Thursday, June 27 2013 On Authors, Porta-Potties, and Other things by Amitai Ben-Abba

A blow to the ribs is the small token I received from the soldiers for coming once again to accompany people to their land in Umm al-Ara’is. This time we staged some resistance. We approached the land from three different directions. In a sub-group of five we entered from the south and met confused soldiers telling us we are not allowed to go further. We told them there is absolutely no legal justification to stop us as we kept on roaming through. They demanded our ID’s but we dismissed them saying there is no justification to take our ID’s if we’re not suspected of committing a crime.

Another early Saturday morning (June 22nd, 2013). As we marched from the south into the beautiful yellow barley and up the hill towards the illegal atrocity called Mitzpe Yair Outpost, another sub-group marched from the north, and our Palestinian hosts were able to bring the herd past the confused military and all the way to the yellow field for a delicious bite that was cut short. Too short.

Three settlers come out of Mitzpe Yair and start running down, past the soldiers that have succeeded in taking some people’s ID’s and into the herd. Screaming and cursing, they scatter the goats and sheep and drive them out of the barley field. More and more military vehicles arrive. Civil Administration, reserve units, Border Police, blue police – the usual shades of green, blue, gray. They present us the usual documentation of segregation and exploitation. Signed and sealed, another Closed Military Zone.

Women stop to make tea in defiance. Soldiers push them up the hill.

They start shoving us out of the land and up the hill. I receive that blow I mentioned, but I don’t mind. The polite soldiers that push us quietly but still obey their commands are just as bad. The Palestinian women defy the military and sit down in front of them, quickly starting a small fire and beginning to make tea. The soldiers push and kick and force them up. For a short eternity they kept on driving the group arbitrarily up the hill past the closed zone. Ezra was detained because some commander said he offended him.

At last we were left alone to have tea and socialize. From frenzied to languid, from active resistance to resistance by being, the days go by. Earlier this morning, we went a long way in clearing the road we worked on last week. Together, as a group, diverse and multi-lingual, we rolled one rock after another. There are heavy rocks with not enough surface area for everyone to push. But if one pushes the rock and another supports from behind and pushes the other one’s hips, a lot can be done.

One boulder less for the occupation. Repairing the damaged road in Susya.

One boulder less for the occupation. Repairing the damaged road in Susya.

We end the day with a visit to Umm al-Kheir. A toilet was confiscated there a week ago (as documented in this video – please watch and share). The military used a law that was concocted in 2007 supposedly against illegal Jewish outposts, on the transportation of built structures. Nonetheless, caravans for outposts are transported freely (and I’ve experienced the consequences on my own flesh, here), but porta-potties for Palestinians pose a real security threat. Interestingly, this particular toilet wasn’t even transported as a structure; it was built in Umm al-Kheir. It was placed, however, in close vicinity to the extension of the settlement Karmel, and was probably an aesthetic hazard for the colonialists. The great playwright Hanoch Levin successfully captured the scatological nature of Israeli militarism; he’s written many terrible and ironic plays but nothing surpasses reality. As written in Murder: “a merry shit ‘mid thorns and prickles…”

Military confiscates a toilet in Umm al-Kheir. The houses of the extension of Karmel settlement are seen in the background.

Military confiscates a toilet in Umm al-Kheir. The houses of the extension of Karmel settlement are seen in the background.

Tuesday, June 25th, several famous authors came to heed the call against the 918 Firing Zone. They toured around Jenbah and had a press conference in Mufaqarah. All great Israeli authors signed a petition written by David Grossman and calling for an end to the Firing Zone, the demolitions, and disenfranchisement in the South Hebron Hills (the Guardian wrote about it). Even Yoram Kaniuk signed, just before his death. Expect more information on this (here’s a good source for the Hebrew readers). I’ve never seen so much press in the wild south. And this is the first time that I haven’t seen a single soldier, not even a jeep lingering on a hill, perhaps the military was told to make as if there is no occupation.

Authors’ presence a fruit of the struggle. We went down to Jenbah with a flight of SUVs down a firezoned road in which vehicles of physicians and teachers are not allowed in which locals’ vehicles are confiscated “by accident” on which locals get arrested right and left on which ride military jeeps by the dozens. Kids of Jenbah ask me if I know Mohammad Assaf, the Palestinian winner of Arab Idol. They tell me the military landed with a helicopter in the middle of the night recently. They say the military lands and raises a cloud of dust every week, and physically enters the village to raise havoc once a month or so. The post I wrote last summer, Training for Ethnic Cleansing, showed an occurrence in which the military conducted a search and destroyed property in daylight. Normally, there’s no visibility or activist presence to document the atrocities. The people in the Firing Zone, it appears, are being used as props for the military’s training program.

In the apartheid streets of Hebron, those called by the army “sterile roads” in which no Palestinian pedestrian movement is allowed, life is particularly unbearable. Due to settler violence and the Orwellian military policy of omnipresent harassment, it is estimated that 50% of Palestinians left the Kasbah. The woes of life are similar in the wild south. “We have nowhere to go, so we struggle.” An older man asserts, “Once we would get startled by flapping paper, thinking it’s a gun. Today, a child stands in front of a tank with a stone in his hand. It’s a different generation. They fear nothing.”

[This post was first published in Amitai’s blog]