"The Israelis don't sleep at night, and we, the Palestinians also sleep in the day time."
So said an East Jerusalemite Palestinian recently. He was referring to the submission with which the Palestinian public in general and its leadership in particular accepts the progress of the Israeli plan to cut off East Jerusalem and its residents from the rest of the West Bank. The saying is more than just an expression of sorrow mixed with anger, and it goes beyond the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian situation. It contains within it the viewpoint that an oppressed public that doesn't merely passively collect victims has the ability to act and make a change to improve its situation; and that not every plan to dispossess them is a guaranteed success. If you want, it's an optimistic-humanistic view. But it needs supporters.
About two months ago, Israelis and Palestinians were shocked to read the news item that said that starting in July, when the separation wall is completed in the area of Qalandiya, East Jerusalemites will have to ask for permits to go to Ramallah. After the initial shock, there were Israelis who began to doubt the veracity of the report. Palestinians, scared of course, were heard to say that "meanwhile, those are only rumors."
The facts: Two months ago, soldiers indeed prevented East Jerusalemites in their cars from entering Ramallah through the Qalandiya checkpoint, based on an order signed by the major general of the Central Command that prohibits Israelis from entering Palestinian Authority areas. But that phenomenon has ceased.
But now some worrisome signals are coming from the checkpoint on the southern side of Jerusalem, between Abu Dis and Wadi Nar - the only road that Palestinians are allowed to use to travel from the northern part of the West Bank to the southern part. East Jerusalemites are "trapped" when they leave the Bethlehem area through that checkpoint, and receive a summons to report to the police so they can be questioned about their violation of the order prohibiting their travel.
It's still a trickle. There is a huge gap between the fact that Border Police troops at the checkpoint detained East Jerusalemites, and a formal statement by the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria police that the major general's orders do not apply to the East Jerusalemites but only to Israeli citizens. Most of the East Jerusalemites meanwhile make their way to Bethlehem other ways, and without permits.
The shock is understandable but infuriating. Understandable because anyone who knows just how much East Jerusalemites are connected to Ramallah and Bethlehem can imagine the intensity of the blow that landed on those communities. Infuriating, because it shows ignorance of the steps Israel has been taking for years, paving the way for this highest level of disengagement of East Jerusalem and its residents from the rest of the territories occupied in 1967. After all, the unceasing expansion of Ma'aleh Adumim, with or without the 3,000 new apartments planned for area E1, is an inseparable part of the plan.
The Israeli skepticism is outrageous because it exposes the blindness of the Israelis to all the facts that have accumulated over recent years: According to all the army statements, the major general's order also covers Jerusalemite Palestinians, who carry blue ID cards. Leaving Nablus, for example, they are asked for their "permit." Soon, the separation wall will be completed. Then, when the crossing from Jerusalem to the rest of the West Bank, including next door neighborhoods, is only possible through special gates and terminals that are dressed up to look like international border crossings, the occupation bureaucracy will find it easier to enforce the administrative prohibitions.
Palestinian doubts are saddening and frustrating, because it is an escape from taking action. The East Jerusalem experience shows that patient, coordinated action can stop dispossession plans. Two campaigns conducted at the end of the 1990s won relative success: against lifting of residency from East Jerusalemites, and against house demolitions. The campaigns were an example of joint Palestinian-Israeli-international efforts, a combination of grassroots, legal, political, diplomatic and media efforts.
Indeed, with the outbreak of the intifada, Jerusalem city hall resumed its policy of demolishing houses that were built without permits, because Jerusalem municipalities have always severely limited house construction for East Jerusalemites.
After the Interior Ministry was forced to reinstate the residency of many East Jerusalemites, the harm done to their rights as residents continued in various ways. Nonetheless, there is much to learn from the relative successes of those campaigns as opposed to campaigns that failed - against the Judaization of lands and homes in Palestinian neighborhoods, against ceaseless discrimination between Palestinians and Jews in East Jerusalem. There is no doubt that one of the factors in the success was the Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, and the way the campaign departed from merely making statements and issuing condemnations.
After the first reports, there began to be heard semi-official Israeli statements about how the matter of the permits to travel to Ramallah was not a settled matter. That's a signal. There is a chance to block the move if the occupation bureaucracy encounters real resistance. And for that, much more than for the playing of songs on the Voice of Palestine and Army Radio, real Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is required.
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