Mike Phipps reviews Voices of the West Bank, by Chris Jones and Michael Lavalette, published by Bookmarks, price £8.99 pbk.
“The soldiers came into my village late at night looking for the son of our neighbour. First they ordered the owner of the house to come out, naked. They made him stand under a water pipe which they then turned on. It was winter. Then when other family members came out of the house the soldiers used some as human shields as they approached the house to throw grenades.”
“Last Friday night the Israelis spread ‘chocolates’ around some of our playgrounds near the school, for the kids to pick up. My eight year old brother found one and picked it up. It was shining in silver foil and he thought it might be a toy or a sweet. It exploded in his hands as he opened it and he got seriously burnt. This is how the Israelis target the kids. Why is this never reported?”
The best thing about this book is the wide variety of Palestinian voices that can be heard, wisely left to speak for themselves, without too much editorialising.
Perhaps one of the most shocking sections covers the random violence and humiliation meted out at checkpoints across the West Bank by bored and callous Israeli soldiers. Between 2000 and 2003, 83 patients died and 57 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints, more often than not resulting in the death of the child. Routine humiliations are also documented – girls mistreated, children’s outings turned back, or school students provoked in the hope that Israeli soldiers can respond with live rounds.
There are 1,500 military regulations governing the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Arrests and detention are routine: one young person tells how he got six months’ administrative detention – no charge or trial – for not having his ID.
The division of Palestinian communities by the Wall of separation and the destruction of olive groves have been well documented. There has been less coverage of the policy of Israeli settlers of deliberately colonising the Israeli Defence Force, resulting in a disproportionate over-representation of West Bank settlers in the Israeli army, often pursuing their own agenda.
This well-researched and accessible book is an excellent introduction to the character of the Israeli occupation and the strategies Palestinians use to cope with it.