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Checkpoint Of No Return & Much More

Checkpoint Of No Return & Much More

1. Update on Jaber, detainee with meningitis
2. The Workers of Bil'in protest the theft of their livelihood
3. Al Aqaba written by flo
4. Checkpoint of no return written by Kasper

1. Update on Jaber, detainee with meningitis

30/04/05


On Friday April 29 Ha'emek hospital released Jaber, returning him to Salem Detention camp. He had been taken to Ha'emek hospital last week after his medical situation had deteriorated.

The hospital doctor signed a paper stating that Jaber was now fit to be released into prison custody, but acknowledged to Hanah, a volunteer with IWPS, that he did not know a great deal about viral meningitis, nor care required following the disease. Neither did he have any information regarding the conditions under which Jaber would be held.

Hanah and Dorthy Naor, an Israeli activist, managed to see him for a few minutes as he was taken from the hospital, despite the attempts of three soldiers guarding Jaber to stop them.

They reported that Jaber seems stronger and in better spirits but that his legs are shackled. The soldiers used a wheel chair to take him to an unmarked car, in which they presumably drove him to Salem prison where he is currently being held.

A person recovering from meningitis should not undergo interrogation in a military camp.

Please call the following numbers and demand that Jaber be either released to his home or to another medical facility for full recovery.

Israeli Army phone numbers: DCO in Jenin: +972(0)4.640.7312 or +972(0)4.617.9207 DCO Humanitarian Office: +972(0)2.997.7733

2. ON THE FIRST OF MAY THE WORKERS OF BIL'IN WILL PROTEST AGAINST THE THEFT OF THEIR LIVLIHOOD

30 April 2005

[Ramallah, West Bank] Tomorrow at 11:00am workers and farmers from Bil'in, accompanied by Israeli and international activists, will march to the construction site of the Annexation Wall to protest the theft of their livelihood.

Before the current Intifada many Bil'in residents worked in Israel. Today with unemployment soaring at over 60% the village depends on its agricultural land to survive.

More than half of Bil'in's land, 2300 Dunams, will be lost beyond the Wall and has been earmarked for settlement expansion.

3. Al Aqaba written by flo Another Village under Attack

The mountains of Palestine form a sharp edge that plunges into the Jordan Valley as if cut by a knife. Almost to the rim of this drastic landscape lies the village of Al Aqaba, located in the farthest Palestinian lands of the Jenin region. It is almost a no- man's land, nestled in the soft rolling foothills of the towering mountains, stirred by the strong breeze cooling the hot spring day.

We went to Al Aqaba to speak with Haj Sami, the mayor. When he was 16, Haj Sami was shot by the Israeli military as he walked across the land to see his family. One of the bullets he still carries in his body, being too near his spine to safely remove. The military uses the land around Al Aqaba for their training practices, having killed 8 and wounded 50 since 1971. Haj Sami's wound is one such example. He has been paralyzed since.

Our discussion this day revolved around the current situation in Al Aqaba, of which there are several. There are currently 2 demolition orders from the Israeli military against the village. One order is for the 3 permitted buildings of the village and 17 homes. The 3 permitted buildings have all been recently built with the assistance of foreign government agencies and NGO's. The village has hired a lawyer and taken this order to the Israeli courts, having won an injunction until June 6, 2005, when their case will be heard.

The village medical clinic, open 6 days a weeks, with a doctor on duty 3 of those days, serves the entire eastern area of the Tubas region. The kindergarten has 60 students with 6 teachers, while the secondary school has an enrollment of 72 students with 4 teachers. The mosque, clinic, kindergarten and secondary school are all under the threat of demolition.

The second order is for three homes of the village which house over 27 people, mostly children. The homes are Bedouin style, consisting of a series of tent structures and animal corrals. This order was served within the last week, giving the residents 72 hours to evacuate. With only the verbal assurance from the attorney representing the Israeli military that they will not carry out the order until the village is able to take the case to the courts, everyday is an uncertainty if the military will show up with bulldozers in order to carry out the order or not.

Al Aqaba also has a case of their own in the Israeli court system, fighting to stop the 2 military bases in the area. Since the 1970's, the Israeli military has used the land around Al Aqaba as a training ground, having told the residents it is due to the similar landscape of southern Lebanon. From atop the kindergarten building of Al Aqaba, one can see the evidence on the surrounding landscape of this fact, with tunnels built underneath the hillside and a circle of bunkers dug a little further off. During our visit, F16 fighter jets regularly flew over head.

In the medical clinic there was a wall of pamphlets instructing the youth how to identify and avoid missiles strewn about the country side. These missiles, left behind during trainings by the Israeli military, are live and have maimed many of the young people of Al Aqaba. The pamphlets instruct the children through use of cartoon imagery in what the missiles look like and to call the police if spotted.

Only within the past year has Al Aqaba been granted permission by the Israeli military to wire electricity to their homes. In the past when the village was given a generator by the Palestinian Authority, the military entered the village and confiscated it after the residents' initial attempt to use it. They still are required to haul water from a distant well due to lack of military permission granted and for the same reason, the roads into and out of the village are only partially paved.

With introductions and initial information about Al Aqaba shared, we began a walking tour. As we ventured the short distance from the medical clinic to kindergarten, it seemed to me that we were the only living souls within miles. The village was eerily quiet, except for the strong wind that blew. The only residents of Al Aqaba that I had seen, except for Haj Sami, was the old man who had brought chairs for us to sit under the tree in what I assumed was the center of town, and the young school headmistress who had appeared as quietly as the old man had disappeared after serving us coffee. They seemed to materialize and vanish into the thick air like apparitions. It felt like a ghost town, a village vacant save for these three souls I had encountered, which I was actually starting to question the existence of. I heard no voices, no laughter or calls of `what's yer name' from children amazed at the sight of foreigners. No vehicle had passed since our arrival.

It's unusual in a place like Palestine to encounter such stillness and quiet in the middle of a village. Generally, there are noises, motion, some sort of signs of life. Al Aqaba was different though, not feeling dead, but only uninhabited.

Before 1967, Al Aqaba was inhabited by 200 families, with an average of 10 people each. There are now 300 people that comprise the village. Much of the extreme decline in population, according to Haj Sami, is due to the restrictions placed on the village by the Israeli military. Until quite recently, there was no ability for the village inhabitants to educate themselves, no work and since 1967 there has been a military ban on the people of Al Aqaba to build themselves new homes. The army also burns the grazing lands around the village, leaving the Al Aqaba shepherds no where to graze their flocks.

When you stand in the center of Al Aqaba, which in reality is only a stones throw from any point that is the edge of the village, it becomes clear that these multiple demolition orders issued by the Israeli military mean almost total destruction of the village. These orders, only the newest step in the war Israel has been waging against Al Aqaba since 1971, add to the list of building bans, prior demolitions and restrictions on the progress of infrastructure. During our conversation, Haj Sami repeatedly asked why a superpower such as Israel, with nuclear capabilities and a first world military, would care to make war on the people of the tents. We had no answer for him.

4. Checkpoint of no return written by Kasper

In a time of empty talk of peace and celebrating Ariel Sharon as a man of peace moderate politics, because of extremists' protest against evacuation from Gaza, the situation on the ground in Palestine sees remarkably little change.

Everyday life in the occupied territories is as always a continuous chaos of military interference.

One of the most obvious and constantly present exponents is the Israeli grip on Palestinian freedom of movement, suffocating the fragile infrastructure.

"I'm here to protect my country against terrorists," the young man tells me shrugging as if he is not completely confident with his answer. "So have you seen a lot of terrorists here in Hebron?" I ask eager to get a first-hand description of such a menace. Having spent almost two months in Palestine I am relatively convinced I have yet to see a single one. And yet, I heard so much about them before I came here. On the other hand I have seen a lot of things that do not get as much attention back home, like this checkpoint where I am talking to guys even younger then myself and armed to the teeth. Five young Palestinian men leaned against the wall. They have been waiting patiently to have their ID's returned for half an hour, but they don't look very menacing. They are used to it, they say. It is not a problem; these soldiers are not even beating them up. It is a lot better in Hebron now they claim. Before, the children would often come to school bleeding from the forehead, because the soldiers used to scrape their faces along the wall for kicks. They don't really do that anymore.

My friend Laurence who has been staying in Hebron for four months breaks into the conversation between myself and the soldier: "If I was a terrorist that wanted to get into the old city, I'd probably spend an extra ten minutes and walk around this checkpoint." The checkpoint is a permanent one by the entrance to the old city in Hebron. There is no problem in walking around it, besides it being a hassle. "But they don't do that," the soldier answers. "They are so stupid, the terrorists, I don't know why. Well, sometimes they do it right, but they are just so stupid."

Having spent just a little time in Palestine, one will learn that in most situations, checkpoints are avoidable and not very thorough in checking. One of countless examples is the major checkpoint of Qalandiya, at the entrance of Ramallah, which features two lines for men, one with a metal detector, and one without. You're free to choose between them. One must wonder if security really is the essential issue.

Checkpoints

A checkpoint is a military installation varying in size, with the purpose of making soldiers capable of easily controlling and checking Palestinian movement from one point to another. For example from Palestine and into Israel, but a large majority operate within the occupied territories impairing movement between Palestinian towns. Or in the middle of Hebron, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for children to go to school or for the Muslim population to get to the mosque.

In addition to the permanent checkpoints, Palestinians are daily bothered by dozens of so-called "flying checkpoints", in essence one or more military vehicles parked pulling Palestinian cars over for checking. The constant criminalizing and humiliation of ordinary people trying to lead a normal life is extremely tiring to witness.

The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, last year published a report about this phenomenon which states that in the period of 2000 – 2004, at least 39 Palestinians died at checkpoints because of soldiers denying or delaying access to medical treatment. B'tselem's report sees the checkpoints as but a detail of the racist Israeli policy of separation, which seeks to make life in the occupied territories as miserable as possible. By claiming that all Palestinians are potential terrorists, Israel punishes a whole population and perpetrates daily crimes violating human rights and international law as it sees fit.

The forbidden roads regime

Since the occupation of the West bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has spent billions of shekels building roads in the occupied territories.

The "bypass-roads" connect the Israeli settlements in a big contiguous area making up for 60 % of the West Bank. The rest consists of more than a hundred smaller islands in this sea of forbidden roads and stolen land. On these roads, Palestinian vehicles are completely or partially prohibited access. The roads with complete prohibition are referred to by the military as "sterile roads".

The Israeli authority claims that the Palestinian population also benefits from these, and official limitation of Palestinian movement is in fact hard to find in writing. As is often case in the Palestine, the reality on the ground is remarkably different from official descriptions. With the use of hour-long delays, cement blocks or other forms of obstacles at the entrances of bypass-roads, unreasonable imposing of fines and confiscations of Palestinian vehicles, the Israeli system facilitates the deterrence of Palestinian movement.

Even though Israel is rarely mentioned as an occupational power by mainstream media, it is only with such a status that the existence of the forbidden roads regime is possible. This status makes it possible for Israel to rely largely on verbal orders and leave the smaller military units relatively autonomous to sabotage Palestinian day-to-day life. The absence of written orders also effectively prevents proper official discourse on the subject.

Gaza, strictly bad business

When one speaks with the young soldiers at the checkpoints about their service in the occupied territories, they are often puzzled by the fact that we want to volunteer here. If they were able to decide for themselves, many say, they would get drunk and party in Tel Aviv, India, Europe or wherever. This is just a job. But often there is some pride to be found in their voice. They are proud to serve their country, many say. But is it Israel that these young men serve, obstructing Palestinian lives in the occupied territories? Or is it merely serving the agenda of the military elite which makes up the government?

Israeli professor Tanya Reinhart, points out in her book "Israel/Palestine – How to end the war of 1948", that the majority of Israelis in several polls desire withdrawal from the occupied territories. A main problem in the Israeli political system is a familiar one. When Israelis vote, they effectively have only two candidates to choose from, always with a military background and through the somewhat different rhetoric, the same agenda: no concessions.

Sharon's plan of withdrawal from Gaza, should it ever come true, merely stems from economic concerns, even though it has undoubtedly shown to have a completely undeserved PR bonus. Israel will continue to have all the control and options of military interference it could ever want, but leaves the Palestinian Authority with the responsibility of costly areas such as health and educational services in a territory exhausted by almost forty years of occupation.

It has nothing to do with peace gestures; it is merely a way to try to save the ready-to-crumble Israeli economy. A true Israeli aspiration for peace will be easy to recognize, since it will start with unconditional military withdrawal, at least a theoretical recognition of the Palestinian refugees' right of return and an evacuation of at least 90% of the settlements as an absolutely feasible minimum. But as the Western heads of state and media are competing in praising Sharon to the clouds, the Palestinian reality on the ground is the same.

And the checkpoints? Business as usual.


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