Almost everything this trip has inspired me to observe about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pretty laughably cliché. For example, it’s both true that Palestinians are being subjected to intolerable injustice and also true that many if not most Palestinians are committed to a worldview that, if taken literally, is extremely difficult to square with the legitimate interests of the Israeli public. But blah blah blah that’s already what sensible people generally think. And this all encompassing sphere of cliché up to and including the fact that two people who come look at a situation with different prior commitments can see just about anything they want in it.
A great example came from our visit to the H-2 zone of Hebron where I saw shocking things that hit me with a level of instinctive, physical moral revulsion that I’ve never really experienced before. I’m having trouble coming up with adequate words to describe the scene but if you Google for “human rights in Hebron” you’ll get a flavor (also here or here). As a small instantiation of the absolute insanity of the situation, here’s a (unfortunately not very good) photo of a guy carrying goods via horse cart:
Why this bit of pastoral anachronism in a built-up urban area? Well, you see this is a street that Jews are allowed to drive but Arabs must abstain from driving motor vehicles. A horse, however, is allowed. That’s not the whole story, as I say you really need to read about it on the human rights websites where they explain the whole horrifying thing. But in some ways the truer horror is this. After visiting the location, one’s first instinct is to proclaim that anyone but a religious fanatic can clearly see that the situation is intolerable and whatever you think of the situation as a whole Israel badly needs to evacuate the small Jewish settlement and return the H-2 zone to Palestinian administration. But no! A reader sent me this missive from an Israeli who took a B’Tselem tour of the are and came away constructing an argument that the scene demonstrates the humane nature of the occupation of the West Bank.
Completely absurd. But I can’t deny that the guy has seen the situation, and simply does not see what I so clearly saw there—the urgent, vital moral necessity of disbanding this particular grain of occupation immediately and the intrinsically corrupting nature of the overall occupation process.
Meanwhile, in another cliché right across the checkpoint the (appropriately) outraged Palestinian population has chosen to express their outrage in a manner calculated to minimize the odds of winning Israeli support for ending the occupation.