A talk with my jailer – Preface

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series A talk with my jailer


The narrative line of this short story was inspired by a real encounter which took place between a kidnapped Palestinian and a Israeli soldier.

The day I went to greet M. back home after his release, he told me about a weird encounter he had experienced during his arrest. When I first heard the story, I was baffled. While he was awaiting to be interrogated, a soldier in civilian clothes approached him and asked explanations about the occupation. Once the initial distrust overcome, M. engaged in a political discourse which tackled different aspects of the Israeli occupation. I found it a paradox that such discourse had to happen in a detention structure. Although the soldier presented himself in civil clothes, probably searching for a common ground, M. was under arrest in a military area with his hand cuffed. Therefore the oppressive colonial-militaristic based hierarchy was preserved
not allowing a real human exchange
. Nevertheless I found the episode of a certain significance as on one side it highlights the ignorance and lies which reign in the military environment, on the other side the will of an individual to search beyond the lies he is told.

My aim in this short story is to touch sensitive issues related to the ongoing Israeli occupation by following a narrative line in which also personal thoughts and considerations, developed during my five months stay in Palestine, appear. As I was shaping the dialogue I tried to remind myself what my objectives were in order to guide the narration towards that direction.

Firstly, I tried to highlight the fact that what the Palestinians have to endure isn’t a conflict as it’s often referred to, but blatant colonialism carried out by a racist-based zionist regime. The Israeli State is advancing ethnic cleansing and genocide against the indigenous Palestinian population by confiscating their land, stealing their resources, demolishing their houses, killing civilians and covering these criminal acts by fostering its people’s fears and brainwashing them playing the security card.

Nabi Saleh

Secondly, I tried to give space to the nonviolent popular struggle focusing in particular on Nabi Saleh’s case that’s becoming a leading example within the movement. The importance in tracing the historical events that brought the village to embrace the nonviolent popular struggle is fundamental also to clarify a widespread misunderstanding about Nabi Saleh’s struggle. Often, also on news channels, it’s reported that Nabi Saleh’s struggle is against the Apartheid Wall. A serious mistake that stresses the lack of research and knowledge of the context. Nabi Saleh’s struggle is in particular against the expansion of the Halamish settlement; and in general against the occupation in all its elements. However, Nabi Saleh goes even further, elaborating a glocal analysis of the occupation. The local analysis of the context is integrated with a more global perspective resulting in the awareness that it’s the capitalistic system which fosters the protraction of the colonialism and the supremacy of the colonial system. Finally, the soldier’s voice personifies the usual contradictor proposed by the Israeli society or by the white privileged classes which tend to repeat old colonial approaches. I’ve been quite faithful in reporting the content of the dialogue told to me by M. I believe it’s important to give him voice considering his active role in the Palestinian popular struggle. However, inevitably, the answers given to the soldier’s questions have been also contaminated by my own understanding and vision of the occupation.

It must be said that, after the first draft, I was very doubtful about publishing the story. I was worried I could send out a distorted message to the readers. In particular, I didn’t want to spread the idea that usually the IDF soldiers are so softhearted. On the contrary, their passive acceptance in taking orders without questioning the hierarchy and the system they’re serving makes them partners in crime of the ongoing occupation. Ignorance, servility, brainwashing, camaraderie and a strong gender-based hierarchy where brutal strength is recognized
as an added value are some of the elements that annihilate the soldiers’ humanity. Growing up in Israel’s
militarized society means developing a distorted vision of peace and violence. The latter insinuated so much in daily life that it underwent to a normalization process. This partially explains the excessive brutality used by the IDF in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Nevertheless, there are Israeli citizens that have been able to reject this violent logic choosing to follow their conscious by refusing to serve the army. The refuseniks right now represent a minority, but can potentially be a changing force within the Israeli society. The major challenge they will have to face, in my opinion, is the ability to give themselves a more organized and united structure in order to actually influence the policy makers.

I overcome my doubts by deciding to add two short chapters that could give a broader perspective on the issue. In the first chapter I focus on the Refuseniks contextualizing them in the militaristic Israeli society and tracing a brief history of the Israeli peace movement. I believe it’s fundamental to give credit to the stands that these young Israelis have taken as they do represent a strong alternative and an example for other Israelis. In particular the last generations of Shministim have developed a more universal view of struggle for liberation claiming their position against any kind of oppression and asking for a more inclusive society based on equal rights and justice. Many of these refuseniks joined the Palestinian popular struggle against the zionist occupation by participating to the weekly demonstration in resistant villages such as: Nabi Saleh, Bi’ilin, Ni’ilin and so on.

The second chapter, instead, focuses more on the specific context of Nabi Saleh. It’s hard to summarize 65 years of sufferings, abuses and injustices, but I’ll try to trace its history and give some data and inputs on the ongoing human rights violations that the residents must daily endure. Finally, what I’d like to stress about Nabi Saleh is that their resistance doesn’t start in 2009 with the confiscation of the water spring, as many may think. Their political involvement can be dated back to the British mandate and has continued constantly assuming different forms according to the historical periods and on the needs. They have a glorious past of resistance which is seen as a heritage from which take inspiration. Their recent change of strategy towards a nonviolent popular struggle, in fact, takes impulse from the first intifada which had the force to include every aspect of the Palestinian society regardless the affiliations, the gender or the social class.

This grassroot movement which seeks a national impact, in my opinion, is a valid alternative to the so-called negotiations and corrupted governmental policies. It will be interesting to observe in the next months how Hamas and Al-Fatah, following the reconciliation, will decide to relate with the movement.

This short story was written during my 5 months stay in Palestine as SCI volunteer/activist in 2014.

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