Continuing Conflict – Ramallah

Raja Shehadeh’s book When the Birds Stopped Singing was a pointed, passionate and heart-breaking book yet I found it incredibly informative about the perspectives of everyday Palestinians facing the aggression of the Israeli military and leadership.  It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to live in a literal war zone, with tanks driving by my house, hearing shelling and shooting around my neighborhood and not being allowed to leave my house except for a few hours every few days.  On top of that, I cannot imagine being separated from my spouse due to roadblocks and having to face the crisis alone.  Yet all of these things and more happened to Shehadeh and his friends and family during the 2002 siege and occupation of Ramallah.


The theme that I found the most alarming throughout the entire book from the original takeover to the withdrawal with continued occupation was the idea that Israeli soldiers, by way of Israeli leadership under Prime Minister Sharon considered all Palestinians to be terrorists.[1]  By constant dehumanization efforts which taught that all Palestinians, civilian, resistance or otherwise were capable of committing acts of terror against the Israeli Jews, the army was able to commit atrocities without pausing to recognize them for what they were – acts of terror in response to acts of terror.[2]  This is further highlighted by an incident described a few pages later – a woman was shot simply for hanging her laundry outside to dry – yet the Israeli soldiers shown on television were victorious over the enemy and proud of their victory – something to which the author stated they should feel shame for such actions – certainly not pride.[3]

The anger, discrimination and violence depicted in this book is almost unfathomable to me.  I know it happens all over the world, but it boggles my mind.  I cannot imagine a scenario in which driving a bulldozer through someone’s house while they’re still in it would ever be deemed acceptable.[4]   Worse than that, even, refusing to allow humanitarian and/or medical personal into the area to search for and rescue survivors is repugnant.[5]  To occupy an area without making special provisions for those in medical need just because you have the power to do so, while still claiming moral superiority is a contradiction of the highest order.[6]  Regardless of whether these actions are born out of hatred, fear, self-justifying beliefs or righteous indignation/vindication, these actions are based on the principle of might makes right.  Should things continue in this path, I do not see the war between Israel and her displaced, oppressed Palestinian neighbors ending any time in the foreseeable future, although Israel seems determined to either drive them out of their remaining slivers of land by force or eliminating the Palestinian people entirely.

[1] Raja Shehadeh, When the Birds Stopped Singing: Life in Ramallah Under Siege, (Hanover: Steerforth Press, 2003), 84.

[2] Shehadeh, 84.

[3] Shehadeh, 88-89.

[4] Shehadeh, 116.

[5] Shehadeh, 116.

[6] Shehadeh, 95.

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