The other Nablus I know
By Amira Hass
[Ha'aretz - 25 Dec 2002]
The commander of the paratroopers' brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Aviv Kochavi, was interviewed at length the day before yesterday on Israel Radio, as the person in charge of Nablus (as he put it) after his soldiers captured the person that the IDF described as "the new Tanzim leader." Kochavi denied that, as perceived, for every military commander arrested or killed new ones are found, saying that the Palestinians "have difficulty growing new leaders ... The rate of growth has been stunted very significantly."
There has been no curfew in Nablus for two weeks. "The city is alive, active; there is trade. We allow merchandise to enter and we are allowing merchandise to leave.... We have established public transportation inside the city and from it in order to make life easier for the innocent..."
There is no hunger in the city.
H.S. is a father of four and was born in a refugee camp. He heard what Kochavi had to say and asked to respond to the Israeli talk of "alleviation" and "consideration for the innocent." "These are terms that perhaps convince a few Israelis, but not us," he says. "We - including those who like myself object to attacks on Israeli civilians - do not believe that the Israel Defense Forces are here to fight terror. They are here rather to force us to concede our dream of an independent state on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and to safeguard the settlements that flourish on our land. Secondly, we removed the curfew ourselves. At our decision, and despite our fears, our children and teachers began going back to school, even when there was a day curfew.
"Thirdly, from a factual point of view, the limitations on our movement in the city are unbearable. This is not `normal life'. The western part of the city is cut off from the eastern part. The main and side roads that join the two parts have had trenches dug through them, earth has been piled up to block the passage of cars and which makes it difficult even for pedestrians. On the Amman road, which has remained open, an iron gate was installed in order to control the movement of cars. Before they managed to lock it, hundreds of young people and volunteers from abroad managed to uproot and drag it aside. But an armored vehicle standing there most of the time hinders or prevents the passage of cars. An entire neighborhood in the western part of the city has been cut off. The residents may not leave on foot or by car. They risk their lives to steal into the center of the city because tanks and personnel carriers are everywhere all the time.
"At the mobile checkpoints in the city and at the permanent checkpoints around it, soldiers continue to hold up and prevent the passage of pedestrians, cars with merchandise, ambulances and buses for hours. I personally know of ten cases last week of long, humiliating and arbitrary delays. My wife returned soaking wet from the Hawara checkpoint, unable to reach her school in the village. Soldiers held her and her colleagues up in the pouring rain for hours until she gave up and came home. Almost every day, a group of jeeps and armored personnel carriers enters the center of town at exactly the time when the children are returning from school. Why does it have to be just then? Then, there is always someone who throws a rock and the soldiers respond by shooting. Last week in two days, 26 youths and children were injured, some of them seriously.
"East and west of the city, deep, broad trenches have been dug, which cut us off from neighboring villages. Instead of sending us all to Ketziot prison, we are imprisoned here. When Kochavi says, `We are allowing merchandise to enter and exit,' he's not doing us a favor. He is doing himself, the army, a favor. After all, some merchants managed to bring in food even when there was a full curfew. Instead of them having to feed us, as they are required in a prison, they leave that job to us and to the humanitarian organizations and then brag about their generosity. If he thinks of hunger like in Africa, then he's right, there isn't that kind of starvation here. But I know people who send their children to bed crying from hunger every night. Israel has no reason to be proud of the fact that those who have been living under its occupation for 35 years are not as hungry as people are in Africa.
"It is an Israeli illusion, that the `alleviation' on the one hand and the military pressure on the other leads to moderation among the Palestinians. I have discovered a new phenomenon. When armored vehicles enter the city, not only children throw stones at them. Even people in their late twenties participate. Last week, I was stunned to see three young armed men, with their faces uncovered, shooting at a tank and armored personnel carrier in the light of day. Under the surface, there are a lot of young people who are ready at any time to join the armed groups. They will acquire experience, a few of them will be arrested, others will be killed and there will always be others to take their place. The support for attacks has not gone down. People simply aren't talking about it. People are afraid to speak openly. Like in the early 1980s, there is a feeling that everywhere you go there are collaborators, so you have to watch what you say."