Sunday, June 12, 2011

Subtle Yet Pervasive

There’s something about the weather in Ramallah tonight that is especially eerie. It’s chilly, gusts of wind keep slamming my balcony doors together, and the clouds overhead are moving so fast that it’s spooky. My apartment is making new noises and the doors in the house are moving with the wind flowing through. I just heard a cat screech loudly outside, making this night more like the setting for an old-fashioned scary movie than a typical Ramallah evening.

This doesn’t bode well for my mind. I’m processing so much. So much that some aspect of the Israeli/Palestinian issue has been in my dreams every night lately. For the last two weeks, my dreams have been very vivid, often waking me up. One night I dreamt that Jewish settlers were throwing stones at me, then at children, and I was paralyzed with shock, then outrage. . . then I woke up. On other nights, I couldn’t remember exactly what I dreamt, but I woke up with my mind conflicted by my lack of ability to do anything about everything happening here. I see and hear so much that I’m not morally or politically comfortable with, but I’m in no position to act on anything I’m taking in. I think they call it cognitive dissonance. It could just be that my mind is on backlog with all of the thoughts I am working through, and is now using my sleeping hours to continue processing, saving, internalizing.

Just like a haunted house, or scary movie, or otherworldly feeling, the Israeli occupation, absolutely wrong on all levels, causes the observer great distress and discomfort, but yet, it’s often so . . . subtle. Not always - sometimes it’s really in your face, like the Qalandia checkpoint, or when Israeli soldiers pop up out of nowhere and shut down an intersection in the middle of the West Bank for a “flying” checkpoint. No denying the IDF is king of these parts (far inside the 67 borders, be certain). But there are all these subtle, insidious, quietly evil signs of occupation that are as disturbing, if not more so, than the in your face soldiers-with-big-guns-shouting-in-Hebrew signs of occupation. Like, Israeli settlements on the top of hills (good security strategy) deep inside the West Bank, that are marked by signs in Hebrew deep inside the West Bank, that have a road leading to them built by the Israelis deep inside the West Bank, roads which have light posts with the Israeli flag on each of them deep inside the West Bank, that, from the bottom of the hills, where the Palestinians live, in a country they aren’t even allowed to call official, one looks to the top of the hills, above the layers of olive trees that the Palestinians have cultivated for centuries, and one sees a big, bold Israeli flag flapping in the wind amid the red roofs of settlements, deep inside the West Bank.

As I was noticing all of these subtle signs of occupation during a two-hour bus ride to the northern city of Jenin and back, I kept thinking about the power of each one of these reminders, or, as they are more popularly known, “facts on the ground.” I kept glancing at the Palestinian passengers in the bus with me to see if they too looked up as we passed by yet another Israeli settlement, or if they too were curious as to why the IDF had choked off an intersection with their dull brown jeeps and camouflaged soldiers. Nope. Just me quietly disturbed/sad/mad/confused/conflicted/add emotion here. Powerful, yes. So powerful are these signs of occupation that they’re becoming normal. “Accept this.” “Accept occupation.” “Accept that you will never have your own country.” “We aren’t going anywhere – in fact, we’re everywhere, as you can see.”

Subtle yet pervasive. That’s a powerful strategy. 

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