“We Did Not Know” is Not an Option—by Ayala Emmett

Amos Gvirtz & his friend Aziz of El Araqib village
Amos Gvirtz &
his friend Aziz
of El Araqib village*

All over the world we hear a familiar denial  of oppression and atrocities in the form of “We did not know.”  The phrase is privileged citizens’ easy way out when their governments repress minorities and deny them human rights. Examples abound in despotic regimes as well as in democracies. In all cases favored citizens who use the phrase are participants in the repression by claiming ignorance of its existence.

In democracies like the United States and Israel denials of repression by privileged citizens are the more egregious for the obvious reason of greater freedoms.

A glaring case of denial here in the U.S. has been recently exposed/denounced by Black Life Matters, which continues to insist that all of us must face endemic police brutality against people of color. Black Life Matters makes it clear that white citizens’ response “we did not know” is not an option. Social media, cameras, pictures expose the facts of chilling brutality. Now the eye of camera and the voice of the recorder (all in one cellphone) provoke a knowing/owning of the facts and become a force in confronting America’s endemic racism.

In Israel a similar move, to disallow privileged citizens to escape to the comfortable denial-route, has been taken by peace activists like Amos Gvirtz. In Israel the treatment of minorities, Arabs, Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, and Bedouins can go undetected/unattended by politically privileged citizens unless some like Amos Gvirtz decide to challenge pervasive denials and expose daily routine repressions.

Amos Gvirtz is the author of the book (in Hebrew) Don’t Say We Did Not Know. “His book is based on the moral questions Israelis must face today and the reasons people don’t want to know about the crimes being committed.”

Gvirtz has taken his book a step further, as he “developed an international audience with his “Don’t Say We Did Not Know” weekly emails about unpublicized incidents, events, and government actions affecting the Palestinian and Bedouin communities.
A life-long pacifist and Israeli peace activist, he is a longtime member of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and part of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.

His book and the weekly emails describe the difficulties human rights and peace organizations face along with the history of their successes, examining both the nonviolent approach and the risks Occupation presents for the future existence of Israel.” The emails inscribe routinized brutality of the occupation that seeps daily into repressions within the state of Israel depriving its Bedouin citizens in the Negev of their civil rights.

The Jewish Pluralist is offering its first of Gvirtz’ painful missives of ongoing destruction of Bedouin homes and Palestinian properties. The following is already the Don’t say we did not know #497:

“On Wednesday, April 6, 2016, Israeli soldiers arrived at the Palestinian village Umm El-Kheir, in the south Hebron hills region, near the expansion of the settlement Carmel, and demolished six homes. 35 people were made homeless. The inhabitants are Bedouins, the Hadlin family, of the Jahalin tribe. They purchased the land where they live in the 1950s after being expelled from Israel.

On Wednesday, 06/04/16, government agents escorted by police, arrived and demolished a home in El-Bat, near road 31, in front of Nevatim junction. In El-Sayyed, near Hura, they demolished a wall under construction.”

Don’t say we did not know.

*Amos Gvirtz and friend Aziz show Amos’s new book. Aziz is one of the residents of El Araqib village in the Negev, which has been demolished over 80 times.

**The quotes are from Rebuilding Alliance