Jun 20 2002

Apathy towards reoccupations

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles

I should have been angry but I wasn’t. Israeli soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint slashed all four wheels of my car. Apparently they didn’t like where I and many other Palestinians had parked our cars as we dismounted and traveled by foot to cross the dreaded occupation checkpoint.

The reason I was not so angry was not a newfound appreciation for the Israeli occupation but rather a reflection of the new mood in Palestine. This mood refuses to be surprised by anything that the Israeli occupation force carries out. Before seeing my car I had been in my Ramallah office during which rumors had circulated all day about an imminent Israeli incursion into the city. People had lost count whether this would be the fifth or sixth incursion in as many months. Most people seem to have stocked up basic foods to last for some time.

Discussions in the office had not been on whether another incursion will take place nor was it on the period of the incursions. Rumors were talking about an incursion up to six months or however it will take to erect the Israeli fence separating the West Bank (while taking more Palestinian lands) and Israel. Instead the discussions were centered on whether the Israelis will place the city under a continuous curfew or not. If there would be no curfew, this would be fine with me, said Ayman, a colleague.

In other parts of the West Bank, Palestinian sentiment didn’t vary. The threat of deporting President Arafat or his top aides didn’t seem to concern many and no one was holding their breath waiting for the expected speech of US president George Bush.

The overwhelming attitude of Palestinians seems to center on making do. On Thursday and despite the Israeli incursion into parts of Ramallah, I was surprised to see everyone working as usual in the office. People were in the streets and restaurants were seeing brisk business. In one Ramallah restaurant, the stones, not a single table was free late in the evening despite the rumors of incursions. Responding to the expectations of an Israeli incursion the owner of the restaurant said, we will continue working until a tank stops outside our restaurant and forces us to close.

In Bethlehem I found similar thoughts. The owner of a dance hall in Beit Sahour said that they weekly Saturday night dance had record number of clients. “We had to refuse more people than we allowed because of the high turnout,” said Yousef Shomali. Two days earlier the Israeli army had withdrawn from the city after yet another incursion.

This apathy means that the actions of the occupying forces against the Palestinians has failed in raising the level of deterrence. While Palestinian intellectuals were unhappy with the latest attack against civilians, most people are unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel. The statement, which was published on a full-page ad in the leading newspaper Al Quds was drafted by Sari Nusseibeh and included signatures of leading moderate Palestinians including Hanan Ashrawi, called for an end to attacks against Israeli civilians. The ad, which had 55 signatures on Wednesday, was repeated on Thursday with over 70 signatures and it seems that additional signatures will be added to this public announcement.


After being content to the fact that I couldn’t fix my car with all four wheels down, I went to the nearest tire store and found that he has been doing brisk business during the past few weeks. It was not only cars like mine that have been slashed but also they have sold plenty of tires (mostly used ones) to cars and trucks whose tires were shot at or became flat from driving on all kinds of dirt roads to circumvent the Israeli checkpoints.

But the apathy towards incursions and the public call for an end to attacks against Israeli civilians have done little to change the Israeli mindset which seems to be stuck with its own formula of finding military solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And the Israeli attempts to somehow expect that the pressures on all Palestinians will produce a solution to their conflict have once again shown that they will not work.

The apathy, which I and others are experiencing, is very scary because it reflects a level of numbness in regards normal feelings. In order to regain our normal human feelings of anger, love and even hate a total end to the violence and counter violence is necessary.

To stop the cycle of violence we need to get out of the mindset of revenge and punishment and begin the process of giving people hope based on genuine confidence that this illegal occupation and all that has resulted as a consequence to it will end soon. This is the only hope for all of us to regain our humanity.

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