Why Israel Is Fighting the Indigenous Palestinians

West Bank Israel Jerusalem Conflict Stabbing IDF
Women mourn during the funeral of Palestinian Ahmed Zakarna in the West Bank town of Qabatya, February 5, 2016. Zakarna and two other Palestinians killed an Israeli border policewoman and seriously wounded another before being shot dead by officers, Israeli police said. Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

A 15-year-old girl lies severely wounded, bleeding from multiple bullet wounds on the sidewalk. A man walks up and cold-bloodedly shoots her in the head, a final and fatal shot ending a young life on a Jerusalem sidewalk.  Another "terrorist" shot by a "hero." Or is it yet another extra judicial execution of the type we have become so used to?

Even the language has changed: "neutralized" is the media term for a human life ended. A Palestinian life that is.

We are no longer capable of seeing the horrific tragedy of the bloodied school uniform, the bag of books and decorated notice-pads scattered about on the pavement. And among all these, also a small pair of scissors with which the girl had attempted to stab an elderly man.  

And there she lies, another nameless "terrorist", another young victim born to the daily reality of the occupation with its night raids, its oppression and humiliation, its discriminatory (security) wall, its home demolitions, its roads for Israelis only, its roadblocks, its church and mosque burnings. Its random shootings by settlers and security forces. A daily life, grey and lacking all hope.

I do not wish to justify these desperate acts; every death under occupation should be avoided. These children are not part of a political movement but they are a result of a well-organized oppression. They are as much the victims as the victims of their desperate acts.

The Jerusalem police are refusing to return the bodies of the Palestinians involved in individual acts, and killed during the last several months. It is a form of punishment for their families. Ten bodies are currently being held. The police are insisting on night funerals with no more than 50 people present to which the families have agreed, but still the bodies have not been released. Kept in their frozen prison, they have become pawns in an ugly political game.

Three Israeli lawmakers, Jamal Zahalka, Basal Ghatas and myself met last week with representatives from these 10 families and their lawyers in order to try and advance the burial of their sons. Prior to this meeting, we had been in contact with the Minister of Homeland Security and afterwards we submitted a written request to the minister with details of all 10 families and the conditions the police have set out for their sons' funerals. At the onset of the meeting with the families, which took place in a cultural space in East Jerusalem, we read the opening stanza of the Koran in silence, a religious and cultural custom.  

However, Netanyahu used our act as a pretext for a hate campaign which has led to our suspension from the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) for several months. We have been branded as traitors or worse. In Israel democracy implies the sovereignty of the majority, while lacking recognition of human and minority rights. The danger of tyranny by majority is inbuilt, as it were.

This campaign does not stand by itself: the declaration of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement as an illegal organization, the NGO law which severely limits the ability of human rights organizations to function, the military censorship of websites, the pre-emptive arrests of political activists prior to demonstrations, the laws criminalizing the support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), several laws enabling communities to refuse entry to Arabs as well as other laws legalizing discrimination in the field of land ownership, construction rights and more, may all be viewed as clear indicators of the willingness to adopt discriminatory policies to fight against the country's indigenous people and their supporters.

"Self-defense"' is the expression the Israelis use in order to justify any extra-judiciary executions as well as their control over others' lives. However, there can be no justification for killing, nor for oppression. The occupier does not have the right to self-defense. We, the occupied, have the full and only right to fight it, by all means recognized within the framework of international law and supported by the international community.

Our suspension should be seen in the context of the ongoing hostility of the state towards the Palestinians, on one hand, and the increased willingness to adopt un-democratic practices and policies on the other hand. One should realize that the second aspect is a byproduct of the first.

Israel, by its very definition as a Jewish state, laid the foundation for this, especially because the state saw the Palestinians as strangers in their own homeland. In 1948, 85 percent of the Palestinians were expelled and those who remained were seen as intruders. In spite of the great injustice done to us, we suggest a vision of justice and equality for all.

Haneen Zoabi currently serves as a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Arab Joint List bloc. She is the first woman to be elected to the Israeli parliament on an Arab party’s list.


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