By Jeff Halper
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Extra info for An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel
After trying to coax me to get out of the way, the soldiers brusquely (but not too roughly) pushed me down the hill, where I found myself lying in the dirt and dust next to Salim. As we lay together on the ground, guarded by soldiers whose guns pointed at us menacingly, watching helplessly as the bulldozer proceeded to systematically demolish his home, I watched Salim’s face contort in pain and disbelief. “But I didn’t do anything wrong,” he kept saying. “I’m not a criminal. I’m not a terrorist.
Israel has never destroyed the homes of Israeli Jews who committed serious attacks, such as the murder of Prime Minister Rabin, or bomb attacks against Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. These punitive forced evictions and house demolitions are a flagrant form of collective punishment and violate a fundamental principle of international law, which stipulates that collective punishment is never permissible under any circumstances. At times it seemed the easiest, most direct, most painful way to simply “get” the Palestinians.
A rabbi was imported and the mind-numbing tediousness of those three grueling days of standing and sitting to recite in unison meaningless prayers in English and Hebrew was made tolerable only by the constant undertone, like low background noise, of the menfolk sharing their fishing news to the consternation of the rabbi and the women. Lacking any relation to a belief in God and pursuing effortlessly a quintessentially “American” lifestyle, yet proud of its heritage which melded well into Hibbing’s mix of ethnicity and small-town America, the Judaism I grew up with was defined by its ethics.