How To See Palestine: An ABC of Occupation

V is for violence

On my first afternoon in Bethlehem, we received word that a woman had been killed at a checkpoint twenty minutes away. Such death punctuated my stay at regular intervals. On the ninth day I was there, we drove past a vehicle near Sofar, in which a young Palestinian man had been shot dead by IDF. Perhaps the most shocking thing to me about the incident was how unshocked everyone else was. The Israeli soldiers we saw smiled at us. Habshe, a Palestinian organizer traveling with us was matter-of-fact about it. We should not euphemize: the occupation produces death as its primary outcome.

So too Frantz Fanon understood colonization to be a matter of the barracks and the police station. He also understood that colonialism has its own psychopathologies, which is to say that if you colonize people by force, they will become mentally ill as a result. Sometimes that illness results in its own violence, hopelessly disproportionate to the force it is trying to resist. Fanon documented a case in which two Algerian boys stabbed their French playmate as their only available response to their oppression. Such stabbings have become endemic in Palestine since October 2015. 

One of the specificities of the Palestinian situation seems to be that specific places have been constructed for such violence. The stabbing attacks and the shootings that respond to them have mostly taken place in the areas adjacent to checkpoints, places under intense surveillance where no attack by a Palestinian could result in anything other than death. Let's be clear what this means: urban space has been set aside for the specific purpose of killing people. So disturbing is this design that Palestinians have responded in kind. Unlike Fanon, psychiatrists won't get to talk to them to discover why. 

Often people talk as if such violence might make the occupation unsustainable. But as we have seen in the United States with Black Lives Matter, the violence has a way of sustaining itself. 

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