Violence is a cruel reminder of a reality that is neither calm nor stable

When murder and violence flash in the West Bank, Israelis should remember that on the other days they don’t hear about terror, lots of violence is taking place. Those who choose to live in an illusion of calm and stability should consider themselves both privileged and lucky. And neither of those things can last forever. 

Days like today, ones that start out with a Palestinian stabbing an Israeli to death and end with Israeli settlers rampaging around, starting fires and hurling stones at innocent Palestinian bystanders – many of them children: days like today are a cruel expression of the dire situation we all live in here – but more specifically, illuminate the illusion of stability that Israelis live with.

A few months ago, the IDF was proud to announce that there were no fatal terror attacks in the West Bank at all in 2012, and it really is a feat. In fact, Evyatar Burovsky was the first Israeli victim of a fatal attack committed by a Palestinian in the West Bank since September 2011.

During this “calm” period, most Israelis continue going about their lives. They aren’t affected by the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a daily basis. But days like today, when the phrase “terror attack” is back in the news, Israelis suddenly remember that we are in a violent conflict. The government, of course, does a good job of reminding us we are the victims.

But on all those days when there is no violence against Israelis in the news, on all those days when Israelis can go about their business, the situation is actually not at all stable or calm. It’s definitely not calm for the Palestinian population, specifically in the West Bank where life under occupation is anything but free of violence.

Slavoj Zizek said it poignantly in an essay in the book The Case for Sanctions Against Israel:

What goes on in the Middle East when nothing goes on there at the direct politico-military level (i.e. when there are no tensions, attacks, negotiations)? What goes on is the incessant slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians in the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parceling of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land.

Knowing the daily situation in Silwan, in Issawiya, in Susya, Hebron, Al Araqib, being aware of the Palestinian prisoners and the children who are arrested, etc., I often think to myself how amazing it is that violence and terror aren’t more frequent, considering the untenable and tense situation in which Palestinians live. (And no, I don’t think this can be fully attributed to Israeli security. The fact of the matter is that when someone is intent on committing an act of violence, it will likely happen one way or another).

And just to be clear, as Zizek writes in that same essay:

And—to avoid any kind of misunderstanding—taking all this into account in no way implies any “understanding” for inexcusable terrorist acts. On the contrary, it provides the only ground from which one can condemn the terrorist attacks without hypocrisy.

To those Israelis who continue to passively or actively vote to continue living in this situation, to those who are fine with the status quo or who simply do nothing to challenge or change it, this bloody day should be a cruel reminder that there is nothing normal or fine about life here. Even on all the days when Israelis aren’t being killed or injured, there is nothing normal or okay here. Those who choose to live in an illusion of calm and stability should consider themselves both privileged and lucky. And neither of those things can last forever.