Friday, February 16, 2007

from East Jerusalem to Durham

Sahar is from East Jerusalem. I am from Gaza. Our cities are about an hour away (without interruption). But now, ironically, due to Israeli closure policies banning Palestinians on either side of the divide from travelling to each other's locales, the only place we could meet was Durham, North Carolina, not Gaza; not East Jerusalem; not even Ramallah.

Sahar is a field officer with the Red Cross, here for a few months on a program at Duke. We had lunch the other day with a mutual Israeli friend and rotary fellow at UNC.

Sahar carries an East Jerusalem ID card. I carry a Gaza ID card. this means I am not allowed to cross Erez to visit Sahar in Jerusalem or the West Bank, and she cannot cross over to visit me in Gaza.

The Jerusalem ID is particularly precarious because the Israeli government makes it extremly difficult for Palestinians residents of East Jerusalem to maintain their residency there and thus their status through a series of draconian laws that are not applicable to the city's Jewish residents.

It is part of a decades old policy of maintaining the Jewish majority in Jerusalem by a ratio of 73.5% to 26.5% to reduce the Palestinian presence in the city. These measures included the controlling and revoking identity card holders inside the city for not paying things like "TV taxes" on time or being present at the residency address on a consistent basis (made more difficult by the wall and other restrictions faced by residents).

Students who continued to study long years abroad have also had their ID cards revoked. Palestinians who married and stayed abroad lost their right to be residents of the city. One Palestinian from Jerusalem I met last year is married to a Ramallah resident (who are also now not allowed into the city) and because she has lost her Jerusalem residency has to sneak in and out of the city to visit her parents.

One woman in an article I wrote a couple of years back explained it well:

“Our occupation is of a different kind than in the West Bank or Gaza,” said Huda al-Imam, director of the Centre for Jerusalem Studies at al-Quds University.

"It has a clear strategy of annexing the land of East Jerusalem while not annexing the people, but transferring them,” she added.

"I have a difficult time explaining my legal status to people, even Israelis- I am not a citizen of Israel and at the same time I do not carry a Palestinian Authority passport (all signs of Palestinian nationhood are banned in Jersualem, including flags). I carry an Israeli 'travel document' but this does not entitle us t any of the rights or services that citizens get."

The idea is, Israel wants East Jerusalem, but does not want its people. Bad for both its economy, and for its demography.

That is one of the reasons they made sure their viscious Wall last year cut through neigbhorhoods of East Jerusalem, cutting off nearly 150, 000 Jerusalemites from their schools, hospitals, and work in Jerusalem. Eventually the journey across the checkpoints and through the Wall may become too arduous, it is hoped, and they will move out of Jerusalem altogether into the West Bank.

"Its like a force of habit-people reach for cigarettes, I reach for my hawia (ID card), even here in the US," joked Sahar.

Jerusalem is the main exit for the north-south link in Palestine, from Bethlehem to Ram Allah, and from northern West Bank to southern West Bank.

"It's very strange that Israel is so much more preoccupied with creating more settlements than providing any service for legal residents and it's equally amazing Israel wants to overcrowd a very important world heritage that is under threat and has been defined as such by Unesco," remarked former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem Affairs, in an interview with me last year, in reference to the Israeli Muncipality's approval of new Jewish housing units in the Muslim Quarter of the City near the Dome of the Rock at the time.

Khoury went on to describe what it means to have a Jerusalem ID:

"As Jerusalemites, in 1967 when we were occupied by Israel, we were given identity cards to indicate that we are residents of the city. But we are not citizens of Israel - simply residents.
As residents, we are given permanent residency if we stay in the city, and if our centre of life is in the city. But if we live outside of city for seven years, then we have no right to come back.
In practice, it works differently. Students - including my son - who were away for two continuous years, came back to find their driver's licence and insurance cancelled.
Palestinians are treated as residents if they stay in Jerusalem, but many Jerusalemites found themselves in diaspora and couldn't come back, nor their children. These Palestinians have no right to come to Jerusalem."

[More of her interview here].


Anonymous Anonymous said...


If the stark image of a fence and barbed wire was/is the "symbol" of the Nazi's plan to ghetto-ize and exterminate the Jews (and all other "undesirables") in Europe, how ironic is it that the "seaparation wall" is coming to symbolize ghetto-ize the Palestinians?

Further, while not "exterminating" the Palestinians in the sense of killing them, it certainly is a forcible "cleansing" of Jerusalem.

How quickly the heirs to the survivors of such inhumanity have rationalized the use of the same sorts of tactics.


3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two things to say to you:

a. arafat should have accepted the offer given to him in camp david 7 years ago. had he accepted it - you would have an independent state with east jerusalem as its capital.

b. as long as the majority of your people support terrorism as means of acheiving your national aspirations - don't dare to talk to me about injustice.

ilan - a jewish israeli - voter for labour

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually ALL Arabs blue card residents in East Jerusalem and Golan are entitled to full Israeli citizenship and many have applied and have become Israeli citizens.

Those Arabs in East Jerusalem rejecting Israeli citizenship can still vote in Jerusalem municipal elections and play a role in the administration of Jerusalem.Example - Moussa Alayan

10:32 AM  
Blogger Asad Ramallah said...

"the only place we could meet was Durham,
North Carolina, not Gaza; not East Jerusalem; not even Ramallah"

when i read this sentence i did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
things got so bad if this is the only place you could meet.
it shows us that we have nothing more left, as if we can only continue hoping, and still it would not make a change!

so ok!
i am sick of hoping,
and sick of waiting,

i want to see happy childern going to school,
and happy fathers, and happy mothers.
i want to know that i would not have to travel the world in order to see a friend from gaza, or even closer!

still hoping,
asad al nimr.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

For those who didnt hear. A suicide bomber was caught inside Israel (in Bat-Yam which is 10 minutes away from Tel Aviv) and he led police to a deadly bomb which he planned to carry and blow up in a crowded place.
This is actually a failure of the Israeli systems - most of these attempts do not reach this advanced stage and are usually caught much earlier. One of the ways to catch them is by limiting freedom of movement of Palestinian citizens. This is unfortunate and is a price which a society that supports terror has to pay. The Palestinians should take control of their lives and stop terror. Today they prefer not to. Look at the Gaza strip. Had a small percentage of the effort going into firing rockets into Israel been dedicated to building an economy the whole strip would have been prosperous. Instead, our neighbors are choosing to fight an occupation that has left over a year ago causing casualties on both sides and pushing any chance of a normal future away. This is the reason for fences, wires, soldiers, arrests, security check ups and all the rest.
Take responsibility for your people's actions and Israel wont have to. As long as you (as a people) choose the way of terror dont blame anyone but yourselves for your condition.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As long as you (as a people)choose the way of terror dont [sic] blame anyone but yourselves for your condition."

Isn't that a bit pat? Too, too simple.


6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that was nicely said Raz. I suppose then that the Palestinians have only themselves to blame for the Israelis taking their homes, forcing them to leave their towns and villages, and refusing them the right of return.

How much did the Irgun and Haganah teach everyone about bombing operations and assasinations? Can we forget about Menahem Begin leading the group that planted the bomb at the King David Hotel? Did the British bring that on themselves?

Further, in the name of "security" they can detain approximately 9,000 persons, many of whom are children and women. While they are at it, it is perfectly acceptable to fire missiles at moving vehicles that they are pretty sure contain people they think were or are engaged in planning violent acts. If a few children happen to be killed as a result of the explosion it is but a small price to pay, isn't it? Unless of course you are the dead children or their parents or siblings.

I am so very glad that this has been cleared up for me. You are right of course about the person willing to blow themselves up to try to do something about their situation. Of course Israel has the right to try to prevent that. I wonder though if Israel has ever considered treating the Palestinians as if they were people? Or perhaps the Israelis could look at what happened in Europe in the 1930's and 1940's and wonder how much has really changed aside from who is now the oppressor.


4:15 AM  
Blogger Cakes said...

I am thankful that you give me such a clear glimpse into your life.

8:34 AM  
Blogger tafka PP said...

The "only place you could meet was North Carolina"?! Want to tell that to the majority of Palestinians who have never even seen the inside of a plane, yet still manage to see their relations, whatever type of ID they carry.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jess & John,
First and for most I would like to say that Israel could improve in a lot of places and we acknowledge that. In our defense I will say that we try. The issue of hurting innocent civilians is high on the our national priority and we invest immense resources in trying to avoid hurting them.
Nonetheless, the basic paradigm is that each people is responsible for its own extremist. When the Israeli security forces do not attend to Israeli extremists they are strongly criticized and the situation is improving greatly. If our neighbors do not (or cannot) stop terrorists Israel cannot be expected to let these guys travel around freely planing the next attack. assassinations are only used when sending in troops is simply not possible.
About the past -
1. Jewish resistance movement never tried to hurt civilians. ever. that was not a goal.
2. The Jewish people deserves a national home. one in which we can be a majority. The solution to all refugees is in the Palestinian state which, if not for the craziness in Gaza would have been very very close by now.
I believe with all my hart that if we were not afraid and did not have all the reason to believe (and all the evidence and experience indicating) that any territory we get out of would turn into a 'terror nest' a Palestinian state would have been in the build.

6:04 PM  

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