Bradley Burston
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 14, 2011 - 1:00am

Speaker Gingrich, if you're serious about becoming president, it's time that you got to know us a bit better.

Let's start with the Occupation, our 44-year-long experiment in re-inventing the Palestinian people. This is what you need to know before you bet your political farm on it:

We don't have it in us. We can't pull it off.

No one here is of any use at it. Anyone who has ever occupied here knows it. The army trains you for everything: armored warfare, urban firefights, chemical weaponry, nuclear attack, biological agents, commando raids, missile strikes. Everything except the one thing you know you'll face – Occupation.

Your friend Bibi will tell you about our innovative, can-do nature. He may, however, omit this: We have proven ourselves incapable of doing the one thing that has come, against our will, to define us more than anything else we do as Israelis: Occupation.

Why not? Why the woeful preparation, the inappropriate equipment, the proven recipe for military fear and anger and, across the firing line, civilian tragedy? What's our problem?

Somewhere inside, we know that to succeed in occupying, we would have to truly believe in it. To believe in it, we would have to fully acknowledge that occupation, in all its obscenity, is what we are, in fact, doing.

To acknowledge the occupation is to recognize the Palestinians; not as terrorists or poseurs, not as inventions, but as full, flesh and blood human beings, as entitled to their rights as we are to ours.

And that is something that your friend Bibi, and this Israel, are not prepared to do.

You may know how to keep the Palestinians from asserting their rights, Mr. Speaker, but we don't.

Maybe you can control their sense that they want their own country in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, in their own lifetimes, but we can't.

In fact, we can't even occupy or control our own.

And this, as a devotee of Doomsday scenarios, is where you come in.

This week, when scores of Hilltop Youth, the rosy-cheeked stinkweed of the settlement movement, burst into an IDF base and hurled rocks at a brigade commander, we had no idea how to respond. So we didn't.

The same night, when another two dozen Hilltop Youth or their surrogates threatened our relations with Jordan and the Christian world, defying the army and the government by founding an illegal settlement outpost in border zone closed by the army – near a monastery at the traditional site of Jesus baptism – we put one of the leaders on the IDF's Army Radio, crowing about their next exploit.

And lest that not do enough damage, the next day saw a mosque torched in Jerusalem, and police cars slashed and smashed, all in the name of Outposts forever and Palestine Never.

Should you become president, and you display understanding for the settlers - as you will doubtless feel that you need to - you can bet that they will take that as license to go for the Day of Judgment play: the drive for the Temple Mount. World War III, here we come.

While settling into the Oval Office, however, you might do well to remember the name Mustafa Tamimi. The context as well.

On Friday, at the same time viewers heard you describe the Palestinians as an invented people, a real Palestinian named Mustafa Tamimi was murdered by our inability to occupy.

The Occupation, you will come to learn, murders in the second degree. "A non-premeditated killing," the legal definition holds, "resulting from an assault in which death of the victim was a distinct possibility."

Such was Tamimi's gruesome death, his face and brain crushed by a tear gas canister fired, contrary to all proper procedure, by an Israeli soldier at close range and at level aim, with minimal regard to a compromised field of vision, in an environment in which firearms, gas and other chemicals are routinely used prematurely, disproportionately, and inappropriately. No accident.

Maybe you know how to occupy Palestine, Mr. Speaker, but Israel clearly does not. Anyone who has engaged here in the business of occupying can tell you how it happened.

What you need to know, Mr. Speaker, is the why of it.

On your next visit, and there will surely be one, you should pay a call to Tamimi's village, Nabi Saleh. Not hard to find. On Fridays, you can find it by the thick clouds of tear gas alone.

The army, by its own open admission, will not allow non-violent demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. Non-violence is punished with tear gas. Or worse.

Nor is non-violence allowed in other villages with longstanding and well-documented land grievances over settlements which have taken over their property by force of arms, or law, or bureaucracy, or deceit.

Mr. Speaker, you may be capable of occupying Nabi Saleh, but we are not.

Mr. Speaker, if for the sake of Jesus and the Resurrection, you want the territories to stay occupied forever, you and your Christian Zionist allies will have to do some homework before Inauguration Day.

We're not going to be of much help. If you want all of this to stay occupied, you may have find a way to do this by yourselves.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017