It was two years ago this month, in July 2014, that my flight touched down in Ben Gurion Airport half an hour later than scheduled.
Normally this wouldn't be noteworthy, but I could see traces of panic on my mum's face as she collected me from the gate. 'Suddenly your flight disappeared from the board,' she said. 'I was worried.'
Earlier, on the plane, I had noticed that the flight was going on longer than anticipated. The view outside my window didn't reflect the familiar sprawling Mediterranean seascape rolling into the glittering shores of Tel-Aviv, but an entirely different scene: desert, sparse lights. The plane had taken an unplanned detour en route to Ben Gurion.
There were rumours of Hamas missiles landing in the vicinity of the airport. A few days later multiple airlines announced they were ceasing travel to Israel. What would become Israel's deadliest offensive in Gaza since the Second Intifada, 'Operation Protective Edge', was entering its second week.
The 2014 assault was more aggressive than those of previous years. Compare the 2200 Palestinian deaths (including more than 500 children) in Protective Edge with 1398 Palestinian casualties from 2009's Operation Cast Lead. 2015 saw another escalation in violence.
How did it come to this? I suggest that the current situation is framed in terms of segregation and violent rhetoric; both serve to inflame a volatile status quo. Let's consider each in turn.
While current geographic borders were set as a result of the 1967 War, the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 significantly hindered Palestinian movement. Oslo divided the Occupied Territories (West Bank) into zones A (Palestinian Authority control, 18 per cent of the total area), B (PA is responsible for civil control, Israel has control over security matters, 22 per cent) and C (full Israeli control, 60 per cent).
Segregation not only divides Palestinian and Israeli societies (as entry to Israel is encumbered by an impossibly bureaucratic process), but also separates village from village, often cutting off water supply and precious farmland.
"If in Israeli society the word 'Arab' comes to signify the other, in Palestinian society, too, the word 'Jew' articulates terror or disgust."
Snaking across the landscape like a protruding grey vein is the separation barrier built during the 2000s. It doesn't follow the borders of 1967 but cuts inside Palestinian territories with devastating economic and social effects. The wall isn't only there to curb terrorism; it's a symbolic representation of the deep chasm between Israeli and Palestinian societies. If generations of Palestinians grow up in the shadow of the wall, constantly reminded of the (literal) boundaries of their freedom, generations of Israelis live with Palestinians out of sight. That Palestinians are fenced in, restricted of movement and rights, contributes to a dangerous othering whereby Palestinians are perceived as potential terrorists that need to be controlled. This othering makes it easier for Israeli soldiers to commit illegal actions during battle, and incites anger and hatred among Palestinian youth in response.
The second factor we should consider in light of the present impasse is divisive rhetoric. When Binyamin Netanyahu warned voters on the eve of the 2015 election that 'Arabs are heading to polling stations in droves', there was little doubt of the inflammatory undertone in his message. In Israeli society, 'Arab' (in Hebrew Aravi) is often colloquially used in derogatory fashion. Language serves to normalise, and Netanyahu's choice of words reinforced a toxic notion of 'us' versus 'them'. Similarly, if in Israeli society the word 'Arab' comes to signify the other, in Palestinian society, too, the word 'Jew' articulates terror or disgust. Decades of fractured discourse mean each one represents to the other a detrimental nightmare.
Put simply, Israeli and Palestinian societies are trained to be enemies through violent rhetoric and segregation. So, is there hope?
Going back to that bloody summer of 2014, other meaningful events took place. Night after night after night after night hundreds and thousands of Israelis took to the streets — sometimes at great personal risk — and protested against the assault in Gaza and Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. Yes, the dominant discourse might be orchestrated around segregation, othering and fear, but if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of voices shouting back: we refuse to be defined by hate, we refuse to be enemies, and we're only going to get louder.
Na'ama Carlin is an Israeli-Australian PhD Scholar, interested in questions about identity, violence and morality. She loves cats, Jacques Derrida, Danny Trejo, and beer.
Main image: The separation barrier in Qalqilya in the Occupied Territories (West Bank). Photo by Na'ama Carlin
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28 July 2016
THANK YOU Na'ama for speaking out in this vein and thank you Eureka Street for getting this voice out. More please!
28 July 2016
Those Israelis active in the Israeli Peace Movement are the bravest men and women in the Middle East. What courage! What faith!
28 July 2016
thank you Na'ama, this expresses what I felt in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last year and again this year. At Bethlehem University we met people what are refusing to hate, refusing to be enemies and continuing to work together. It was a very rich experience to meet such people. On Good Friday the Christians needed to be protected from Jewish extremists and so with Israeli gun guarding us there was a choice to react with fear, or to feel protected in out vulnerability. I chose the latter as did many of my colleagues. In Tel Aviv I met people with immense ignorance of what and who are the Palestinians. That surprised me in such a sophisticated city.
May there be peace in the land!
28 July 2016
There have always existed those in Israeli society who do not follow the line of Netanyahu and his cronies. In some ways the situation there vis a vis the Palestinians is grim and the polarisation seems to be getting worse. Hope does not come easy but I admire those who take the part of peaceful reconciliation.
29 July 2016
This writing helps outsiders such as me to find a human caring face behind the militaristic, colonial oppressing power that we know in the outside world as Israel. Thank you Na'ama. You have done your people a favour.
29 July 2016
The Israeli peace movement is the hope for a future for Israel and Palestine. The increasingly hawkish attitude of the government, the land-grabbing expansion of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and the self-defeating factionalism among the Palestinians all serve to reinforce the present gruelling path to nowhere.
29 July 2016
Graham Warren's comment is one-sided. There are evil, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian elements on the Palestinian side, among other things contributing to the great decline in Christian numbers on the west bank. I first visited Israel and what was then the Jordanian administered part of Palestine in 1964 and my parish for many years supported the (Anglican/Episcopalian) Diocese of Jerusalem and its ministries which continue even under the dictatorial regime in Gaza. I have kept up my reading but I hope I continue to learn. Only today I have been reading Michael Karpin's "Imperfect Compromise : A New Consensus among Israelis and Palestinians", the author a well-known Israeli journalist and author. It is a book that is not only hopeful, but wise and deeply informed.
31 July 2016
I wonder how pro-Palestinians, writing in response to Na'ama's article, would feel if they were bombarded 24/7 by Palestinian TV and media promoting, like the Nazis, a fiendish amalgam of "Hatred" towards any Israeli, any where. They give lessons on how to kill Jews: how to make bombs to murder more: but more insiduous, pictures of Jews portrayed as rats and destroyers of civilisation.
Israelis have to suffer, not only from a constant daily barrage of anti-Israeli media but also accompanied by rockets fired at Israel on a daily/weekly basis and physical assaults on individual Israelis. The "knife
Intafada and using vehicles to mow down Israelis would be hard not to respond to
After six Arab armies were unsuccessful in" Wiping every Jew of the face of the earth" in 1948-49, why are so many normally compassionate Australians surprised that when the Israelis lose patience and respond against such constant aggression with maximum force.
We in the West see the results of IDF incursions. Yet forget, not only the Israeli reality, but accepted Syria occupying Lebanon for 30 years, then rail at the Israelis for wanting to get rid of Hamas dominance in Sth Lebanon.
People don't know ME history.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock
02 August 2016
Thank you Na'ama Carlin. It is always great to hear from a "righteous Jew" who is prepared to take a stand for the freedom and the human rights of the Palestinian people ever since they were pushed off their land by the terrorist Zionist gangs after World War 2.
I think it is wonderful that there is a strengthening of the peace movement in Israel itself and that many Jewish groups around the world are taking a stand (eg Jewish Voice for Peace in the US)
However, more needs to be done to help the Palestinians. The UN needs to recognise the State of Palestine and put a ban on all military equipment and cooperation with Israel until it pulls down it apartheid wall, sends all the illegal settlers home, stops its military harassment and human rights abuses of the Palestinians and recognises the state of Palestine.
If the US and its allies really wanted peace in the Middle East, they would have been taking these steps years ago.
Sadly, Australian governments have just gone along with US policies on the Palestinian issue.
The election of Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton as US president will see no change in US policy on the Middle East.
Roy Chen Yee
04 August 2016
"Night after night after night after night hundreds and thousands of Israelis took to the streets — sometimes at great personal risk — and protested against the assault in Gaza and Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. Yes, the dominant discourse might be orchestrated around segregation, othering and fear, but if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of voices shouting back: we refuse to be defined by hate, we refuse to be enemies, and we're only going to get louder." Meanwhile, in the West Bank and Gaza, other voices could be heard shouting back the same thing? But let's not blame the Palestinian people. Who else benefits from the frozen situation in the West Bank and Gaza except the gun-toting despots who run their governments? The Israeli "voices of peace" bring to mind the unilateral nuclear disarmers of the West during the 70s and 80s, bless their naïve souls. Would the Berlin Wall have fallen in 1989 if they had prevailed?