Reporting from Ramallah: Life and Death in the Occupied Territories

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This is not, and should not be a self-satisfied piece lamenting the sad state of some far off corner of the globe. This is an indictment, and as such will read as one. The initial purpose of my trip oversees was to volunteer with the Excellence Center in Hebron, occupied Palestine. I did not make it to Hebron. My experience in the West Bank instead was overshadowed by what can only be described as a tremendous state military apparatus, all-encompassing and permanent. I came to the West Bank expecting a tense political situation. What I found was not, as I had expected “a tense situation,” but a systemic and institutionalised violence. This statement doubtless sounds polemical, and it should. My travels to the West Bank coincided with the kidnapping of three Jewish settler boys in Hebron. These young men were later found dead, ushering in a series of reprisal beatings and murders by Israeli vigilantes- escalating into a full on Israeli military offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The kidnapping of Jewish teenagers and their murder must be deplored, as should the burning alive of a young Arab boy in East Jerusalem. There also must be historical context. Palestine has been under decades of illegal military occupation and has been subjected to periodic and violent wars of aggression by the state of Israel. These wars have been waged with impunity and in contravention of international law, most notably the IV Geneva Convention.  In the West Bank and Gaza the denial of human dignity manifests itself everyday in the arbitrary imposition of state power on hapless civilians.The  Israeli instruments of state repression includes curfews, summary executions, extra-judicial rendition, strip searches, and indefinite internment without charge.  Whilst in Bethlehem I saw the physical scars of occupation, most prominently the eight meter high separation wall condemned in a 2004 International Court of Justice advisory ruling. The wall sends an explicit message, those unlucky enough to reside within its confines are prisoners. As such, traveling between Israel and the occupied territories is a humiliating task which, during periods of heightened tension,  can turn deadly. A few short days after I had crossed the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah,  two young men were shot dead from rooftop mounted snipers. We must remember that these two young men had mothers and fathers, they were some ones brother or uncle.These boys, and all the other victims of targeted state violence, lived and were loved. Indifference becomes easy when we depersonalize the crime- It can seem remote or unimportant. The problem therefore is the all too familiar narrative which leaves the victim nameless, the murder as another tally in an ever-growing body count, the ‘incident’ as part of an irredeemable ‘cycle of violence’. Let me be clear, this is unacceptable. I traveled to the West Bank because I am a student of politics. I have an obligation, as do all men and women of conscience, to speak out on behalf of egregious injustice.  Lets us remember their names:

 Mohammed Abu Khdeir – East Jerusalem

Bassem Safi Sadeq Abu Rob, Hashem Khader – Outside of Qalandiya

Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah – Outside of Hebron

 

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