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We are in Palestine, Habibi, and Palestine is Heaven

Nabil Anani (Palestine), Demonstration #2, 2016.

What does this annexation of the West Bank mean? It means that Israel has grabbed the land that it had formally ceded to a future Palestinian state and it means that Israel is willing to incorporate the Palestinian natives of this land as non-citizen residents of Israel. The land grab violates international law; the second-class status of Palestinians affirms Israel’s status as an apartheid state. In 2017, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission of West Asia published a report called Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. The report showed that all Palestinians – regardless of where they live – are impacted by the apartheid policies of the Israeli state.

Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, and that they face restrictive zoning laws and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents who must constantly prove that they live in the city. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report. And those who are exiled to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan have been permanently denied their rights to their homeland. All Palestinians – whether those who live in Haifa (Israel) or in Ain al-Hilweh (Lebanon) – suffer the consequences of Israeli apartheid. This indignity is punctuated with laws that humiliate Palestinians, each one meant to make life so miserable that they are forced to emigrate.

Khaled Hourani (Palestine), Suspicion, 2019.

The annexation of the West Bank will only deepen Israel’s apartheid policies. The Zionist state will not permit Palestinians full citizenship rights. There is no intention to incorporate the Palestinian people into Israel with full citizenship nor to cede even a threadbare Palestine. This is barefaced colonialism of the old type. Inside this kind of colonial aggression comes the demolition of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem (such as Wadi Yasul) and the destruction of olive groves (such as in Burin Village). In the few months of 2020, the Israeli state has arrested 210 Palestinian children and 250 students, as well as 13 Palestinian journalists. These moves are reported by human rights groups and condemned by Palestinian civil society organisations but are otherwise ignored. This is the attrition of dignity.

All of this is illegal: the demolitions, the settlements, the apartheid wall that encircles the West Bank. UN resolutions, International Court of Justice rulings, civil society condemnations: none of it seems to make an impact. Since 1948, Israel has acted with impunity as it has sought to annihilate Palestine and Palestinians, to steal the ‘dowry’ and dispose of the ‘bride’. Not far from the wall that Israel built surrounding the West Bank to humiliate the Palestinians are the traces of walls that Israel has knocked down to turn homes into dust. Those walls, which once held up roofs, were shelters for a people who have been thrown off their axis, made to walk at a tilt, always afraid of the settler’s bullet or the soldier’s handcuffs. Prison walls are made of stone. Settlement walls are made of stone. But the walls of the homes of a Palestinian are made of that odd combination of fear and resistance. There is fear that the cannons of the coloniser will blast through them, but there is resistance that acknowledges that the walls of the home are not the real walls. The real walls are the walls of fortitude and perseverance.

Palestine, inspired by the original poster of Ronaldo Cordova (OSPAAAL, Cuba), Solidarity with Palestine, 1968.

Wretched states are hollowed out by their insensitivity and by their injustice. In the absence of moral conviction, it is impossible for the Israeli state to make its case except by the arrogance of guns. When a bulldozer comes before a home, it is the bulldozer that will prevail, but it is the home that remains alive in the hearts and dreams of the people. Bulldozers produce fear, but not humanity. A humane society cannot be built by fear. It must be built by the enthusiasm of love. Wretched states – such as Israel – cannot build a utopia of love on land that has been scarred by brutal theft. Even after olive trees have been uprooted, their groves still smell of olives.

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Yalalan Band (Palestine), Dingi Dingi, 2016

After the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza, the Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon wrote ‘Afterwords’. The poem imagines a child walking with a grandfather (sidu).

Are we going back to Jaffa, sidu?
We can’t
Why?
We are dead
So are we in heaven, sidu?
We are in Palestine, habibi
and Palestine is heaven
and hell.
What will we do now?
We will wait
Wait for what?
For the others
….
to return

There is no time to wait. It is time for the world to deny Israel its impunity, which is provided by the full-throated backing by the United States of America.

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