In June, we mark 35 years to the Israeli occupation of “the territories” – the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
Volumes and volumes have already been written about the price paid by Palestinians under occupation – the death of loved ones, lifelong injuries, irreplaceable property loss, traumatized youngsters, and so much heartache that will not be expunged for generations after the occupation (inevitably) comes to an end.
But the occupation has been destructive to Israeli society as well, and not only in terms of the tragedy of lives lost through terrorism or military service. “Occupation corrupts”, we say in Israel, with reference to the moral deterioration of our society as a result of being the oppressor of others. But there are additional ways that the occupation has taken its toll in Israel:
The troubled economy: Israel is currently in a grave economic crisis – deep recession, severe unemployment (currently 10%), increasing poverty, widening socio-economic gaps;
Under-funded social and environmental programs: Cutbacks in the education of our children, healthcare, the special needs of the elderly and disabled, rational planning for water use, development of public transportation;
Threats to democratic norms and values: The abrogation of freedom of speech, media censorship and self-censorship, open expressions of racism against Arabs, dehumanization of the other; and
The spillover of violence into Israeli society – the high rate of violence among schoolchildren, increased crimes of violence, and violence directed against women.
This list could easily be expanded: What about the unbearable ease of pulling a trigger? Last week, a security guard at the door to a Tel-Aviv disco who discerned a car being driven erratically toward him pulled his revolver and shot the driver dead before he could plow into the club with a cargo of explosive devices. Clearly the guard is a hero. But what if that driver had simply been drunk?
The next day, a soldier shot (but fortunately did not kill) a retarded man (Israeli) who looked like he may have been wearing an explosive belt under his unseasonably heavy coat and did not understand the demand to undo the buttons. And a mother and her 12-year old daughter (Palestinian) were shot dead last week because they were running away from an exploding device, and therefore assumed (incorrectly) to have placed it.
In the coming weeks, Israeli peace and human rights organizations will be marking this sad anniversary – 35 years to occupation – with a plethora of protest and demonstration. Some will raise their voices about the social and economic burdens of occupation resulting from the massive hemorrhage of Israeli resources and energy. Others will count the thousands dead, the tens of thousands maimed, the hundreds of thousands with hearts frozen by trauma and hatred.
Join us in the coming days as we call upon you for solidarity.
The many prices of occupation are unbearable, and increasingly so. Anyone who cherishes Israel or Palestine, or the innocent children who are growing up here, will do their utmost to bring this tragedy to an end.