“The Occupation Is Indefensible”

In a lengthy and powerful reflection inspired by Israel’s outsized response to the kidnapping of three yeshiva students in the West Bank on Friday, Max Fisher announces that he is finished blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on “both sides”:

There has always been, and there remains, plenty of culpability to go around in this conflict, plenty of individuals and groups that squandered peace and perpetuated suffering many times over. Everyone is complicit and no one is pure. The crisis over the kidnapped students shows all this. But it is also highlights what has become perhaps the most essential truth of the Israel-Palestine conflict: for all the complexity of how it came to be and why it’s continued, for all the shared responsibility for this week’s crisis and everything that led up to it, the conflict predominantly matters for the human suffering it causes. And today the vast majority of that suffering comes from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Today, the suffering has become so disproportionately administered by the occupation and so disproportionately felt by Palestinians that, in a conflict famous for its complexity and its gray areas, this is an issue that looks less gray all the time: the occupation is wrong, it is the problem, and Israel is responsible. …

Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy generated anticipatable controversy when he wrote that “if, in the West Bank, yeshiva students aren’t abducted, then the West Bank disappears from Israel’s consciousness.” To many, this sounded as if the column were encouraging Palestinians to abduct school-age Israelis; to others, presumably including the columnist himself, it may have rung true as a description of many Israelis’ apathy to the suffering of West Bank Palestinians.

Here’s what has happened in Hebron as a result of the kidnappings:

In the three days since, the Israeli military has descended on the southern part of the West Bank where the yeshiva students disappeared, and especially on the major Palestinian city of Hebron. I happened to visit Hebron the day before the kidnapping and found it already suffocated by occupation. Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested; some estimates say 120, some nearer to 80, but all agree that it includes the entire population of middle-aged and older men who work for Hamas’s political branch (remember that they are also a political party). The military has severely restricted Palestinian movement in Hebron, forbidden residents under age 50 from leaving the country, and completely shut down all movement in or out of Gaza and the southern West Bank save for “humanitarian and medical assistance.”

I don’t know how you live in a place where a foreign army can do this to you at will at any time. And I do not begin to know how you live with it for decades and decades, as the occupation continues to advance by colonizing and settling. Until the United States is capable of ending aid to Israel unless it ceases its illegal and immoral attempt to control and repress a whole nation under its thumb, this will go on. In so many ways, this is America’s colonization as well. Until we have the foresight and sanity to cease our enabling of it.