Victory For Us Is To See You Suffer by Phillip C. Winslow

“We are occupying their land and – I hate to say it – we are their masters,” one reservist told me over coffee when I met him again in 2006.  “We tell them when to go to sleep, we tell them when to get up.  We tell them whether they can go through the checkpoint and what they can carry with them.”
The power can be confusing and corrupting.  “The guys who stand day and night at the checkpoint … their job is to distinguish between ordinary civilians and the ones who have come to hurt you,” he said.  “To the simply soldier at the checkpoint the next guy is the one who is going to kill him.  We are not tyrants,” he told me, in a variation of a common statement. … “The nineteen-year-old [soldier] … he’s the god at the checkpoint, and he has not qualifications to be God.” (Pages 14-16)

The soldier was nineteen or twenty and had collar-length hair covered with a red bandanna instead of the regulation helmet.  The afternoon was lung-searing Jordan Valley hot, and he was sunburned and looked as though he would rather be anywhere else on earth.  After checking our IDs, he motioned us through.   Then he told us to stop again.
”Wait.  I want you to do something.”
”Yes?”  I said.  Now what?
”HELP US FIX OUR SHITTY COUNTRY!” he yelled in general exasperation, throwing both hands in the air. (Page 27)

The army was rounding up and arresting so many Palestinians that month that it had a hard time keeping track of them.  When news broke that soldiers had used blue marking pens to write identifying numbers on the arms and foreheads of Palestinians in Tulkarm refugee camp, there was an uproar.  Yasser Arafat pounced on the issue and compared it to what Nazis did to Jews in the concentration camps.  B’Tselem, Israel’s main human rights group, in a March 12, 2002, press release, called it “a symbol of the IDF’s loss of any moral compass in its treatment of the Palestinian population.” (Page 47)

In 2005 a twelve-year-old boy holding a toy gun was shot in the head by soldiers in Jenin Camp during Eid al-Fitr.  The IDF apologized right away.  Then the parents of the dead boy made a stunning gesture: They donated their son’s organs to six people in the hospital where he died; all six recipients were Israelis, and four were Jews. (Page 86)

“I was on a bus going to work, and I saw a guy next to me shot to death.  By a soldier.  They shot the bus.  Five others were wounded.  The soldier cried.  He was crying.  An officer came up to him and said, “You shouldn’t cry, this is your job, you are a soldier and you killed a man.  This is part of your job.”  They are human.  They are just young boys.  This is not right for them.” (Page 88)

Girls mostly left the fighting to the shabab and tried to get on with their studies. At the Aida school, I asked a group of seven- and eight-year-old girls, all intifada veterans, what they would say to the soldiers if they had the chance.  “Go away from us.  What have we done to you?” one said.    “Don’t come too close, because we need to study without your interruption,” her friend said.  “Don’t steal our Palestinian flag,” a third said.
Would they have any advice for boys in the camp?  They all raised their hands.  “Don’t throw stones at the soldiers next to the school, because they will shoot us,” one girl said.  The others nodded.  Young girls saw the logic of consequences in a situation devoid of common sense. (Page 91)

“It is very hard to focus sometimes,” a straight-A student who lived a block away from “ground zero” in Jenin Camp told me.  “I put pressure on myself … I focus because I want to continue the learning.  The best way to fight the Israelis is to study.”  (Page 99)

The local [Nablus] economy bottomed out.  At the time, the UN World Food Programme and the ICRC provided some aid, but residents said it was not enough to alleviate the shortages.  Besides, they fumed, they wanted work, not international charity. (Page 104)

What I couldn’t grasp was the strategy behind the hard line.  The punishment and gratuitous brutality took away Palestinians’ hope for any solution other than more violence.  Did Israeli politicians reason that the security forces could crush the spirit out of people and make them submit?  Had the concluded that if they made collective lives so miserable Palestinian society would pressure the militants to lay down their guns?  If that’s what Israel thought, I thought they were badly mistaken.  The heavy hand of the occupation just hardened the Palestinians and made them hate.  Perhaps Israel had underestimated sumud, the Arabic word for resistance – not armed resistance, but the kind of flexible force a tree presents to a gale.  Both type would certainly continue.  (Pages 110-111)

“In a corrupt reality the actors are corrupt.” [Said by former IDF soldier on how the checkpoints change a man’s behavior and thoughts] (Page 179)

Avichay Sharon put it this way: “The problem is not the sergeant who slapped a Palestinian around at the checkpoint: It’s the sergeant standing at the checkpoint.  There’s a sort of pathology with the Jewish people, especially Israelis, a people who have been persecuted for a long time.  It’s a paradox that we, as the powerful, don’t see ourselves as the oppressor.”  (Page 181)

“One story is about a little kid, a boy of about six, who passed by [an IDF soldier] at my post.  He said to me, “Soldier, listen, don’t get annoyed, don’t try to stop me, I’m going out to kill some Arabs.”  I look at the kid and don’t quite understand exactly what I’m supposed to do.  So he says, “First, I’m going to buy a Popsicle at Gotnick’s – that’s their grocery store – “then, I’m going to kill some Arabs.”  (Page 187)

As written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism:
As long as the Arabs preserve a gleam of hope that they will succeed in getting rid of us, nothing in the world can cause them to relinquish this hope, precisely because they are not a rabble but a living people.  And a living people will be ready to yield on such fateful issues only when they have given up all hope of getting rid of the alien settlers … (Page 189)

“A comprehensive agreement is undoubtedly out of the question now,” Ben-Gurion wrote, practically quoting Jabotinsky.  “For only after total despair on the part of the Arabs, despair that will come not only from the failure of the disturbances and the attempt at rebellion, but also as a consequence of our growth in the country, may the Arabs possibly acquiesce in a Jewish Eretz Israel [Land of Israel].” (Page 190)

Gershom Gorenberg wrote [on colonization of the occupied territories]: “They would not be citizens; they would not even be allowed to live in Israeli cities in the West Bank.” (Page 190)

In 2007 [Ami Ayalon] was asked if he stood by his oft-quoted remark that the Palestinians and Israelis hate each other.  “I cannot say that I hate Palestinians, but I think, as a nation, as a society, yes, most Israelis hate Palestinians and most Palestinians hate Israelis,” he said.  “We do not trust each other and both sides feel that the language of the other side is only the language of violence and power.  So the question for us is how to create a different dictionary, in which societies and states will understand a different language – a language of diplomacy and negotiation.” (Page 193)

[Story told by Dror Etkes]: “I saw a bird lying on the sand, dying.  She had a huge fish stuck in her beak and was not able to swallow it.  My image was immediately Israel.  Trying to swallow something bigger than what you can.  You’re trying to digest or to swallow something which is indigestible.”  (Page 200)

[Portion of “The End of Zionism” by Avraham Burg]:  “It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra.  The biblical landscape is charming.  You can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation.  Travelling on the fast highway that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it’s hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him.  One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.
This cannot work.  Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger for ever, it won’t work.  A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself.  Note this moment well:  Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall.  Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.
Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washing in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism.  They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture.  They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.  We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below – from the wells of hatred and anger, from the “infrastructures” of injustice and moral corruption.”  (Pages 201-202)

But if so many people held [Avraham Burg’s] views, I asked, why didn’t the situation change?  Nava Elyashar quickly corrected me.  “It’s not that there are so many of us; it’s that there are so few.”  (Page 202)

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