There have been some ugly photos out of the Occupied Territories in the last couple of weeks. Even more so than usual, I mean. Probably the one that has bothered me most is this one, from Hebron, showing a settler boy refusing to let a Palestinian lady pass him on the street, while Israeli soldiers and policemen look on.
(IPC Palestine, 7 May 2006).
You see some terrible images from Israel and the Occupied Territories, but somehow this one has bothered me in a way that even children shot through the head or rescuers scouring bus stations for bits of stray flesh haven’t. It is something to do with the sheer arrogance of a child who is brought up to think there is an entire sub-group of humanity that it is perfectly normal to humiliate on the street, and worst of all that he is being confirmed in his superiority by the fact that the responsible adults around him stand around and watch. The armed representatives of his government and his people tell him by their action – or lack of it – that yes, this is how an Israeli treats a Palestinian.
Most of us who were brought up on stories of Israelis as good guys and Zionism as a noble, pioneering, victimless project, probably understand now that a lot of what we were fed then was a myth. But even after you have understood that, it can still be very unsettling when you see the representatives of official Israel looking on indifferently as a settler mocks and humiliates a Palestinian passerby like this. The uncomfortable thought sneaks into your mind that only a couple of generations ago this kind of casual hatred would have been handed out to Jewish people, while another nation's soldiers looked on, and you wonder what on earth is going to happen to Israel.