By Tamar Fleishman
‘Jerusalem Day’ was celebrated this year, marking forty five years of occupation.
About a third of the city’s residents are excluded from the celebrations, speeches and promises that speak of: "(Jerusalem) forever and always…freedom of religion… equality…" and other such hollow catchphrases. In addition, and much more importantly, those same residents aren’t granted their civil rights. Ever since the creation of the metropolis sphere called: "Greater Jerusalem", which is the result of the intention to annex as much territory as possible with as few residents as possible, the basic rights of three hundred and sixty thousand Palestinians living in it, are not recognized. The city that had stretched its body like a spring up to the end of its reach, extending to the outskirts of Ramallah, has left the Palestinians who reside within it discriminated against by the actual classification given to them. Their blue identity card doesn’t provide them with citizenship (due to the ideology to preserve the Jewish majority), but only permanent residency, which in spite of the title doesn’t ensure them permanence as it might be removed through biased legislation or whim of the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Residency provides freedom of movement and a better health care than that which Palestinians without blue IDs receive. According to the figures of the non-profit organization "Ir Amim", it appears that a higher percentage of Palestinians pay their municipal taxes with respect to the rest of the residents, for fear that they might lose their status and relative rights, and as a result get evicted. The list of discriminations towards the non-Jewish residents of the capital city includes an educational system that does not meet reasonable standards, inadequate and poor infrastructure in the neighborhoods populated by the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the partial freedom for performing religious rituals of the Muslims, which on numerous occasions hadn’t been granted to them or that is limited by age restrictions applying to the attendance at their place of worship, discriminations on the issuing of construction permits on Palestinian lands and their automatic classification by the planning authorities as "green" zones (another method for preserving the Jewish numerical advantage), the disinheritance of property, the demolition of homes, and perhaps the draconian of it all is the "citizenship law", which under the mantra of security prevents people from living with his/her partner and their children, sentencing them to physical and mental alienation.
The Palestinians (women as well as men) that have proven themselves "clean" without any room for doubt, that have no "history" and that hadn’t been caught throwing stones or protesting, not even in their youth which was decades ago, even then, only after arriving at the age of thirty five and after having to run about, to make pleads and to deal with exhausting bureaucracy they would (perhaps) receive what is known as: "a temporary permit to stay under family reunion" – such a long name for an evil procedure.
The few lucky ones that meet all the criteria and break the walls of bureaucracy, those that hadn’t been turned down by the “SHABAK” (GSS) or the messengers of the minister of internal affair, they too, who had received a permit to live in their own home among their family, have no insurance regarding the duration of this daily routine. A permit is temporary and might expire or be taken at any given time. Its owners must go back and beg for his life every few months in order to renew and revalidate his right. Even the number of months between each visit isn’t fixed, it changes from one person to the other and from one case to the other.
Uncertainty, intimidation and the evoking of the sense of constant persecution are among the efficient tools used by the mechanisms of occupation. They all transform the individual into a perpetual captive in the hand of the representatives of the secret services, his future is unknown since those sitting inside the chambers that are kept out of sight deciding his fate, owe no explanations.
But all this is over shadowed by the reality in which lives of the Palestinians that were unfortunate to have their homes remain on the wrong side of the separation wall, the residents of the towns and neighborhoods on the main road leading to Ramallah. The wall that rose upwards, had not only infringed on the rights and quality of life of human beings, but cut through the urban sequence and sorely damaged the urban vitality.
The people whose homes face the back of the wall are the big victims of the intentional discriminatory policy of the leaders of the country and the municipality of Jerusalem.
It is important that we focus our attention towards these dark places, because while they are disconnected from the city that is the center of their lives, they are also disconnected from the attention of the public.
Up until a couple of years ago it would have taken these people only a few minutes to reach their educational institutions, their work places, clinics and hospitals, and since finding themselves, against their own will, imprisoned behind the wall, upon leaving their homes they can never know when and if they are going to arrive at their destination.
A woman I know from the neighborhood Dahiat-Al-Barid told me how she must wake her children up before sunrise so that they arrive at their school in East Jerusalem on time. Unfortunately for her the dark side of the wall boarders with her home, and therefore she and the members of her family are disconnected from their relatives and source of income- a business in the ancient city.
The freedom of movement is restricted. Indeed, their vehicles have yellow plates, as they are in Israel, but unlike the Jewish citizens, they are forced to go through strict and time consuming inspections at the checkpoint. Only those who are first-degree relatives are allowed to stay in the vehicle when passing the checkpoint (a spouse, parent, child), the relatives that aren’t indicated in the identity cards or friends, are ordered to walk through the pedestrian checkpoint. The ill and injured, who have insurance according to the Israeli law and are taken care of in hospitals that are located in the western side of the city, are forced to go through the tiring procedure known as "back-to-back", which includes the authorization of the permits center- meaning, the GSS. And a vile stench rises from the fact that the residents of these areas, that are part of the jurisdiction of the municipality of Jerusalem, don’t receive fundamental services such as waste collection and are forced to deal with the mountains of trash that pile up by lighting bonfires on the side of the roads and inside trash containers.
Like their brothers who live nearby- at Qalandiya refugee camp which is located between the two villages Kufer-Akeb and Samir-Ramis, where many of the residents have residency cards- their place of residence has become a no man’s land, they suffer not only from the neglect of the infrastructure, but also from the loss of the sense of security, since neither the Israeli police nor the Palestinian are present and impose order.
Those who are frequently there, especially during the wee hours of the night, are the soldiers who invade their homes and hunt down people and children.
And in the middle, between the residents of Jerusalem and the checkpoint, is the refugee camp with the tens of thousands that reside within it, like a bone in Israel’s throat- unwilling to swallow it and unable to vomit.
(Translated by Ruth Fleishman.)
– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.