Spotlight highlights Checkpoint events characteristic of the policy of the occupation: the systematic repudiation of basic human rights in the occupied territories. For Palestinians, reality is a complicated tangle of problems (survival in the everyday, education, health, making a living…) that cannot be solved because the Israeli occupation is conducted by enforcing countless inhuman bans. The Spotlights rely on collections of relevant reports from the field.
When the rooster’s the judge, where can the grain of wheat turn? (Palestinian proverb)
In the guise of enforcing the law, justifying itself by claims of “security,” the Israeli regime prepares to take over Palestinian lands, dispossessing and expelling their owners, in order to implement its program for judaizing Jerusalem based on this principle: more territory – fewer people.
From the reports:
1. When we entered we saw many land expropriation notices posted on the bulletin boards in the waiting room. All the expropriation orders were written in Hebrew. (For full report click here)
The reality facing Palestinians in East Jerusalem after the separation wall has been completed is that they’re cut off from most of the West Bank and from family members on the other side.
These people, numbering in the tens of thousands, aren’t Israeli citizens. They’ve been annexed to form part of the “united city,” have been made permanent residents without civil rights or equality before the law, and can at any moment lose their conditional status with no advance notice by virtue of laws both old and new (such as the Citizenship Law), at the whim of the Minister of the Interior.
From a publication of B’Tselem: “Denying residency rights and social welfare benefits to Palestinians who have lived abroad for at least seven years or who are unable to prove that their ‘life is centered’ in Jerusalem.”
2. A kindergarten teacher who, like many in Azariyya, possessed a blue ID card and lost her Jerusalem residency rights because “she doesn’t live in Jerusalem,” but a few hundred meters from the municipal boundary that Israel drew. (For full report click here)
3. His forty-year-old son, who had returned some time ago from the United States where he had trained as a biologist and worked in his field for a number of years, was arrested in the afternoon at the checkpoint when he showed soldiers his blue ID card, his Jerusalem residency document. He was transferred to the base ay the rear of the checkpoint.
Before his cellphone was taken from him (according to the standard procedure) he managed to let his sister know what was happening. She contacted their father…who phoned the commander of the installation, who told him: He, the police officer, is required by law to turn the matter over to the Interior Ministry, and that until the process has been completed his son will be under the supervision and observation of the authorities, as if he had been a fleeing criminal. As the father described the jobs he’d held as a young man in order to make enough money to send his children to the best schools, his visage tightened and tears began filling the furrows of his face. Quickly, he wiped his cheeks with his hand, as if the tears had been an annoying mosquito bite and not the burst of emotion that overcame him upon learning that he’d have to part from his son who will be forced, because of the laws of the state that discriminate among people according to their origin, to seek his future abroad and be unable to settle in his homeland, his natural place, the center of his life. (For full report click here)
According to data published by Ir Amim, residents of East Jerusalem have the highest rate of municipal property tax payments in the city because of their constant fear of losing their (blue) residency document and eviction from their homes. The main advantage of that document is not, as many people think, the right to receive National Insurance Institute payments, but the freedom of movement it grants to those who hold it.
Even though they live within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and faithfully pay their taxes, they receive hardly any of the services that the municipality is obliged to provide the residents: school buildings in East Jerusalem are unfit to serve as educational institutions and the classrooms are unbearably crowded. That’s why everyone who can afford it sends their children to private schools.
There is no garbage collection in most of the Palestinian neighborhoods. Householders pile up the garbage and burn it at streetcorners. Choking black smoke rises from the garbage bins whose contents are always on fire.
4. Driving through Jabal Mukaber we wondered again at the refuse and neglect in this Jerusalem neighborhood, one for which the municipality is responsible. Garbage overflowing from the bins, filthy streets, the roads filled with potholes that make driving difficult.
Residents of the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods can’t obtain construction permits. Those wishing to build on land they own are usually told that the land has been zoned for parks and open space. Unable to obtain appropriate housing legally, the residents are forced to break the law. As families grow, the homes are enlarged and additional stories added to the houses. The Jerusalem municipality, in turn, issues demolition orders and evicts people from their homes.
The 1948 refugees who found alternative housing in place of the homes from which they’d been expelled, but who have no deed proving ownership, have met with similar treatment. Even though they’ve lived in the same house for decades and their children and grandchildren were born and raised there, they’re now being “legally” evicted for the second time in their life.
5. Three days after they were notified that they have a week to vacate their home, the police came, and after breaking open the front door threw all the furniture into the street. Soon it had disappeared. The family was left out in the street; they’ve been there for a few months.
6. Of the two additional families from Sheikh Jarah (near the Shepherd Hotel) who’d received eviction notices, one was an elderly widow who didn’t understand what they wanted from her, and who’d signed with her fingerprint a document which she’d been told would allow her to remain in her home. It turned out she’d agreed to an increase of hundreds of percent in the minimum rent she’d been paying Amidar for years, or else she’d be evicted.
It’s impossible to minimize the damage caused by the wall to people living in Jerusalem. The wall divides families, its construction requires expropriating and destroying agricultural land from which people made a living, and has placed densely populated neighborhoods beyond the city’s boundaries. Because of the wall, a trip that used to take a few minutes is now long and difficult.
7. Walaja: This morning, bulldozers uprooted eighty olive trees belonging to our friend, A., and other fruit trees – apricot, peach and walnut…One [peson]…lives in a house at the end of a road that will be completely closed off by the fence, and only a narrow corridor will allow him to reach the village. His children will grow up in a cage. When he complained he was told – This is a construction site; if you don’t like it, you can leave.
8. When we entered the village we again saw how close were the new single-family homes of Har Gilo to the fence separating them from the village, and the ongoing construction…
…He never imagined the day would come when he’d have to fact the fact that much of his land, including his parents’ graves, would remain on the other side of a fence, and that the erection of that fence would require uprooting his trees. We went to look at the construction and saw many trucks loaded with earth driving down the hill toward the checkpoint, clearing a wide path on which the wall will be built.
9. A woman with a Jerusalem ID, whose home adjoins the separation wall on the “wrong side,” told us about how she has to travel in order to make sure her children arrive on time at their school in the Old City: To get there by 8:00 she wakes them every day at 5:30 – before sunrise – and leaves the house at 6:00. (For full report click here)
The “permit regime,” newspeak for what in fact is the “prohibition regime,” finds expression in the points of contact between the Palestinians and the soldiers – the checkpoints. That’s where the prohibitions are applied in practice, where the individual’s life is arranged for him. One of the harsh expressions of this process is what’s known as a “temporary permit to remain for family reunification,” meaning that a married couple is sentenced to a life of permanent uncertainty if their ID cards aren’t the same color.
Amnesty International stated that the amendment to the Citizenship Law passed by the Knesset in July, 2003, is “a disgraceful racist blot legislated for demographic, not security, reasons.”
10. The forty-year-old man was angry and frustrated when he wasn’t permitted to go through the checkpoint. For more than a decade he’s lived with his family (his wife and five children) in Atarot on the basis of a temporary family unification permit that was routinely renewed each time it expired. Recently the authorities refused to renew the permit and his life was suddenly upended. (For full report click here)
11. A man with a green ID card (Occupied Territories) approaches us: his wife has a blue ID (Jerusalem). A few days ago, at Qalandiya, they confiscated his family reunification permit, without any explanation. They sent him to the Beit El police station. He went; he came back. Went. Came back. They finally gave him a document stating that he’s forbidden to enter Israel because of security reasons. If he wants more information, he has to go to the police station in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem. But how will he get there; he has no permit. He sent his wife to the Russian Compound. They told her: “Come back after the holidays; there’s no one here now.”
The route of the wall tears up and dissects the landscape as well as the urban fabric between Ramallah and East Jerusalem, divides families, and the law turns many people into illegal residents of their own homes and property.
12. A young man waited to enter the DCO office. He came out a few minutes later without having obtained what he wanted – a crossing permit. We asked what his story was. He said that he, his father, mother and sister have lived more than thirty years in Beit Hanina, in Jerusalem, but they have Palestinian ID cards so they need crossing permits to continue living in their home. He said that for the past four years they’ve been receiving permits valid for three or four months, and then they have to renew them. The problem is that it usually takes a month from the date the permit expires to when it’s renewed, and during this time he, as the sole breadwinner, has to sneak over the border in order to return to his family. The other family members (father, mother and sister) hide at home, afraid to go out and be arrested. (For full report click here
They covered the earth with trees who’ve forgotten their owners because they no longer beget.
They concealed any signs of the house with strange colors – real flowers can’t grow there.
They sowed weeds in the fields where no human foot ever had trod – not before and not after.
They placed in the house new couples colored dazzling white.
And they said: now the scene will be much more enticing/
The amnesia enterprise