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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

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Home arrow Blog arrow September 2007 arrow September 26, 2007

September 26, 2007
WAWA Blog  September 26, 2007
"Israel's moral fiber has been fatally harmed by the occupation" and "Disrupting the separation policy" with commentary by D...

"Last Friday morning, the eve of Yom Kippur, Machsom Watch activists had to spend hours making frantic telephone calls and using their connections with high-ranking officials to enable three sick people to traverse the Qalandiyah checkpoint and reach Jerusalem for urgent treatment. Media reports had promised that despite the hermetic closure, humanitarian cases would be allowed through the checkpoints, but by noon, most of those cases had given up and returned home."


Dear All,

I'm not from Machsom Watch.  I'm just an individual that at times accompanies Palestinians to hospitals.  Today was one of those days. Yesterday I received a phone call asking me if I could go today to Gaza to pick up a 17 year old patient at the Erez checkpoint and drive him and his father or uncle (one of them accompanies him) to Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv.   The boy has been fighting leukemia for several years, apparently, and after having had some transplant (I don't know all the details) was having difficulties with that--perhaps rejection, I don't know.  The long and the short of it is that the young man was having problems.  Anyhow, I said "sure, I'll go."


During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a total closure had been declared during the holidays, but I'd heard on the news after Yom Kippur that the closure had been lifted, and would be reinstated or not depending on circumstances.  I did not hear on this morning's news either at 7:00 AM or at 8:00 AM about closure being reinstituted.  So it did not occur to me that it might have been. It was therefore with total surprise that I learned that there was total closure at the Erez crossing.


Not having driven to Erez previously, I wasn't sure of how long it would take.  So I started out at 6:45AM, hoping to arrive at my destination by 9:15AM.  Turned out to be an easy drive that took only an hour.  For some reason, based on my experience in the distant past with going to the South Hebron Hills, I'd thought that it would take at least 2-2 1/2 hours.  My error allowed me to stop about 5 minutes up the road from the checkpoint for a bureka and coffee.  That was the best part of the day.  Ignorance is bliss.  And since I was ignorant of the closure, I could enjoy my bureka and coffee without feeling under pressure.


I arrived at the checkpoint at 9:00, only to learn that the Erez checkpoint was closed and that no one--but NO ONE--was coming out, not for hours.  There had been 'hot' reports on some sort of Palestinian attempt at violence.  So I was told.  I don't take these reports too seriously. They could be true, but they just as likely are concocted to play to Israeli fears and assumptions, mainly to keep them in line--to keep the public fearing, so, heaven help it, it won't start asking questions and doubting that Israel needs an army, much less an army that is the 4th strongest in the world!


But my doubts did not help me get Salim out, who, by the way, had gone through the same thing recently (I guess during the Day of Atonement--the Shabak has tons to atone for!).  His uncle reported that he was really ill and needed to get to the hospital.  I contacted the doctor, who said that normally they do not accept patients for the treatment that Salim needed past noon or 1:00 PM, but that he'd wait for Salim.


Then I started phoning.  Not so easy, because while I have numbers as the Civil Administration in my cell phone address book, these are for the West Bank, not Gaza.  So that when I phoned Dalia at the Civil Administration, she was unable to help me.   When later I had the Gaza phone numbers for the Civil Administration, no one answered the phone.  Apart from thes phone numbers, all my phone numbers of Knesset members and the like were at home.  It just hadn't occurred to me that I might need them (that won't happen again).  To make a long story short, several people whose numbers I had gave me phone numbers and made suggestions of whom to call.  The female soldier at the gate gave me the phone numbers of the Erez DCO.  The DCO couldn't help.  The Physicians for Human Rights couldn't help.  The person from the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that he would help, but at the end said that he could not tell the army what to do.  Later I was informed that it was the Shabak who was holding things up.  The Knesset members that I contacted did not answer their phones (perhaps they were abroad).  And so on and so forth.  It did no good to try to play on the conscience of the soldiers ('suppose your brother, or father, or grandfather were dying from cancer and couldn't get to the hospital, who would you feel?' ) because however they felt, they could not open the gate and let Salim out.  And there were other 'humanitarian' cases waiting to get to doctors, too.  No one came out during the 5 hours that I was there. I finally left at 2:00, because it made no sense to wait longer.  By the time we'd have gotten to the hospital the labs would be closed and doctors gone.  It's still holiday season here, and hospitals (like other institutions) work accordingly.


I returned home at 3:00 PM frustrated and angry.  No one (except the doctors and activists and reporters like Amira) cares if a 17 year old Palestinian kid is suffering or will die.  The soldiers with whom I spoke were decent enough (I heard them speaking to other Palestinians trying to get into Gaza, and the soldiers were respectful enough), but to them Palestinians are not really people. They are objects that have to be dealt with rather than being human beings like ourselves.  Had the soldiers thought of Palestinians as human beings, the soldiers and security guards could not treat Palestinians as they do.


I returned home at 3:00PM not physically tired but emotionally.  I'd failed.  And a 17 year old boy who wants to live--wants life even in the shit that is Gaza--returned home, too, after waiting hopefully hours in the hot sun, disappointed, ill, and not knowing when he'll be allowed to go to the hospital. The doctor said to bring him Sunday, but if there is closure, he won't be able to go, and instead will wait another hot day in the sun feeling ill and hoping.  THIS IS CRIMINAL!


Amira is right below that those of us who go to the OPT and meet with Palestinians and in one way or another express solidarity with their struggle break through the apartheid that the government tries to impose.  But it's not enough. We have to find a way to rid ourselves and the Palestinians of the horrific burden of the occupation.




Ha'aretz Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Disrupting the separation policy
By Amira Hass


A woman chatting idly in Ramallah on Sunday said dismissively: "The High Court of Justice's decision to move the separation fence in Bil'in proves nothing about the effectiveness of the popular Palestinian-Israeli struggle. Israel needs it to portray itself as a democracy."

Her frustration is understandable. The lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians are disrupted by a fence whose route elsewhere is no less "disproportionate" than it was in Bil'in. After two and a half years of weekly demonstrations by Palestinians, left-wing Israelis and foreign activists - demonstrations that were brutally dispersed, with numerous protesters being injured or arrested - the fence was moved a mere 1.7 kilometers. And the same High Court that moved the fence also legitimized the Jewish neighborhood that had already been built on Bil'in's private land.

The gap between the huge effort and the meager results is characteristic of the activities of all Israeli groups that work against the occupation. Last Friday morning, the eve of Yom Kippur, Machsom Watch activists had to spend hours making frantic telephone calls and using their connections with high-ranking officials to enable three sick people to traverse the Qalandiyah checkpoint and reach Jerusalem for urgent treatment. Media reports had promised that despite the hermetic closure, humanitarian cases would be allowed through the checkpoints, but by noon, most of those cases had given up and returned home.

In other cases, Machsom Watch's female volunteers try to alert commanders when soldiers are harassing people passing through the checkpoints. Months of correspondence and requests, reports in Haaretz and monitoring by B'Tselem resulted in two commanders being removed from the Taysir checkpoint. This did not stop a soldier from harassing people at that checkpoint a few months later, nor did it prevent similar abusive conduct at other checkpoints. Needless to say, the checkpoint and roadblock policy continues, despite the reek of apartheid it emits.

But those frustrated by the limited impact of Israeli anti-occupation activity are ignoring two of its salient characteristics. First, by helping to return one dunam of land to one individual, enabling farmers to complete an olive harvest without harassment and attacks by settlers, shortening the waiting time at a checkpoint or releasing a patient or a minor from detention without trial, life is made a bit less difficult for particular individuals at a given moment. This results from the activity of people who, by exploiting their immunity as Jewish Israelis, challenge the occupation bureaucracy.

Moreover, this immediate personal relief is interwoven into a more fundamental, longer-term Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Since the 1990s, Israel has endeavored to separate the two peoples. It has restricted opportunities to meet and get to know one another outside the master-serf framework, VIP meetings or luxurious overseas peace showcases from which the term "occupation" is completely absent.

Because of this separation, the Palestinians know only settlers and soldiers - in other words, only those whose conduct and roles in the system justify the Palestinians' conclusion that it is impossible to reach a just agreement and peace with Israel. This separation also reinforces Israelis' racist - or at best, patronizing - attitudes toward the Palestinians.

The anarchists, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Physicians for Human Rights and other activist groups - few as their members may be - disrupt the separation policy and its ills. They remind the Palestinians that there are other Israelis, so perhaps there is still hope. And in their immediate environment, they expose Israelis to facts and experiences that make it difficult for them to keep wallowing in their voluntary ignorance and disregarding the dangers that our oppressive regime poses over the Palestinians.


Ha'aretz Tuesday, September 25, 2007

 On the way to a pariah state

By Carlo Strenger,
a professor of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, and a member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.

Henry Kissinger used to say that Israel has no foreign policy, only internal politics. Listening to our politicians, you often indeed wonder whether any of them has any long-term strategy. Given that every Israeli politician is supposed to care for Israel's long-term survival, it is stunning to see that an important event in the U.S. with enormous implications for Israel has gone all but unnoticed here.

Eighteen months ago, two senior political scientists, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, from Harvard and the University of Chicago, respectively, published a paper claiming that U.S. Middle Eastern policy, including the misguided Iraq war and its unqualified support for Israel over the last decades, has run counter to true U.S. interests. They blame the influence of the Israel Lobby for this.

The paper generated a lot of commotion in Jewish circles in the U.S., but surprisingly, has been disregarded in Israel. W&M have now published The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy as a book. Their conclusion: the U.S. needs to start relating to Israel like any other country, and no longer see a special ally in us, because the close relation with Israel harms U.S. interests.

W&M paint Israel as a rogue state that does not abide by international law, and is not up to the standards expected of a Western state. The subtext is clear: Israel is just another problematic Middle Eastern country, and should be treated as such - and the number of policy makers and opinion leaders who think this way is growing.

My concern here is not with the question whether W&M are right in the details of their analysis of the power of the Israel Lobby. My point is that their anti-Israeli stance is the tip of a growing iceberg that is simply disregarded by Israel's decision makers. Dismissing W&M as a fringe phenomenon is shortsighted, because it does not take into account a consistent development over the last few years.

It is something of a consensus that the confrontation with Political Islam has become the Western world's No. 1 geopolitical problem. This is generally called the "Clash of Civilizations," following Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis. A growing number of decision makers in Europe and the U.S. think that Israel, while not necessarily the main cause for the rise of Political Islam, has become a symbol around which Islamist extremism coalesces - and there is good evidence for this. Watch any Jihadist Web site, even if run from Pakistan, and you will find that images from the West Bank are the core of their iconography.

Israel's way of dealing with the Palestinians and Lebanon in the last few decades has led to a long-term process in which the Western world is beginning to see Israel as a pariah state that has no true affinity to Western values. Hence, it is not on the 'right' side of the clash of civilizations, as was reflected in the French ambassador to Britain calling Israel "that shitty little country" not long ago.

This development is consistently disregarded by Israeli decision makers. Short-term political bickering is on their minds more than the survival of Israel, which in theory is their main goal. Any criticism of Israel's policies is dismissed as an expression of the New Anti-Semitism. The proof often provided is that we are not judged by the same standard as our neighbors: "Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia can get away with inhuman behavior a lot worse than ours," the argument runs.

My point is simple: the day we are no longer judged by the standards of the West is the beginning of Israel's end, because it means that the West has decided we are no longer part of it, and hence will not be committed to Israel's existence. The day may come when Israel will, as W&M suggest, be seen as just another troublesome country that destabilizes the world.

Behaving in a manner befitting the standards of the Western world is far more important for Israel's long-term survival than gaining a few square miles here and there, by building the security wall through Palestinian territories, tearing apart villages, homes and schools, and expanding settlements. Every such act is not just a moral outrage; it pushes Israel one step closer to being disqualified from belonging to the West.

My argument is not just about being loved by the world - though this factor must not be dismissed. Many of us believe that Israel's moral fiber has been fatally harmed by the occupation and by the two Lebanon wars. The result is that both morally and strategically, the continued occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people has put us on the wrong side of history.



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