So how was your child’s first day of school? It’s always so traumatic, sending the little tykes off on their own, isn’t it? At least it didn’t involve tear gas and an altercation with the military.
Well, here, by contrast, is the first day of school for the Palestinian children of the (Palestinian) village of Tuk’u, in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. According to my sources, the school day began with an unprovoked incursion into town by the Israeli military, and descended from there into a tear gas fusillade, a chaotic detention of a few school children, and various other sorts of mayhem, only imperfectly captured in the video and stills below. I’ve spent time in this village, and villages like it, across five trips to the region, the most recent one in the summer of 2019, my last trip before the pandemic struck. Testimony from first-hand experience: the Israeli military invades villages like Tuk’u, Beit Ummar, Abu Dis, Sawahera, Surif, and Halhul essentially at will, going out of its way to target school-aged children, and imprisoning them indefinitely without charge. Better to instill the fear early than wait until they understand the need for it. That’s just what a military occupation is.
Don’t expect The New York Times to cover this event (or any of the hundreds like it that take place just about every week in these parts), or the US State Department to know about it. The Times’s correspondent has probably spent less time in this village than I have, and the State Department prohibits travel in the West Bank without a full security detail–a luxury it rarely permits, and then only for purposes of glad-handling photo-ops (which I’ve had the misfortune of attending). In short, if you want to know what happened, you either had to be there, or know an honest person who was.
When the Taliban forcibly prevents Malala Yousafzai from getting an education, pious Americans fall over themselves to grandstand and virtue signal their support for girls’ right to education under an Islamic state. As someone whose female cousins in Pakistan have faced virtually the same threats from the Taliban as Malala did–the Taliban threatened to blow up one of my cousins’ colleges–I’m the last to disagree. I have family in (or recently out of) Pakistan who’ve put their lives on the line, as activists and journalists, for upholding the very ideals that got Malala shot. It’s just sheer dumb luck that my family in Lahore wasn’t wiped out by the Pakistani Taliban. So I’m well aware of the misogyny and terror that stalks the “Islamic world” under the guise of piety.
What I object to is the fact that the fundamentally cheap, sentimental gesture of supporting Malala doesn’t seem to extend with the same zeal to the naked militarism of a Jewish State. Americans have bankrolled five decades of Zionist apartheid without so much as pausing to consider the Malala-type incidents they’ve bankrolled in Palestine–yes, including the ones that got kids killed. Post-Trumpian Americans are very aggressive about condemning the retrograde nature of political Islam, but reticent to the point of pusillanimity about the retrograde nature of political Judaism. It’s harder to ignore the latter when you’re on the receiving end of the Israeli military, or when you’ve seen their behavior with your own eyes, as I have. But unless you open your eyes, there’s nothing to see.
I originally wrote this post on Facebook, and tried to tag the location. It turns out that Facebook, so earnestly sensitive to the most delicate sensitivities online, has virtually no accurate place names within its data base for any of the towns or villages of the Palestinian West Bank. In other words, Facebook, the great adversary of “bullying” and the supposed advocate of factual accuracy, has scrubbed Palestinian reality clean from its interface. And so, it’s no surprise that Palestinian Tuk’u comes up in Facebook as “Tekoa, Gush Etzion,” the name of a nearby Israeli settlement. The Israeli settlement gets a name you can tag; the Palestinian village loses its name to the settlement, and is erased altogether. Cultural appropriation in action: it’s how the modern world works. Hypocrisy abets conquest. Conquest reigns supreme. You stop mattering when people erase you from memory, forget that you exist, and then manage to quote Orwell at you.
Needless to say, school in Tuk’u was canceled on Day 1. It was canceled on Day 2 for exactly the same reason. I’ll post on that tomorrow, when I get a chance. So, in a backhanded way, I may once again be forced into another concession about the existence of “cancel culture.” I guess it exists, after all.