Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Politics of Fear and the Dangers of Occupation

I have lost count of how many times I have been warned by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) about how dangerous it for me and others to travel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or to enter Palestinian cities.

On my first day in the OPT in 2004, myself and one of my team mates decided to take a walk down the settler road outside of our village to get an idea of our surroundings, including the illegal settlements. About one kilometre into our walk, an IOF jeep pulled over and the soldiers in it asked us what we were doing. We politely explained we were just going for a walk. The soldiers were clearly taken back and responded by saying but don’t you know that it’s dangerous and you should not be out walking. We responded that we were fine and after a few minutes the soldiers left, looking even more perplexed.

On another occasion, when I was leading a team of 15 internationals from Austria and Germany who had come to assist with the annual olive harvest, on a visit to Palestinian city of Qalqilya, the same thing happened. When we arrived at Qalqilya it was chaos, the whole city was locked down with only one entrance open for traffic in and out of the city which was home to 40,000 Palestinians. Palestinian cars, pedestrians, taxis, trucks carrying goods, furniture, as well as horses and carts with produce were banked up for hours as they waited to pass through the checkpoint, at the discretion of the occupation forces. As we piled out of the service (shared taxi) and lined up at the checkpoint to present our passports, the soldier on duty was clearly shocked to see so many foreigners wanting to enter the city. He looked at me incredulously and asked, “where are you going?” I responded that we were going to visit some Palestinian friends of mine (which was true).

He looked once again at my passport and then again at me and the 15 others internationals in line and then at my passport again. It was clear he could not quite get his head around that fact that we actually wanted to enter the city and we not frightened. After a minute or so, he paused and said, “you know it’s dangerous in there”. This exchange became a regular experience, as time after time both in 2004 and 2007, I had soldiers and occasionally illegal settlers tell me how dangerous it was to enter a Palestinian city or village.

During Ramadan this year, I was also told for the first time that it was dangerous to enter East Jerusalem. A friend and I had planned to take a tour of the old city offered by the Centre for Jerusalem Studies which explained the rituals and practices of Ramadan. However, when we arrived in the old city where the Centre was located, we were prevent by IOF from entering the souq (market area) that lead down to the Centre, which was located about 50 metres from one of the entrances to the Al Aqsa Mosque. According to the IOF soldiers we couldn't enter because "it was dangerous". I explained we were not going to the Mosque (although there was no danger even if we were); we just wanted to go to the Centre. The soldier refused to allow us or any other person who they thought was not Palestinian to enter the area. When I asked why, the soldier responded that it was against the law to allow non-Muslim/Arabs into the area. “No, its not”, I responded. When I asked him to cite which law or to produce a copy of it, he just repeated blank faced “it’s just against the law” (Two weeks later, I was able to pass freely into the area, past the barricade manned by IOF soldiers. Clearly “the law” had changed in that period of time).

On Friday, I was once again told that it was “dangerous” and “against the law” (but only if I was Jewish) to enter a Palestinian area. Myself, a Palestinian friend and another international friend on our day off decided we would make a day trip to Jericho in the Jordan Valley. I had never been and was keen to see the area. After 40 minutes we arrived at the checkpoint into the city and a young soldier asked to see the IDs of our Palestinian driver, my Palestinian friend, as well as my and my other friend’s passports. The soldier was clearly trying to be friendly and helpful, trying to put a human face on the occupation. He asked me to wind down the window and to my surprised asked me if I was Jewish or Christian (but didn't ask if I could have possibly also have been Muslim).

Although, I often describe myself as an agnostic leaning towards atheism, when I am asked in Palestine it usually just much easier to say I am a Christian because generally it would take to long to explain what an agnostic is and why I was one (perhaps it’s the Catholic upbringing/guilt that has prevent me from becoming a true atheist like other good socialists :)

So in response to the IOF soldier’s question, I said I was Christian but then asked him why it was relevant. The soldier responded that he could not let me enter Jericho if I was Jewish. When I asked why, he again responded with the familiar line of “it’s dangerous”. I responded saying, well even if I was Jewish it would not stop me from going to Jericho. No, he said, "you can’t it’s against the law". Once again, I responded "No, its not". After a few minute, the soldier responded with, "well its seems quite in there now but..." and then decided to wave us through.

While it is true there are laws that prevent Israelis from entering PA controlled areas, there are no official laws that prevent Internationals, Palestinians or Arabs who are Jewish from entering the West Bank or PA controlled area such as Jericho (in relation to the law prohibiting Israeli citizens entering the PA controlled areas, many Israeli Jewish solidarity activists defy this law and enter anyway, while in the case of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, the law is more often then not enforced).

The regular repetition of this fallacy by IOF soldiers and the constant refrain that "its dangerous" to enter Palestinian areas or zones is part of the politics of fear utilised by the Zionist state to advance the states interests and to justify and maintain the repressive occupation of 4 million Palestinians in the name of “security”. By promoting the idea the Israeli state (despite having the 4th strongest military in the world) is constantly in danger of being destroyed and is the perpetual victim rather then the oppressor, the Zionist state and their supporters are able to blur the line between reality and fiction and disguise its acts of aggression as defensive acts.

As veteran Israeli report, Amira Hass, noted last year in relation to the Lebanon war and the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, “the purpose of instilling such fear in Israelis is to win ongoing support for the IDF's policy of constant escalation … They [the IDF] need public silence about the free use the IDF makes of the weapons and ammunition that it puts into its soldiers' hands. This serial intimidation is meant to give the IDF a free hand while it expands its operational infrastructure …”. In addition notes Hass “The military establishment in Israel is joined at the hip with the political decision-making establishment, and hyping the security threat facing Israelis, while completely disengaging from the reality of the Israeli occupation, assures continued Israeli support for the myth that there is a military "solution" but not a political one. This in turn provides support for the ongoing regime of occupation and dispossession and for the privileges that this bestows on Israelis”.

The politics of fear function in a manner so as to ensure that the source of the conflict becomes mystified and decontextualised. As Amira Hass notes in another of her articles published in 2001, most Israelis, including the young soldiers who serve in the IOF in the West Bank and Gaza, fail to make the connection that the ongoing Israeli occupation, which controls every facet of the lives of Palestinians, is the reason for the Palestinian resistance. Hass notes, that individual soldiers and most Israelis “can’t find any connection between the hundreds of Palestinians civilians who were killed by IDF fire in the last year and the widespread popular support for the terror attacks inside Israel”. They do not see the “connection between the expropriation of Palestinian land for expanding settlements for Jews only and the ban on Palestinian construction on their lands or even to install a water pipe, because it's in Area C, meaning under Israeli security and civil command - and the stone throwing at Israeli cars”. Israelis, including individual soldiers, fail to see the “connection between the green lawns of the settlements when there's not enough water to drink in Palestinian villages and refugee camps next door - and the Palestinian gunfire at settlements and Israeli civilians driving on roads that are forbidden to Palestinian drivers”.

In addition, notes Hass, they apparently “can't see that an assassination of Palestinian leaders is not only a successful military operation but a proven recipe for encouraging more Palestinians to choose the armed struggle”. Instead, individual soldiers, many Israelis and supporters of the Zionist state and its policy of occupation, as Hass notes, have convinced themselves that the “Arabs” (ie. Palestinians) simply hate all Jews. They convince themselves of the racist notion that Arabs must be an inherently violent race (or Islam is inherently violent), rather that they are an oppressed people who are resisting their occupiers.

By decontextualising the reason for the Palestinian resistance, the Israeli Zionist state and its supporters are able to demonise and present Palestinians as crazed psycho monsters who supposedly want to rip the heart out of any Jews that comes near them, who don’t love their children and enjoy seeing them die and who enjoy violence for the sake of violence. In doing so, they can also create and maintain the myth that Israeli is not the aggressor and is simply acting supposedly in self defense

By maintaining the politics of fear, the Zionist state is also able to erect a barrier, both physically and psychologically, which prevents the majority of Israelis and others from coming to the OPT to see the reality of the human suffering being experience by the Palestinians as a result of the occupation. Instead, Israeli citizens are told time and time again, how dangerous it is for them to come here (other then to go to the Illegal settlements). However, little by little more Israelis and more Jews and internationals are coming to the OPT. And when they do, they discover that the Palestinians aren’t as murderous or as dangerous as they have been told time and time again. They discover that the whatever real danger they themselves may face has been greatly exaggerated and that their fears have been feed on racism, in order to pit one people against another, ensuring perpetual conflict and violence.

By breaking through the politics of fear, Israelis and international peace activists, whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish, have discovered that the Palestinians are just like them and that they too aspire to live a decent life, free of war, free of injustice and filled with love, respect and dignity.

Breaking through the politics of fear, what they discover is that in reality the people most in danger in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not in fact themselves. Instead they discovered that the people most in danger are the Palestinian people who are suffering under the brutal heal of the Israeli occupation: who endured home invasions, attacks on their villages with tanks and missiles, who endure repeated and ongoing artillery bombardment, aerial bombing, who endure house demolitions, abduction, detention without charge or trail and restriction of movement.

By breaking through the politics of fear, Israeli and international peace activists discover that the occupation and the injustices it perpetrates can not be whitewashed and that real peace can only be built when injustice, racism and oppression is opposed and the illegal Israeli occupation is brought to an end.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Peace" under Occupation

This weekend is Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Like Christmas for devote and not-so-devote Christians, it is not only a time for prayer, reflection, forgiveness and to be thankful, but it is also a time for family, joy and celebration. Over this weekend, my Palestinian friends, whether they be Muslim, Christian or secular in their beliefs will spend time visiting each other and their families and loved ones. They will share gifts, delicious food and each others company. They will give to the less fortunate and celebrate the joys of life. However, like so many Eid’s that have gone before in Palestine, this year’s Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated once again under the shadow of the illegal and sadistic Israeli occupation.

As a result, my friends and their families, along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinian families in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, this Eid will also remember their loved ones who have died at the hands of the illegal Israeli occupation or can not be with them to celebrate the holiday because they are languishing, often with out charge or trail, in Israel’s prisons. Many others will have their festivities, family celebration and holiday time brought to an abrupt halt by an occupation force that has no respect for another peoples’ human, civil or democratic rights.

Already over the course of Eid al-Fitr, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has conducted several missile strikes on Gaza, ensuring the Palestinian death toll increases once again. In the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli war machine has conducted a series of raids on a number of Palestinian communities, abducting and detaining more Palestinian civilians. In other parts of the Occupied West Bank, they have carried out other military operations, invading peaceful villages and terrorising the local population.

Today, on the third day of Eid, myself and another IWPS colleague were called to the village of Dier Istyia in Salfit. The IOF had once again invaded the village (a regular occurrence over the past two months) and took over one of the houses in the village. All of the family, except for the four youngest daughters aged between 6 and 16 years of age, were out of the house harvesting their olives (many of the rural family’s use the last day of the Eid holiday, when family members do not have to go to paid work, to go to their fields to harvest their trees).

According to the young girls and the neighbours who came to their aid, 8 Israel occupation soldiers forced their way into the house and then used the young girls as human shields, forcing them to accompany the invading soldiers to the roof where an illegal military observation and surveillance post was established (under international law, not only is the invasion of civilian property illegal, it is also illegal under international and Israeli law to use civilians as human shields).

Later as we sat with the family taking their testimonies, the two youngest girls, aged 6 and 9, kept shyly staring and smiling at me and my team mate. As I sat there, I could only imagine how scared these little girls must have been to have 8 huge men that they did not know, decked out with automatic rifles, grenades and other high grade weaponry burst into their home. How terrifying it must have been to be forced, against their will, to act as human shields. All I could think as I sat there was what sort of psychological damage must this do to a young, vulnerable and impressionable child.

Over the Eid al-Fitr festival, the brutal Israeli occupation will continue unabated. At the same time, Israel will continue to announce to the world that it a true seeker of peace.

As Israel speaks of peace, the “on-the-ground” content of Israel’s “peace package”, however, reveals the hollowness of its rhetoric. During the last month alone, before the festival of Eid, during the holy month of Ramadan (13 September to 11 October), Israel’s idea of “peace” saw its occupation forces claimed the lives of 24 Palestinians, 3 of them children.

During this holy month, the Israeli state and the “most moral army in the world”, also wounded another 95 Palestinians, 26 of whom were children. During this same month, when Israel had been telling the world it wanted peace (yet again), its government voted to illegally and collectively punish 1.4 million Palestinian civilians – men, women and children - in the Gaza by cutting of their electricity, their gas supplies, water and other basic amenities, thus breaching international law and the Fourth Geneva convention to which Israel is a signatory.

As part of Israel’s “peace package” during the holy month of Ramadan, Israel’s war machine carried out military assaults on 97 Palestinian communities in the West Bank, ensuring thousands of Palestinian families were terrorised and traumatised. And while Israel made a big deal on the world stage of releasing 92 Palestinian prisoners from its jails, supposedly as a Ramadan goodwill gesture and in order to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, its occupation forces kidnapped and detained almost twice that number (172 in total, mainly from the West Bank) during the holy month ensuring that there would be more Palestinians languish in Israel’s prisons at the end of the month of Ramadan than at the beginning (the current figure now exceeds 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners)

The month of Ramadan, also saw the so-called “peaceniks” of the Israeli Zionist state sanction the razing and destruction of 370 dunams of Palestinian agricultural land, destroying the livelihood of hundreds of Palestinian families, as part of Israel’s renewed “peace package”. They also authorised the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements and continued to construct the Apartheid Wall and stole another 1,130 dunams of Palestinian land in Occupied East Jerusalem. During this same period, “the most moral army in the world” left hundreds of Palestinians homeless by demolishing 23 Palestinian homes and destroying two apartment blocks.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the “peaceniks” of the Israeli Zionist state fostered peaceful relationships with the Palestinian people by preventing tens of thousands of Palestinians from accessing their holy sites, including preventing them from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount in Occupied East Jerusalem and forcibly closing the Ibrahim Mosque in Occupied Hebron for 9 days during the holy month.

During Ramadan, the Palestinian people also marked the 7th anniversary of the Al Aqsa Intifada, mourning the death of 4,329 Palestinians, of whom 3,413 were civilians, including 805 children. While Israel played pretend games of peace, Palestinians remember the 23,245 Palestinians, wounded by Israel’s war machine and that it had destroyed more than 38,350 dunams of Palestinian land, as well as 5861 Palestinian homes, either completely or partially, leaving thousands upon thousands of Palestinian men, women and children homeless.

As American academic and writer on the Middle East, Joseph Massad, noted in his March article, “Israel’s Right to Be Racist” (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/836/op1.htm) which appeared in Egypt’s Ahram Weekly, Israel’s idea of peace is to be allowed, unchallenged, to impose apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza (as well as Occupied East Jerusalem) There can, however, never be “peace under occupation”, as the Palestinian people know from bitter experience.

As Eid al-Fitr draws to a close, I will marvel once again at the resilience of the Palestinian people and their ability to remain samoud (steadfast) in the face of such adversity. I will, once again, be inspired by the ability of so many Palestinians to open their hearts to others, to be able to love and forgive, despite all that has been done to them. And I will, once again, wonder if any of us had to endure what the Palestinian people have endured for so long, could we do the same?

As Eid al-Fitr draws to a close, the Palestinian people will continue in their struggle for justice and freedom and they will continue to demand an end to the Israeli occupation - as a real and lasting peace can only start to be built when an occupied people are no longer occupied.

Eid Marbarak to all...
(Happy Eid to all...)

Gideon Levy: The Children of 5767

This article written by veteran Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, first appeared in the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.

The Children of 5767
29 September, 2007

It was a pretty quiet year, relatively speaking. Only 457 Palestinians and 10 Israelis were killed, according to the B'Tselem human rights organization, including the victims of Qassam rockets. Fewer casualties than in many previous years. However, it was still a terrible year: 92 Palestinian children were killed (fortunately, not a single Israeli child was killed by Palestinians, despite the Qassams). One-fifth of the Palestinians killed were children and teens - a disproportionate, almost unprecedented number. The Jewish year of 5767. Almost 100 children, who were alive and playing last New Year, didn't survive to see this one.

One year. Close to 8,000 kilometers were covered in the newspaper's small, armored Rover - not including the hundreds of kilometers in the old yellow Mercedes taxi belonging to Munir and Sa'id, our dedicated drivers in Gaza. This is how we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the occupation. No one can argue anymore that it's only a temporary, passing phenomenon. Israel is the occupation. The occupation is Israel.

We set out each week in the footsteps of the fighters, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, trying to document the deeds of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Border Police officers, Shin Bet security service investigators and Civil Administration personnel - the mighty occupation army that leaves behind in its wake horrific killing and destruction, this year as every year, for four decades.

And this was the year of the children that were killed. We didn't get to all of their homes, only to some; homes of bereavement where parents weep bitterly over their children, who were climbing a fig tree in the yard, or sitting on a bench in the street, or preparing for an exam, or on their way home from school, or sleeping peacefully in the false security of their homes.

A few of them also threw a rock at an armored vehicle or touched a forbidden fence. All came under live fire, some of which was deliberately aimed at them, cutting them down in their youth. From Mohammed (al-Zakh) to Mahmoud (al-Qarinawi), from the boy who was buried twice in Gaza to the boy who was buried in Israel. These are the stories of the children of 5767.

The first of them was buried twice. Abdullah al-Zakh identified half of the body of his son Mahmoud, in the morgue refrigerator of Shifa Hospital in Gaza, by the boy's belt and the socks on his feet. This was shortly before last Rosh Hashanah. The next day, when the Israel Defense Forces "successfully" completed Operation Locked Kindergarten, as it was called, leaving behind 22 dead and a razed neighborhood, and left Sajiyeh in Gaza, the bereaved father found the remaining parts of the body and brought them for a belated burial.

Mahmoud was 14 when he died. He was killed three days before the start of the school year. Thus we ushered in Rosh Hashanah 5767. In Shifa we saw children whose legs were amputated, who were paralyzed or on respirators. Families were killed in their sleep, or while riding on donkeys, or working in the fields. Operation Locked Kindergarten and Operation Summer Rains. Remember? Five children were killed in the first operation, with the dreadful name. For a week, the people of Sajiyeh lived in fear the likes of which Sderot residents have never experienced - not to belittle their anxiety, that is.

The day after Rosh Hashanah we traveled to Rafah. Dam Hamad, 14, had been killed in her sleep, in her mother's arms, by an Israeli rocket strike that sent a concrete pillar crashing down on her head. She was the only daughter of her paralyzed mother, her whole world. In the family's impoverished home in the Brazil neighborhood, at the edge of Rafah, we met the mother who lay in a heap in bed; everything she had in the world was gone. Outside, I remarked to the reporter from French television who accompanied me that this was one of those moments when I felt ashamed to be an Israeli. The next day he called and said: "They didn't broadcast what you said, for fear of the Jewish viewers in France."

Soon afterward we went back to Jerusalem to visit Maria Aman, the amazing little girl from Gaza, who lost nearly everyone in her life to a missile strike gone awry that wiped out her innocent family, including her mother, while riding in their car. Her devoted father Hamdi remains by her side. For a year and a half, she has been cared for at the wonderful Alyn Hospital, where she has learned to feed a parrot with her mouth and to operate her wheelchair using her chin. All the rest of her limbs are paralyzed. She is connected day and night to a respirator. Still, she is a cheerful and neatly groomed child whose father fears the day they might be sent back to Gaza.

For now, they remain in Israel. Many Israelis have devoted themselves to Maria and come to visit her regularly. A few weeks ago, broadcast journalist Leah Lior took her in her car to see the sea in Tel Aviv. It was a Saturday night, and the area was crowded with people out for a good time, but the girl in the wheelchair attracted attention. Some people recognized her and stopped to say hello and wish her well. Who knows? Maybe the pilot who fired the missile at her car happened to be passing by, too.

Not everyone has been fortunate enough to receive the treatment that Maria has had. In mid- November, a few days after the bombardment of Beit Hanoun - remember that? - we arrived in the battered and bleeding town: 22 killed in a moment, 11 shells dropped on a densely packed town. Islam, 14, sat there dressed in black, grieving for her eight relatives that had been killed, including her mother and grandmother. Those disabled by this bombardment didn't get to go to Alyn.

Two days before the shelling of Beit Hanoun, our forces also fired a missile that hit the minibus transporting children to the Indira Gandhi kindergarten in Beit Lahia. Two kids, passersby, were killed on the spot. The teacher, Najwa Khalif, died a few days later. She was wounded in clear view of her 20 small pupils, who were sitting in the minibus. After her death, the children drew a picture: a row of children lying bleeding, their teacher in the front, and an Israeli plane bombing them. At the Indira Gandhi kindergarten, we had to bid good-bye to Gaza, too: Since then, we haven't been able to cross into the Strip.

But the children have come to us. In November, 31 children were killed in Gaza. One of them, Ayman al-Mahdi, died in Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where he had been rushed in grave condition. Only his uncle was permitted to stay with him during his final days. A fifth-grader, Ayman had been sitting with friends on a bench on a street in Jabalya, right by his school. A bullet fired from a tank struck him. He was just 10 years old.

IDF troops killed children in the West Bank, too. Jamil Jabaji, a boy who tended horses in the new Askar refugee camp, was shot in the head. He was 14 when he was killed, last December. He and his friends were throwing rocks at the armored vehicle that passed by the camp, located near Nablus. The driver provoked the children, slowing down and speeding up, slowing down and speeding up, until finally a soldier got out, aimed at the boy's head and fired. Jamil's horses were left in their stable, and his family was left to mourn.

And what did 16-year-old Taha al-Jawi do to get himself killed? The IDF claimed that he tried to sabotage the barbed-wire fence surrounding the abandoned Atarot airport; his friends said he was just playing soccer and had gone to chase after the ball. Whatever the circumstances, the response from the soldiers was quick and decisive: a bullet in the leg that caused him to bleed to death, lying in a muddy ditch by the side of the road. Not a word of regret, not a word of condemnation from the IDF spokesman, when we asked for a comment. Live fire directed at unarmed children who weren't endangering anyone, with no prior warning.

Abir Aramin was even younger; she was just 11. The daughter of an activist in the Combatants for Peace organization, in January she left her school in Anata and was on the way to buy candy in a little shop. She was fired upon from a Border Police vehicle. Bassam, her father, told us back then with bloodshot eyes and in a strangled voice: "I told myself that I don't want to take revenge. Revenge will be for this 'hero,' who was so 'threatened' by my daughter that he shot and killed her, to stand trial for it." But just a few days ago the authorities announced that the case was being closed: The Border Police apparently acted appropriately.

"I'm not going to exploit my daughter's blood for political purposes. This is a human outcry. I'm not going to lose my mind just because I lost my heart," the grieving father, who has many Israeli friends, also told us.

In Nablus, we documented the use of children as human shields - the use of the so-called "neighbor procedure" - involving an 11-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy. So what if the High Court of Justice has outlawed it? We also recorded the story of the death of baby Khaled, whose parents, Sana and Daoud Fakih, tried to rush him to the hospital in the middle of the night, a time when Palestinian babies apparently mustn't get sick: The baby died at the checkpoint.

In Kafr al-Shuhada (the "martyrs' village") south of Jenin, in March, 15-year-old Ahmed Asasa was fleeing from soldiers who had entered the village. A sniper's bullet caught him in the neck.

Bushra Bargis hadn't even left her home. In late April she was studying for a big test, notebooks in hand, pacing around her room in the Jenin refugee camp in the early evening, when a sniper shot her in the forehead from quite far away. Her bloodstained notebooks bore witness to her final moments.

And what about the unborn babies? They weren't safe either. A bullet in the back of Maha Qatuni, a woman who was seven months pregnant and got up during the night to protect her children in their home, struck her fetus in the womb, shattering its head. The wounded mother lay in the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, hooked up to numerous tubes. She was going to name the baby Daoud. Does killing a fetus count as murder? And how "old" was the deceased? He was certainly the youngest of the many children Israel killed in the past year.

Happy New Year.

Gideon Levy writes for Ha'aretz, where this column originally appeared.