As Palestinians of the West Bank face a “worrying rise in violence”, as an Haaretz article recently observed, here is a special message from CfP leader, Tuly Flint regarding the current situation in Israel and Palestine. Tuly is a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Reserve army and a former Battalion commander. He is one of the highest ranking former military officers in the entire Israeli Peace Camp.
The thought does not leave me… I served in this army!
While the whole world is busy fighting the Coronavirus, the Israeli army – the army that I was once so proud of, the army that I was sure would always do only the “right and just” things – is also busy. It is demolishing houses, making arrests in Palestinian cities already suffering pain and Corona, and busy continuing to support the illegal and immoral Occupation system.
Outside my home, the streets are empty – empty because of Corona. My family and I do not leave. A curfew. Yes, I remember the days when I was the one who made the roads empty. No, not these streets, the streets of Palestinian cities.
I remember the days when I thought the enemy was the other, the enemy was the Arab, the Palestinian. That was before I learned to know, respect and love friends from the same people who had been my enemy. New friends who are also now shut in homes because of the virus, but they now experience double fear. Like all of us, they are afraid of the virus; unlike us, they are also afraid of losing their homes. They are afraid of my country’s army, the army that I thought was protecting Israel. The Israeli army in the territories of Palestine is busy preserving the Occupation.
You may not believe it, but it is true. Even now, soldiers invade Palestinian cities every night and continue the same illegal operations they carried out before the arrival of Corona. The settlers, who live in the same area, illegally, can come to Israel to receive first-rate medical treatment available to all Israeli citizens. Palestinians cannot.
Palestinians in Israel, even with a permit, who are suspected of being sick are taken in a vehicle and thrown behind an army checkpoint in the West Bank – without treatment. Palestinian prisoners, some of them minors, remain in densely crowded Israeli prisons, in grave danger of the infection. They do not have the option of maintaining their health even on ordinary days, and certainly not now in these days of Corona.
One thing is clear: the Coronavirus will come and go. But the Occupation is trying to stay. The Occupation is a dangerous and brutal epidemic. Corona does not discriminate, but the Occupation does, and it finds more and more ways to justify its criminal acts. Unlike the Coronavirus, the Occupation is wholly an act of man and is subject to our control.
A day will come when the threat of Corona has passed. And when we leave our homes again, we will find that the government has gained more power, a corrupting power, over the whole country. Measures that used to be exerted only against perceived enemies and victims of Occupation have become ordinary governance for everyone.
The day after the epidemic we will have to fight for freedom from the viruses of racism, militarism and fascism. We will have to fight for the rights of people to live freely. When this day comes, we will be there, and we will need you. We will stand together against racism and xenophobia.
To our friends all over the world, to anyone who still believes in the values of equality, human rights and freedom, we say: the Occupation continues under Corona! We must stop it!!
I joined Combatants for Peace to correct the wrongdoings that my country had sent me to do. I choose cooperation and connection over the Occupation. I choose humanity.
I call on you to join us.