Here is the second article on our reflexions about Israel. If you didn’t read the first one, it’s here.
“I got my car’s window broken by a kid that threw a stone at me.” a woman tells us. She wanted to stop to take a young Palestinian who was hitchhiking.
Before coming we had some trouble to really understand what Palestine was. The territories are composed of both West Bank and the Gaza strip.
West Bank, the biggest part, is more or less occupied by Israel that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of an independent Palestinian state. It is divided in three areas, A, B and C, and despite reading ten times about it, we could not really put a picture behind the words. But once we got there the difference became clear. The A areas are entirely controlled by Palestinians, and Israelis cannot enter it except for some soldiers once in a while for military raids and operations. In B areas Palestinians are in charge of the civil sector while the security is split between both Israel and Palestine. Israel’s army is everywhere in these places. C areas, completely controlled by Israel, are inhabited by settlements since 1967. A settlement is a small village build out of nothing and surrounded by barbed wire with a check-point at the entrance, often inhabited by very Zionist Israelis. This smart technique from the government to colonize the territory blocks slowly all chances to see the conflict ending. The settlers who come to live in Palestine consider that it is there right to live everywhere in the Holy Land, no matter the climate of fear that the extremists could create. And they benefit as well from the government’s subsidies to help them enjoy the joys of familial colonization.
The other part of Palestine, the Gaza strip, is a little region in the South-West of Israel. First military occupied by Israel, the management is given to the Palestinian Authority in 1994 with the Oslo Accord, until the Gaza strip is left entirely autonomous since the revocation of the settlements in 2005. With the election of the Hamas in 2007 and the Israeli-Egyptian embargo, the relations got worst and worst and some big fights took place. Between the embargo, the state of war and armed attacks, the people of the Gaza strip undergo huge humanitarian and sanitary disasters. Adding to the chaos, the Hamas has implemented a very strict Islamic regime where very few freedom exists and in which it is taught to children to be ready to die as a martyr in a suicide bombing on Israel.
After the recent fights Israel decided to protect itself against all kind of attacks, like the stone-throws that this women describes to us, and quickly got equipped with an entire and efficient anti-terrorist system. The Gaza strip was completely surrounded by a wall stopping all communication with the outside world, which lead to the traffic tunnels that were dug year after year. The cities considered as ‘A-areas’ are similarly isolated with little consideration for the children that come back from school and find in front of their house a 12-meter high wall. The roads with risks are surrounded by a wall anti stone-throws, and Israelis are not doing things gently when it is about fences and barbed wire. A bit everywhere in Palestine check-points grow and decorate the landscape.
« Can you open your bags ? » a soldier asks us at the entrance of every public building.
When entering any mall, university or else, cars must open their trunk, our bags are regularly opened for a rather superficial check and we go all the time through beep-beep doors.
« We need a wall to protect us from the terrorists. »
All the measures of protection and population control are justified with the anti-terrorism fighting argument. And it works! The attacks on Israelis have significantly diminished while people are always more convinced that this measures are unavoidable. However, these techniques that are undoubtedly efficient, maybe even necessary, are only a short term solution. How can you hope that Palestinians will calm down when they feel parked like animals? Does the government really believes that he is working towards peace when he limits the freedom of movement from the Palestinians?
While discussing with a friend we were questioning ourselves about the term terrorism. If terrorism is the creation and the use of terror to achieve certain goals, it is normal to ask who creates the fear. For the Palestinians civilians it is with no doubt the Tzahal, the Israeli army considered as legitimate. Because in fact Israel came and imposed itself where Palestinians lived, killing civilians to achieve their aim. As for the Israelis, this comes from the organizations internationally declared as “terrorists”. So is it really possible to talk about legitimate army and terrorist groups?
The engines of the terror and the groups that feeds it exist on both sides. In Palestine for example we see on the walls propaganda pictures of young soldiers exhibiting their most beautiful riffle gun.
« From time to time there is a cow exploding in the Golan Heights. » a friend tells us while sipping a beer. Or two. I don’t remember very well.
While Jordan and Egypt signed a peace agreement, Israel is still in war with two neighbor countries, Lebanon and Syria. The borders with these two countries are completely closed and opaque. The Golan Heights, an area in the North still disputed with Syria and witness of different fights, is full of land mines very handy to stop Syrians from passing. And from time to time a very nice and cute cow, totally lost in this conflict, gets her head blown up while she was quietly eating her grass.
« Last summer we often saw rockets above the farm. » our friends sheepherders in Nes Harim tell us.
When you travel in Israel it is easy to forget that you are in a country in war, and even with some long periods of calm, a climate of tension is in the Israelis’ minds as many details reminds you daily about the situation. We see fighter planes passing above the beach, we see soldiers shopping with their assault guns, we see armoured cars everyday, we see regular people with a gun popping out of their belt and we see bunkers in most buildings. It is not rare to hear about “last summer” when rockets were launched all the time. We were in Israel when a simulation of war was done, a day during which alerts ring all across the country to warn from a combined attack from more or less all their enemies.
Another interesting anti-terrorism project is the Iron Dome, smart system that intercepts rockets launched from the outside if they will fall on inhabited areas, and which has a very good interception ratio (with a cost going along with the efficiency).
Israel is actually some kind of island surrounded by land, hard position to keep in these times.
« What is this? You turn 18 and they put a gun in your hand. This is how you start your adult life. » a young driver tells us and she, for once, has been to Palestine.
First day in Israel we see in a bookshop a soldier with a huge gun choosing a book for his little sister. And then we see some everywhere, and after a while we kind of get used to it. Israel is a small country, but with a three-year military service (depending on the position, the unite or else, it can be two or sometimes five), almost all the citizens, including women, are potential soldiers. People that we meet are fighter plane pilot, were teaching the newbies how to drive tanks, or were serving in a submarine. Every now and then the ones finished with the military service must come back for a short amount of time. A good way to force into the mind of the 18-years old teenagers the message of the government. The argument that is used? “Seen our position, we need everybody to be a soldier”. Even if the military service is not as hard as the professional army, once finished, the young Israeli go invade India and South America to let go with the pressure.
The military service is a great tool to control the young Israelis’ mind. It is a way among many others that make that many Israelis are not aware of half of what is happening, rarely question the legitimacy of Israel, and don’t realize to what extent Israel impose its power and will to the Palestinian people.
Israel needs an army, this is now undeniable. But does it really needs everybody to be a soldier? What would happen if half of them would do a civil service working towards a peace process instead?
« They are lonely soldiers. » a bartender tells us while showing a table.
Because Jews are settled all around the world and some feel very close to Israel, young non-Israelis come as well for the military service under some social pressure, answering familial duties for example. These are the “lonely soldiers”, often American, that do the military service but have no family to spend their permissions with. The law of return, one of the principles of Israel State, guaranties to any Jew the right to immigrate and to get the Israeli citizenship. A melting-pot of cultures and opinions are thus found all across the country along with a certain tolerance.
« No but I don’t care, I prefer to give them a lot of land and that we make peace. » a young guy tells us.
Zionists will most likely not agree with this and are not ready at all to let some of the Holy Land go. However a very large amount of people would prefer that the conflict comes to an end and make two independent states. It actually is the most supported solution at an international scale instead of trying to integrate Palestine to Israel that no longer seems a viable option.
And soon, the third and last part of our article, that will transcend you, that will make you fly, if you manage to read it entirely.