Middle East Monitor / September 11, 2021
Covering the topic of Israeli oppression against Palestinians and pro-Israeli propaganda in the West for a living is exhausting.
Merely researching and writing about the issue is mentally and emotionally draining.
So, imagine then how Palestinians feel after living under Israel’s racist system of occupation, apartheid, military dictatorship, torture, mass surveillance, incarceration and regular massacres for more than 73 years and counting.
When we talk about the Palestinian people, it should never be forgotten that we are talking about multiple, ongoing, generational trauma. Israel’s cruelty is so all-pervasive that Palestinian psychologists have had to develop more apt descriptions than “post” traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“For a Palestinian in Gaza whose home was bombarded, the threat of having another bombardment is a very real one… There is no ‘post’ because the trauma is repetitive and ongoing and continuous.”
That’s why, then, in the face of so many horrific abuses and state-sanctioned murders, it is so encouraging to witness a Palestinian victory.
Early on Monday, we all woke up to the news that six Palestinian prisoners of war had escaped from Gilboa Prison, a supposedly high-security Israeli prison in the north of occupied Palestine.
The men, mostly militants from the Islamic Jihad resistance faction (plus one from a Fatah militia), got out by tunnelling out of their cell. They reportedly used a rusty spoon to do so. Digging the tunnel must have taken months of working in secret.
It is an astonishing and heroic achievement by any metric, and Palestinians the world over have praised the achievement. Protests in solidarity with the six escaped prisoners have broken out all over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
My colleague at The Electronic Intifada Tamara Nassar reported:
“Amid speculation that the men might be hiding out in the West Bank, or could have crossed the border to Jordan, Palestinians are praying for their safety and hailing them as heroes.”
She wrote: “Their escape is a huge morale boost for Palestinians, as it once again shatters Israel’s image of strength and invincibility in the face of an occupied people struggling for its freedom.”
Israeli occupation authorities have reacted in their usual way: with increased repression.
A huge manhunt for the escapees has been launched, with hundreds of new checkpoints set up all over historical occupied Palestine. Israel has imposed further collective punishment on the Palestinian prisoners as a whole, attempting to break up groups of cellmates (the six were all from the Palestinian town of Jenin in the West Bank).
Even more appallingly, Israel has kidnapped several family members of the escapees, holding them without charge or trial. In effect, they have taken men from the escapees’ families hostage in an attempt to blackmail them into giving themselves up.
Such despicable, repressive behaviour is all-too-typical of Israel and its occupation regime.
This is a significant defeat for the Israeli occupation and a milestone in the history of Palestinian resistance.
Internally, Israeli policymakers, politicians and the security-intelligence establishment must be feeling utter dismay. The Israeli press is full of mutual recriminations. Two Israeli jail guards have reportedly been interrogated, as authorities seem to suspect an inside job.
On Thursday, popular Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth led with the headline “Photo of failure” captioned over a shot of the exit of the escape tunnel just outside the prison walls. The hole appears to be right underneath a watchtower.
Some of the guards were reportedly asleep on the job while the men escaped.
All of this adds up to a picture of total incompetence on the part of the Israeli occupation regime. It adds to the hope that the full liberation of all of historical Palestine can come within our lifetimes.
Israel, while powerful, is not invincible. The walls are beginning to crack.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East