I suspect the word “occupation” – even the more precise “belligerent occupation” – fails to convey to most people the reality of daily horrors inflicted on the Palestinians. Of course, we know that occupations in general are bad and that it would be better if this particular one ended. But what does an occupation feel like if you’re a child, if you’re four or eight years old?
Here are two videos, released by B’Tselem, to remind us of what an occupation is like as lived experience rather than as an abstract concept. They document masked, armed soldiers breaking into the homes of Palestinians in Hebron in the middle of the night to force children awake, and then photograph and interrogate them. The soldiers go door to door, from one apartment to the the next, as casually as if they were coming to read the electricity meter. For the soldiers, this is just one of dozens of “jobs” they have that night terrifying families.
Behind the immediate terror of being confronted by these faceless soldiers, the children know from friends or family that there is a real danger they will be seized – maybe tonight or another night – if the military decide they are wanted. They will be taken from their parents without warning to a military prison, where they may be held for months and their family will probably be unable to visit them.
What damage does this do to the children – and what dread do the parents have to live with?
Give a thought too, even if a very secondary one, to these soldiers. What normal human instincts of compassion have to be battered into submission, what ugly instincts of tribal superiority have to be cultivated, for someone to behave the ways these soldiers – and many thousands more like them – do?