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If you lived in Gaza, you would march on the fence

The suffering and indignities of life under Israeli occupation understandably foment a simmering rage
Palestinian workers wait to cross the checkpoint from the West Bank town of Ramallah to work in Israel on June 4, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Palestinian workers wait to cross the checkpoint from the West Bank town of Ramallah to work in Israel on June 4, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

It is true that the reality that Hamas – a fundamentalist terrorist organization – controls the Gaza strip has serious security implications for Israel. We can’t just treat Gaza as if it were Canada. Gaza is controlled by a criminal organization that has murdered countless Israeli civilians. But it is just as obvious that we cannot brutalize two million people for a decade in order to deal with Hamas. We all admit that even when facing real security threats, there are things that you cannot do: you cannot rape; you cannot enslave. I think that it is equally obvious that you cannot drive millions of people into subhuman conditions, without the freedom to leave and return, and without adequate water, electricity, medical care, food security, housing and a host of other things necessary for human life for a decade and with no end in sight. While Hamas and Egypt certainly share responsibility for the plight of Gazans, it is also a direct result of Israeli policy. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and read about that here: B’Tselem on Gaza.

In today’s Haaretz, Yotam Berger writes about a Palestinian couple living in Germany who requested permits to get married on the West Bank, where the groom is from and where his family lives. The bride is originally from Gaza but has lived in Germany for many years. Israel’s “Civil Administration” refused them permits as part of a policy of draconian limitations on families split between the West Bank and Gaza. It is particularly painful to hear the family plead with the sheer unreasonableness of Israeli policy by saying that the couple don’t want to live on the West Bank, just to have the wedding. In their sorrow, people are willing to explain themselves even in the distorted logic of their oppressors, who deem it reasonable to prevent normal relations between the members of families split between the two Palestinian territories.

Anybody who wants to know is already aware that Israel’s West Bank regime – including the “Civil Administration” – is a mechanism for systematic brutal discrimination against Palestinians. The West Bank regime is truly a paradigm for the concepts of tyranny and oppression as they appear, for example, in the  preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you’re not familiar with Israel’s West Bank regime, I suggest that you take a few minutes and learn about it here at Israel’s Association for Civil Rights or here at B’Tselem. When you become familiar with Israeli policy, you’ll realize that forbidding this couple’s wedding is really small change. In the face of home demolitions, massive dispossession of land, almost total lack of freedom of movement, ongoing violence…so what if one young Palestinian couple in Germany can’t have the wedding they dreamed about?

But at the same time, this minor news item, this insignificant detail in a vast mural of injustice, would boil your blood, if you were the bride or the groom, or if you were their parents. You would be furious. You would curse our whole discriminatory regime, in all its many facets…but the pain you felt in your chest, that would be about the wedding. And if you lived in Gaza, and if you had the guts, you would stand up and march on the fence.

About the Author
Shaiya Rothberg lives in Jerusalem and teaches Jewish Thought and Kabbalah at the Conservative Yeshiva. He's also a human rights activist focused on resisting the abuses of Israel's discriminatory West Bank regime. Shaiya holds a PhD from Hebrew University in Jewish Thought and a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and Talmud from Bar-Ilan. He made aliyah in 1988 and served as a soldier and officer in the I.D.F. from 1990-1993 in the military government of the Gaza strip. The opinions in his blog are his own and do not represent any institution.
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