Occupational hazards

The Arabic word for occupation is ihtilal. In Iraq in the spring of 2003, Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid observes, it was a word “shadowed by humiliation, notions of resistance, and still resonant memories of the occupation by the British eighty-five years before.”

Moreover, as in the rest of the Arab world, the term called to mind for Iraqis the most explosive ihtilal: the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As Shadid says, “The images are persistent: hulking Caterpillar bulldozers demolishing homes of stone and concrete in the squalor of Gaza; American-built Apache helicopters hovering over West Bank villages along rocky, terraced Palestinian hills; imposing Merkava tanks crashing across refugee camps as haunted faces in black-checked kaffiyehs watch them pass.”

 

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