If We Were Palestinians, How Would We React?

By Jenka Soderberg

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, in introducing a bill supporting the Israeli attack on Gaza, which passed unanimously by voice vote in the US Senate Thursday, "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?"

I have heard similar statements by other US supporters of the Israeli occupation, and I have to address it from the other perspective — what if we, in the US, were the Palestinians?  I remembered something I wrote in 2005, when the sniper attacks were going on in the DC area, and some Zionist commentators said, ‘Now we know how Israel feels’.

In order to experience the reality of the daily life of Palestinians, the following scenario would have to occur: our land would have to be invaded by an army, the fourth-largest army in the world, and militarily occupied. Checkpoints would be set up throughout the area, and all movement between cities and towns would cease. Anyone who was employed would be unable to work, and would be prevented even from going outside of their home for fear of being shot by one of the tanks, armed personnel carriers, or humvees that now line the streets.

All legal rights would be nullified, and passage from one town to another would be at the whim of the soldiers manning the local checkpoint — even if there were an emergency, if someone is hurt, shot, and bleeding and needs to get to the hospital in the next town, the passage of the ambulance through the checkpoint would be at the complete discretion of the soldiers. Most of these soldiers would not speak our language, and would bark orders in a foreign tongue that we are compelled to obey (or be shot). Soon, water and food would become scarce, with the soldiers often shooting directly at water towers and watching the water pour out of the gunshot holes onto the ground while people who depend on this water to drink watch helplessly.

The government of the occupying country would pass discriminatory laws against us, allowing their citizens to dig water wells 70 meters deeper than our people, requiring a complex set of permits to build (or re-build) our homes on our own land — and then, when we try to go through the permit process, denying 100% of the applications. The occupying country would use its superior military might to take over much of our land, then would build housing developments (settlements) on this newly-acquired territory and encourage its own citizens, through housing subsidies and mortgage benefits, to move into these housing developments.

One million of their citizens would eventually move into these housing developments, which usually occupy the hilltops, the prime real estate of our land. There would be walled-in highways going from the occupying country’s land to these housing developments, and only the occupying country’s citizens would be allowed to use these roads. Our people would be forced into smaller and smaller areas, our houses torn down before our eyes as the occupier expands their "security zone" further and further into our land. Our main economy, which in this case would be the production of olive oil from olive trees, would be completely decimated as the occupying army chops down grove after grove after grove of ancient olive trees and then sells the wood as firewood to their citizens living in the illegal housing developments on our land.

Our people would undergo daily humiliation at the hands of the occupying army. Many would be brutally beaten and jailed –sometimes for years– without charge. Periodically all of the men in a town would be rounded up and forced to stand in the playground of a local school — sometimes for up to 24 hours at a time — and be interrogated, humiliated and laughed at by the occupying soldiers. The men would be so humiliated there would often be tears in their eyes as they stood there being shouted at by these foreign soldiers. The soldiers would sometimes break the mens’ arms or beat them on the head, while all the others watch (including children who peek fearfully around corners at the sight of their fathers’ humiliation). Children would also be beaten and imprisoned, hundreds of them, often for the "crime" of throwing stones at the tanks they see invading their neighborhoods. Some are kept in jail with adults for years, with no trial and no legal recourse. For, being an occupied territory, we would be a people without rights.

This humiliation, brutality, military control, and land confiscation, would continue unabated for 60 years, despite attempts by the United Nations to intervene. Our children would grow up under these conditions, constantly terrified by the presence of this brutal foreign military in every aspect of their lives. The occupying military would control residency rights, water rights, airspace, sea borders, including control over fishing boats, land, borders and travel abroad, internal movement between villages and towns, construction permits, imports and exports, taxation, farmland, freedom to worship, vehicle registration and licensing, ID cards,  students’ right to education, court system and laws in every part of our land.

Do you think after three generations of this we would be pretty fed up too?

Most people in the US forget (or never heard) that the first Palestinian suicide bombing was in 1994, just after the US-born Zionist Baruch Goldstein gunned down Muslims praying in a mosque in Hebron, killing 30 of them. 12 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces who closed in on the mosque after the massacre. The Israeli response to the massacre was to take over the mosque and maintain control over it to this day — transforming half of it into a synagogue, essentially giving the murderer what he wanted.  Two months later, the first suicide attack by a Palestinian against Israeli civilians took place.

Most people in the US forget (or never heard) that the first Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, from 1987 to 93, was an uprising of the youth, the children of those who had been disenfranchised and made into refugees in 1948 when Israel was created on their land — and that the youth had no weapons whatsoever – no explosive belts, no homemade rockets, no guns. They picked up stones from the earth itself and threw them at the tanks and armored vehicles occupying their land.  This was an act of desperate resistance, from a patient and generous people who had just been pushed too far, for too long.

So, how would we, as a people, react if we were in a similar situation? If people in the US (most of whom are descendants of colonizers who committed genocide against the indigenous people of this land) were put in the same position as the Palestinian people have been put in since 1948, I doubt that it would have taken the US population this long to fire off rockets across the border with the occupying power.

– Jenka Soderberg is co-editor, International Middle East Media Center – www.imemc.org. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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