You can see fear in everyone’s eyes

Despite the fear, Palestinians resist the colonial project of tearing apart the social fabric to demoralize the people
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Several people stand waiting behind a yellow steel gate at an Israeli checkpoint that prohibits Palestinians from crossing. A woman stands in the middle of the frame, staring directly into the camera.

You can see the fear in everyone’s eyes, young, adolescents and elderly, men, women, boys and girls, no exclusion this time. You can see and smell fear in every house. Families in the West Bank are under extreme duress as the Israeli occupation tightens its grip on Palestinian life.  

Mahmoud, 73 years old, has six daughters and two sons. A few months ago, Israeli soldiers burst through the door of their house and arrested his two sons, terrorizing the family. In the moment, Mahmoud felt that he needed to look tough, and stay strong and calm, even as they arrested his two sons, who he calls the apple of his eye.

When I spoke with Mahmoud, his eyes teared up as he spoke. “At the age of 73, you know which thoughts keep running through my mind? ‘I am weak,’ ‘I can’t protect my own family, my own house, I can’t tell them that I was scared to be beaten that day.’” Mahmoud has lived his whole life under occupation, with the constant fear of detention, arrest, or death at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Now his sons are living this horror and he cannot even communicate with them.

Then I met 70-year-old Hanan*, who shared her story with me. She lives alone, near an Israeli checkpoint within the restricted area of H2 in Al Khalil/Hebron. She is too scared to even get her groceries. “I see fear everywhere. I used to sit in my garden in the morning but now I am scared,” she said. “I stay inside the house and I bought an extra lock to secure my house. I am scared to wake up and find them inside the house and I live alone.”

These are two stories of countless Palestinian experiences where the colonizer aims to create an environment of constant fear for everyone. By instilling widespread fear, people begin to feel powerless and ashamed of themselves. It is a systematic tool to deprive people of their basic need for safety and belonging.

This is a tactic as old as colonization. The oppressor must fracture familial bonds by creating restricted areas or practices of segregation, like the imposition of residential schools against Indigenous peoples in the Americas. The colonizer fears the unique bonds that are created by the oppressed, and as a result, they attempt to break them.

Like Mahmoud and Hanan, every Palestinian lives with the generational fear—and reality—of shattered social fabric and the impossibility of spinning new threads of fabric due to checkpoints, raids, home demolitions, land grabs and confiscation of anything from farm animals to water sources.

But as history has shown, the colonizer will always eventually fail. Justice will prevail because the people who are rooted in the land hold the steadfastness to rise and resist. To all people in the struggle who feel weak, remember that you are not, you have the strength to face fear in the eye, and you will rise as a phoenix and fight, in your twenties, thirties or eighties.


*Name changed for protection

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