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A Barbarian Army

In Nablus, as soon as night falls, one feels even more violently the climate of terror coming from Tsahal, that army of vandals equipped with such an impressive arsenal. Every night dozens of vehicles loaded with soldiers invade the besieged city. Recently, however, the population of Nablus is even more choked and persecuted than is usual.

During the night of July 17, after four of their own were arrested, some youths threw a bomb at a patrol, killing an Israeli soldier. Ever since the population has been expecting an even more violent collective punishment.

They weren’t wrong. The following night, F-16s and drones overflew the city, and then the tanks and jeeps arrived. Soldiers were firing everywhere and the bullets, resonating off of doors and walls, raised a deafening noise. It was very distressing. The few clients at the hotel gathered together in the same room with a handful of employees. In the presence of such a terrifying army, the life of these people - held under Israel’s domination, reduced to hiding and waiting until this madness ends - means little.

That is the most insupportable thing: this superiority of arms held by these brutal colonizers - originally from Brooklyn, Buenos Aires, Marseille, etc... - imbued with their own supremacy and servants of a State welding a policy founded on the contempt of the other, the Palestinian, the Arab.

How can some humans trample on the humanity of others? Among whom we find thousands of children, the old, those with heart problems, pregnant women, and so many brave people, helpful and generous like nowhere else in the world; people who know they will die simply because they are Palestinians, an entire nation deprived of their rights, deprived of everything that makes life worth living. There is no cure. Only anti-Arab racism can explain this behaviour.

Humiliated at all of these terrible check-points, thrown into such unimaginable misery, their bodies marked by multiple wounds, numerous Palestinians have been imprisoned, brutalized by torturers of Shin Bet, and by the soldiers who invade their streets, hiding behind the grills on their jeeps, using their loudspeakers to hurl sexual and religious insults in Arab - and that Palestinians translated for us- of the type "-flicking- Arabs", and, targeting the women, "-flicking- mothers and sisters...". Women who, contrary to the prejudices spread in the West, are very respected by men in Muslim society. Every night they remain in their clothes so they won’t be surprised in their pajamas by those soldiers who force their way in looking for "terrorists", who violate the intimacy of the home, who oblige the families to take to the street.

The Palestinians are the natives of this country that is called Palestine. Israel has swallowed it almost whole: 90%. Five million Palestinians are refugees and exiles. Another four million get by on small strips of land that are ever more poor and ghettoized. But there is no doubt: for as long as necessary, they will fight. Let it be said for once and for all: what Israel calls a "terrorist", a "wanted", a "fanatic", and our complacent media label an "activist", is in fact a civilian, an innocent, a father of a family, a child, for whom, when at times they can’t take it anymore, their dignity and honour is to respond with a violent gesture against the permanent brutality of the occupying army.

You feel it, there in their midst, crushed by powerlessness, full of anger against all of those democratic states who speak of peace, of the rights of man, of democracy, and who allow Israel to act in this way. Anger as well against the journalists who spread Israeli propaganda or who, at best, report through rose-coloured glasses. Anger as well against those people whose adulterated discourse we know and who - like Bernard Ravenel, Dominique Vidal, Michel Warshavsky, Michele Sibony, Pierre Stambul, Richard Wagmann, to speak only of France, use the specter of anti-Semitism to prevent lucid and sincere people from clarifying the debate and elaborating strategies susceptible to really helping the oppressed Palestinians. While they accuse those who wish to see the Palestinian resistance win their fight of anti-Semitism, they support those who collaborate with Israel, the Palestinian elite. Objectively, they do nothing more than shed crocodile tears for the Palestinians when Israeli brutality becomes too embarrassing.

You feel ashamed. Ashamed to belong to that society that deluded the Palestinians, that betrayed them, and that continues to offer them charity while deciding in their place what is good for them.

The traumatic shooting lasted two hours. "It’s their way of playing Beethoven", my neighbour commented with surprising detachment. The M-16 and M-18 machine guns, with, for the connoisseur, munitions of type 250 and 500, along with tanks armed with Doska-type cannon, leave enormous holes in the walls and mutilate people in horrible ways.

It must be repeated: the Israeli army is equipped to fight against another army. However, on the other side there is no army with real fighters, only civilians. After two hours, the sounds of the arms of war go silent. And, against all expectations, the soldiers leave in early morning without having killed or wounded anyone. People remained all day on the alert, asking themselves what it meant, what even more threatening events might be brewing.

The soldiers returned the following night, by the battalion. They took up their position where no one expected: around an administrative building, just off from the old town, where, it was said, a hundred or so wanted "suspects", "having no other place to hide had hidden". No one could approach this zone, and the population has remained uncertain of what is happening since the morning of July 19. As I write, the operation is ongoing. It isn’t clear if there were hundreds of "wanteds" inside the building, now destroyed by the soldiers. What is certain is that 150 members of the Palestinian security force gave themselves up during the first hours of the siege. And that the shooting and explosives used claimed victims: six killed and 60 wounded. Among them, a nurse.

All of this seems like nothing, you may think, compared to the terrifying things happening in Lebanon. However, since 2000 these practices have already reaped the lives of a thousand children and several thousand adults, not to mention those tens of thousands left mutilated. And their ordeal is not over.

The war that Israel has broadened into Lebanon is of a whole. It aims to destroy all those people who resist their barbarism.

Silvia Cattori

Translated by Signs of the Times