When it comes to bravery and daring, the young Palestinian demonstrators are defeating the Israeli soldiers and Border Police. They are armed with agility and speed, kaffiyehs covering their faces. They are armed with stones and Molotov cocktails, while the soldiers — behind them military exercises — are armed with and protected by armored vehicles, drones, helmets, deadly weapons of various types and poisonous tear gas.
Against the bravery of the young Palestinians, the cowardice of the Israeli soldiers is exposed. They have gotten used to feeling strong and heroic in their planes, tanks and armored jeeps, in their detention and interrogation rooms and observation towers with sophisticated equipment, in their late-night break-ins into houses and their pulling minors from their beds.
Facing the kaffiyeh, stone and Molotov cocktail they are lost. Insulted. Then vengefulness erupts.
You, Israeli reader, should liberate yourself a bit from the Israeli media diet that makes the situation so shallow; you should liberate yourself from the language of the masters of “civil disorders and riots.”
Instead, watch the uncensored clips from the “battle” field: soldiers in jeeps running protesters over, a soldier spraying tear gas from point-blank range in the eyes of medics who come to evacuate the wounded. Soldiers setting on a store owner who brings in his wares while clashes are going on, and the soldiers kick him in an orgy of sadism.
This violent cowardice of Israeli soldiers comes on the orders of the higher-ups — military and political. It’s part of obligatory service in an army whose main role is to defend the colonialist expansion.
The bravery and daring of the Palestinians is against their will, forced on them as foreign rule has been forced on them. This courage is passed on by osmosis from generation to generation for as long as the reasons behind these traits have not been removed. And the adults look on in amazement at the young people: They have nearly forgotten they were once like them.
No top officer or political leader, no emergency reserve call-up order can force the Palestinians to go out to the military checkpoints and separation barrier in the villages trying to preserve the tradition of the popular struggle for more than a decade and cultivate the bravery and daring. If the unpopular Palestinian leaders have done something smart, it’s their order that armed Palestinians should not be allowed to come close to the protest sites.
The Palestinian demonstrators know they could be killed, arrested, tortured or put on a degrading show trial. But they are armed with justice. (And to be precise, not with “their” justice, postmodern and relativist, but justice. Period.)
We won’t say thank you that the soldiers in the West Bank aren’t spraying the protesters with live bullets and killing 10 at once, as they killed the protesters in Gaza. We can assume they received orders to try not to kill demonstrators.
It turns out that when the army wants to, it can operate without killing. Does this mean the soldiers and police received orders to kill anyone a few meters from them suspected of possessing a knife? Including a yeshiva student whom they mistake for an Arab?
True, in contrast to the bravery and daring of the many protesters is the desperation of others. Without orders from above they run to their deaths, waving a knife, because in such situations it’s clear the Israeli soldiers are dying of fear, and their cowardice is deadly.
Deadly by order? Because what is it to riddle a person with bullets who’s already lying wounded on the ground if not cowardice, murderousness, carrying out an order or all of them together?
Journalist Mohammed Daraghmeh published a courageous article that speaks to the hearts of many and angers others. The title: “Don’t go out to die, Palestine needs you alive.” Daraghmeh calls on the young people, as he says he tells his own children, not to let the despair and emotion of revenge cause them to lose their heads — and lives.
The politicians, he writes, fear losing their popularity, so they don’t dare come out publicly against the knife attacks. He calls on the intellectuals not to remain silent and not to fear; they should shout out against this contagious suicidal phenomenon and bring it to an end.
He calls on all Palestinian leaders “from the extreme right to the extreme left” to say enough is enough, seize the opportunity and channel the national anger toward mass protest against the occupation — “protest without death, protest that is all about life, revolution, hope and change.” The world, he writes, does not accept the knifing and car-ramming attacks on civilians, just as it opposed the “martyr operations” — suicide attacks.
He continues: “It is said: Did the nonviolent struggle bring an end to the occupation? And I will say: Has the armed and military struggle done this? Our cause is not local but international. The world has created the problem, and it is the one that will find the exit. But it will not do so if we keep silent [about the occupation], and it will not do so if we commit suicide. It will only do so if we preserve the human path of our national struggle.”
And we should add: The humanity and courage of those fighting for freedom stand out against the cowardice and lack of humanity of those who have stolen it.
Amira Hass is a Haaretz Correspondent.