The thuggish operations of the Israeli army match very closely the criminal behavior of the country’s political authorities. The undercover raid of the Palestinian al-Ahli hospital in Hebron by about a dozen IDF operatives in disguise on November 12 resulted in the killing of 27-year-old Abdallah Shalaldeh and the arrest of his cousin Azzam who was being treated there.
An armed attack on a hospital is an offense, according to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which Israel was a signatory a year after their formulation, in 1950. I would go so far as to argue that, besides breaking international law, the raid devastates one of the last places of asylum, refuge and indeed hospitality available to a distressed population subjected to the relentless violence both at home and in the streets. A state that was purportedly created to provide asylum to the European Jews fleeing from the ravages of World War II and that vowed to ensure the existence of a refuge place in case of future hostilities against them has been systematically destroying the vestiges of warmth and hospitality Palestinian people so desperately need. A recent wave of assaults on hospitals in Occupied Palestine exacerbates this destruction to previously unseen proportions.
The manner of Thursday’s incursion is, in itself, highly symbolic. Pretending to be Palestinian men, replete with fake beards (has it escaped whoever wrote the script for this bizarre event that Halloween is over?), Israeli soldiers acted like outlaws, unidentified by military uniforms. Wheeling in one of their comrades disguised as a pregnant woman, they betrayed the doctors’ and nurses’ trust. Rather than bringing a new life into the world, they sowed death; rather than saving lives, the way al-Ahli’s staff do on a daily basis, they took a life and a living hostage. More than that, they took hostage hospitality itself, be it of the hospital or of an impulse toward generosity—the altruism, the desire to help, and much else that is good in a human being.
It is clear that the Israeli response to popular Palestinian resistance is one lacking any restraint whatsoever. The policy of “no holds barred” is intended further to intimidate the population living under Occupation, to beat it into submission, not only on a physical but also on a psychological level, whereby safety is not guaranteed even in the most welcoming and hospitable places of refuge, such as hospitals. Israel thus endeavors to create a miniature world where there are no hosts and guests but only the undisputed masters of the land and their dehumanized slaves.
At bottom, Israel engages in self-dehumanization when it sanctions raids akin to the one that happened this Thursday. Having excoriated from themselves the duty of hospitality toward others, the state’s authorities and military interfere in the exercise of this inviolable duty between others. In such circumstances, the most effective resistance is doing one’s utmost not to descend to the unacceptable behavior of the occupier. Hence, the most effective resistance is promoting the right to unconditional hospital treatment and, above all, hospitality.