has recently begun to weigh heavily on me the realization
that in almost all my acts regarding the occupation
of the Palestinian Territories I collaborate with
the powers to be. Of course my collaboration is
wholly involuntary. But it nonetheless is. Almost
all of our humanitarian and political intentions
and acts depend on abiding by the rules, which is
another way to say that we kow-tow to the IOF. This
applies alike to situations that are planned in
advance (e.g., the intention to help with the olive
harvest in the OPTs) and to emergency situations
(e.g., as when Palestinians stuck at a check point
request help to get them through).
have no option but to request help from the IOF,
and by requesting we unwillingly cooperate with
its and the governments rules of the game.
We thereby involuntarily assist the government and
the military to perform the occupation and to perpetuate
it, and in this sense I very much realize that--like
it or not--I collaborate.
a catch 22 situation. If we dont play by IOF
rules we are prevented by the IOF from helping the
Palestinians survive, of expressing solidarity with
them. Of course there are also means of civil disobedience,
and the possibilities of appealing to the high court.
These acts are not collaboration. But the ways in
which we activists daily involuntarily collaborate
are many, too many.
do I collaborate?
me count the ways.
The Olive harvest
I harvest olives for a family that has received
insufficient permits to allow them to harvest their
trees by themselves, I, by making up for those who
were not given permits, collaborate with the military
and perpetuate Israels occupation of the Palestinian
I agree to to harvesting olives in certain areas
only, because of military restrictions on where
the Palestinians may harvest, I collaborate with
the military and help perpetuate the occupation.
I agree to harvest olives on the days that the military
has designated for a given village, I collaborate
with the military and perpetuate the occupation.
I phone the so-called Civil Administration to request
help to release someone being held hours at a checkpoint,
or when I phone them to request finding and releasing
a 12 year-old Palestinian boy whom soldiers have
detained, or when I phone to request letting an
ambulance through post haste, I collaborate with
the military and perpetuate the occupation.
I request the Civil Administration to issue a permit
for a desperately ill person to go to an Israeli
hospital for care that she/he cannot receive in
the OPTs, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate
I request a permit to a hospital in east Jerusalem
for a father whose 2 year-old daughter is to undergo
kidney surgery, and am denied because the Central
Security Service has declared the father barred,
and then, even after various attempts to get the
permit, nevertheless fail to produce it, I collaborate
with the military and perpetuate the occupation
by letting it keep him from his childs hospital
I phone the Civil Administration at 1:00 AM to report
that the army has entered a village, ordered all
the inhabitants (old, young, ill, well) out of their
homes in the pouring rain, and is throwing their
belongings outside into the rain, and after reporting
this am told by the womans voice at the other
end of the phone, What do you want? This is
normal and I quietly declare rather than yell
at her, that its not in the least normal,
I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the
after an hour of arguing with soldiers barring my
way into a Palestinian village, I give up trying
to get to my destination, and return home instead,
I collaborate with the army and perpetuate the occupation.
Road blocks and check points
I accept the reality of road blocks and check points,
I collaborate with the army and perpetuate the occupation.
The Apartheid Wall
I go to a Palestinian village to protest the theft
of land, the uprooting of dunams of trees, the destruction
of land for the sake of building a wall that will
not only rob the villagers of their trees and land
but will also enclose them in a ghetto, and then
run from the bulldozers and soldiers when they begin
shooting tear gas at us, and at the end of the day
go home, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate
the occupation, because construction of the wall
many of you commented on I, a Collaborator
that in contrast to my usual policy of responding
to each person individually, I here write to all
of you. I apologize. But this is the olive harvest
season, and between being out once or twice a week
harvesting olives and on other days of the week
trying to help a young Palestinian woman who has
cancer (getting her medications, delivering them,
and taking her to the hospital in Israel for tests
and treatments), Ive hardly been at the computer
at all the past couple of weeks.
guess age is catching up with me. On days that Im
out harvesting or engaged in other activities, Im
too tired when I return home to write anything reasonable.
But I was very touched by the fact that you expended
the efforts to reply to my confession
there were no gray responses. You were either very
pleased with me or very upset with me.
me state, then, for those of you who did not approve
my confession, that although it is depressing
to face the truth, this does not imply that I hang
my head in shame all the time. One does what one
can as best as one can. And there is, of course,
also the other side of the coin, i.e. if activists
were not there--be it in harvesting olives or demonstrating
against the wall or helping Palestinians get to
hospitals, or helping them try to get through a
check point, or whatever else we manage sometimes
to accomplish, it would be much worse for the Palestinians.
things have to be put into perspective. Activism
against the occupation not only depends on collaborating
with the powers that be, but also touches only immediate
needs or situations. None of our doing-good
deeds accomplish the all-important job: that
of ridding the Palestinians of the occupation.
is not to say that our activities nevertheless are
valueless. They havent as much value as we
would like, but they are not entirely done in vain.
They do not stop the occupation, but activism (be
it Israeli or internationals or in conjunction with
Palestinians) make it more difficult for the government
and IOF to carry out some of their plans. We cannot
stop the tanks, bulldozers, snipers from invading
Jenin or Nablus or other Palestinian city or village.
We cannot physically stop the exterminations.
We cannot stop the occupation. The best we can do
about these is to inform you. But our demonstrations
against the wall do slow down the Israeli governments
process of stealing more Palestinian land, other
of our acts prevent settlers of evicting Palestinians
from their land, and we manage some times to help
prevent settler violence against Palestinians.
things do not amount to much in the over-all scope
of things. But they amount to a lot for the individual
Palestinian who needs our help to survive. And that,
too, is something.
yesterday, for instance, in which under the aegis
of Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights),
some 40-45 of us divided up to harvest olives in
4 villages which to one degree or another are under
the threat of settler violence.
and I were with the group that went to the village
of Einabus. On October 27 this year settlers killed
an 18 year old youth from a neighboring village.
Much of Einabus olive trees are on the hills under
that settlement. Due to that incident and past ones
that the village has suffered*, villagers are afraid
to go alone up the hills to their trees. Had the
IOF not agreed to guard the harvesting that day,
it also would not have allowed us in. And had we
not been there (another group of Israelis was there
today), the trees on the upper slopes of the hills
would have remained unharvested. As it is the crop
is sadly thin, and the trees in poor condition due
to the IOF preventing the villagers from tending
their trees during the year. In other words, we
had to collaborate with the IOF to help the villagers
harvest their crops. And have to convince the IOF
to allow the villagers to tend their trees throughout
the year. The joint appeal of the RHR, three villages,
and ACRI to the Supreme Court to demand the IOF
to allow this will hopefully bear fruit.
take another case, that of a 30 year old Palestinian
woman with advanced cancer. Last January I was asked
to organize transportation to drive her 5 days a
week for 6 weeks from her village to a hospital
in Tel Aviv to receive radiation therapy (there
is none in the West Bank). Prior to contacting me,
someone had seen to it that the army issue the patient
(W) a permit to enter Israel for the entire period.
All that I had to do was find drivers. The response
was heart-warming. About 25 people volunteered,
replying to my email request almost immediately.
mission was carried out with almost no hitches,
despite the fact that her village is about 1 hour
away from the homes of most of the people who chauffeured
her, and another hour from her village to the hospital.
Driving her back and forth plus the time it took
for the treatment meant for those who took the round-trip
meant spending over ½ a day (some of the
drivers split it, driving her one way).
that time I've been in close touch with the family.
About 3 months ago, they informed me that W was
suffering unbearably from pain, and asked if I could
help her. The medication that she was getting didn't
seem to relieve her pain, and they wanted at the
least a second opinion from an Israeli doctor to
that of her doctor in Nablus.
Partly because of closures during which Palestinians
are not allowed into Israel even when they have
permits, and partially because of bureaucracy, it
took quite a bit of time before I was able to get
her into Israel to see a doctor. By the time this
occurred, spouse and I were headed abroad for 3
weeks. Once again my appeal for volunteers bore
fruit, and one such took W to the doctor while we
were away. Another volunteer went with them to translate.
Israeli doctor prescribe tests for her, including
a bone scan (also not available in the PA). To have
these tests in Israel requires a financial guarantee
from the Palestinian authority (unless one can afford
to pay, which W cant). But bureaucracy in
the PA is not less than in Israel, so although the
family applied to the PA, and it seemed to ok the
financial guarantee, it took a couple more weeks
till the process was completed.
returned from abroad just about the time that the
financial guarantee came through, and began to try
to schedule appointments for the tests. But here,
too, I was foiled. The financial guarantee arrived
just as the Jewish holidays were to begin. They
last a month, from Rosh Hashanah through Succoth.
During the entire period Palestinians were not allowed
into Israel--not for any reason, not even if they
were dying. Cancer, unfortunately, does not wait
for holidays. But that is not the concern of the
army and security people, not, at least, when the
cancer patient is a Palestinian.
the first day after the holidays (the first day
that Palestinians with permits could again come
into Israel), I began working on the appointment.
Normally this involved nothing more on my part than
requesting the Physicians for Human Rights to set
up the appointment. But for some reason (apparently
due to financial considerations) Ichilov, the hospital
that the PA had selected for her, had a week earlier
cut its connection to the PHR, and declared that
appointments for Palestinians had to be made through
the so-called Civil Administration (the so-called
humanitarian branch of the military, in charge,
among other things, of giving permits to enter Israel
to Palestinians requiring treatment in Israeli Hospitals).
make a very long story short, partially because
this was a new state of affairs, and partially because
I did not yet know the ropes, it took 4.5 long hours
of phone calls to get an appointment . The CA said
yes to a permit, on the proviso she had an appointment,
but refused to make one. The hospital department
responsible for appointments insisted that the appointment
had to be made via the CA .
finally the appointment for a bone scan was in hand,
or, rather, on paper! The bone scan was scheduled
for the morrow at 8:30 AM. I requested the hospital
to phone the CA and relate that it had given the
appointment, so that the CA would issue W a permit,
but the voice on the other side indignantly refused,
insisting that the CA call them. Fortunately, at
the CA the woman in charge of issuing medical permits
agreed, though not very pleased to do so. She (D)
informed me, almost by-the-way, that W was on the
barred persons list, i.e., persons prohibited
from entering Israel because they present a security
couldnt believe my ears. I thought it was
some sort of bad joke. The woman is dying,
I said. D barked back, I dont decide
who is and who is not barred; thats the business
of the security people, but grudgingly agreed
to issue a one-time permit, which would be ready
at the DCO (District Coordination Officer), that
afternoon. Finally, with some relief, I informed
Ws family, that wed succeeded.
evening, just as I was on my way out to a meeting,
Ws brothers agitated voice informed
me on the phone that the DCO had given a permit
for Wednesday, the day after the morrow. But the
appointment was for Tuesday. Back again to the phone.
The DCO who had issued the permit on the orders
of the CA was adamant, the permit was for Wednesday
and could not be changed. Change the appointment,
he said. That of course was impossible, it being
7:00 PM and the appointment being the next morning
at 8:30 AM. He tried again: Shes on
the barred persons list, she shouldnt
be allowed in. But, I countered,
she is almost dying! and besides D okayed
her. This went back and forth for ½
an hour, by which time he got tired of trying to
make me change the appointment, and finally, after
phoning D at the CA, agreed to issue a new permit.
pick it up required someone from Ws family to go
to the DCO. This in itself is not a simple matter
for Palestinians, who in many areas are not allowed
to travel after dark. Fortunately, one of Ws
brothers lives in a village not too far from the
DCO (at Qedumim) and was able to go to get the permit.
appointment since then has been a hassle with D.
Each time she informs me that W is barred. It has
become some sort of game. D knows that the power
of life and death is in her hands: she can issue
the permit or not. I therefore practice restraint
in speaking to her. Ive tried asking members
of the Knesseth to help convince her to be more
reasonable, but that has not worked either.
far, the permit has always been issued, but not
necessarily when it is convenient. The last time,
after a day of phoning to find out when it would
be ready, I was told to call the next morning (the
day of the appointment). At 7:00 AM the next day,
D told me that she might get the ok by 8:00. At
8:00 she phoned me that someone from the family
should pick it up at 8:00 (Im not joking!).
Ws brother did, but because there was no time
for him to bring it (he has no car) to Ws
village, I did the extra miles with W in the car
to get it from him. As you might guess, on that
day the soldiers at the checkpoint waived me through
without noticing W at all. But one cant count
on that happening. The permit is a necessity. If
caught, no permit, no entry. Not for a Palestinian,
so, I am forced to collaborate with D so as to help
W. In other words, I am forced to collaborate with
the Israeli military. I have no choice. W needs
me and the other volunteers that help ferry her
back and forth. Can we refuse to help her? I personally
have become very attached to her and to her family.
many hundreds of Palestinian Ws are there that no
one knows about, and who therefore have no Israeli
to cut the red tape, get the permit, and get them
to medical care in Israel when necessary?
so, dear friends, so long as the Occupation continues,
we have no choice but to collaborate with the IOF
so as to help the occupied. They are the human other
side of the coin that make our endeavors worthwhile
collaboration is truly disgusting. But I do not
despair. The occupation will some day end.
Here are a few links to articles on settler violence
and harassment against Einabus:
Bank grove of olive trees cut
Harvest in West Bank's Olive Groves
settlers go on rampage in Palestinian villages amid
Violence and Occupation Watch: Report XXV
Olive Harvest Reports: International Volunteers
Beaten By Israeli Settlers