By Julie Holm
Whenever I get the opportunity to explain and show to people the injustice the Israeli occupation creates for the Palestinians I take it. In these situations one of the questions I get the most is “but how do the Israelis legitimize doing that?” And I have realized that there are three words that seem to legitimize every one of their inhuman actions, as if they had some magical power. It seems that as long as it is “for security reasons” the Israelis can do more or less whatever they want.
The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons are there in the name of security, even the 12-year olds who threw a rock at an armored army car. The bombings of Gaza, the killing of civilians are done because the Israelis feel unsafe. The eight-meter high, 750-kilometer long wall robbing the Palestinians of their land is build for the safety of the Israelis living on the other side. For security reasons Palestinian farmers can’t reach, cultivate and water their own land or go to the market to sell their produce.
In the summer some Palestinian villages only have access to water every two weeks and they are denied permits to build shelters for their sheep because that would apparently be a threat to the safety of the Israelis. In the name of security Palestinians have to wait in line at checkpoints every day, only to be harassed by soldiers. They are separated from their families, denied visits to their home towns and holy sites and many have never seen Jerusalem or the sea other than from a hilltop on a clear day. In east Jerusalem, houses are being demolished and families left homeless, legitimized by the security of the Israelis. Israeli settlers are allowed to burn mosques, uproot olive trees and expand their settlements on Palestinian soil.
An elaborate system of roads and buses has been established in the West Bank, unavailable to the Palestinians, so that settlers, whose presence here is illegal, can travel safely and quickly from one illegal settlement to another.
In other words, the magic word here is security. The security discourse inside Israel is so vast everyone grows up with the belief that the people on the other side of the wall are someone they should fear and protect themselves from. The mandatory military service creates an environment where everyone is part of the security discourse that is integrated into family life and education, through social interactions and culture. The number one Israeli radio station is the military station and only few Israeli reporters go to the West Bank, leaving the military to provide the media with information about what is going on here. The legitimization of the Israeli government and military that anything they do is for the safety of the Israeli people lies deep in Israeli society and is rarely questioned by its citizens.
It is not only Israel’s citizens, however, who are convinced of the legitimacy of the Israeli security discourse. Security is used to excuse many of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians in the international arena as well. And of course, in most circumstances a state is expected to protect its citizens. The problem is when this discourse is used to suppress someone else, when it is used as an excuse to steal land and resources and force Palestinians out of their homes.
In the end, security is hard to measure. It is about feeling safe, and as long as the security discourse is so dominating in Israel and Israeli citizens are made to believe that Israeli military actions against the Palestinians are necessary for their security it is easy to legitimize. But what about the Palestinians? Don’t they have a right to feel safe? Who is protecting them from extremist settlers and 18-year old soldiers who have grown up learning that the Palestinians are the enemy? If security was to be measured, it could be done in the number of Israeli soldiers, the number of checkpoints and roadblocks, the number of Palestinians not allowed to travel wherever they want and the number of settler roads and buses. But seeing as Israel is the occupier, which justifies any and all of its actions in the name of security, I personally feel safer among Palestinians.