Archive for July, 2007

July 30, 2007

A smooth ride into Tel Aviv, as to be expected, on level, wide, roadblockless and checkpoint-free roads, pass lush treed scenery. It is no wonder many Israelis are unacquainted with Palestinians real and daily suffering: on these roads, life continues as normal and one can exist in the bubble of a car, oblivious to life on the Palestinian side. There, on the other hand, it is simply a matter of adjusting. Even someone from a comfortable Western developed country can get used to slow services, bumpy dusty roads, long lines, lines which often result in waiting in the heat of the day for movement…

The bus driver, the Interior Ministry clerk… perhaps not fair to generalize, but, in general, Israelis lack the social graces I’ve encountered every day among Palestinians. On the other hand, it is a question of privilege, (lack of) awareness, and indoctrination, rather than by virtue of being Jewish Israeli.  I’ve certainly met like people in Canada, and have equally met wonderful Israelis among the more honest and activist groups, Israelis who recognize their country’s culpability in the killing, torture, and abuse of so many Palestinians, and who resist being a part of the system of racism.

So unlike Palestinian roads: narrow, inevitably pot-holed and under construction, roadblocks and checkpoints abounding, masses kept back waiting, masses squeezed and honking.

The cafes, restaurants, cities: Westernized, modern clean, expensive.

Israel is so much greener than Palestine. A vibrancy like Nepali rice paddies. Much water has obviously been diverted to these trees and crops –lush areas. Visiting Tel Aviv, where Palestinians live under Israeli ID but without Israeli rights, and seeing massive development and utterly non-Arab culture is heartbreaking and insulting. And I know that uttering these thoughts leads to attacks and criticisms of anti-Semitism and bias.

This transparent strategy of defeating criticism of Israel is, while obvious, effective.

[see: Academic freedom doesn’t extend to those who speak out against Israel ]

My scorn, uncontainable, for the brutal manner in which Israel was founded and has been continually expanded, and its brutal continuation of racist policies cannot be subdued to appreciate Israeli cities where Palestinian rights are non-existent and Palestinian culture verging on the same fate. They repel me with their injustice.

Qalendia Machsom was full this morning, traffic from Ar Ram’s Dahir Al Bariit Machsom diverted here.

“It’s not fair. You can go to Qalendia. We can’t. We can’t leave here.”

“Where do you work?”

“All over, in many cities.”

“So you cannot work today?”

“No.”

“What about that space in the Wall just over there that people climb over…Can you use that?”

“The police are watching it. From 7 until 5.”

“Working hours.”

“Yes.”

They closed the Ar Ram Machsom (“checkpoint”) to foreigners and to Palestinians without Israeli IDs. Qalendia is the other option, and for me is not a real problem. A foreigner can sail through on a servis without even getting out of it (while Palestinians, particularly young male Palestinians, must get out and go through the turnstile security system.). Even if going through the turnstile system in solidarity with those who have no other choice, foreigners still face relatively few problems, save at times excruciating lineups. The woman who wants to visit her grandmother around the corner from the Dahir al Bariit Machsom must now travel at least 1.5 hours –if the lineups are tolerable and the waiting masses are permitted through the System –to reach her grandmother in what should have taken a mere 5 minutes in a direct route from her home.

The soldiers are non-plussed: “I’m just following orders.” The old song and dance that slides morality through immoral situations. The passing of the buck, the shirking of responsibility.

S was there. We caught up and joked morosely about the system, about the need to push our ways through the crowded Machsom lines but both our unwillingness to do so. Unwillingness to fall prey to the set-up: to forget our neighbours, to turn against (or turn ignorant of) the people in the same situation around us, in the desperation to get through the system. I hate to push my way through in this fucking situation, where people going to work are stopped, squashed into a caged space, and taunted with a small opening to ‘freedom’ [temporary and confined as it is]. It isn’t the same as pushing through a crowd in east Asia, where that is an everyday situation and cultural norm. Here, the mobs are created by the oppressors.

S got caught in the turnstile, the next in line after I’d passed through. He took it in stride [halted stride], as they do, but it hurt me again. As did his having to take off his belt to pass through security. Every security metal detector means taking off belts –seems like I’m always seeing well-dressed Palestinians re-adjusting their pants, tucking back in their shirts…

And the Palestinian man from earlier at the Dahir al Bariit closed exit was right: it isn’t fair. Not one aspect of the punitive and degrading Occupation is remotely just or fair, including my very own freedom to pack it in and give up, to leave when I choose, to say I’ve had enough of Israel’s belligerency.

July 23, 2007

Surreal: the contrast between a placid rural scenery and the hate and greed which emanates from the settlers, from people who have lost touch with humanity or simply never known it. The surreality comes in these great, rushing waves of disparity and rapid changes. And the ignorance and hatred is unlike any anger I’ve experienced or witnessed, foreign to my perceptions or memories. Sometimes one can ignore it, for a few moments of respite, but then the tragic reality of the pain and devastation this greed, lust, and hatred has wrought over the decades and today continues to strangle with.

Rendering it further incomprehensible are the unexpected niceties –a flower, a grasshopper, tea invites from locals, outbursts of song, nice smells in the air…

I doze, between a morning round of the area –making our presence visible and getting to know our surroundings and temporary neighbours –and later conversations.

In that half-stupor between levels of consciousness, the roar of unseen planes overhead once again brings reality crashing back: I’m in Occupied Palestine and things are not getting better, just more Occupied, more tragic, more dissected and humiliating.

Those planes could be training, could be fear-mongering, could be going to Gaza. All possibilities are horrifying.