An Israeli soldier throws a tear gas canister at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest near Ramallah Image Credit: AFP

Israeli leaders, like everyone else, may be preoccupied with combating the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t deterred them from looking in the interim for new ways to torment, humiliate and bully Palestinians.

Even in the midst of the brute chaos wrought by Covid-19, new ways are always somehow found by these leaders to insure that the infliction of pain on a people they have subjected to the rule of the gun for well over five days will continue to surge in full tide.

The intrusive reach of this occupation was illustrated last week when Israel, by the mere flick of a military decree, prohibited Palestinian banks from processing welfare checks that the Palestinian National Authority disperses to the thousands of families of political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails, as well as to those of the fallen patriots (known as shahids) who had died in the national struggle against the occupation.

It is a tradition in Palestinian culture — indeed in virtually all cultures around the world — that you don’t leave the dependents of political prisoners to starve while their breadwinner is behind bars


These figures, in addition to having been the sole breadwinners in their families, are valorised in Palestinian culture and acclaimed there as national heroes in song and verse. (Other stipends, known as incentive checks, are sent to recently released political prisoners aimed at aiding them in their efforts at social rehabilitation.)

Ban on Palestinian banks

As of last week, the occupation authorities banned Palestinian banks and other financial institutions from processing these handouts, ordering bankers to require recipients to close their accounts and threatened bank workers who refuse to comply with imprisonment.

Whichever way you dress it, this is the occupier using his language to speak to the occupied, equivalent to the language of the shotgun speaking to the head.

“The order prompted at least three banks to require recipients of the payments to close their accounts this past week”, reported the New York Times last Sunday. “Nasr Jabreel, 61, a former prisoner from the Jalazone refugee camp north of Ramallah, said he visited his bank on Wednesday to collect the monthly stipend, but the ATM instructed him to see the manager, who told him he had to close his account.

Mr. Jabreel, a father of six, said he had spent 10 years in Israeli custody for participating in clashes with soldiers. ‘I already paid a price’ he said, noting he received $715 every month. ‘Why is Israel always looking for another way to make us pay yet again?’ “

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Currently the PNA sends welfare checks to roughly 12,000 families each month, who depend on them for their survival. And — hold on to your incredulous hat — as many as 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by the Zionist occupying forces since 1967.

Palestinian tradition

It is a tradition in Palestinian culture — indeed in virtually all cultures around the world — that you don’t leave the dependents of political prisoners to starve while their breadwinner is behind bars; you don’t leave the families of fallen patriots to fend for themselves; and you don’t leave those prisoners recently released from the occupier’s jails without a helping hand to aid in their adjustjustment to normal life after many years behind bars.

As to why Israel is always looking to “make us pay yet again”, in the words of 61-year-old Nasr Jabreel, well, my dear Watson, the answer is obvious: Vindictiveness is in the DNA of every occupier’s mindset, particularly that of Israeli occupiers.

You reduce the humanity of your victims to such a fragment that they cease to be, in your eyes, human, a process that Frantz Fannon, the celebrated African-French psychologist and philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, called “les processus de chosification” — that is, turning your victim of subjugation into an object, literally a “thing”.

And thus your conscience is not troubled when you abuse a mere thing, in this case a lower species of man called an Arab.

You don’t have to be Palestinian to be angry at Zionist leaders and those who support them — angry at their gall, their brazenness, their arrogance, yes, but above all angry at the gratuitous suffering they seem to delight in inflicting on their victims.

Look, Arab governments — some at least — may have signed peace treaties with Israel, but the anger the Arab people feel is all too real, a type of anger that continues to gnaw at their national soul like a raw wound. And all the while, these Zionist leaders and their supporters not only wonder why, but are miffed at the fact.

Is it any wonder, given how heartless this motley crew of Zionists are, that Israel is today the most reviled entity in the Arab World, the Third World and, soon to be, the European World?

Let Israelis act like our neighbours, not our conquerors and you’ll be surprised at how many of us will readily forgive and forget — and yes, even embrace.

Ramadan instils sentiments like these in one, doesn’t it?

— Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.