Daoud Kuttab

A Siege on Top of a Siege

My mother-in-law, who lives in Bethlehem, is unable to come and visit us because of the travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians wishing to enter East Jerusalem. It is ironic that an Egyptian, Jordanian, European or American visiting Israel can travel freely in the entire area, but people like my wife's mother can't make the eight-kilometer journey from Bethlehem.
I have never understood why the restrictions imposed after any suicide bombing against Israelis are called a "closure for security reasons."
To begin with, the closure of the territories from Israel as well as from East Jerusalem began in February 1993. Since then, anyone wishing to cross the Green Line has needed a special permit issued by the Israeli military authorities. What happens after any anti-Israeli violence is that those peo¬ple with special permits are also denied entry into Israel and Jerusalem.
Permits are given to Palestinian individuals after they go through a rig¬orous screening process in which various criteria are applied. Among the criteria is whether the applicant has been jailed for political reasons, is over twenty-five, is married, and so on. The latest version of the closure is no more than a restriction against individuals who have already passed the very difficult Israeli security clearance.
To justify this further restriction on movement for security reasons is a big farce. One of the first things the Israeli security people check out is whether the person who has committed any act of violence had a permit. Not a single case has been discovered in which a bombing or a stabbing was carried out by individuals with permits issued by Israelis. No doctors, teachers, businessmen or journalists have been involved in these activities. No married men or women, nor people over the age of thirty have been involved in carrying out these activities. Nevertheless, the Israeli Government, fully conscious of these statistics, placed a siege on top of the siege, forbidding travel for a whole sector of the society. And this time there was little attempt to cover up the real rea¬son. Senior Israeli officials made it clear in public statements that the clo¬sure is meant to force the Palestinian National Authority to take action. In other words, the movement of Palestinians is held hostage to the action or inaction of Palestinian officials. So my mother-in-law will have to keep waiting till Arafat can convince the Israelis that he has uprooted Hamas and Islamic Jihad "terror."

Donors and Donations

One of the problems facing us these days is that we are forced to accept donations without any question. In many cases donors have their own agenda that has little to do with what is necessary or needed for Palestinians.
The other day, a European country presented Palestinians with an impressive research project in the area of environment. The total budget for the project was about $250,000. The problem was that more than 80 percent of that sum was to go to the researchers from that European country, whereas Palestinian participation was to be nothing more than a token rep¬resentation. A Far Eastern country contributed to the Palestinian National Authority three incinerators aimed to help relieve the terrible solid waste problem. When the incinerators arrived and the crate was opened, it was discovered that they were more than thirty years old. The Palestinians closed the crates and sent them back to the sender.
Other problems arise when donor agencies decide to change or stop a particular project for reasons that are not well understood by the local com¬munity. A case in point is the recent decision by the Holy Land Christian Mission to close its very successful Mt. David Orthopedic Hospital for Children. The closure drew angry reactions from the community and the Palestinian National Authority, which put its hands on the Mission's prop¬erties in the hope of forcing it to retract the decision or turn over its
charities to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Of course the problem is not so simple. The lack of Palestinian planning and coordination allows the various donors to speculate. As a result, there are many duplicate projects as well as grants that can't be put to good use by the Palestinian people.
What is lacking in this situation, as in the case of most donors, is an authentic Palestinian participation in decision-making. Were the Palestinians consulted, most of these problems could have been prevented and donations would have been put to the best use.

A Shocking System

Living in an oppressive atmosphere for so long often numbs one's sensi¬tivity. But South African journalist and TV producer Amina Fresne, here for a television coverage training program, was really shocked with the travel restrictions on Palestinians. Returning to Jerusalem from Bethlehem on the third day of Id el-Fitr, we noticed a family being turned back at the military checkpoint. The man had a permit to enter Jerusalem, but the wife and daughter (in their holiday best) were not allowed in. The announce¬ment that all Palestinian women as well as men over thirty would be allowed into Jerusalem and Israel to be with their families had not been communicated by the Israeli military authorities to the soldiers staffing the checkpoints. Fresne all but got out of the car to make an issue of what she considered reminiscent of the scandalous and dreaded pass system the people of South Africa had so long fought against.

Daniel Gavron

People Ahead of Their Time

In a recent television interview, former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir maintained that Israel came out of the Intifada the winner. It was the Oslo agreement that saved the PLO, he asserted; the organization was already in the process of disintegration. And what would have happened otherwise, he was asked. The answer came back with Shamir's usual self-assurance: "The Arabs would have been totally demoralized." (Shamir did not, of course, permit himself to use the term "Palestinians.")
Disregarding Shamir's analysis of the outcome of the Intifada, it is clear that the former Premier felt that the total demoralization of the Palestinians would serve Israeli interests. No doubt the Islamic extremists who blew themselves up in Tel Aviv and Beit Lid, taking dozens of Israelis with them, hoped to cause total disillusionment on the Israeli side and thus ben¬efit the Palestinian cause.
The bombers and Shamir have both got it wrong. Victory will not be gained by demoralizing the other side. Apart from the victims themselves, the only casualty is peace, which means that everybody loses. The minori¬ties - Israeli and Palestinian - who believe in peace will continue to do so no matter what happens. Ditto the minorities on both sides who see per¬petual conflict as inevitable, or even desirable. The ones who become disil¬lusioned are the majorities, the ones who are not quite sure. These majori¬ties want peace; but they are skeptical and deeply suspicious of the other side. These are the people upon whom peace depends. Without their sup¬port it cannot be achieved.
The views of the Israeli majority were summed up some time ago by retired General Avigdor Ben-Gal: "I've been in bed with the Palestinians for over twenty-five years. I don't love them. They don't love me. I want a divorce." More recently Sheikh Hamed AI-Beetawi, the eminent Palestinian Muslim, declared: "The separation should be absolute. Don't worry about our economy. Just get out of here, so that we don't have to see you and you don't have to see us."
It is difficult for people like ourselves, involved as we are with joint pro¬jects, to admit that we are probably ahead of our time; but we are. If peace had depended on us, it would have come a long time ago; but it doesn't. It depends on the aforementioned Israeli and Palestinian majorities: suspi¬cious, worried, uncertain.
For this reason the most realistic basis for a solution to the Israeli¬Palestinian tangle is to untangle it. We cannot seal ourselves off hermeti¬cally from each other; but there has to be a withdrawal, a functional sepa¬ration. There are of course complications: the Palestinian economy, the Jewish settlements, Jerusalem; but even here separation is the solution most likely to generate majority support on both sides. Cooperation and friendship will come later for the most part, built up brick by brick by peo¬ple of goodwill on both sides.

A Life Devoted to Others

It is no secret that some of the Palestinians responsible for recent attacks have lost family or friends in the conflict, or spent time in Israeli jails. On the Israeli side, Shamir is a Holocaust survivor, as is journalist Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, who suggested on Israeli television that car-bombs be dis¬patched to ten West Bank towns to avenge Palestinian bombings. However, it is far from axiomatic that people with such scars are extremist. There are those who rise above their personal experiences in an inspiring manner.
In the first volume of this Journal, we published extracts from Izzat Ghazzawi's "Point of Departure," a prison memoir that was remarkably free of bitterness. Dr. Lotte Salzberger, who died recently in Jerusalem, was another whose terrible experiences only served to strengthen her liberal convictions.
Lotte, who lost her family in the Holocaust, was herself incarcerated in the Ravensbruk concentration camp. She survived miraculously and came to Israel after the war. She created a new life for herself, a life often devot¬ed to others. Among other things, she was deputy mayor of Jerusalem, the director of the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work at the Hebrew University, a founder of Sovlanut (Tolerance), and a leading member of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
When she received the Emil Grunzweig Award for Civil Rights in 1991, the judges resolved that her work involved "a daily struggle with the mis¬fortunes of many residents living under a military regime, to bring their problems to the attention of the authorities for a solution. In these matters, Ha-Moked, under the leadership of Lotte Salzberger, is fired by the belief that the Jewish tradition includes the basis for a just society based on the principle of 'What is hateful to thee, do not to thy fellow: " Emil was an Israeli peace activist killed by an Israeli rightist during a Jerusalem demon¬stration against the Lebanon War.
I worked with Lotte at Ha-Moked, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, an Israeli organization located in East Jerusalem, which defends human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Concentrating on individual victims of violence and human rights abuses, Ha-Moked has provided assistance to some 7,000 Palestinians in the past seven years.
Ironically, Lotte's car, parked down the road from the Ha-Moked offices, was one of those burnt by Intifada activists. Even more ironically, the Israeli National Insurance Institute initially denied Lotte compensation, on the grounds that she did not have a "legitimate" reason for being in East Jerusalem when her car was burnt. It goes without saying that the destruc¬tion of her car did not dampen, or even slow down, Lotte's indefatigable championship of the cause of Palestinian victims, and she remained a very active chairperson of Ha-Moked until the day of her death.
It was a privilege to work with Lotte, a lady in the best sense of the word: bursting with energy and enthusiasm, always optimistic, cheerful and friendly. An example to us all.