We arrived here knowing so little! After 5 days we´ve seen sights unimaginable, learned astonishing facts and indeed, seen evil in action.
It was the Israeli writer David Grossman who used the word evil to describe the activities of his state. He grieves about the effect of the brutal occupation of Palestine on the soul of the people of Israel:
“Hegel said that history is made by evil people. In the Middle East I think we know that the opposite is true: we have seen how a certain history can make people evil. We know that prolonged existence in a state of hostility, which leads us to act more stringently , more suspiciously, in a crueller and more “military” manner, slowly kills something within our souls and finally hardens like an internal mask of death over our consciousness, our volition, our language, and our simple, natural happiness.
These are real dangers that Israel must act quickly to avoid….”
He is right to grieve. Yesterday we were in Bethlehem, we saw the wall Israel has constructed to imprison and to spy upon the Palestinians of the occupied territory: Watchtowers stud hideous cement panels interlocked, stretching and winding for mile upon mile. Cameras, CCTVs watch every move in the towns, refugee camps and land the wall encircles.
Everywhere there are checkpoints and Israeli soldiers, many of them young women, young girls really, all of them draped in weapons, smoking in our faces as they grudgingly allow our bus of writers to proceed from A to B. Our slow progress through Palestine is nothing compared to that of the men, women and children of the occupied territory who wait for hours to cross the thousands – to me there seem to be millions – of checkpoints that close them in and cut them off from family, school, work, medical help.
The stories we hear from the Palestinians we meet pile horror upon horror. Everywhere we see Jewish Settlements crowding out the old Palestinian towns. They are everywhere. There are new settlements and the beginnings of hundreds more. Curfews, roads blocked, areas where only Israelis can go. Towns and villages closed off and hacked to pieces by road blocks, checkpoints and walls. Labels, tickets, permissions, queries, intermittent water, constant harassment and constant questioning. Where have I read all this before ?: in the 10 years I spent researching and writing about the persecution of the Jews of France and their transportation to the death camps during the Second World War.
So much is the same. But! So much is different – the Palestinians we meet are remarkable people, they laugh, they sing, they charm – cannot fail to charm – all of us. Everywhere we go we meet such courage, such determination, such will to survive. They cannot destroy us, we hear again and again, no matter how hard they try.
Outside Palestine, we in the west know so little. You have to come here to see the evil and brutality of the Israeli state. We could see it all on Television of course: but try to get a camera near these camps, these settlements, these guns! And our media are hounded with that word which sings of injustice: Balance.
Two things are clear to me. First, Israel has become a rogue state and the Jewish people I have known, loved, and whose history I have studied, are betrayed by, and in thrall to, this rogue state.
Secondly. What I have seen is the terrifying intimidation, imprisonment and humiliation of the people of Palestine. But the truth of it is that it is the people of Israel who live in chains and who have no hope while their government inflicts these evils.
We are always being told that there are two stories, two sides to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Indeed there are but there is only one injustice, and that is the state of the Palestinian people imprisoned and tormented, as they are today, by the state of Israel.