Monday, June 11, 2007

On fanaticism and hypocrisy

June 2

Left: Garbage thrown by settlers onto fencing over Hebron's old city market. This used to be the center of Hebron's consumer economy, now it's virtually a ghost town.

The only interesting case that came into the ER today was an old woman, probably in her late fifties or early sixties, who’d been kicked in the face by a donkey. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the relentless bad luck: you’re born in Palestine, you become a refugee in 1948, the Israelis come back to haunt you in 1967, you survive the First and Second Intifadas, you live your whole life as a peasant farmer, and then your damn donkey kicks you in the face so hard he breaks your maxillary bone and slices a three-inch-wide laceration into your cheek. There’s little respite for the Palestinians, and none for their poor. Ours is a life truly blessed.

More on the water I drink and bathe in at Musa’s house. Like I said before, it comes into the village on trucks at outlandish prices. But where does it come from? How does it get into those trucks in the first place?

“The situation is ridiculous,” says Musa. “It comes from Kiryat Arba. It’s illegal, even by the Israelis [i.e., under Israeli law], but they hire Palestinian lorries and they split the profit.” That’s Kiryat Arba, the settlement of perhaps the most hardcore Jewish religious fanatics in the West Bank, built right inside Hebron. These are the people who write “Arabs to the gas chambers” in graffiti in Hebron’s beautiful old city during Jewish holidays, when the Army shuts the whole city down so that these lunatics can go on their rampages unimpeded; the people who erected a shrine to Baruch Goldstein (who murdered 29 praying Palestinians at the Ibrihim Mosque on February 25, 1994, if I remember the date correctly; that year’s Purim festival). These people have such a dearth of shame that they will sell Arabs water they’ve stolen from them at 10-100 times the price they pay each other for it. They will allow Arab truck drivers into their settlement to pick up the profitable contraband for delivery but shoot Palestinian farmers who try to tend their olive groves and beat Palestinian children for the crime of walking to school (along with the international Christian Peacemakers Team members who accompany them). I don’t know how to describe such people without using Nazi analogies, so I won’t.

Note, again, that there is obviously no shortage of water here since the settlers are willing to sell it off. The issue for Israel is control of water in order to deny it to the Palestinians, not access for the settlers.

Musa also told me about a nearby collection of villages whose names I will now misspell: Yata, Diaya and Samour. Musa told me B’tselem wrote a report about their water situation, which is quite enlightening. About two-thirds of the houses in these villages have been cut from the water network, and so are in the same situation as Musa’s village; about one-third of the houses remain connected to the water network.

Those houses connected to the network get normally-priced water from the tap. How much do they get? On average, one day of running water every three months. One day out of ninety. Apartheid can’t get much clearer without putting up signs designating separate Jewish and Arab water fountains.

Why do these villages get such little water? Because the pipes to the village run through Kiryat Arba, and the settlers can turn the spigot off whenever they chose. Note the cruelty: they’re not denying children candy or roller coaster rides or even freedom itself, but the single thing they need most to remain alive.

I also asked Musa about something I saw when I was here two years ago. In Hebron’s old city there’s a beautiful open-air market with apartments above it. Settlers have occupied the apartments. When you walk through the market the first thing you notice is that someone seems to have ripped a wire fence out of the ground, laid it across the market so that it forms an artificial roof, and then someone dumped garbage on top of the fence. The picture above should explain things (it’s from last time I was here, I haven’t been to the old city this time).

When I saw this I assumed that settlers used to throw garbage on Palestinians shopping in the market, and since the army wouldn’t do anything about it the Palestinians got some fencing and put up this pathetic barrier. The truth is rather more interesting: the army itself put the fencing up to stop the settlers from throwing rocks at people shopping in the market. (In case you’re really going to ask, yes, there is a difference between children throwing stones at tanks, and armed colonists throwing stones and rocks at the unarmed natives while they’re buying bread.) When the fence went up, the settlers, clever people that they are, decided the fence would be a perfect sieve to throw sopping wet filth on top of. They were right.

Note the incredible racism of the situation. The army could treat the settlers like they treat the Palestinians and just shoot their children randomly until they stop throwing stones at the Palestinians; this is of course unthinkable, and would be a terrible crime. The army could very easily evict the settlers from the apartments, which they occupy illegally even under Israeli law. The army could arrest those people who threw rocks, which again, is illegal under Israeli law. The army could have cemented or barred the windows of the apartments, which they have the authority to do under the military regulations in force in the West Bank.

But instead the army chose to do the one thing I can think of that would stop the embarrassment to Israel of Palestinians being rushed to the hospital with gaping wounds in their head and then telling the TIPH people “I was in the market and a settler threw a stone at me from the apartment my family used to live in”, while still allowing the settlers to disrupt the market just as fully as they used to. Now the settlers can just throw rotten food and shit at the Palestinians, and that doesn’t land anyone near the lazy eyes of the media. (TIPH is the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, which monitors human rights violations in the city but then only makes secret reports to the observers’ respective countries; quite useless.)

When I got home Suhail was watching an Arab satellite TV channel that dubs old American cartoons in Arabic. The Jetsons was on. Something about the inane adventures of a buffoon in a nonexistent fantasy world seems appropriate to this place. The commercials are particularly ridiculous: they’re all aimed at getting people in the oil sheikdoms to buy cars or cruises or some other stupid thing. Meanwhile Palestinians can’t repair their roads or afford basic medical care.