We wait, daily, for the army spokesman’s update. He suggests to us, with just the right mix of eye contact, infallible integrity, male strength and a dash of emotion, an orderly progression: First we’ll root out Hamas while simultaneously freeing the hostages, then we’ll turn our sights to Lebanon, turning up the flame on the semi-war we are fighting there, and, at the same time, we’ll be mopping up pockets of terrorist activity in the West Bank.
The problem with this scenario, say strategists and commentators, is that the West Bank is a tinderbox waiting to explode in our faces, and it might not conveniently wait for the Gaza war to draw to a conclusion.
Out loud, they point to the rising support for Hamas there and inspiration, after the massacre of Oct. 7, to commit acts of terror. They hint that the Palestinian economy, on the point of collapse before the war, is now in shambles as workers cannot get into Israel to work. Plus, our treasury minister, Smotrich, has refused to turn over funds meant to pay salaries to PA employees. Screw keeping the peace on at least one front – he and his gang are willing to bring the whole edifice down on top of us, just to keep money out of the hands of Palestinians.
They fail to mention another factor: the active harassment of the Palestinian population in area C in the West Bank.
Take, for instance, the village of Masafer Yatta, in the South Hebron hills. Some residents fled their homes due to the increasingly violent attacks by Jewish settlers; others were forcibly evicted from their homes. Most people in the rural village were living below the poverty line before the war, some with no running water or electricity. Now, with the border closed and no work, they are desperate.
The situation within the Green line for Palestinian citizens of Israel is only marginally better. Women in Lod report harassment by right-wing “internal settlers” – Jews who live in a gated, guarded compound within a predominantly Arab neighborhood. These women are afraid to file complaints against their harassers. They are afraid to speak out; they are barred from demonstrating. They do not write about these things on their Facebook posts, for fear of investigation; they do not mourn the Gaza deaths of family members and friends too loudly, for fear of being arrested as Hamas sympathizers. They are afraid to speak to journalists, even ones who promise to use fictitious names and change details. Every Arabic-speaking citizen is under suspicion.
Many of these women also report losing their jobs. They were fired from service jobs, from care-taker positions. Fired because of their accents, because they speak to their husbands and children in Arabic. This sort of discrimination is now quasi-legal, and they are afraid to file wrongful termination suits, in the current situation. They keep their heads down, invite friends to dinner, where they talk about the situation in whispers. They cry alone, where no one can hear.
And when women and children are killed in Lod, even a pregnant woman stabbed to death in front of her small children, in the middle of the street in broad daylight, the death, these days, it is just another number in the body count.
In the Negev, Bedouin communities find they are targeted by Hamas rockets, their members taken hostage on Oct. 7 along with kibbutz members, foreign agricultural workers and residents of Sderot. They fought and died alongside other Israelis on Oct. 7 and they saved Jewish party-goers from death at the hands of the Hamas horde. And yet, they are suspect because they speak Arabic, they do not receive the same assistance as their Jewish counterparts and Bedouin families living in unrecognized communities have been prey to rocket attacks as the warning systems do not recognize them, either.
There are dry tinder boxes littering our area like empty soda cans after a sunny weekend. But the women – in area C, in Lod and Ramla, in Rahat and Houra – are not exploding. They are struggling to feed their families, to keep a brave face on things, to make it from day to day. It is also the women who know how to help one another, to form communities in which shared sorrow and hardship become easier to bear.
The women of the South Hebron hills are the subjects of a modest Gofundme campaign meant to help them attain the barest necessities: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rural-womens-association-of-south-hebron-hills?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=chat&utm_source=whatsApp
The unrecognized Bedouin villages have a site for donation (in Hebrew): https://keshet.org.il/shoulder-to-shoulder-campaign/ And, of course, one can always donate to Na’am Arab Women in the Center through the button their home page: https://www.awc-naam.com/