The Palestinians are heroes, and that’s the only fact that’s relevant after the slight shock of the hilltop thugs. The hands are the hands of thugs, and the head? The head is the head of the hostile regime under which the Palestinians live and which harasses them every moment of every day, week after week for decades. To live this way and remain sane — that’s heroism. “And who says we’re sane?” Palestinians answer me. Well, here’s the proof: self-irony.
The thugs of the hills are only the icing on the cake. Most of the work is being done by thugs wearing kid gloves. Unlike the people who threw the stone at the deputy brigade commander, these are fan favorites in Israel. The flesh of our flesh. Officers and soldiers, military jurists, architects and contractors in the service of the army, Interior Ministry and National Insurance Institute clerks. The hands are their hands. The head is the head of the demos, the Israeli-Jewish people, who by the democratic process send governments to be the dictator over the Palestinians.
What is the Israeli dictatorship over the Palestinians? Not only control of their space and the creation of isolated enclaves; not only the 19-year-olds who are sent — masked and armed to the teeth — on military raids (560 last month, according to the monitoring group in the PLO’s negotiations department); not only daily arrests (257 arrests in November, including 15 Gazans) and the 758 temporary roadblocks that were placed on West Bank roads that month.
The dictatorship is not even just a ban on Palestinian construction in more than 60 percent of the West Bank, permission to invent a new law every day to disenfranchise and expel, and the demolition, during 2011, of 500 Palestinian dwellings, wells, cisterns, animal pens, toilets and other essential structures. The dictatorship is all that together, and much more.
The Israeli dictatorship is the art of the double standard (Palestinians cannot build on their agricultural land so as not to impair rural zoning, but the state can legalize a Jewish outpost on Palestinian agricultural land). It is the champion of self-righteousness and arrogance (“the only democracy”), and holds an advanced degree in hypocrisy (“ready to return to negotiations any time”). Instead of going crazy with rage, the Palestinians know that these characteristics will hurt the Israelis themselves.
Anyone who has been harmed by the Israeli dictatorship feels alone, weak, angry and desperate. But every family in its own way cultivates its humanity. In a curious and moving way — despite internal rivalries, an unfair distribution of the burden, manifestations of ignorance and opportunism and disappointing leadership — the ability to remain steadfast and social solidarity are the overall result.
That’s the summud that attorney Raja Shehadeh wrote about ages ago, when we still deluded ourselves that the Israeli-Jewish people can heal itself from the disease of lordship. This totality also typifies every individual and family: the ability to remain resilient and show wise restraint, which has become routine bravery and will be translated in due time into mass collective resistence.
The Palestinians are heroes, and that’s not simply a flowery journalistic phrase. It’s a fact not intended for the thugs, but rather for people who shut their eyes — and they are many. Those who shut their eyes do so because they seek normalcy. What they don’t see doesn’t exist and doesn’t bother them. Israeli normalcy longs for the Palestinians to disappear, or at least to remain silent and finally surrender. But Palestinian bravery will continue to thwart the longings of Israeli normalcy.