The Winter 2012 edition of
Palestine News features a photograph of an old
man. His white beard and traditional
jalabiya give him the appearance of any
Palestinian grandfather. His name is not given; he
could be a Muslim or a Christian. We know that he
comes from the West Bank village of Qusra, and
that he is holding the broken branches of his
According to the accompanying
report, the destruction of Palestinian olive trees
by Jewish settlers - under the watchful eye of the
Israeli occupation army - cost farmers over
US$500,000 in 2011. It isn't only income that the
settlers are targeting. They know the land is also
a source of empowerment to millions of
Palestinians. Their ultimate aim is to break the
bond that has
united the native
inhabitants of Palestine since time immemorial.
But will they succeed?
Akram al-Masri, a 26-year-old political prisoner
from Gaza, was hospitalized on March 2, just hours
after his release. Al-Masri had reportedly fallen
unconscious after 13 days of being on a hunger
strike, in solidarity with female prisoner Hana
Shalabi, who went on a hunger strike on February
Hana's story is troublingly typical.
She has spent 25 months under what Israel calls
"administrative detention," a bizarre legal system
that allows Israel to hold Palestinian political
activists indefinitely without charge or trial.
She was released in October 2011 as part of the
prisoner exchange deal, only to be kidnapped again
by soldiers a few months later.
Khader Adnan, who had recently ended the longest
hunger strike ever staged by a Palestinian
prisoner, Hana decided that enough was enough.
Hundreds of Palestinians, including Hana's aging
father, joined in her quest for freedom and
Charlotte Kates, an activist with
The National Lawyers Guild, wrote, "Imprisonment
is a fact of life for Palestinians…There are no
Palestinian families that have not been touched by
the scourge of mass imprisonment as a mechanism of
In the Israeli military
there is an order that grants it "the authority to
arrest and prosecute Palestinians from the West
Bank for so-called 'security' offenses." There are
2,500 such military orders, including one issued
in August 1967, which deems any acts of
influencing public opinion as "political
incitement". Also prohibited is any activity that
demonstrates sympathy for organizations deemed
"illegal" by the military.
are thus governed by laws without internationally
recognizable legal frame of reference. There is no
need to examine the Fourth Geneva Convention on
prisoners, the rights of occupied nations or the
forceful seizure of property. Israel is governed
by its own absurd and inhumane logic.
is this very logic that allows Israel to justify
the detention of Gaza patients seeking medical
treatment outside their besieged area - which
lacks critical medical equipment and life-saving
medicine. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
(PCHR) issued a statement on January 23,
protesting an exceptionally disturbing practice
that has been used by the Israeli military for
many years: interrogating Palestinians seeking
surgery in West Bank or Israeli hospitals.
Bassam Rehan, 25, from Jabaliya refugee
camp, was a victim of this policy. He was detained
as he tried to pass through the Erez crossing.
PCHR was concerned that, like many before him,
Rehan would be subject to torture, according to
Maan News. "Targeting patients, exploiting their
need for medical treatment at hospitals in Israel
or the West Bank and blackmailing them constitute
serious illegal actions," PCHR's statement read.
Such stories don't begin or end here. But
the continuation of this terrible and convoluted
episode raises questions about the lack of will to
bring the injustice to an end. It highlights our
collective moral responsibility, even culpability,
in allowing Israel to treat people - the natives
of this ancient "holy land" - in such a degrading
There is no point in counting on
United States President Barack Obama, Canadian
President Stephen Harper or British Prime Minister
David Cameron to exact justice for Palestinians.
How could they, when their governments continue to
facilitate and arm the occupation of Palestine,
finance the illegal settlements, ensure the
continuation of the siege on Gaza and block any
attempt - even symbolic - to indict the unlawful,
violent and Apartheid-like practices of the
To whom can ordinary
Palestinians turn for justice? To whom can they
appeal for their rights? And from whom should they
One thing remains
certain. Palestinians will continue to resist with
or without an international awakening to their
plight. The old man will try to replant a new
olive grove. Suheil, Hana and Adnan will continue
their quest for freedom. A whole new generation
will carry on the torch from the previous one.
In the meanwhile, we, the silent
multitudes, cannot afford to remain silent. Our
silence only empowers Israel's crimes and allows
for the untold suffering of millions of people. It
is time to redefine our relationship to the
Palestinian struggle. We are not helpless
outsiders; we are enablers of this moral travesty,
and we can choose not to remain so.
Ordinary Palestinians need true
solidarity, not sermons about violence and
non-violence. They have utilized the latter for
nearly a hundred years. They need us to morally
divest from Israel, as opposed to standing halfway
between the oppressed and the oppressor. They need
us to overcome our tendencies towards intellectual
elitism or any sense of moral ascendancy. They
don't need of us to play the role of the lecturer.
They need us to truly listen, to comprehend and to
This is not a conflict concerning
religion or politics. It is about rights, about
people with history firmly rooted in their land.
They need us to remember their names, their
stories and their longing for justice and lasting
peace. Suheil, Hana, Adnan and Bassam and millions
of others need our voices of support.
Before we speak of "solutions" to the
"Palestinian-Israeli conflict", I believe that we
must first resolve our own dilemma by divesting
from an occupation that runs counter to any
conception of true humanism.
once said, "If you are neutral in situations of
injustice, you have chosen the side of the
Where do we stand in relation
to this conflict? Are we on the side of the armed
Brooklyn settler, and the US-armed Israeli
soldier? Or are we on the side of the bearded old
man holding tightly to his broken olive branches,
conveying a profound mix of despair and hope?
The choice is yours. And the consequences
of your choice could redefine history.
(www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally
syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story
(Pluto Press, London).
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