It is especially early in this day of winter. We’re hoping to pass before the auhtorities arrive. Last week Taayush activists have been stopped, driven slow and madly backwards, with a one-of-a-kind warrant of ideological profiling, prohibiting activists from reaching the South Hebron Hills. They tried crossing the checkpoint by foot. The ever-dope Amira Hass wrote about it last Sunday. Ezra was let through, though. He almost crashed the car into the military barricade and was stopped not a moment too soon due to Luana’s sharp harmonious scream – “Ezra-a-a-a!!!” She said he’s so used to not being stopped on the way out into the West Bank that he just kept on driving. Everyone laughed hysterically, and the approaching gunmen were obfuscated. “They’re my four wives, don’t worry,” Ezra cried signaling at the laughing passengers and then driving off. The rest were stopped but they found their ways through uncanny roads, to meet closed military zones in every accompaniment spot.
A week later, we drive down, and the road is still snowy on the terraces. Not in the deep South Hebron Hills, though, which are turning slight green, minutely adorned with small pink colchicum, or lahlaah in Arabic or sitvanit in Hebrew. “Autumn saffron” or even “naked lady,” confused by the strange weather our region is now facing. The weird south has seen twenty centimeters of snow, as Mahdi will tell me. In this, I bet, Mr Peabody’s unprotected facetious affair with Coal has played a role. Are we in a stage in which only a universal climate disaster will lead to a global political response? Perhaps a methane catastrophe in an ice-free Arctic? Sam, my Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee comrade, wrote about indigenous resistance in Black Mesa. These are the places from which, I hope, that global response will emerge. But I digress.
A police car stops the transit. The cop approaches asking if we’re anarchists. “We’re here to identify anarchists, and return them back!” He explains. He asks for IDs or passports. G refuses, saying, basically, that there’s a court rule against arbitrary controls that forces police to conduct a search only with a provable suspicion. The cop threatens to detain him if he doesn’t identify himself. Uriel jumps in and presents his ID.
“Mr. V, are you anarchists?” The cop asks.
“Am I an anarchist?!” Uriel exclaims, and shuffling through his wallet, says: “Do you see an anarchist ID in here?”
The group is then released. This possibly immortal scene was captured in a hilarious video [Update: now with English subtitles!]:
The cops must have sat in the car comparing pictures of Emma Goldman and Tolstoy. Policeman approaches dark-clad person carrying sack full of treasure as an alarm reverberates through an alleyway. “Are you the burglar?” “The burglar? No, why do you ask?” “You’re not in a position to ask questions. Show me an ID. … Are you sure you’re not the burglar?” “Sure I’m sure.”
We meet Mahdi from Maghair al-‘Abid, a village on the outpost strip of the firing zone. David Shulman used slightly different names talking about it in this typically beautiful piece of writing. In close vicinity to Havat Ma’on, Mahdi and his family face daily harassment from the ultra-violent settlers. His mother was shot in her thigh. Over seventy, she goes in and out of surgery. His son is hospitalized with a mouth disease. He gives us bread. Three of us join him to carry the petrol for the plowing truck. We accompany him close to Havat Maon outpost, fast-paced, headed in a slithering line to his valley underneath the hill of the previous Havat Ma’on, two hundred meters east of their current location. Two others join us with sacks full of grain on the truck. Mahdi tells us to spread around the valley, so that if the settlers attack they won’t be able to assault all cameras at once.
The old truck noisily plows the soil in circular paths. I take a mental photo when it makes the letter Q. The work is completed successfully, undisturbed. Ezra manifests himself and picks us up. He has a new automobile, bought with some readers’ generous donations (thank you!). He says he indulged a cop that questioned him earlier. They talked about the problems of the Hebron police station. The cop told him a high-ranking officer said that no logistical changes are planned because in two years the settlements will be evicted anyway. Is the beginning near?
Our next stop is the land of the Shamasti family close to Susiya. Everyone is quickly shooed off the land with a Closed Military Zone order. Settlers come down but stay away. A strange all-adult coexistence dialogue normalization group on tour stops by. Border Police, Civil Administration, international solidarity activists from Germany and Italy, and us anarcha-anarchist folks all find ourselves together on a desolate hill with the multi-generational Shamasti family. The co-existence group had a camp or something of the kind in Germany. Israeli and Palestinian folks engaging in dialogue in a so-called neutral context. In my experience, these dialogues are often set within the occupier’s discourse, assuming a kind of symmetry between conflicting sides that simply have a misunderstanding, assuming good intentions on the part of the State, thus normalizing the reality of occupation. Tami says that people often get entrenched in their expected views and fail to communicate. Reub asks one of the Palestinian members of the co-existence group how she relates to the Israelis. She responds: “I can’t talk to them. I’ve been doing these projects since I was ten years old. They’re all Europeans. They should go where they came from.”
In the chapter “Dilemmas of Privilege” in the book Anarchists Against the Wall, Kobi Snitz writes that “normalization” means that “any interaction that Palestinians carry out with Israelis, be it for the most positive purpose, while the conditions are such that Israel occupies Palestine, contains with it a degree of adjustment to these conditions.” (2013 55-56) In this light it is obvious that if we believe that a joint struggle has potential for change, normalizing the situation cannot be entirely avoided. This creates a lot of the weirdness that we encounter daily in our activism. When are we normalizing apartheid and when are we acting in solidarity within a joint struggle?
Having the language and privilege and a curious willingness to do so, the Israeli members of the coexistence group talk to the soldiers that stand on the edge of the military zone and try to convert them to a more lefty position. I guess we do it as well sometimes, changing our language in order to make it comprehensible, placing ourselves in a slightly dishonest position. Sometimes Israeli activists find themselves negotiating “concessions” with commanders on behalf of their Palestinian comrades, in order to allow farmers to access a particular patch of land for a limited amount of time and under specific behavioral conditions, or in demonstrations. This in turn may warrant more brutality if the agreement is “breached,” or create a situation in which some protesters police the others in the name of their self-appointed negotiation. Policing forces, of course, will always try to impose their control with use of martials from the protesters themselves, in exchange for minor privileges like the ability to walk outside of pens. This is why, as David Graeber writes in The Democracy Project, folks at Occupy Wall Street in NYC decided not to have a police liaison. Interaction with authority is all different, I believe, when a clown nose is placed on the other side of the gun’s barrel.
I chat with Abdullah on the side. We’re asking ourselves what the hell is going on. One enlightened and post-military-looking fellow from the coexistence group commences interaction with us in basic Arabic. We’re not particularly welcoming to him. GH tells me off for it afterwards. He’s already made the first step, he tells me, and that’s big. “I never manage to bring people down here.” He’s right. I often complain that the movement is not welcoming and not inclusive enough. Every fit-looking man that approaches is treated as a potential douchebag (or in its new Hebrew blogosphere term – hel’an). Maybe I’m just projecting what I secretly feel about myself. I’d rather be kind next time.
The Sabbath ritual of Umm al-Arayes went accordingly, we’re told. With a Closed Military Zone and the pushing and so on. Sumoud.
We visit Umm al-Kheir. The outdoors oven is still getting attention from the settlers of Karmel. Two days ago they came with water buckets to put it out and sabotage it. Settlers wreck it regularly, they dislike the smoke.
On the way back north, Abdullah takes us to see houses facing new demolition orders in Beit Ummar. Buildings not yet completed. Ezra says the idea is to block the village’s expansion northward.
Around four o’clock, when we get back home, settlers from Havat Maon attack Twaneh. With slingshots and covered faces, they throw stones and hit Hafez in the head. He is taken for treatment in a hospital in Yatta.