Gaza's Rimal Quarter
The Rimal Quarter of Gaza
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A month and a half has gone by since the doctor told Khaleda Jarrar she needed an urgent brain examination. Early tests were worrisome, but more information was needed to make an exact diagnosis. But Jarrar has not yet undergone the examination. And she knows, as do her partner and friends, the significance of each day of delay. During all the waiting, it's clear who the uber-doctor is who makes decisions about the health of the Palestinians, and the uber-doctor is not in a hurry.

Jarrar, 47, is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She is prevented from traveling abroad for what is known, with the usual ambiguity, as security reasons.

Around two years ago, she was appointed a member of a Palestinian reconciliation committee that convened in Cairo, but was not allowed to leave the West Bank to take part. She didn't fight for her right to travel until July 19, when the doctor informed her that the equipment for carrying out the examination was not available in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Health Ministry clarified that it would not cover the costs of hospitalization and tests in Israel, but only in Amman. As she was a member of the legislative council, people in the Palestinian Authority told her they would arrange for her to leave.

But around three weeks passed and nothing happened. So Jarrar turned to a friend, attorney Mahmoud Hassan of the human rights group Ad-Damir, which supports prisoners.

On August 9, Hassan wrote to the officer in the Civil Administration who handles requests from the public and asked that Jarrar be allowed to go abroad. On August 19, Hassan sent him a reminder. On the morning of August 23, the officer's reply was received, dated August 17. He replied that to receive treatment in Israel, Jarrar had to submit a request at the Palestinian coordination office.

Hassan replied that same day that Jarrar sought to leave for Jordan and not Israel. That afternoon, the very same letter arrived, still dated August 17, but with an extra paragraph stating that "with reference to your client's affair, I wish to state that no security reason prevents her from going abroad, as of the date of writing this document." Hassan was pleased. If an officer in the Civil Administration said there was nothing preventing her from traveling, he must be right.

No signature

Hassan wrote a letter thanking the officer and merely pointed out that the letter did not bear his signature. On August 29, an answer arrived by fax: The same letter, the same date, without a signature. This exact response was repeated again on the morning of August 30. In other words, according to three official statements, no security reason prevented his client from traveling.

On Monday, August 30, Jarrar went on her way. She arrived at the Allenby Bridge at 9:15 A.M. The border-control clerk asked for her passport, called her details up on the computer and told her to wait. Jarrar told the clerk in English that she had a referral to a hospital's neurosurgical department and a letter from the Civil Administration. The clerk, a woman, replied that there was "no connection."

After waiting for an hour, Jarrar tried to explain to her that she was ill and that it was difficult for her to sit and wait. The border-control clerk referred her to someone in the next room. It was a policewoman, who refused Jarrar entry. Jarrar told her she had an appointment at the hospital, that she had documents and a referral. The policewoman replied that there was "no connection" and also refused to speak with attorney Hassan.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet security service told Haaretz in response that "there is a security prevention that prevents Khaleda Jarrar from traveling abroad; she is active in the Popular Front terrorist organization. In addition, there is relevant information from which it can be understood that there is a security risk if she travels out of the region.

"As for her medical situation and the consequent need for her to travel abroad, it is recommended that the person in question act according to accepted practice and approach the officer who deals with health issues at the Civil Administration so the various options for receiving the required medical treatment can be examined, as is routinely done in cases like this."

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories responded that "at the time when Ms. Jarrar turned to the Civil Administration there was no reason preventing her from traveling abroad. However, when she reached the Allenby Bridge, it was decided by the relevant security authorities that she would not be allowed to go abroad. If Ms. Jarrar turns to the Civil Administration and includes a medical opinion that testifies to the need for her to travel for medical treatment, the matter will be raised with the security authorities."

An irritating e-mail

For more than a week, an e-mail containing pictures of fancy buildings in Gaza has been making the rounds. The aim is to show that there is construction and prosperity in Gaza, as if to say, "What are they complaining about?" Allow me three comments: Most, if not all, the buildings in the pictures were built and photographed before Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 (and when Israel still allowed cement in ). How can we know? For example, in one photo, a statue of the Unknown Soldier stands at the end of Omar al-Mukhtar Boulevard, which Hamas has removed.

Second, all the buildings are in the Rimal quarter. Drawing conclusions about the Gaza Strip from that neighborhood is like drawing conclusions about all of Israel from Herzliya Pituah.

Third, in some of the pictures, the sea can be seen - fishing boats and people enjoying themselves. So what exactly is annoying the senders of the e-mails here? I don't understand. But certainly not what is annoying me - the fact that there are so few women.