Inside the oppressive and far-reaching occupation designed to give Palestinians the “feeling of being chased.”
The news was familiar but no less alarming for the ugly déjà vu: four Israelis killed on Wednesday night by Palestinian gunmen in the heart of Tel Aviv. Israel’s government, the most right-wing in the country’s history, responded with measures that the UN promptly warned might count as collective punishment: flooding the West Bank with troops, sealing off the West Bank and Gaza, and revoking entry permits that had allowed 83,000 Palestinians to cross into Israel for work, worship and medical care.
On Thursday, the day after the shootings, Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai found the courage to state the obvious—that violence will persist until the occupation ends. Israel “is perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights,” Huldai said. Such frankness counts as bravery these days, but even Huldai was understating the truth. It’s not the mere fact of a military occupation, of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory, that provokes such attacks. It can be difficult to comprehend from across the Atlantic, or even from usually tranquil Tel Aviv, but the occupation, as I have observed while reporting from the West Bank since 2011, functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation. It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of checkpoints, travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriation of natural resources, and, too often, lethal force.