How does one describe total gloom, absolute violence, a city disguised into
oblivion, a dead stand-still, pathways no longer trodden, barred windows
caged-in by Palestinians for their own protection. Palestinians that have become
shadows of visibility for soldiers and their rifle-sights, Palestinians
quick-pacing, head drawn in between their shoulders, making themselves
Soldiers in concrete-slab posts at street junctions agenting authorized
and the colonists, swarming in and out of self-confident, malignant settlement.
Faces flattened by force that has spread like a scourge. Silence resonates in
the empty streets, broken only by the hammering of soldiers' boots or colonists.
You would never guess there are people here. No sounds emerge from inside the
houses. They come out of back alleyways, climb roofs, forbidden to move in the
light of day, in the streets, on the roads, incarcerated in their own homes,
their mouths sewn shut, their voice molten, just like the locks sealing empty,
closed shops that shriek what has been and is now no longer. Silence thunders.
Cage-less window panes are now shattered in houses that now stand empty, having
been trashed, looted by soldiers or colonists. Justice is silent. Gone. In the
deadly silence a pulse arises echoing the footsteps of those who see
themselves as the master race, and their bodyguards.
Three of us Tamar, Vivi and myself were there, witnessed how a forty-year
old man stood shackled, dazed, in one of the many soldier posts throughout
Hebron, whose purpose is to secure colonists while harassing-abusing
Palestinians, and preventing Palestinians residents them from going about their
Why are you arresting him? Why don't you listen to him? What has he done, after
all? Approached the cemetery to collect his sheep he lives nearby, that's his
home and the sheep got away, ate grass there. We shouted, pleaded. Maybe he's a
spy, gathering information, what do I know, the soldier shrugged.
Ask him. Talk to him. This is a grownup. A person. He has a family. His children
are at your mercy. You ruin his life. You don't know where you're sending him.
Take responsibility. Say what you suspect him of, why you're arresting him, ask
him what he did, talk to him. Find out.
Don't bother me. I don't want to. Why should I talk to him? He won't tell me the
truth, anyway. The soldier turned his back to us, walked away scolded, with his
dangling rifle and stupid helmet-mounted torch.
A camera is mounted on a very tall post inside the Jewish cemetery, amidst
Palestinian homes at the touchy zone between H1 and H2. It commands the entire
area, looking into the yards of the Palestinian residents, into their windows.
This camera has been installed by Baruch Marzel, one of the colonist leaders.
For his own reasons. The camera spotted A. whose sheep had been grazing and
entered the cemetery. He was detected entering to get them out.
It is no secret that Marzel regularly gives the army orders, and the troops
arrive and obey. They don't even need to see for themselves. Suffice it for them
to hear Marzel.
Suffice it for A. to be a non-Jew. So it seems.
So the soldiers indeed arrested A., the sheep were left to their own devices and
got lost. A. was dragged to the army post, shackled, blindfolded with a greasy
rag used to clean rifles, and taken out of sweaty fatigue pockets. Some time
passed, during which he simply stood there, then they forcefully stuffed him
into an army jeep, he got in, they followed, slammed the door shut and took off.
Now perhaps because we called the Center for the Protection of the Individual
who intervened, perhaps because the soldiers were seen not by colonists, not by
Palestinians, but this time by middle aged "Jewish women" (the adjective used
metaphorically and synonymous to the local master race), perhaps because they no
longer felt like it, that they sense there was no great sensation involved here,
perhaps because they had other business at hand, and there will always be enough
of this type of scapegoats for their youthful urges perhaps because of any of
the above, A. was held in custody for "only" five hours.
He could just as well have been held for weeks or months or years, accused of
belonging to some hostile organization, or of attempting to injure soldiers, or
not accused of anything and just stuck in administrative detention without any
kind of due process in order to force him to collaborate, or just because it's
A., seen doing exactly what he was doing grazing his sheep and entering the
cemetery to retrieve some of them that strayed was arrested because he is a
Palestinian. That is the reason he might not have been allowed to go home. The
reason he could be beaten up, or disappear, or get killed. And for this reason,
in spite of his serious misdeed as it were, he could be released five hours
later with not a word of explanation or apology. The soldiers if for the fun
of it, or for obeying their orders harass the Palestinians because they can,
they're permitted to do so, this is what they've been sent to do.
His sheep are gone, those sheep that he had not been able to purchase on his
own, but were given to him by the International Red Cross as a possible source
of livelihood. Their loss is a loss that has no criteria, and has no name.
After we shouted at the embarrassed soldier, he said see you at the
demonstration. As if telling us he was one of the good guys, shooting and
weeping, weeping and shooting. That he wasn't like that.
You are like that, kiddo, you are like that through and through. As long as you
are there, you are like that. Harassment is harassment is harassment. That' the
way it is.
Hebron, February 2007
Tamar Goldschmidt, Vivi Sury and Aya Kaniuk