By Mats Svensson*
For a long time, the movement was slow. Small steps. Limited change, as if we had all the time in the world. The movement was clear to everyone affected, as well as the outside world, but the outside world kept its eyes closed.
The outside world consists, among others, of short term workers. Often diplomats. Sometimes working for a few months, a few years. Less often, for a bit longer. These are continuously replaced. Like an eternal marathon race, one race without a baton. I was one of these.
I took over structures, contacts, opinions. I was covered in layers of preconceptions, values that were anything from political to religious. Often driven by emotion, and commonly quite crazy. Without noticing when it happened, everyone else’s perceptions started to fill me, twirl within me. It led to frustration, and soon deep anger. There was no solution for my anger, I shared it with most others. It became clearer and clearer over time.
I walked in and out of meetings, gatherings, conversations. I remember how I first became disappointed and angry with the US, the powerful country that was financing all of the Israeli crimes. Then, I was angry with the EU, that never spoke cleartext. Soon I became disappointed at my own government, the one I was there to represent. I was often questioned for not being filled with anger against the Israeli government, or against 85% of the population who supported the Gaza bombings.
But to me it was clear. I couldn’t direct my anger against the thief, the one that was using dollar-financed weapons. Rather, it was against that which I myself represented, against me and all of us who let it happen. Us cowards, us escapees. We who hid in the silence, in the untold.
I hid and enclosed myself in my own protection. Behind locked doors, with curtains drawn down. Everything was so close, yet so far away. I couldn’t go outside, didn’t want to see the young women walking nonchalantly along Salah Eddin Street with automatic weapons dangling over their shoulders.
I started reading about murdered children, creating lists of destroyed hospitals, clinics, UN schools. Endless lists filled page by page. I turned each page over, hoping the next one would not fill up. I knew I had a few more years left and started getting scared of the long lists, of my own inaction. I couldn’t keep filling the pages. An emptiness filled me instead, I felt shame for my lack of engagement. Shame over my colleagues, over my organization and their indifference, over the silence.
I went to the beach, south of Tel Aviv. A bit more than an hour away. Enjoyed the wonderful tuna and a chilled glass of white wine. I saw a father playing with his daughter when I heard the sound of helicopters. They were passing right over me, armed, heading south, towards Gaza. The helicopters returned as I ordered my second glass, now the rockets were gone. I never heard them fall. The girl was still playing with her father.
The girl was building a sandcastle. The sun set over the Mediterranean. Once again, a few helicopters passed by with their death bringing load. The child was still playing.
This was a slow movement, and it continued. A shot fired outside the gates to the old town. A young woman fell, bled slowly, her breathing stopped. She died alone on her way home from school. Never made it. At home, the food was ready. Minutes passed. A mother started to worry. In the middle of the movement, I was still filling my pages.
Further away, in the outskirts of the town where Abraham was buried, a few young soldiers lifted their weapons against an old man who was trying to protect his olive trees, protect them from his new neighbors. Old, knuckled trees that the man had taken over from his father who had taken them over from his. He was protecting the trees with his body. The neighbors had just arrived from Russia. Neighbors who had recently bought automatic weapons. Now they had moved in, taken over and become thieves, criminals, soon maybe murderers. Already on the first day, the settlers, the neighbors, started to scream, threaten. The Russians were safe, supported by their Prime Minister, a criminal leader who was in turn supported by the man in the White House.
In the evening, I sat at the bar in the American Colony. The stone walls were heavy. Everything smelled of history. This was where people from Ås had moved, a few Swedish farmers who had followed their American leader. They moved here to be close, to be at the right place when Messiah arrived. Maybe I was sitting in the Swedes’ bedroom, or maybe in the communal kitchen. I envisioned how they, in the corner of the room, would celebrate communion.
I sat and conversed with a journalist from the BBC. We used to meet here. Last week, we were at the same crime scene. We saw the same house being demolished. We saw when the stolen, knuckled olive trees had been lifted onto the back of a truck. Stolen to be replanted in a settlement. We were looking at my photos. I talked about the man who had been taken away. Who would be put on trial for terrorism? The man who had tried to protect his olive trees, his family. The man who had stood in the thieves’ way, the thieves who had just arrived from Moscow.
I complained about the silence within my organization, about the silent diplomacy that had become our common language. A silent language that nobody heard or understood, a language that we shared with most other diplomats.
The journalist understood what silence I spoke of. “To us journalists, who work for BBC, it’s not about speaking or writing truth”. He said, “we cannot call a thief a thief, a criminal a criminal. We all know that the Israeli government consists of a number of individuals who should be put on trial and condemned, but we cannot write that. If I was to write about what’s really happening,” the journalist continues, “I would no longer have a job.”
I noticed how I was beginning to feel bad. Beginning to be filled with hopelessness, a feeling that scared me. I felt how I was surrounded by international liars, well-paid journalists, and diplomats, all well-educated and forced into silence.
I stopped listening to the BBC or reading the New York Times. I could tell that also DN had silenced. Or maybe they had always been this silent. I started seeing what was not being written, found the words that were not being said. I started to completely move over to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, to Israeli websites and the large websites like Counterpunch, Palestine Chronicle, Foreign Policy Journal, and the Middle East Monitor.
I found my way back to daily events. Found writers that still had the drive to write, who dared write about what was happening on the streets of Jerusalem. About murdered children at the Old Town gate, families conducting peaceful demonstrations along the borders of Gaza, and a child that was missing when families gathered in the evening.
Trump and his nephew entered the stage. The nephew who built his own credibility around the statement that he had read 25 books. The audience cheered. Behind Trump stood some happy settlers. I saw the joy in Trump’s eyes when one of the craziest plans in the world was presented. Oh yes, history has revealed a show of crazy plans: the Berlin conference 1884/85 when Africa was divided, or Hitler’s ‘Thousand Year Reich’.
The plan to create economic growth by moving millions of people from Africa to America is well up there in the list of mad plans. Not to mention the German extinction of ethnic groups in South West Africa. It hit me as a side note that the predators usually came from countries that had studied a lot of theology.
But still, listen to the latest of absolute madness. The only way to understand it is to see that this madness is enacted by the truly crazy. It must be the case that Trump and Netanyahu are enacting an advanced role play. A game created by someone who’s succeeding in reading 25 books. I haven’t seen the list of books he has read, but understand that he will never read any of my two books: “Apartheid is a Crime – Portraits of Israeli Occupation” or “Crimes, Victims and Witnesses – Apartheid in Palestine”.
I have been gifted with lots of patience. I don’t expect much anymore. But still, my patience is running out. Sweden recently recognized Palestine. But Palestine is soon gone. Palestine, the country that we recognized next to other countries such as France, Germany, the US, and Russia, will soon be swallowed alive. What did we recognize? Was it a country or just a dream, a vision? What did we want to achieve with this recognition? Today we hide behind the diplomatic silence. We don’t know how to act, or what to say. We don’t have any answers to the questions, we don’t even know what questions to ask.
Right now the thief is acting forcefully and quickly and fully in the open. The big theft. Plans for it are being presented, publicly in front of an open curtain. The plan is being implemented without negotiation. That’s what the autocrats always do. Behind locked doors, boundaries can be drawn. We know that from the 1920s in Moscow, the 1940’s in Europe or the 1980’s in Latin America. But when something is really, really crazy, there’s no one to negotiate with.
Madness and authoritarianism are being documented today by the big media houses. The cheers are endless. The world is invited to the great scenes in the White House. The movement is no longer slow. The steps are no longer small, a house here, or a dead girl there. No, everything needed to be done will be completed before the end of 2024. Beyond that, the 25-book-reader is no longer in power. The plan is clear. In four years, Palestine will be gone. A two-state solution will have been created, Gaza and Israel. And we, all of the rest of us, we who were observers, we let it happen.
* Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has been following the ongoing occupation of Palestine since 2003. He is the author of “Crimes, Victims and Witnesses – Apartheid in Palestine.” (Real African Publishers) and his latest “Apartheid is a Crime – Portraits of Israeli Occupation,” (Cunepress, 2020). Mats contributed this article to Palestinchronicle.com.