Primordial Illogic and Primitive Cruelty
by Amira Hass
July 24, 2003
There is nothing more logical than setting arbitrary times of day when a Palestinian is allowed to leave his home and come back to it. There is nothing more logical than forbidding him to leave his field in a pickup truck to take his crops straight to market. It is logical to forbid him to receive guests, to take a donkey-drawn wagon, to ride a bicycle, to visit his parents a few kilometers away - or to bring a goat into his house "without coordination" so as to provide some fresh milk for his children.
There is nothing more logical than to fence the Palestinian into his village, neighborhood, and land, with an electronic barrier, and then set a minimum age to leave. It is logical to appoint 19-year-old soldiers to watch the gate, which is sometimes opened on time and sometimes not, and to impose the rules - 29-year-olds are not allowed out, 30-year-olds are, pregnant women are allowed out, non-pregnant woman are not.
It is logical to forbid all crossing when the Shin Bet (Israeli secret service) suddenly requires it, leaving outside a 65-year-old man who went out to buy something a kilometer and a half away, or a young man who went for dental treatment, or a mother whose children stayed at home because only children under the age of 21 are allowed out.
It is so logical to forbid a Palestinian to go to the beach 300 meters from his home, and to prevent half a million people from nearby towns from going to the beach. It is so logical. After all, that's what army commanders and soldiers do, day in and day out, hour by hour, in Gaza, in the Siafa area in the north and the Mawassi in the center of the Strip.
It's logical, because the IDF's mission in the heart of Gaza - which it did not leave in 1994, despite the Oslo legend - is to guarantee the safety and security and lives of Israelis whose government continues to encourage in moving to occupied territory. It is logical because Israeli governments since the 1970s and on, Labor and Likud, decided to settle Jews in the main open areas in the narrow Gaza Strip, in the prettiest area of dunes and on the most spectacular beach, in an area blessed with fresh water compared to the rest of the Gaza area.
It is logical to lock people up in their homes and villages, and to sabotage the farming of their land because it is logical to subsidize the Jewish settlement in the land of the forefathers of Gush Katif and northern Gaza. It is logical to connect Jewish settler homes to electricity and water while forbidding Palestinian neighbors from connecting to the electricity grid and the water and sewage lines.
It sounds cruel to lock people up in their homes and uproot their groves and orchards that they spent decades nurturing. But it's a logical cruelty, Israel is convinced, if that is what it takes to foil the cruelty of others - to prevent an armed Palestinian attack on a nursery school or a plant nursery or to plant a landmine on the route of a tank that is patrolling to protect the nursery school and the plant nursery.
During the Oslo years, many good Israelis made do with the logical thought that "eventually" the settlements in Gaza would be dismantled. Logic and policy are two different things. Meanwhile, even before the bloodshed broke out in September 2000, the settlements in Gaza expanded, their infrastructures were improved and their security required the army to dictate various Draconian prohibitions of movement for a million Palestinians.
The northern Gaza Strip, with its minuscule settlements, was cut off from the rest of the strip and de facto annexed to Israel. Palestinian representatives tried to speak to the logical minds of their Israeli counterparts at the negotiating table. It didn't work. On the contrary, the number of settlements in Gaza only grew.
With subsidizes and expanding infrastructures and good roads and an expanding market for their worm-free lettuce - why should they leave? And why should the government dismantle the settlements when the Palestinians themselves signed the agreements that did not require the settlements to be dismantled? The quiet that most Palestinians kept most of the time proved to Israelis that it was possible to get peace with the settlements.
That quiet relieved the Israelis of the duty to deal with the primordial illogic, the primordial cruelty – establishing the settlements. The governments used the Palestinian quiet to continue developing the settlements. And after September
2000, what the appeals to logic did not accomplish, the armed attacks certainly won't accomplish. After all, Israel will never give in to terror.
Even before any Qassam rockets were fired at Sderot, the army shot to death people who dared approach settlements and the fortifications that protect the settlements. Some were armed, but many were simply shepherds and peasants and their stone-throwing children. All the farmland around the settlements was shaved down to nothing - raked, flattened and demolished, to improve the vision of soldiers preserving the settlements. How logical.
Amira Hass is an award-winning Israeli journalist who lives in Ramalla in the West Bank. She is author of Drinking the Sea At Gaza: Days and Nights In A Land Under Siege (Owl Books, 2000). She writes for the Israeli daily Ha’artez, where this article first appeared (http://www.haaretz.com/).