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The Banality of Occupation

August 2013

The Israeli occupation of Palestine has become so routine—a checkpoint here, a denial of access to farmland there, and a razing of homes and lives everywhere—that we forget its extraordinariness.  But, as the author details below, for those who live the brutality of occupation it’s a jarring existence full of perils and unknowns.  It’s also a state of chronic fear in which you ask yourself, “will this be the day I’m detained indefinitely without access to a lawyer, I’m brutally attacked by settlers for being on my land, or I lose a family member to illness because they didn’t get permission to leave Gaza or the West Bank?” 

For those of us who stand in solidarity with Palestinian folk we must strive against treating the Occupation as anything but extraordinarily out of step with the 21st century. The Israeli occupation, like colonialism itself, should have been left in the annals of 20th century history.

The Banality of Occupation 
by Yousef Munayyer | August 20, 2013 2:00PM EDT

Half a century. That is just about how long Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has gone on for. To be precise, it’s been about 46 years, 2 months and a couple weeks. Or, just over 16,875 days.

16,875 days of military occupation. Each day has its own story, its own victims, and its own loss. Day upon day, however, it can all blur together and become commonplace. A home demolition here, a killing there. The headlines become recyclable. The imagery becomes familiar. Day 16,876 is just another day, like the one before it, like the one that will come after it. It is just another day of military occupation and global indifference to it.

Events unfolding globally are distracting from the daily grind of occupation. Egypt today dominates the headlines. Additionally, the very presence of a “peace process” creates the impression among many unseasoned observers that “peace is at hand.”

For some, however, today is not just another day. Today is the day that they lose their homes or the day that they are beaten within an inch of their life, maimed or perhaps killed. Today might be a day that the world forgot, but for those who directly bear the weight of the occupation, it is a day that will irrevocably change their lives.

So let us look at one day in the life of the Occupation.

Over a roughly 24-hour period this week numerous incidents took place that are commonplace in Occupied Palestine. For example, Israeli soldiers raided the Palestinian village of Jaba’ Sunday night, forcing their way into several homes in the middle of the night, terrifying families, traumatizing children, and not leaving without a display of rubber bullets and tear gas against protesting villagers.

Then, south of there, near the Palestinian village of Mikhmas, Israeli settlers severely beat a 47-year-old Palestinian shepherd with metal pipes. The deep lacerations on his head required 70 stiches. As if this vicious attack were not enough, the assailants also sadistically stabbed several animals being herded, killing a goat. Israeli settler violence is a daily occurrence in occupied Palestine. A study we put together found that in 2011 an average of 2.6 incidents occurred per day while, according to the Israeli Human Rights organization Yesh Din, some 90 percent of complaints to Israeli police about settler violence are either dismissed or “lost.”

A few more miles south in Sur Bahir, just east of Jerusalem, a Palestinian man was forced to demolish his own home because Israeli authorities deemed it illegal. The story is a common one, sadly. Palestinians who want to build on their land like everyone else are denied permits from the Israeli authorities to do so. This from Ma’an:

Ziad Ameira told Ma’an that he built his home in the Sur Bahir area of East Jerusalem 15 years ago on land inherited from his father.

Nine family members lived on the property.

“Despite the difficult situation for the members of my family, today and yesterday I demolished the house that I lived in for 13 years as a result of the decision of the occupation’s municipal court,” Ameira told Ma’an.

He chose to demolish his home to avoid a 73,000 shekel ($20,400) fine imposed by the Jerusalem municipality for destruction costs.

Ameira still had to pay 25,000 shekels ($7,000) to hire a bulldozer and trucks to transport the rubble…

Palestinian homes are usually demolished under the pretext of not having a building permit. Figures from Israeli NGO Bimkom show that 95 percent of Palestinian applications for a building permit are rejected.

We move next from a destroyed home in Sur Bahir just across Jerusalem to a destroyed village near Beit Hanina. As the sun came up Monday, Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian Bedouin Kanan village and destroyed the tents and homes of 53 residents. The community has lived there for decades after last being forcibly displaced from areas further south.

And there, a little further south, Israel continues its illegal settlement expansion in the colony of Nokedim deep inside the West Bank, south of Bethlehem. While back north, just outside Nablus, multiple Palestinians were hurt by tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops in the village of Iraq Burin.

As the Israeli occupation grinds on day after day it is easy to lose sight of the daily pains inflicted on Palestinians. This was merely a recap of one of those days.

Did I mention there have been 16,875 of them?

The sun has set on this day and rises on the next, which begins with a young man of 22 being shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in Jenin. 

Enough is enough.

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