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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

I, a Collaborator

Dorothy Naor

It has recently begun to weigh heavily on me the realization that in almost all my acts regarding the occupation of the Palestinian Territories I collaborate with the powers to be. Of course my collaboration is wholly involuntary. But it nonetheless is. Almost all of our humanitarian and political intentions and acts depend on abiding by the rules, which is another way to say that we kow-tow to the IOF. This applies alike to situations that are planned in advance (e.g., the intention to help with the olive harvest in the OPTs) and to emergency situations (e.g., as when Palestinians stuck at a check point request help to get them through).

We have no option but to request help from the IOF, and by requesting we unwillingly cooperate with its and the government’s rules of the game. We thereby involuntarily assist the government and the military to perform the occupation and to perpetuate it, and in this sense I very much realize that--like it or not--I collaborate.

It’s a catch 22 situation. If we don’t play by IOF rules we are prevented by the IOF from helping the Palestinians survive, of expressing solidarity with them. Of course there are also means of civil disobedience, and the possibilities of appealing to the high court. These acts are not collaboration. But the ways in which we activists daily involuntarily collaborate are many, too many.

How do I collaborate?

Let me count the ways.

I. The Olive harvest

When I harvest olives for a family that has received insufficient permits to allow them to harvest their trees by themselves, I, by making up for those who were not given permits, collaborate with the military and perpetuate Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

When I agree to to harvesting olives in certain areas only, because of military restrictions on where the Palestinians may harvest, I collaborate with the military and help perpetuate the occupation.

When I agree to harvest olives on the days that the military has designated for a given village, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation.

II. SOS calls

When I phone the so-called Civil Administration to request help to release someone being held hours at a checkpoint, or when I phone them to request finding and releasing a 12 year-old Palestinian boy whom soldiers have detained, or when I phone to request letting an ambulance through post haste, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation.

When I request the Civil Administration to issue a permit for a desperately ill person to go to an Israeli hospital for care that she/he cannot receive in the OPTs, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation.

When I request a permit to a hospital in east Jerusalem for a father whose 2 year-old daughter is to undergo kidney surgery, and am denied because the Central Security Service has declared the father “barred,” and then, even after various attempts to get the permit, nevertheless fail to produce it, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation by letting it keep him from his child’s hospital bed.

When I phone the Civil Administration at 1:00 AM to report that the army has entered a village, ordered all the inhabitants (old, young, ill, well) out of their homes in the pouring rain, and is throwing their belongings outside into the rain, and after reporting this am told by the woman’s voice at the other end of the phone, “What do you want? This is normal” and I quietly declare rather than yell at her, that it’s not in the least normal, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation.

When, after an hour of arguing with soldiers barring my way into a Palestinian village, I give up trying to get to my destination, and return home instead, I collaborate with the army and perpetuate the occupation.

III. Road blocks and check points

When I accept the reality of road blocks and check points, I collaborate with the army and perpetuate the occupation.

IV. The Apartheid Wall

When I go to a Palestinian village to protest the theft of land, the uprooting of dunams of trees, the destruction of land for the sake of building a wall that will not only rob the villagers of their trees and land but will also enclose them in a ghetto, and then run from the bulldozers and soldiers when they begin shooting tear gas at us, and at the end of the day go home, I collaborate with the military and perpetuate the occupation, because construction of the wall goes on.


Dear Friends,

So many of you commented on “I, a Collaborator” that in contrast to my usual policy of responding to each person individually, I here write to all of you. I apologize. But this is the olive harvest season, and between being out once or twice a week harvesting olives and on other days of the week trying to help a young Palestinian woman who has cancer (getting her medications, delivering them, and taking her to the hospital in Israel for tests and treatments), I’ve hardly been at the computer at all the past couple of weeks.

I guess age is catching up with me. On days that I’m out harvesting or engaged in other activities, I’m too tired when I return home to write anything reasonable. But I was very touched by the fact that you expended the efforts to reply to my ‘confession’ of sorts.

Interestingly, there were no gray responses. You were either very pleased with me or very upset with me.

Let me state, then, for those of you who did not approve my ‘confession,’ that although it is depressing to face the truth, this does not imply that I hang my head in shame all the time. One does what one can as best as one can. And there is, of course, also the other side of the coin, i.e. if activists were not there--be it in harvesting olives or demonstrating against the wall or helping Palestinians get to hospitals, or helping them try to get through a check point, or whatever else we manage sometimes to accomplish, it would be much worse for the Palestinians.

But things have to be put into perspective. Activism against the occupation not only depends on collaborating with the powers that be, but also touches only immediate needs or situations. None of our ‘doing-good deeds’ accomplish the all-important job: that of ridding the Palestinians of the occupation.

This is not to say that our activities nevertheless are valueless. They haven’t as much value as we would like, but they are not entirely done in vain. They do not stop the occupation, but activism (be it Israeli or internationals or in conjunction with Palestinians) make it more difficult for the government and IOF to carry out some of their plans. We cannot stop the tanks, bulldozers, snipers from invading Jenin or Nablus or other Palestinian city or village. We cannot physically stop the ‘exterminations.’ We cannot stop the occupation. The best we can do about these is to inform you. But our demonstrations against the wall do slow down the Israeli government’s process of stealing more Palestinian land, other of our acts prevent settlers of evicting Palestinians from their land, and we manage some times to help prevent settler violence against Palestinians.

Such things do not amount to much in the over-all scope of things. But they amount to a lot for the individual Palestinian who needs our help to survive. And that, too, is something.

Take yesterday, for instance, in which under the aegis of Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights), some 40-45 of us divided up to harvest olives in 4 villages which to one degree or another are under the threat of settler violence.

Spouse and I were with the group that went to the village of Einabus. On October 27 this year settlers killed an 18 year old youth from a neighboring village. Much of Einabus olive trees are on the hills under that settlement. Due to that incident and past ones that the village has suffered*, villagers are afraid to go alone up the hills to their trees. Had the IOF not agreed to guard the harvesting that day, it also would not have allowed us in. And had we not been there (another group of Israelis was there today), the trees on the upper slopes of the hills would have remained unharvested. As it is the crop is sadly thin, and the trees in poor condition due to the IOF preventing the villagers from tending their trees during the year. In other words, we had to collaborate with the IOF to help the villagers harvest their crops. And have to convince the IOF to allow the villagers to tend their trees throughout the year. The joint appeal of the RHR, three villages, and ACRI to the Supreme Court to demand the IOF to allow this will hopefully bear fruit.

Or take another case, that of a 30 year old Palestinian woman with advanced cancer. Last January I was asked to organize transportation to drive her 5 days a week for 6 weeks from her village to a hospital in Tel Aviv to receive radiation therapy (there is none in the West Bank). Prior to contacting me, someone had seen to it that the army issue the patient (W) a permit to enter Israel for the entire period. All that I had to do was find drivers. The response was heart-warming. About 25 people volunteered, replying to my email request almost immediately.

That mission was carried out with almost no hitches, despite the fact that her village is about 1 hour away from the homes of most of the people who chauffeured her, and another hour from her village to the hospital. Driving her back and forth plus the time it took for the treatment meant for those who took the round-trip meant spending over ½ a day (some of the drivers split it, driving her one way).

Since that time I've been in close touch with the family. About 3 months ago, they informed me that W was suffering unbearably from pain, and asked if I could help her. The medication that she was getting didn't seem to relieve her pain, and they wanted at the least a second opinion from an Israeli doctor to that of her doctor in Nablus.

Partly because of closures during which Palestinians are not allowed into Israel even when they have permits, and partially because of bureaucracy, it took quite a bit of time before I was able to get her into Israel to see a doctor. By the time this occurred, spouse and I were headed abroad for 3 weeks. Once again my appeal for volunteers bore fruit, and one such took W to the doctor while we were away. Another volunteer went with them to translate.

The Israeli doctor prescribe tests for her, including a bone scan (also not available in the PA). To have these tests in Israel requires a financial guarantee from the Palestinian authority (unless one can afford to pay, which W can’t). But bureaucracy in the PA is not less than in Israel, so although the family applied to the PA, and it seemed to ok the financial guarantee, it took a couple more weeks till the process was completed.

I returned from abroad just about the time that the financial guarantee came through, and began to try to schedule appointments for the tests. But here, too, I was foiled. The financial guarantee arrived just as the Jewish holidays were to begin. They last a month, from Rosh Hashanah through Succoth. During the entire period Palestinians were not allowed into Israel--not for any reason, not even if they were dying. Cancer, unfortunately, does not wait for holidays. But that is not the concern of the army and security people, not, at least, when the cancer patient is a Palestinian.

Finally, the first day after the holidays (the first day that Palestinians with permits could again come into Israel), I began working on the appointment. Normally this involved nothing more on my part than requesting the Physicians for Human Rights to set up the appointment. But for some reason (apparently due to financial considerations) Ichilov, the hospital that the PA had selected for her, had a week earlier cut its connection to the PHR, and declared that appointments for Palestinians had to be made through the so-called Civil Administration (the so-called humanitarian branch of the military, in charge, among other things, of giving permits to enter Israel to Palestinians requiring treatment in Israeli Hospitals).

To make a very long story short, partially because this was a new state of affairs, and partially because I did not yet know the ropes, it took 4.5 long hours of phone calls to get an appointment . The CA said yes to a permit, on the proviso she had an appointment, but refused to make one. The hospital department responsible for appointments insisted that the appointment had to be made via the CA .

But finally the appointment for a bone scan was in hand, or, rather, on paper! The bone scan was scheduled for the morrow at 8:30 AM. I requested the hospital to phone the CA and relate that it had given the appointment, so that the CA would issue W a permit, but the voice on the other side indignantly refused, insisting that the CA call them. Fortunately, at the CA the woman in charge of issuing medical permits agreed, though not very pleased to do so. She (D) informed me, almost by-the-way, that W was on the ‘barred persons’ list, i.e., persons prohibited from entering Israel because they present a security threat.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought it was some sort of bad joke. “The woman is dying,” I said. D barked back, “I don’t decide who is and who is not barred; that’s the business of the security people,” but grudgingly agreed to issue a one-time permit, which would be ready at the DCO (District Coordination Officer), that afternoon. Finally, with some relief, I informed W’s family, that we’d succeeded.

That evening, just as I was on my way out to a meeting, W’s brother’s agitated voice informed me on the phone that the DCO had given a permit for Wednesday, the day after the morrow. But the appointment was for Tuesday. Back again to the phone. The DCO who had issued the permit on the orders of the CA was adamant, the permit was for Wednesday and could not be changed. “Change the appointment,” he said. That of course was impossible, it being 7:00 PM and the appointment being the next morning at 8:30 AM. He tried again: “She’s on the ‘barred persons’ list, she shouldn’t be allowed in.” “But,” I countered, “she is almost dying! and besides D okayed her.” This went back and forth for ½ an hour, by which time he got tired of trying to make me change the appointment, and finally, after phoning D at the CA, agreed to issue a new permit.

To pick it up required someone from Ws family to go to the DCO. This in itself is not a simple matter for Palestinians, who in many areas are not allowed to travel after dark. Fortunately, one of W’s brothers lives in a village not too far from the DCO (at Qedumim) and was able to go to get the permit.

Every appointment since then has been a hassle with D. Each time she informs me that W is barred. It has become some sort of game. D knows that the power of life and death is in her hands: she can issue the permit or not. I therefore practice restraint in speaking to her. I’ve tried asking members of the Knesseth to help convince her to be more reasonable, but that has not worked either.

So far, the permit has always been issued, but not necessarily when it is convenient. The last time, after a day of phoning to find out when it would be ready, I was told to call the next morning (the day of the appointment). At 7:00 AM the next day, D told me that she might get the ok by 8:00. At 8:00 she phoned me that someone from the family should pick it up at 8:00 (I’m not joking!). W’s brother did, but because there was no time for him to bring it (he has no car) to W’s village, I did the extra miles with W in the car to get it from him. As you might guess, on that day the soldiers at the checkpoint waived me through without noticing W at all. But one can’t count on that happening. The permit is a necessity. If caught, no permit, no entry. Not for a Palestinian, at least.

And so, I am forced to collaborate with D so as to help W. In other words, I am forced to collaborate with the Israeli military. I have no choice. W needs me and the other volunteers that help ferry her back and forth. Can we refuse to help her? I personally have become very attached to her and to her family.

How many hundreds of Palestinian Ws are there that no one knows about, and who therefore have no Israeli to cut the red tape, get the permit, and get them to medical care in Israel when necessary?

And so, dear friends, so long as the Occupation continues, we have no choice but to collaborate with the IOF so as to help the occupied. They are the human other side of the coin that make our endeavors worthwhile .

The collaboration is truly disgusting. But I do not despair. The occupation will some day end.



Here are a few links to articles on settler violence and harassment against Einabus:
West Bank grove of olive trees cut

Bitter Harvest in West Bank's Olive Groves

Angry settlers go on rampage in Palestinian villages amid evacuation threat

Settler Violence and Occupation Watch: Report XXV

ISM Olive Harvest Reports: International Volunteers Beaten By Israeli Settlers






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

23 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Dropping the Last Veil
Tommy Gorman

No Place for Silence
Anthony McIntyre

The Vacuum

The Unpopular Front: James T. Farrell then, Margaret Hassan now
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Reflection on an Election
Patrick Hurley

New Work on Perry Anderson
Liam O Ruairc

I, a Collaborator
Dorothy Naor

The Murder of Margaret Hassan
Ghali Hassan

The Orange Order and the KKK
Richard Wallace

19 November 2004

Another Fine Mess
Mick Hall

Dr. John Coulter

Address to QUB Vigil for Fallujah
Brian Kelly

Hearts and Minds
Fred A Wilcox

Smell the Coffee, not the Latte
Kristi Kline

Arresting Vanunu While Burying Arafat
Mary La Rosa

Weary of those stubborn indigenous resistance stains? Pretend they're not there...
Toni Solo

The Village
Anthony McIntyre



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