Every time my wife and I leave Palestine and Israel and head for home -- when our visas are about to run out -- we hope that things won't get worse here while we are back in the United States; but sadly we know they will. And, sure enough, they do.
Similarly, when we come back from the US after travelling to cities and towns talking and writing about the seriously deteriorating security situation in Palestine, we hope that things won't get worse once we get back to the territories; but sadly we know they will.
And they do.
Trying to characterise what happened here this past winter and spring, a Palestinian friend said, "While you were gone, this was a time of sadness."
We were surprised that she could term the situation in such a relatively mild fashion. That's because despite "roadmap" calls for ending provocative settlement bud-up and other confiscatory activities in the West Bank, there have been a glut of discouraging events. They indicate that what has actually been happening is the acceleration of a non-stop, decades-long Israeli coercive campaign to convince Arab residents that Palestine is no longer a safe or welcome place for them to live.
From afar, we knew that while we were gone, Palestinian patience, as always, had been sorely tried. Now in just one tiny but typical portion of the West Bank -- Hebron's Old City -- I was experiencing once again first hand the many manifestations of this colossal truth.
I will explain a little later why I was not surprised to learn that since we left Palestine last January, the Israeli army had extended its control over the H2 area -- consigned to Israel after Oslo II -- by appropriating a piece of H1 -- the area of Hebron granted by Oslo II to the Palestinian National Authority but which was totally reoccupied by Israel last summer.