Global Policy Forum

Beyond Consciousness, The Palestinians Don't Even Have Weather


By Tanya Reinhart*

March 9, 2003

The debate about IDF operations in the territories revolves around the question of whether terror can be wiped out by that means. The Palestinians as human beings simply do not exist. Not long ago it snowed in Jerusalem. On February 25 even my heated home in Tel Aviv was cold. My thoughts wandered to my Palestinian friends, colleagues from Bir Zeit. How is a Palestinian family that still has a home but not enough money to heat it faring in the cold? And what about those who no longer have homes? In snowed in Jenin, too. How did the refugees from Jenin weather the hoar, and what about those who were forced to flee from Hebron? And what about the elderly for whom cold is especially dangerous? Where did the residents of the three-story building that the IDF demolished that very day in Khan Yunis spend the night? Can UNRWA, which announced in early February that its budget would run out in March, still provide them with blankets and tents?

One's heart demands to know how those agonized people lived through the chill. But there was nothing about it in the newspapers. On the other side of the fence, outside of the newspapers, outside of consciousness, the Palestinians don't even have weather.

That very same day Ha'aretz reported that the security establishment was preparing to confiscate funds that were being transferred to the Palestinians by means of Israeli banks, "mostly from charities in Arab countries and Europe." While UNRWA is in danger of collapsing, now the Palestinians will also be prevented from receiving charity. That is not an isolated event but rather a systematic effort to [create] economic suffocation. As early as June 2002 security sources said they believed that "the day won't be far when most of the Palestinians will be able to lead a reasonable life only with the help of international aid." In tandem security officials launched a campaign to minimize or prevent the aid money from flowing and asked to "re-examine" UNRWA's activity in the territories. According to another report in Ha'aretz, the Jewish lobby applied similar pressure on the US Congress, which finances 30% of UNRWA's budget. The malnutrition of children in the territories now is equal already to that in the Congo and Zimbabwe (the Guardian, February 11), but Israel is trying to prevent the little that is left from getting through.

Genocide is associated in our minds with mass graves or trucks transferring a population. The creeping death that the Palestinian people have been sentenced to may not have a name, but how is it that Israeli society has shut its heart and eyes to it? That has been made possible because this evil has been enveloped in talk about a war on terrorism. Security sources say that the charity funds for the Palestinians are "millions of dollars for terrorism," and the headline regurgitates the government statements. The attack on UNRWA too is part of the war on terror. Israel claims that UNRWA ignores that the refugee camps serve as terrorist bases (as if UNRWA has a police force). And it turns out that no proof is needed. In the wake of the lien that was placed on funds in East Jerusalem banks, "[police] district commander Levy refused to reveal precise data about terrorist activities in the city that had been financed by funds from the charities" (Ha'aretz, February 28). The gut instinct to believe that the IDF never lies will already do the trick.

The persecution of the Palestinian people is not a war on terror. There is a simple solution to the terrorism of suicide bombers—to leave the territories immediately and to give the Palestinians a reason to live. The war on the Palestinians is for Sharon's Land of the Forefathers, the military and the settlers. In a war like this one always needs to lie because (according to the polls) most Israelis don't care about the territories and are prepared to leave them tomorrow. On their own, people won't simply look for ways to starve, torture and expose millions of other people to the cold. For them to accept that they need to be frightened and lied to. That same half of the American people that supports a war in Iraq also believes that if they don't destroy the Iraqi people immediately Saddam Hussein will destroy America.

*About the Author: Tanya Reinhart is a professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University, and among the Israeli signers on the British boycott petition. She is the author of 'Detruire La Palestine - ou comment terminer la guerre de 1948', La Fabrique 2002; Israel/Palestine- How to end the war of 1948, Seven Stories, NY, 2002.




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