Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Israel's Stench

When I think I have heard it all, then I read about Israel’s national stench policy. I am referring to Israel’s use since 2008 of “skunk juice” as a weapon to keep Palestinians under control.
Victims have no idea of its chemical make-up but if they are sprayed with it, it takes days of scrubbing to get rid of the stench. In a land where water is scarce, smelling like the sewer is a disheartening experience.

According to Ben Ehrenreich, Skunk trucks could show up at any time, especially during celebrations, such as weddings, birthday parties, funerals or times of worship. Someone yells “skunk,” and everyone runs.

There was that truck, the white one idling behind the jeeps, a clear liquid dripping from the cannon on its roof. The liquid it so violently emitted was called skunk water. No one knew what chemicals it contained or what effect exposure to it might bring, but everyone knew what it smelled like. It smelled like dead dogs in a dumpster in August. Mainly, it smelled like shit. And no matter how many times you scrubbed your hair and your clothes, the scent would linger for days, even weeks.[1]

Run home, lock your doors. You still can’t hide from it. Skunk trucks drive down neighborhoods and business districts spraying its putrid smell on everything within a hundred yards. Its odor may linger in clothing for five years.[2]

Skunk is powerful stuff. A reporter described its effect:

Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face. Your gag reflex goes off the chart and you can’t escape, because the nauseating stench persist for days.[3]

Palestinians living under Israeli occupation do not have to imagine. They know:

The truck blasted Mohammad’s house next, the jet of fluid smashed the first-floor windows and knocked him from his feet. He had just come home, triumphant from his close escape. Shattered glass cut his face and chest. Skunk water saturated the carpets and couches.[4]

Forty percent of Palestinian males have spent time in Israeli jails. Said Tamimi was one of them. After serving twenty years, he came home to find his house saturated with skunk juice. Once this happens, carpets, upholstery and clothes never get rid of the stench and wind up being thrown away. Even at that, he was lucky. Others have been hospitalized, either from the effects of the skunk itself or having been injured in the stampede running away from it.

Israel needs a new flag, one to represent Israel today. It would be brown. The Star of David, the symbol of a proud and praiseworthy Jewish heritage is far, far above skunk juice.

Thomas Are
September 20, 2016

[1] Read Ben Enrenreich, The Way to the Spring, (Penguin Press, New York, 2016) p. 30. Even better; Google: Israeli Skunk Trucks and watch any of the numerous videos of Israel in action.
[2] Wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk_(weapon)
[3] Wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk_(weapon) Skunk has been condemned by Physicians for Human Rights, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, B’Selem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel..  
[4] Ben Enrenreich, The Way to the Spring, (Penguin Press, New York, 2016) p. 76.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Better Imagined

Israel wants more; more money and more protection from international criticism.

American journalist, Ben Ehrenreich, after traveling three years around the West Bank, writes that when the last “peace accords” broke down, the only people surprised were the Americans. Israel had entered into its discussions determined that nothing would come of it, and the Palestinians had been jerked around too many times to even hope.

He writes that all Israel wants is more:

What Israel experienced as relative calm, Palestinians lived out as a slow and steady exercise in annexation; more settlements, more prisoners, more evictions and home demolitions, more land lost to the path of the wall. The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank had more than tripled since the first Oslo agreements was signed in 1993. Assaults on Palestinians by soldiers at check-points, or by settlers anywhere else, were so common that they rarely made the news.[1]

It adds up to four decades of humiliation, loss of freedom and natural resources, (water,) watching helplessly as your children are arrested, put in prison and tortured, being tried in Israeli military courts and convicted be “secret evidence,” which they nor their lawyer are allowed to see. The last year such records were kept, 99.74 percent of Palestinians tried in the military court system were convicted.[2]  The humiliation goes on and on.   When Israel is involved, there is always more.

At the same time Israel pleads for less. Less exposure. On April 1st,  this year, Israel even called off its infamous, erotic laced, birthright trips.  In an interview with Mondoweiss Birthright CEO Gidi Mark explained:

--- Given the rightward, and frankly racist, turn in Israel we could no longer conduct a trip that would present the country in the most flattering light. We determined that in order to build support for Israel, young people are best off leaving it to their imagination.
--- Time and time again we found participants were turned off by actually seeing the country.
--- As I watched the U.S. presidential debates, I kept thinking, “why can’t we show people the Israel these politicians seem to see?”
--- We finally figured it out, the best way to build support for Israel is to have as little contact with Israel as possible.

So, birthright trips now are to a camp in the U.S. where kids watch the movie Exodus.[3]

The less known about the real Israel… well, again, Israel seems far better imagined than realized.

Thomas Are
September 12, 2016

[1]  Ben Ehrenreich, The Way to the Spring, (Penguin Press, New York, 2016) p.8.
[2] Ben Ehrenreich, The Way to the Spring, (Penguin Press, New York, 2016) p.20.
[3] Mondoweiss.net 2016/04,  Birthright Ends Trips to Israel – “American Jews are better off Imagining Israel than Seeing It.” 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

She was Pregnant

She was pregnant, for crying out loud.

I have never, in forty three years of ministry, known the mother of an unborn baby to put that baby in jeopardy for any reason, much less to make a political statement. Yet, Israeli soldiers shot to death Sara Haddoush Trayra from the town of Bani Neim near Hebron claiming that they were under attack. The crime she committed which brought about her execution was that she approached the mosque. She wanted to pray. She was 27 years old. 

Eyewitnesses said a female soldier ordered the woman to accompany her to a room in order to search her, and that the soldier sprayed the woman with pepper spray, an issue that pushed her to run away from the soldier before other soldiers shot and killed her. They added that the army had no cause or justification to shoot the young pregnant woman, and could have easily subdued her, without resorting to lethal fire.[1]

It is amazing how little it takes to threaten Israel’s security.  Yet, to make matters worse, the soldiers who shot her prevented Palestinian medics from helping her. Her baby died as she lay there bleeding to death.

I am lost for words. When fully armed soldiers have to shoot a pregnant woman who was running away from being pepper sprayed to protect her unborn child – if this is what it takes to “keep Israel secure,” - then Israel needs to find soldiers a little less trigger happy and a little more compassionate.

That is not an impossible task. I have met Israeli soldiers, who risk being ostracized and even put in jail for treating Palestinians with fairness. Hundreds, including officers, have declared themselves “refusenics,” meaning that they refuse to fight beyond the 1967 borders to dominate, starve and humiliate an occupied people.

There is a chance that Israel might become legitimate among the family of nations and even respected, but killing a pregnant woman seeking to pray for the well-being of her child is one post in a long fence that needs mending.    

Thomas Are
September 1, 2016

[1] IMEMC News, Israeli Soldiers Kill a Pregnant Woman in Hebron, July 1, 2016