By Amos Gvirtz

Amos Gvirtz is a nonviolent peace activist and a passionate proponent of justice for the Palestinians throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  He is one of the founders of ICAHD.  Amos Gvirtz lives in Kibbutz Shefayim near Tel Aviv and can be reached by email at amosg@shefayim.org.il

Missiles from Gaza, an attack in Jerusalem, and a murder in Itamar bring war back into Israelis’ awareness.  What happened that all of a sudden, after a period of calm, Palestinians are trying to injure Israelis again? Is it ‘Palestinian murderousness’, or is there call for more profound interpretation of the recent violent outbreak, like its precedents?

An enormous gap separates Israelis and Palestinians in the understanding of the term ‘war’. For most Israelis, war is a violent clash between two peoples. This is also how most representatives of foreign media understand war. But not the Palestinians.

For them, dispossession and land-grab are the belligerent acts of an occupying force against a defenseless civilian population. How does land-grab take place? A government official comes to a plot of land holding a dispossession order. If he finds the owner of the land, he hands him the order in person. If not, he places the order under a rock in the field destined for dispossession and leaves. Thus, in a quiet “passive” act, nearly invisible, many families lose the source of their livelihood. Much more visible are settler assaults against Palestinian farmers when these come to till their land. The settlers covet these lands and rob them. Usually the army secures the robbers to ensure their safety and the Palestinians are sent to the civil administration, where they are required to prove their claim to the land. No one arrests the assailants, they are not required to produce any owner documentation. Obviously they have their ownership is a Godly writ! Thus step by step farmers are distanced from their lands, and settlers take over. These are acts of war carried out by settlers with both passive and active assistance of the army against a defenseless civilian population. At present, over 50% of the West Bank is already in Israeli hands.

House demolition is highly visible and traumatic. Israeli security forces arrive, surround the house, forcefully take out its inhabitants, and destroy their home in front of their very eyes. A whole family thus remains homeless. Israelis see this as a bureaucratic act of enforcing the law on individuals who built their homes illegally.

They overlook the fact that the planning and construction committees are Israeli rather than Palestinian, and do no not issue building permits to Palestinians. For the Palestinians this in itself is a unilateral act of war by an occupying force against a defenseless civilian population.

Jewish settlements are erected upon land robbed from Palestinians. After the settlement is founded, a long process of expansion begins. In the “moderate” settlements, ground around the core settlement is taken over “for security needs”. The more “fanatic” settlements do this by chasing Palestinian farmers off their neighboring lands. For most Israelis such acts are in the tradition of Zionist pioneering. For Palestinians this is a unilateral act of war by the occupying force against a defenseless civilian population.

Expulsion of Palestinian refugees who were then settled in dwelling that had belonged to Jews in East Jerusalem prior to 1948, without letting Palestinians come back to their own previous homes in West Jerusalem – is another act of war by the occupying power against a defenseless civilian population. The expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands in various parts of the West Bank are acts of war by the occupying power against a defenseless civilian population.  The prevention of entry of spouses of local Palestinians is likewise an act of war by the occupying power against a defenseless civilian population. Impacting Gazans farmers tilling their lands near the border, targeting Gazan fishermen at sea are both acts of war by an army against defenseless civilians.

All the above actions listed above, and many others, have nothing to do with Israeli security. They are carried out on behalf of Israel’s ongoing expansion project. These acts are done contrary to military ethics and international law. They are racist acts that impact persons on the basis of their national and ethnic belonging, not their conduct. The Palestinians have no army to prevent the robbers of their land from issuing them dispossession orders, to prevent settlers from taking over their lands. They have no army to chase away those coming to destroy their homes. They have no army to prevent expulsions. They have no army to enable spouses from abroad to come and live with their families, and so on and so forth.

But suffice it for a small percentage of the children and youths traumatized by the actions of the IDF and the Jewish settlers, to decide to take revenge on us, citizens of Israel, for an army of terrorists to attempt to hurt us. Assaults against us are war crimes as well, impacting civilians. And after the Israeli army has sown sufficient motivation to hurt us, it then has to fulfill its ‘security’ role and quench the Palestinians’ resistance to their own dispossession.

The media, for the most part, understands the term ‘war’ the way Israelis do. Thus, in most cases it does not report on the daily war taking place in the Occupied Territories. Only when there are casualties or outstanding events does it cover them. And thus, following a period of ‘calm’ in Israeli terms, during which unilateral warfare is conducted in Palestinian terms, come the acts of revenge that clarify for Israelis that, in fact, war has not ceased for even a moment.