Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hezbollah's Rockets

Now I'm not an weapon expert, but something doesn't feel entirely fair when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Hezbollah has more rockets and missiles than most governments. Is it really the number of missiles that counts, or the destruction power of these missiles (or other types of weapons that might be of more concern)?

Because I would assume that many of the governments that have fewer rockets and missiles than Hezbollah might have more advanced arms that could do far more damage than Hezbollah's missiles.

I'm not for Hezbollah having missiles, but just think the comparison is a little off.

It's a little bit like saying that Palestinians have more rocks than the Israeli Defense Force has guns. The facts are right, but it says nothing about the power relation between the two subjects.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Double Standards

I love* how when you walk into Malha Mall in Jerusalem you have to pass through a metal detector and leave your bag for inspection by the guard (supposedly to check for weapons?), but once you're inside, you see (omitted) Israeli settlers with huge (omitted) guns walking around shopping like normal.

Example: a 16-year-old kid in front of me in the line at the food court was holding his (omitted) finger on the trigger of his M16, playing around with it.

That's not a security risk?

*I'm being sarcastic

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Israel's Land Grab

We drove through stretches and stretches of Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967 yesterday.

Nothing special about that, you might think, seeing as how I'm in the West Bank, all of which was occupied in 1967.

But we weren't in the West Bank yesterday. We were in Israel. Driving back from an opening ceremony for a library at one of the Israeli peace organizations we work with (did I tell you that I changed my job? I work for a Palestinian organization that have different projects aimed towards peace and democracy, some of which are together with Israeli organizations that are working towards the same goals we are).

So anyway, we drove through stretches and stretches of land not even considered a part of the West Bank anymore. It's completely annexed by Israel and has been integrated into their state.

And this made me think that people normally don't realize the extent of Israel's land grab. Take a look at the four maps below.

The first map is Palestine in 1946, under British rule. What's green on the map is Palestinian land, the small white parts represent the land owned by Jews.

The second map is the so-called Partition Plan recommended by the UN General Assembly in 1947. Without asking the majority of the inhabitants of Palestine (namely, the Palestinians), the world powers thought it would be a good idea to divide the land under British occupation into one Palestinian state and one Jewish state (in economic union, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum under international administration).

This didn't go well with neither the Palestinians, the surrounding Arab states, nor the Zionist Jews in Palestine. The Palestinians stood to lose their major sea ports, almost all of their arable land and their major water sources to European immigrants; the Arab states were worried that this was a second wave of European colonization in the Middle East, and frankly, some of them wanted fertile Palestine for themselves; and finally, the Jewish immigrants were set on occupying much more land than the UN Partition Plan recommended they'd get.

So, the Jewish immigrants decided to take the matter into their own hands, and went on and occupied most of historic Palestine in 1948. The result is what you see in the third map. The white is what is generally accepted as the State of Israel today, even though it doesn't exactly correspond to the UN Partition Plan (but instead to the armistice agreement between Israel and its neighboring Arab States, excluding Palestine, after the war in 1948).

Obviously, Israel wasn't satisfied, and went on to occupy all of Palestine, some of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt in 1967 (some, but far from all of this land, has been returned to the respective countries since). Then, little by little, Israel is annexing the land left for Palestinians to maybe some day establish their own state, by transferring Jews into the occupied West Bank into illegal settlements, erecting a concrete wall well beyond the 1967 occupation line, building Israelis-and-Jews-only roads that Palestinians can't even cross... and the result is map four. (Except Israel very kindly gave back the little white piece of land that you see in Gaza to Palestine in 2004-2005... only to put the whole Gaza Strip under complete siege and blockade, and to bomb the hell out of their neighborhoods a little later).

These little green areas you see in map number four. The unconnected little blots of green. That's all that's left of Palestine for the Palestinians (of course, it's all under occupation, but at least it's still considered Palestinian land). Like little reservations or Bantustans, to make an analogy to two similar cases in a not-so-distant past (yes, I'm talking about the Native Americans in the U.S.A. and the native black peoples in South Africa during the Apartheid years).

And do you know what annoys me the most? (Except the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes, their land, their livelihood, their family and friends, of course). That Israel is proud of it.

On every lamppost, from every car, in every house window, there hangs a white-and-blue Israeli flag now. To celebrate 62 years of occupation, thievery (yes, because they didn't just steal land, they stole all of the assets belonging to the Palestinians who fled in 1948 too--including bank accounts), and war.

This is Israel. This is what they glorify and celebrate.

Thank God that there are a number of brave Jewish Israeli scholars, journalists and activists who dare to speak up against all of this. And that there are Jews who made a conscious choice to move to, for instance, the United States instead of the newly formed Israel after the Second World War, because they understood what was going on in Palestine and did not want to put another people through what they had just been through in Europe.

Thank God for this. Because it reminds me that not all Jews nor all Israelis support what Israel is doing to Palestinians.

But unfortunately, enough do support it for it to continue.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Checkpoint Policy

My faithful readers will remember me writing about what I thought was a bizarre and probably very temporary policy at Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. You know the day almost two months ago, when the Israeli soldiers at Qalandia suddenly decided that line four was for men only, line three for women only, and line one was mixed?

Yes. It turns out that the bizarre and temporary policy wasn't temporary at all. Today, when we wanted to cross into Jerusalem for the first time in almost two months (because my boyfriend finally got a permit again), the policy persists.

Not knowing this, and without any signs advertising this, and because line one was too long to begin with, we made the mistake of going to line four. The men-only line. Not before long, the soldier behind the bomb proof glass ordered me and all other women to go to line three.

Why? Seriously. I can't think of one single logical reason why they would want to separate women and men into two different lines.

But I went, of course. And I waited. And waited. The soldiers let through one or two women at a time. Checked their IDs meticulously. Called them up to the window to show the contents of their bags to the soldiers. I saw the men-only line move and Tarek and his father go through the two-meter high turnstiles. But I was left waiting. And I waited.

When I was finally let through, I showed my visa to the woman soldier behind the glass as usual. Normally, they're happy with this and let me walk. But this soldier asked me for the picture page. I showed her. She typed my name or my passport number or something into her computer. Asked me for my visa page, and then for my picture page again. She pointed at the bottom of the screen and read whatever it said there out loud to her colleague. But the microphone was off, and it was in Hebrew anyway.


They discussed something, and then waved me through.

It took me 45 minutes to cross even though the checkpoint was almost empty (only maybe 15 women in front of me). 

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Monday, April 19, 2010

New Israeli Settlement Plans

You know when they're building a new neighborhood or renovating a train station or something, and they put up this huge billboard with a computer-generated image of how it will look like when it's done?

That's what this is. Except this is an illegal Israeli settlement being built on occupied Palestinian territory. We drive past it every time we leave Ramallah for Jericho or Bethlehem.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Life After the New Israeli Military Order

Yesterday the craziest thing happened at the checkpoint on the way to Bethlehem. Haha. We're still laughing about it.

But first, let me give you the proper (and not-so-funny) background:

Israel imposed a new military order last week that allows them to jail and/or deport anybody non-Jewish residing in the occupied Palestinian West Bank without the proper Israeli paperwork (i.e. West Bank ID or permit). So in effect, anybody with a Gaza ID, or anybody born in the West Bank with parents with a Gaza ID can be deported to Gaza with a 72 hour notice (yes, even if they never even set foot in Gaza).

Similarly, anybody with Lebanese passports, or Jordanian, or Swedish, or whatever, can be deported if they don't have a permit issued by Israel to reside in the West Bank. The same rule applies to stateless persons who may very well be from the West Bank, or anywhere else in Palestine (including what is Israel today) but do not possess the proper paperwork.

Seeing as how long and difficult the process of getting a permit from Israel can be, this affects quite a few people here. According to some estimations, as many as 70,000 Palestinians here on the West Bank risk being jailed or deported any one of these days as of last week.

Ramallah took out to the streets a few days ago to show their discontent over this new military order:

Demonstration in Ramallah against Israel's new military order

Indeed. The only illegal residents in the Palestine are Israeli settlers.

Israel doesn't waste time either. Just a day or two after the new military order was imposed, people with Gaza IDs started getting phone calls summoning them to the Israeli authorities at the Israeli settlement Beit-Il outside Ramallah.

One man with a Gaza ID at the demonstration wore this t-shirt: 

Man with Gaza ID who didn't want his face in the picture for fear of being deported

Okay, now back to the checkpoint yesterday. They have been surprisingly easy to pass as of late, but now there's a traffic jam at every single one again as the soldiers stop and check each car for people who might be staying here "illegally."

So yesterday on the way to Bethlehem at night, an Israeli soldier stops us and asks for our IDs. As usual, we hand over Tarek's West Bank ID and my Swedish passport.

The soldier looks at my passport and goes: "Where are you from?"

"Sweden," I reply.

He opens the passport and (presumably) reads my name, which sounds decidedly Jewish (even though I come from a Christian background).

He goes: "Ghaza?" (Gaza is pronounced beginning with a sound somewhat similar to the French "r" in Arabic).

I, who can't even imagine in my wildest dreams that anybody reading my Jewish-sounding name in my Swedish passport would seriously ask me if I were from Gaza, say "Sorry?" thinking he said something in Hebrew to me. Considering my name, you know.

Tarek goes: "Ghaza?"

I go: "Huh?" realizing what the soldier had actually asked me. And: "No, Sweden."

The soldier: "What's your name?"

Because if I had stolen a Swedish passport with a one-year visa in it I would never--NEVER!--have memorized the name in the passport.

I replied.

The soldier: "Men Ramallah?" Meaning: "From Ramallah?

"We're coming from Ramallah now, yes, but I'm from Sweden."

The soldier: "Okay." He gave our IDs back and let us go.

We're still laughing. Gaza?!

But this is what it's like now with the new military order. So far. Who knows what will happen next?

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Israeli Construction Pictures

As promised, here are some pictures of the new constructions along the highway between Ramallah and Jericho:

I can't say for sure what exactly they're building, but this is occupied Palestinian territory inside the West Bank, so whatever it is they're building it's officially considered illegal under international law.

And considering the infrastructure they're laying out (on the picture above, you can see preparations for roads), the only reasonable assumption is that they are constructing yet more illegal settlements in the West Bank.

All pictures are taken from the car window as we were swooshing by, but they're clear enough. There's two or three construction places along the way, in the middle of the desert. (But see how green it is now in the spring? It's beautiful).

And like I said in my other post, everybody here is taking for granted that sooner or later, this highway will be closed for Palestinians to make way for the Israeli settlers that will be transferred here, escorted by the Israeli military.

In other news, they will open a currently "Israeli/settler-only road" that's close to where I live for Palestinians too, as soon as they set up a new military checkpoint by it.

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