“He Tried to Terrorize the Wall.” The Army Kills Another Kid.

This morning the headlines came in slow like a corkscrew twisting into my chest, each word another rotation, sinking in, and in, and then: Pop. Open.

My God what is the name for this sickness: We shoot and kill people in order to defend the Wall. The symbolism overflows. Fuck symbolism: a 15-year boy was murdered. And still: This Wall. “The Wall was built for security only” — a claim which crumbles as quickly and fully as the wall itself ought to, when faced with the damaging force of Facts. Fact: The Wall is more than twice as long as the border. Fact: Tens of Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel-proper every day ”illegally,” through, over and around the Wall. Fact: The Wall has taken on security needs in and of itself. “Damaging the Wall/Fence/Barrier” is an offense that can punishable by death. The Wall is not there to guard us. We are there to guard the Wall. And we will kill to guard the Wall.

The headline on +972: IDF kills Palestinian suspected of vandalism.

Youssef -his name was Youssef- ‘s family: He was foraging for local plants.

IDF Spokesperson [In Hebrew]: He tried to sabotage the fence.

The Hebrew: ניסה לחבל בגדר

L’khabel, לחבל.

Same root as M’khabel, מחבל.

M’khabel: The Hebrew word for Terrorist.

He tried to terrorize the fence. The Wall. The barrier. So to be a terrorist, according to the army, one need not target human beings. One can become a terrorist against the Wall itself. Or by foraging plants too close to the Wall. Or by being Palestinian too close to the Wall.

And the Wall is everywhere.

IMG_0115Update [March 21st]: My linguistic analysis/interpretation has been called into question:

…”But the linguistic/political analysis clearly comes from someone whose Hebrew isn’t native. Nobody said he was a terrorist, they said he was suspected of “sabotaging” (LECHABEL) the fence. MECHABEL (terrorist) indeed shares the same root. Sometimes they use that wording too easily, but this time they didn’t. The word they used is the same ones for “sabotaging” anything. [See] a recent example of how a Yesh Atid MK accused Likud members of an attempt to “LECHABEL” the peace process. Does this mean he called them TERRORISTS, or said they are TERRORIZING anything?

I appreciate the challenge, and the opportunity to strengthen and expand my argument, for the Hebrew speakers out there, as well as the linguists and activists curious about how/if language shapes reality (as some argue):

(1) My Hebrew is indeed not native, which, in fact, might be what enables me to see certain nuances of language that are lost on native speakers. I know well that they weren’t explicitly saying הוא היה מחבל וניסה לחבל בגדר، (”he was a terrorist who tried to sabotage the fence”) but language shapes reality, and whether or not we realize it (and whether or not the army itself realized it in this case), the act of invoking the root ח–ב–ל has, I believe, a profound impact on how the story is heard (מטען חבלה, מחבל, ניסה לחבל).

And (2), let’s say my read is too strident, a possibility which I am open to, but still not convinced of: the word “sabotage” is itself an extreme, and violence-connoting word. It has echoes of war and destruction, and there is something far less shocking or disturbing about killing a “saboteur” than a vandal, or, say, a kid who may or may not have taken his frustration out on an inanimate object that actively oppresses and represses his entire people. Is a saboteur so different than a terrorist?

  • Google translate gives us:
    מְחַבֵּל
    terrorist, saboteur, destroyer
    Update II [March 29th]: According to Btselem’s research, the circumstances of Youssef’s murder- and yes, that is what it was, unequivocally, a murder- were even more horrific than I had imagined. He was killed in an “armed ambush at a point in the barrier known to be crossed by youths, who pose no danger whatsoever to anyone, for the purpose of harvesting plants.”
    Good lord, help us.

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