At a late evening hour last week I got an urgent call from N., a Palestinian resident of the town of Dura, near Hebron - a longtime personal friend. His cousin, the 47 years old Abdullah Alarjub had been shot and wounded by soldiers, in strange and rather alarming circumstances. Soldiers stopped Abdullah at a checkpoint, conducted a thorough search of his car, found nothing, gave him back his keys and told him to keep going. When he was about 25 meters away, one of the soldiers raised his gun, shot and injured Abdullah in the shoulder.
Had I not known the cousin of the wounded, I would not have heard anything about it. The Israeli media had more important issues to deal with. A few days later a similar incident occurred at another checkpoint, near Jerusalem - only that this time the shooting ended in death. A Palestinian killed by soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces does get a bit of publicity in the communications media of the State of Israel - but only a bit. In most cases, nobody bothered to publish the name of the person killed. (His name was Akram Dair, and he was 40 years old. All that was required to locate this data was a one minute search of Palestinian news websites.)
Are the soldiers who shot and killed going to be punished? Probably not. They claimed that the car had not stopped at the checkpoint. Under the criteria of the IDF, the most moral army in the world, these are sufficient grounds to shoot and kill inhabitants of those territories which, according to Justice Edmond Levy, are not occupied at all. What the army did do, right then on the night after the fatal shooting, was to carry out extensive raids on Palestinian cities and villages and refugee camps, and detain people who might have started demonstrations and protests at their communities.
But perhaps Justice Levy was right, after all? After all, South Tel Aviv is not considered to be Occupied Territory, and yet the authorities in our country find no difficulty in implementing a policy of escalating oppression towards the African refugees and asylum seekers and migrant workers who live there (who still live there, until construction of the detention camps in the Negev desert is completed).
So, this week members of the State of Israel's parliament gathered to talk about how to distinguish between people according to their looks. Just so. On July 23, at 8:30 am, the Knesset Interior Committee convened and gave its approval to a bill presented by KM Miri Regev and KM Ophir Akunis, which would impose a fine of up to half a million Shekels to anyone providing lodging or transportation to an infiltrator. But then the amazing question was asked, how would a bus driver determine the identity of a black skinned person wishing to board the bus? Maybe it's an infiltrator – which would mean that, should this bill pass all stages of legislation in the Knesset and be duly inscribed in our law books, the driver would be strictly forbidden to take him. But perhaps it's an Ethiopian, who is a kosher Jew and a full-fledged citizen of the State of Israel? Or, who knows, maybe it is the President of the United States, on a short visit with us, wanting to go incognito on a Tel Aviv bus? So, how to distinguish? Who could help the miserable driver?
The thug who on the same day entered an Internet cafe in the Shapira Neighborhood of south Tel Aviv did not grapple with problems of identification. He came in, knife in hand, stabbed and injured the owner and two of his clients, all three of them Eritreans, threw a computer at the owner, escaped and disappeared. The police still did not get on his trail, and the media coverage given the incident was modest.
There were meor events which the media did not report at all, though you could hear of them from the activists who spoke at the protest rally last Saturday night, initiated by Holocaust survivors and Israeli teenagers. There, we could hear of a 12-year old black girl who got a fist in her face from a motorcyclist passing her in the street, and of the poor black cat who was hanged on the door of an apartment where the human beings had a skin color similar to his. A long list of major and minor assaults which increasingly make into hell the lives of Africans among us.
And what does all this have to do with what did get the headlines this week – the economic decrees resolved upon by the Government of Israel, whose centerpiece is the increase of VAT, laying a heavy burden on those who have the least? Some people tend to carefully sort out and place separate issues in separate drawers, or perhaps separate universes. Here are the Palestinians and their oppression, and there the Africans and the repression peculiar to them, and here the ordinary citizens of Israel and their usual suffering under the burden of economic decrees. In my humble opinion one would do well to recall that the government is the same government and the policy makers are the same policy makers. As has become my habit in recent weeks, I can end with quoting from the call for a weekend demonstration, scheduled for this night in Tel Aviv.:
Privatization of school health services. The lie of free education from age three. The raising of beer prices. The raising of cigarette prices. The Border Infiltrators Law. Deportations to South Sudan. Incitement against refugees. Police surveillance. Moshe Silman. 50 millions to the Ariel "University". The attack on radio broadcaster Keren Neubach. Increased penalties for aiding refugees. The crushing of what is left of the middle class. Untaxed corporate profits. Increase in VAT. Forgiving the tycoons' debts. Non-implemented report of the Commission on Cartels. Drying up the social services. No public housing. Saturday at 20:00 on the Habima Square.
The rope tightens around all our necks. Every day the media inform us about the new decrees, including measures for complete elimination of public housing. The government is cutting through people's dignity, through their very lives.
We are citizens. This is our country, these are our public assets. We will not give up our lives! We will march through the street, sit down at the entrance to the government compounds and stay the night. We will force the government to wake up. Each with her body and her voice, each with his body and his voice!
This is an emergency! Say no to the austerity decrees which would choke the economy and push us into a heavy recession! No increase in VAT and purchase taxes, no cuts in welfare and health, no further undermining of public housing!
As it is, we are already paying too much for rent and mortgage!
As it is, food prices are sky-high!
Do you need money? Go to the tycoons who have robbed us all these years.
36 billions in untaxed profits – take it from there! Not at our expense!
We will take it any longer!
We take responsibility for our lives. We are sovereign. We will return the country to the citizens! We meet in at 20.00 on the corner of Rothschild and Habima and march to the Government Compound on Kaplan Street. Bring signs with your own message, and pots and pans, and also sleeping bags, mats, blankets, pajamas, musical instruments, and everything you need to spend the night. Breakfast at 7.00 am on the steps of the ministry building...