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Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

The coming year – the worst is yet to come, unless

I imagine that the average Israeli sees very little of the content that I see every day in my Twitter (X) feed, from the Palestinian media, from Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organizations. Those who see that content are witnesses to horrendous acts of humiliation, violence, and Israeli state sponsored terrorism against Palestinians of all ages – men, women and children all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Every day ethnic cleansing is happening from the far north in the Jordan Valley to the south Hebron Hills. Arrests of tens of Palestinians, men, women, and children – boys and girls, occur every night in the wee hours of the morning.

Beatings, vandalism against property, homes, vehicles, cutting and burning of olive trees, and stealing of sheep and goats are a daily occurrence by settlers whose goal is to make life for Palestinians a living hell for those who live on land that the settlers covet.

Palestinian shepherds are violently harassed by settlers living mostly in outposts that are even considered illegal by Israeli law. Those so-called illegal or unauthorized outposts are connected to Israeli infrastructure, while many of the Palestinians living there for decades and sometimes hundreds of years have no infrastructure at all. These Palestinians, if they try to construct a home with a roof or add a room, or dig a water well, or even use water from an existing water well, the Israeli army will come with its massive bulldozers and destroy the source of livelihood of these human beings.

The violent settlers are protected by the Israeli army and Israeli Border Police on their rampages against people whose only crime is they are Palestinians living on their own land and want to be free. Sometimes brave Israelis are there to try to protect the Palestinians, but they too are the victims of violence and the military who see them as allies of their enemy.

The recent demands by the extremist, racist, anti-Arab so-called Minister of National Security to harshen the conditions of Palestinians in Israeli prisons is the next step towards the inevitable explosion that will very likely happen in the coming year.

More than one million Palestinians have been in Israeli prisons since 1967. There are tens of radio programs on all Palestinian radio stations in which Palestinians send messages to their loved ones in prison. It’s just like the program “The Voice of Mother” from the Israeli army radio station that was broadcast for years in Israel. There are no legal telephones for prisoners to use to speak to their families. Family visits are few and far apart. Most prisoners from Gaza are not allowed any family visits at all.

For almost all Palestinians, their loved ones in Israeli prisons are heroes of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. But more important than the struggle for liberation is the fact that the prisoners are sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and sometimes also daughters, sisters, aunts, and mothers. Every Israeli should be able to identify with the pain of missing a loved one who is so close yet so far and unreachable. The reality of prison life is well known to every Palestinian family and if the conditions of the prisoners is made much worse (it is already unbearable) the explosion across the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza will come from within the prisons.

There is a limit to the amount of suffering that any people is capable of bearing. I am not Palestinian, I am Israeli, I am Jewish, and I cannot bear to watch the daily videos that I see in my social media feed. I can envision myself in those situations as the victim. I have witnessed it with my own eyes during the many years that I have traveled across the West Bank and Gaza (before 2007).  I have traveled with Palestinian friends and colleagues and have seen it all through their eyes as well. I have stayed overnight in refugee camps with Palestinian friends. I have sat in Israeli military courts and have witnessed trials that have no resemblance to justice.

I have seen with my own eyes the demolished home of a close friend who was ordered to demolish his own home that he was building, while illegal settlers are encroaching on the land of his village where his family has lived for hundreds of years. These illegal settlers have closed off a road leading to land that my friend owns and farms. They cut the water pipeline to his small piece of land and now he has large barrels of water with a small pump to irrigate his land.

I have been to the Muqataa in Ramallah on the evenings when Palestinian prisoners were released and saw the joy and celebration of masses of Palestinians – families and friends. I have seen the human side of our neighbors. I have seen their pain and suffering and I have seen their joy and celebration.

When I listen to Minister Bezalel Smotrich without shame illuminate his vision and plans, it is clear that all of the humiliation, violence, and destruction along with the massive settlement expansion is all part of a well thought out strategy. When Smotrich declared in the Knesset that it is a pity that Ben Gurion did not finish the job, he was referring to the Nakba and the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestine. Smotrich, Ben Gvir and the other members of their political parties of hate have plans to finish the job. All they need is the next explosion, the next intifada, the next colossal and catastrophic round of violence to enable the Israeli army with support from the home front to force more Palestinians off of their land, and to systematically demolish their homes and villages.

Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit said this past week that democracy is destroyed in small steps, not one big blow. The Nakba which started in 1948 has been continuing since then in small steps. Those small steps have increased in speed and intensity. These small steps are leading to the annexation of all of the West Bank while pushing the Palestinian people off of their land.

The way to stop this is for the Israeli public to understand what is happening and what it means for the existence of Israel, for their own existence within their own state. The fight for Israel’s democracy is now in the Israeli Supreme Court and in the streets with massive protesters. The Israeli Supreme Court, with all due respect, is the body of governance in Israel which has granted license to the occupation, to settlement building, and to the continued unchecked violence and impunity of Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers. We are coming closer to the day when Israelis will have to face the reality that the nature of Israel being democratic or not is not on the “reasonableness law” now facing the Court’s decision, but on the reality of occupation and all of its consequences being played out on a daily basis by our own soldiers and police, our children, ourselves and in our name.

The above scenario does not have to happen. It can all be changed, and that is up to us – to each and every one of us who live on this land.

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.
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