How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads, to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams. Dracula
Well, there has been quite an uptick in violence recently here. To recap: early March, the Israeli government demolishes some illegal Israeli settler outposts in the northern West Bank. Israeli settlers respond, as usual, with “price tag” attacks of retribution against Palestinians who are unlucky enough to live nearby. These price tag attacks include: blocking roads, hurling stones at passing Palestinian cars and people, entering Palestinian villages and throwing Molotov cocktails at houses and cars… The list goes on. And while it may be a surprise to some, since the American media publishes usually only Palestinian attacks against Israelis, it must be known that settler violence against Palestinians is a daily occurrence.
Then came the murders of an Israeli settler family in the Itimar settlement in the West Bank. No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack, sparking a general consensus that it was not a Palestinian who committed the atrocity. Indeed, the Israelis detained Thai foreign workers, and then placed a gag order on the entire case. The assumption you have to take away from this is they don’t want information to be leaked because they don’t want the world to know that it wasn’t a Palestinian terror attack.
Then came the multiple settler price tag attacks against Palestinians, operating under the assumption that Palestinians were responsible for the Itimar murders. These included stabbings of Palestinians and other, very personal attacks, as well as the general harassment acts.
In addition, there has been a rise in violence in the Gaza Strip. Israel repeatedly conducts air strikes in Gaza, for often unclear reasons (‘security threats’), and a couple of weeks ago, the militant part of Hamas (the political movement who rules the Gaza Strip) began firing rockets into southern Israel. Hamas has had a truce with Israel since after Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-2009, during which the Israeli army invaded the Gaza Strip, and in three weeks, around 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were dead (yes, those numbers are correct). Operation Cast Lead was so devastating to the Gaza Strip that Hamas has pretty strictly enforced a ban on rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza, in order to avoid an Operation Cast Lead II.
But, you can’t take the truce out of the context of the occupation. Militants fired rockets into southern Israel beginning a little over a week ago after an Israeli air strike killed two Palestinians. Last weekend, the rocket fire peaked, with something like 50 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in one day. No fatalities resulted from any of the rockets. Israel of course responded with force, killing many Palestinian civilians, including 8 killed on this past Tuesday. Three were youths, 12, 16, and 17 playing soccer, and an adult relative who walked outside his house just before dying.
I’m giving this particular attack such attention because the mainstream media has failed, as it so often does when it comes to this conflict, to inform the public about the atrocities committed by the state of Israel against Palestinian civilians in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. (A very good Huffington Post article explains this position in more detail here).
Then came Wednesday’s awful Jerusalem bombing near the central bus station in West Jerusalem (the Israeli part of the city). It’s the first of its kind in Jerusalem in something like 4 years, and a big surprise to everyone. Again, no Palestinians have claimed responsibility for the bombing, which is leading some to say that, like the Itimar murders, it wasn’t a Palestinian group who planted the bomb, though of course the media immediately spinned it as a Palestinian terror attack. Innocent until proven guilty? Not in this conflict.
Simultaneously, we see the Israeli Knesset (the Parliament) passing 2 laws that are discriminatory against Palestinians. First, the “Nakba Bill” requires the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) Day on what Israelis call Independence Day. Secondly, the Admissions Committee Law formalizes the establishing admissions committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee communities that have fewer than 400 families. Even though such committees existed before the bill was passed, it legally empowers the committees to reject candidates if they do not meet certain criteria. Possible reasons for rejection include if they do not fit in with the community’s way of life, or do not fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” tenor. There is also a third bill, which I’m not sure if it passed, that would force residents to pay for demolition costs for illegal buildings, forcing Palestinians to pay for their own eviction.
So now we have an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and some Israeli Knesset members arguing for the need of an Operation Cast Lead II into Gaza; an escalation in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank; a bombing in Jerusalem… Needless to say, I’ve stayed in Ramallah for the most part, except for our little side trip to the desert last weekend, which I promised to post pictures of, and I figure is a better way to end this depressing post.
Friends and I ventured to Nabi Musa (in Arabic, means Prophet Moses), near Jericho. It takes usually just about an hour to get there, with traffic and the roads. But, it’s so close to the Dead Sea and is so far under the sea level, that it’s usually about 10 degrees warmer there than in Ramallah or Jerusalem. The landscape is also completely different – it is desert. It’s a beautiful place and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!