as miserable as possible in order to persuade them to leave willingly. Like Theresa May only worse. So a detention centre was built in the Negev desert to house them, a prison in everything but name. And money was offered to those who volunteered to leave. That didn’t have the desired effect so now there is a new government bill. The 40,000 or so refugees will be offered two options: “voluntary deportation or sitting in prison”. The so-called opposition, Zionist Union, which includes the Jewish Labour Movement’s sister party and Emily Thornberry’s hopes for the future, decided this was a splendid idea. Expel them or imprison them. Serves them right for not being Jews.
And the liberal Zionists and the Labour Friends of Israel remain silent. What can they say? They cannot in all conscience defend these inhumane acts, nor can they condemn them because to do so would undermine their total commitment to the Jewish state, because it would put in doubt the image of the Jewish state that they believe in, because that Jewish state doesn’t do such things, even though it clearly does.
They would like to think that this descent into open racism and barbarism is an aberration. They cannot bring themselves to believe that it is, in fact, the inevitable end product of the Zionist project.