Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Boy Who Caused a Bomb Scare at Qalandia

On Monday, Qalandia check point between Jerusalem and Ramallah was closed off. Completely closed off. No one was even allowed to walk through.

I thought nothing of it at the time, because such is the Israeli occupation of Palestine: utterly unforeseeable, and completely arbitrary.

So my co-worker and I who had been to a meeting in East Jerusalem shrugged our shoulders and walked through the normally closed off passage-way to Al-Ram instead, a suburb to Jerusalem separated from the city by an eight meter high concrete wall.

We tried to approach the Israeli soldiers first, to ask them what was going on, and whether the check point would open anytime soon. But they - not very surprisingly, perhaps - weren't especially cooperative.

In their check point Arabic they yelled, "Eb'ad, eb'ad!" Get away, get away. Always expecting that everybody is out to harm them.

So we did. Get away from them. We walked through the gate they had opened in the wall facing Qalandia check point on the "Israeli" side, and caught a public taxi on the other side.

Confusing? Yes, the wall snakes in such a way so that you can actually stand with your back to Qalandia checkpoint, which is itself an opening in the wall, and face the gate in the wall that leads to Al-Ram.

The gate to Al-Ram, right opposite Qalandia check point

Such is the Zionist separation policy of Israel: it runs parallel with their strategic, geographic vision of a Greater Israel in which all Palestinians are conveniently pushed out of existence with the calculating use of concrete walls, turnstiles, baggage checks and electrified fences.

In any event. Today, my co-worker Sabreen came up to me and told me:

"Ruby, remember when you and the Doctor couldn't go through Qalandia the other day?"


"You know why? My brother's fiancée was there, waiting to go through. There was a woman in front of her, with a small boy, who had barely put their belongings on the conveyor belt to have them x-rayed, before suddenly the place was stormed by Israeli soldiers wearing masks over their faces, holding their weapons, yelling 'Where is the qonbela, where is the qonbela?'"

I interrupted. "What's a qonbela?"

"A bomb," Sabreen said and motioned with her hand how you pull the safety lever off a hand grenade and throw it.

"Oh, " I said. "I see."

"Yes, and the woman in front of my brother's fiancée held her hands up and screamed 'We don't have anything, we don't have anything!'"

She said that the soldiers had told her to shut up, but she had insisted and screamed again that they had nothing with them.

"But the Israeli soldiers closed off the whole check point and held everybody in there for two or three hours to question them," Sabreen said. "And then it turned out that the bag with the woman and the boy did not in fact contain a qonbela." 

"But what?"

"A belt!"

"A belt?"

The boy had put his belt with the bag so he could pass the the metal detector without setting off the alarm. And the belt buckle was shaped as hand grenade.

"Motkhalfeen." Stupid soldiers.

Yes, indeed. But fear breeds stupidity.

The soldiers then told the woman and the child to throw away the belt and never use it again. Because in the world of Israel, a toy grenade in the hands of a Palestinian boy is so much worse than a real grenade in the hands of a Jew.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Letter to Google Maps

Dear Google Maps,

We appreciate your service greatly, but there are two mistakes in your website that we hope that you will correct shortly.

First of all, when we go to your website and search for Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus,  Salfit, Abu Dis, Bethlehem, or any other village or town in the occupied Palestinian territories, it comes up as "(town we googled), Israel" (with the name in Hebrew letters).

Screen shot of Google Maps placing Jenin in Israel

Perhaps you're not aware of the fact that the occupied Palestinian territories are unlawfully occupied by Israel and not actually Israel?

If this is the case, please consult the UN; they should be able to tell you that virtually the entire world condemns Israel's occupation of Palestine and does not recognize its attempts to annex Palestinian territories, such as East Jerusalem or the areas trapped between Israel's separation wall and the so-called Green Line.

For such a world-known corporation as Google to locate Palestinian towns and villages in Israel and not in the occupied Palestinian territories can be interpreted as an attempt to legitimize Israel's claim over Palestine. Are you sure that this is what you want to do?

Secondly, perhaps you didn't know that it is misleading and in fact insulting to provide a Hebrew translation of Palestinian villages, towns and cities, instead of an Arabic translation?

If so, please note that since Israel is an occupying power that is not only brutally repressing the basic human rights of Palestinians, demolishing their houses, stealing their land, taking their water, and so forth; Israel is also trying to erase all Palestinian historic claim to the land by, for instance, writing the place names in Hebrew first, and Arabic second on traffic signs in the occupied Palestinian territories. In spite of the fact that nobody except the illegal Jewish settlers that occupy and colonize Palestinian land actually speak Hebrew in Palestine.

For Google Maps to provide a translation into Hebrew, but not into Arabic, can therefore be seen as another attempt by your corporation to legitimize Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

Is this the face you want to show to a world who is getting increasingly impatient with Israel's defiance of international law and human rights?

Since we don't believe that it is, we are confident that you will correct these mistakes immediately.



PS We're gathering support on Facebook.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Saw the Old Lady Again Today

Remember the lady from Bethlehem, old and bent, who set out to walk all the way from hilly Al-Tireh to Ramallah Tahta to go and see a doctor for her shoulder?

I saw her today. Hobbling down a street in central Ramallah.

She was wearing the same black shoes, black stockings, a black skirt, a dark blue cardigan with a silver clasp in the front, and the colorful silky scarf over her hair, tied under her chin.

She looked so tiny.

I saw her stop at the sight of a blue plastic bag on the ground, study it, lift it up with her cane, and I wondered what her situation is, really. Is she so poor that she has to go through trash? Has she maybe lived through such hard times that she feels she mustn't let anything go to waste?

She inspected the plastic bag, decided it wasn't worth anything after all, let it go, and walked on.

The sun was shining, people hurried past her on their way to work.

She came to the end of the sidewalk and stopped. Reached her cane over the edge and steadied it on the street before she ventured to take a cautious step down.

She made it. But was so exhausted by the feat that she only took a few more steps before she sat herself down to rest on a white plastic chair set up by a parking lot. The parking guard came out of his little booth,

"That will be one shekel," he joked.

He stayed and talked to the old lady.

And I. I thought I couldn't let the moment pass, since I do have a blog to think of, so I pulled out my camera.

Not very clear because the windshield was dirty, and I didn't want to roll down the window and make my paparazzo-ing too obvious. But there she is. The old lady from Bethlehem.

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