Failing to make the connection
Amira Hass
May 2002

At one of the hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints the Israeli Defense Force has across the West Bank, a soldier stopped the car of A.T. Inside the car was also A.T's 10-year-old son, who stared at the uniformed soldier approaching the car. The soldier's rifle was half-slung, half-aimed. "You want peace? You want peace?" the soldier asked, surprising A.T., a member of the People's Party, formerly known as the Palestinian Communist Party. When it was still very unpopular, his party supported a two-state solution of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"Yes," A.T. answered. "Of course I want peace."

He didn't get to explain what he meant by peace when the soldier interrupted him. "So why does your son look at me with such hatred?"

The soldier is one of the people, and like the people, he doesn't see any connection between the fact that he is in the territories as an occupation soldier and his side has unlimited power to determine every facet of life in the lives of the occupied people-and the "hatred" toward him.

Like most of his people, he sees no connection between the expropriation of Palestinian land for expanding settlements for Jews only and the ban on Palestinian construction on their lands or even to install a water pipe, because it's in Area C, meaning under Israeli security and civil command-and the stone throwing at Israeli cars. He sees no connection between the green lawns of the settlements when there's not enough water to drink in Palestinian villages and refugee camps next door-and the Palestinian gunfire at settlements and Israeli civilians driving on roads that are forbidden to Palestinian drivers.

Like most Israelis, he's convinced there's no difference between a suicide mission and terrorist attacks in Jerusalem-and Palestinian attacks on soldiers and settlers. Therefore he can't find any connection between the hundreds of Palestinian civilians who were killed by IDF fire in the last year and the widespread popular support for the terror attacks inside Israel. He also apparently can't see that an assassination of Palestinian leaders is not only a successful military operation but a proven recipe for encouraging more Palestinians to choose the armed struggle. He's convinced that he and his friends are only defending themselves from people who "simply hate" him and all the Jews.

At another checkpoint, a soldier stopped K.D., a top Fatah officer. His 5-year-old son was beside him, on the soldier's side of the car. K.D. gave his ID card to his son and guided him to say, in Hebrew, "good evening." The child practices a few times, and when the soldier peers into the car, he hears "Good evening" from the boy. "A great evening," says the surprised soldier with a big smile, and doesn't even check the ID card.

K.D. is in favor of continuing the intifada. He doesn't see a "reason" for the Palestinian gunfire to draw IDF fire. He won't advise his armed associates to stop shooting Israelis-soldiers and settlers. The settlement close to where he lives is built on his village's land and on land taken from his family. But he also spent a lot of years in Israeli prisons. That's where he learned about Israeli society and to understand it's not one-dimensional-and won't go away. He's known Israelis who tortured him and he's known prison guards who told him about longing for their girl friend. He learned Hebrew in prison, and through Hebrew, learned about Israeli culture.

He's not alone. His generation, the 30- to 50-year-olds, were in their youth active opponents of the Israeli occupation, were jailed for years, worked in Israel and traveled through the country. They are now the backbone of the PLO and the solution it has been trying to advance for the last several years: a two-state solution with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

K.D. is neither a sycophant nor a hypocrite, teaching his son to say "Good evening" in Hebrew to the soldier. He opposes the occupation, supports active resistance against it, but at the same time he is capable of perceiving the man inside the uniform. And he's frustrated that his son will also grow up under Israeli occupation, in the shadow of the tanks, the shooting, the shelling and the daily deaths.

K.D.'s generation is still the dominant one--but not for long. Palestinian society is young, and a new generation of Palestinians who only know the soldiers and settlers, is growing up, telling the older generation that the solution they propose for independence, has not proved itself and new ways should be sought, where death is no deterrent because life has become so insufferable.

At another checkpoint, at one in the morning, a few hours after the shooting on the Modi'in-Pisgat Ze'ev highway on Saturday, a soldier rubs his hands and asks "Why don't you journalists do something already to end it? I'm fed up. I want to go home."

Amira Hass is a frequent contributor to Znet. See Znet,

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