Hawara checkpoint in West Bank
Photo: Esti Zel

Just make sure we don't know

Machsom Watch women struggle to show what's happening on stolen land

There once was a nation in whose name the country's hallowed army and security forces, both secret and less secret, committed the most barbaric of crimes.


The country claimed "we didn't know," even as the army looted homes and attacked foreign lands. Government PR/ propaganda was very helpful for people who didn't know.


"Our actions are an existential need," they claimed. "The enemy is dangerous," "Our army is the most moral in the world," "Our country needs us, and we are patriots. Therefore, we must be understanding of everything, even if we don't like it," and they continued to sing patriotic songs and to enjoy the spoils they'd stolen.


Then, one day the nation that "didn't know," and the world who figured it out too late, sobered up and woke up to the horrors. Since then, the right to know and even the responsibility to report has become one of the hallmarks of modern society.


No patriotism justifies hiding the truth, no shame justifies denying the facts, no abomination justifies allowing public officials to prevent publication of acts that should never have been committed.


But that's not the way it is here. In the occupied, stolen, tortured, starved land, the land that we've ruled for 39 years, our brothers and sons commit inhumane acts as soldiers in our acclaimed army.


But in the name of patriotism, in the name of "we are always right" and "always the victim," we say that all the checkpoints, all the uprooted trees, all the destroyed houses are "necessary for our survival." Turning entire cities and villages into prison camps is considered an "existential need."


And it is all legal and seemingly above board, carried out with dedication by our glorious army with the defense minister's stamp of approval (a man it is very, very difficult to describe as "glorious").


There are people here who remember it is forbidden "not to know," who feel a responsibility not to be voluntarily blind and to hide behind the claim that "I didn't know." And in order to prevent the weak claim that "we didn't know," and with a remarkable amount of determination, the women of Machsom Watch have prepared a photo exhibit, modest in comparison to the reality in the territories, that shows what happens daily at the checkpoints.


Guided by conscious, these women have tried to minimize the damage have documented the damage, the aggravation, the humiliating torture inflicted on a civilian population, and have presented their work in centers around the country.


Then they got to Beer Sheva. Even though many places have refused to show the exhibit (in order not to upset the folks who refuse to know), in Beer Sheva they were granted permission to show the exhibit in the Teachers Center hall.


The hall's director and deputy mayor authorized the exhibit two months in advance, but last week a woman came and screamed out that she would not allow the exhibit to go forward.


Apparently she was a bereaved mother, and in her eyes, the Arabs are Satan's children who must be exterminated. The next day Mayor Yaakov Turner cancelled the show.


The "Parents Forum – bereaved families for peace" pled with Turner to change his mind. "It pains us deeply that you have blocked an appropriate mode of expression, intended only to reduce suffering and to shorten the life of the conflict," they wrote.


They even turned to the court, but the judge refused to say yes or no. Instead, he referred the applicants to the city council.


Freedom of speech and the right to know, even if the information in question isn't very nice, is no longer anchored in our public or judicial consciousness.


Therefore, Israel continues to give its hallowed army a free hand. The chief of staff drops bombs from the sky, the defense minister just looking for any excuse to assassinate, strangle, starve and more.


And the public retains its right to say "we didn't know." Why press Turner and the judge, who is just doing his job on the golden mean.


פרסום ראשון: 04.06.06, 11:23
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