A la mémoire de quatre jeunes Palestiniens tués cette semaine: Muhamad Awarta, Salekh Kwarick, Muhamad and Usaid Kadus

Nits breed lice

In memory of four Palestinian youths killed this week: Muhamad Awarta, Salekh Kwarick, Muhamad and Usaid Kadus

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

23 March 2010

Here in Israel our treatment of Palestinian children has long been guided by the adage “nits breed lice.” Some say it openly, others share that view in silence. Not a month passes in which several Palestinian children are not killed under unclear pretexts that no one understands, until a Swedish journalist tried to guess, and all the big guns were deployed to silence him. For the most part, the Occupation authorities manage to fake the ages of the little victims and to attribute criminal or subversive intentions to them, and when none of that works they excuse themselves like ping-pong players by saying “oops, sorry.” And this time too the IDF killing experts said “perhaps it could have been dealt with differently.” Perhaps, indeed. In the Israeli press the Palestinian children always to a terrifying threat from above, below or in front of the shooting soldiers – who, we must remember, are armed from head to toe like robotricks – but are described in news reports as lost youngsters who are struck with terror when confronted with children in t-shirts on their way to work in the fields with a hoe, or faced with 10-year-old children who attack them with slings; roaring Goliaths confronting tiny, agile, steadfast Davids who stubbornly insist on continuing to live despite what we have already explained to them a thousand times. The smoke over slaughtered and bleeding Gaza had not yet dispersed and here they are again going out into the fields. Again they attack or want to attack or dream of attacking or make attack-like movements when they raise a pitchfork in order to harvest hay, or just irritate our soldiers by their very presence. Our heroic, adult, responsible soldiers, who walk around with intimidating weapons on the streets of the city and in every public place, are described in articles that report the killings as lacking in judgement, as terror-struck, or as heartless, conscienceless, mindless murderers who do not know how to explain and do not think it is necessary and do not know what to do and in short do not know.

Like in the movie Waltz With Bashir, Like in the movie To See If I’m Smiling, as in countless testimonies of traumatized soldiers, they are just wondering why they were put there. They put me there so I shot, so I bombed, so I “verified”, so I broke up demonstrations, so I obeyed, so I killed. Because I was afraid, I was terribly afraid, in the distance they look like they are holding stones, slingshots, pitchforks or something like that, how can you know, how can you see with this helmet that covers your eyes, with the sweat that gets into your eyes, but I am not guilty, because why did they put me there???

And the dead children whose blood soaks the fields? Whose blood cries out from the clumps of soil? Whose death-cries will not be silenced by a thousand settlements, in whose honour no one will move buildings but on the contrary, it is a near certainty that their bodies will be covered by large buildings for settlers who are unlikely to know their stories but who will certainly sing and dance on their blood again and again and again in order to silence it. Only those dead children, who have joined my own little girl in the underground kingdom of children above which this country of concrete is continually being built, only they know that Satan has not yet created revenge for the blood of a small child.* Only they know that all the dancing and the singing and the marches and the flags, the tanks and the bulldozers and the silencing and the racist laws that appear every day, will not wash the blood off our hands, the blood of burnt children in t-shirts, thin children, nearly starved, who get up every morning to look for work, to look for their daily bread, to look for a little dignity without giving up. That is their revenge. May their memories be blessed.

* “Such revenge, revenge for the blood of a small child / Satan has not yet created”. From the poem “On the Slaughter” composed by the Hebrew poet Chaim Nahman Bialik to commemorate the victims of the pogrom in Kishinev in 1903 – trans.

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent.

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