In the 1980s I was an advocate among unemployed folk. There were a lot of us unemployed folk. An Anatole France quote hung from the walls of our Kamloops Unemployment Guidance Centre;
“The Law, in it’s majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to live under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.”
Israel is all about the law. Using its own Kafkaesque interpretations, the state of Israel demolishes homes, kidnaps children, steals land, equipment, water and resources. All within ‘the law’. Palestinians, the poor in this story, are forfended from equality of access and standing before the law. Even if Israeli courts were unbiased interpreters Palestinians would not be able to stand against their persecutors. They are helpless in the face of the overwhelming weight of Israeli military occupation.
I thought a lot about the Apostle Paul during my time in the (not so) Holy Land. He, like Anatole France, wrote often about the fiction of law. From Paul’s perspective (and he was an expert) the law would never bring one into relationship with God, with the divine love that bears us. Paul, following Jesus’ teachings, wrote a great deal about those who used the law to justify bad behaviour and evil treatment of their neighbours. The government of Israel is a master at that.
I remember our first visit to Al Walajah, a village squeezed between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, with Israel’s Jerusalem determined to devour it, a hundred homes under demolition order. We were shown some of the homes demolished by the Israeli military. One sticks with me. A mother and three sons added a second story to their home. No permit granted by Israel for these Palestinian villagers in a Palestinian neighbourhood consisting of similar homes. Additions precisely demolished under precise interpretation of Israeli Occupation laws. Two sons farmed out with neighbours, one, intellectually less able than his peers, moving into his grandmother’s room with his mom. Remnants of concrete slab stacked in a feeble attempt to rebuild a demolished wall.
Called away from our second visit, where we viewed folk moving pieces of roadways destroyed by the Israeli Military (paved without permission from the Occupation), we were called to Beit Jala, where a farmstead was partially demolished by massive front end loaders.
Remains of chickens, flattened by loader bucket, littered ground beneath the demolished tent that had housed them. A Sea Can, home to feed and supplies, ripped and torn asunder. Animals scattered to the winds, a limping donkey, troughs pierced and destroyed by equipment’s teeth. Adjacent homes demolished in previous attacks populate the landscape. Mute testimony to Israel’s impunity and military might.
One of our guides, a son of the household, tells of past incursions. Pointing out the rubble of his uncle’s homes. The family has deed and title reaching back to the Ottoman Empire. This close to the Occupier’s Wall they mean nothing. He points up hill to an Israeli guard tower emerging from an illegal colony strangling Bethlehem, dubbed Gilo by Israel’s government . He says,
“We can’t do anything, they watch us all the time. Why do they do this? Why? We are farmers, we aren’t Hamas!” Then, answering his own question while emphasizing the point with a boot heel grinding the earth:
“I know why. They want to crush us into the dirt. They want us to leave. They do not want us here.”
What can I say to that? It is pretty much Israeli government policy, especially with new claims being made on the Jordan Valley and more settlements being built each day. This book is a compelling read: https://en.wikipedia.org/…/The_Ethnic_Cleansing_of_Palestine . Today’s actions are difficult to explain in any other way. Controlling a subject population through constant disruption and denial of life’s basics is one thing, grinding people into the dust is another.
Looking across the Occupation Wall, built on top of the farmstead, into the confiscated land opposite we see the olive trees falling to occupation chainsaws, making way for a road to ease more colonizers onto the land. Trees planted by families like this one, dug into steep barren hillsides generations ago. People who knew land, integration, hard work and resiliency.
I wonder if these Palestinian farmers are going to be any more easily driven than their ancestors. They’ve nowhere else to go, especially in a world increasing in politically driven phobia of all things Muslim, or ‘Arabic’. They are a people who have lived through thousands of years and hundreds of conquerors. Outlasting them all.
This is the fifth demolition this family has suffered. Their home was demolished in 2016, outbuildings have come down four times since. Not counting the two homes of the father’s brothers. Totally demolished, ruins standing in testament for us to see today. Yet still they remain. It is perhaps more than ‘no place to go’. It is a deep integration with the land itself.
The farmer’s son may have it right.
“The chickens, look what they did to the chickens! Is Israel afraid of chickens?”
If chickens enable the poor to resist the mighty, perhaps Israel’s government is.
I wonder when these ones will come home to roost? When will love triumph over ‘law’?
As we leave the site we pass one of the farmer’s dogs. Chained in place and obviously wishing he could make reparations for the early morning ravages, he lunges.
“He’s not right, that dog,” says the farmer’s son. “Never has been. He’s always on the attack, can’t be trusted off the chain. We call him the Israeli.”
He chuckles and sends us on our way…