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Seeing through the politics of Fear

November 22, 2012

This morning, I opened my laptop with sleepy eyes to find that Hillary Clinton and Mohamed Morsi had announced a ceasefire in Gaza; “The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza. For it to hold the rocket attacks must end and a broader calm must return.”

With that, Clinton placed herself as one of the central peacemakers of current times. She had been dispatched to Israel late Tuesday night before travelling to the West Bank and then finally to Cairo on Wednesday, brokering peace along the way.

She also noted in her statement that the US will not only “work for the security of Israel, but for the improvement of conditions for the people of Gaza”. As it happens, the conditions of the people of Palestine were exactly the topic of a lecture by Roni Hammermann, another strong female peacemaker, the WILPF interns attended last night.

Organised by Amnesty International and held in a typical Geneva University lecture hall, Hammermann spoke to the packed room about her experiences with her organization Machsomwatch.

Machsomwatch (‘machsom’ meaning ‘checkpoint’), is a movement of about 300 Israeli women peace activists, who monitor and document IDF checkpoints in the West Bank on a daily basis. They oppose the Israeli occupation and the denial of Palestinian’s right to move freely.

Photo of barbed wire fence in West Bank

Facing fierce opposition by the Israeli government and society as a whole, Hammermann told us about the means of both physical and invisible control Israel exercises over the people of the West Bank.

Among the physical belong the classic checkpoints, road barriers, trenches, concrete blocks, agricultural gates, and of course the (apartheid) wall. These forms of control also include the complete segregation of roads and other infrastructures.

However, according to Hammermann, these only form the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

The even more draining element of the Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank is the ‘invisible’ permit system. In short, with more than 101 different types of standard permits required in the West Bank today, the Palestinians now need permits for every aspect and action of their life.

Means of Control, not Security

Most importantly and with everyone’s attention in the room, she explained that the goal of the checkpoints and permit system was never the security of the Israeli people, but rather control over the Palestinian population.

In fact, she argued these measures are part of a concerted effort to harass, embarrass and (religiously) humiliate the Palestinian population to such a degree that they leave the area, pushing out those they feel do not belong in their promised land.

Hammermann further explained how the military courts are merely a tool for sustaining and legitimizing the current status quo, where militarization is at its all-time height and the culture of fear is absolutely overwhelming.

Inspired by her grandfather who was killed at Auschwitz, she ended her lecture asking us all to think about what fear can do to people, and the decisions they make. For seeing through the politics of fear, we salute you, Roni Hammermann!

By Emma Bürgisser

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