Border Control / A fatal hospital discharge
Mariya Aman, a Palestinian girl who is almost 6 years old, is an intifada survivor. Until the age of four years and nine months she had a normal childhood in Gaza. Her father, Hamdi, worked in construction in Israel for years. On May 20, 2006, Maria and her family took a drive in their car to visit her sick aunt. At the exact same time, the Israel Defense Forces tried to assassinate Islamic Jihad's Mohammed Dahdouh. An Israel Air Force plane circling above Gaza fired a missile at his car, which was traveling through Gaza City.
But the missile hit the Amans' car, depriving Mariya of her mother, her 6-year-old brother, her grandmother and her uncle. A second brother, Muaman, 4, sustained moderate injuries. Mariya was critically wounded in her spine. She was left completely paralyzed, and her Israeli doctors determined that she would never be able to talk or even breathe on her own, much less walk, run or jump. Mariya is on a respirator at Alyn Children's Hospital in Jerusalem.
Israelis and journalists from Israel and abroad, who were touched by the family's story, had managed to persuade the authorities to keep her at the hospital up to now, and even reserved a small room there for her father and her injured brother (who has recovered). Four months ago the Civil Administration's Health Coordinator, Dalia Bassa, told Hamdi Aman that within a few days he would have to remove his daughter from the only hospital in the Middle East that specializes in artificial respiration for children. The media's intervention won Mariya a reprieve, but only temporarily. Last Wednesday the Defense Ministry informed the family that the three of them would be moved to a rehabilitative hospital for adults in Ramallah.
The letter from the Defense Ministry does not address Mariya's need to be near an Israeli hospital or her future residential and educational opportunities.
There is no mention of the special equipment she will need once she matures. A High Court of Justice petition filed on behalf of Mariya and her father on the following day by attorneys Adi Lustigman and Tamir Blank says the move could be tantamount to a death sentence for the child, who needs to be in a rehabilitation center that is near a hospital with an intensive care unit and which specializes in respiratory and spinal problems.
The petition asked the High Court to prevent the three intifada survivors from being exiled to Ramallah. Mariya requested the court's permission to allow her to attend first grade at the Bilingual School in Jerusalem, which has opened its doors to her.
Last Thursday a stay was issued, ordering the authorities not to force the three members of the Aman family to leave Israel until the three-justice High Court panel hears their case. This means that the state must continue to fund the treatment and the living expenses of what remains of the Aman family.
Fortunately for them, last year the High Court repealed the 2002 law absolving the state of the need to pay compensation to Palestinians for damages due to "non-combat" operations in the second intifada and ruled the broad absence of state responsibility unconstitutional.
Fortunately for them, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann has not yet realized his initiative from last June to abrogate the High Court ruling. Friedmann argues that as long as Israel is involved in a conflict with the Palestinian people, it does not need to compensate Palestinian intifada survivors.
A mysterious document somehow made its way this week to attorney Giat Nasser of Jerusalem: a petition organized by residents of the small West Bank Palestinian village of Hleilah, requesting that it be annexed to a Jewish settlement. Hleilah is trapped between two settlements north of Jerusalem, Givon Hahadasha and Givat Ze'ev. The separation fence has cut off 500 villages, including those whose residents hold blue (Israeli) identity cards, from their local council in Al-Jib, which is on the eastern side of the fence.
The petition, which is addressed to the head of the Givat Ze'ev Local Council, Amos Tartman, is written in fluent Hebrew: "We, the undersigned, residents of the village of Hleilah, which is located west of the separation fence and in effect within the area bordering on the territory of the Givat Ze'ev Local Council and adjacent to it, are requesting to join the local council with all this entails in terms of both rights and obligations. We are asking you to include us within the council, as stated, and to that end we extend to you complete power of attorney to act on our behalf on the abovementioned issue."
Mohammed Shawish, a villager, describes the difficulties imposed on the village's many residents who lack a "blue identity card." They are blocked from reaching educational and health services in Jerusalem, while the route to and from the West Bank is filled with roadblocks and closures.
Shawish says that a Jewish man named Moshe, who lives in Givon Hahadasha, is the one who gave the petition to a few desperate villagers. Nasser claims that behind the word "obligations" in the petition lurks a scheme on the part of the settlers to take over the lands of the neighboring village: "First they will annex the land of Hleilah to the municipal boundaries of Givat Ze'ev, afterward they will start buying its homes, and in the end they will take over the entire village."
Tartman offers a diametrically opposed version. He says the initiative came from the villagers, who were cut off from the West Bank and seek to enjoy the local authority's excellent services.
He speaks of good neighborly relations with the quiet neighbors and about the residents of Givat Ze'ev who frequent Hleilah's stores. If it were up to him, Tartman says, were a majority of the village's residents to ask to be annexed to the Givat Ze'ev Local Council, then ahlan wa'sahlan (welcome)! Obviously, Tartman is careful to add, official approval is required. Nasser suggested that Tartman drop the whole thing; despite the fact that the West Bank is like a bone stuck in their throat, they will not allow a Jewish settlement to swallow them up.
Tom Mehager works at Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, which has chalked up several successes in its battle for Palestinian rights in the territories. Last week Mehager told his colleagues about a recent, unique experience.
"On July 25, during the afternoon, I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Peter from the Defense Ministry," Mehager wrote in a document that offers a keyhole view of the Shin Bet security service's recruitment tactics. "Peter said he had an offer for me and that he wanted to meet me. He asked me not to mention the matter to anyone." Their meeting took place in an office on Beit Hadfus Street in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood. On the door of the office was a sign that read Leshem Productions, in Hebrew. Peter asked Mehager to leave his bag and his cell phone outside, and told him that he worked in a "non-Arab department in the Defense Ministry." He did not mention the name Shin Bet, but nodded in affirmation when Mehager asked if that was the agency involved.
Peter explained that the goal of the department was to prevent terror as well as damage to the democratic character of the state. Among other things, he mentioned the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and asked the guest's opinion about several scenarios: leftists carrying out sabotage on settlements in the territories; damage to the separation barrier; and leftists pouring oil on Israeli roads.
He claimed that Tali Fahima participated in terrorism and that the situation was much worse than indicated by the charge sheet. Peter spoke of the fear of antiglobalization activists coming to Israel and joining up with local leftists.
Finally, Peter got to the point. "We can help each other," he told Mehager, adding, "You and I are similar." Mehager told him that he had no problem with Peter on a personal level, but did have a problem with the system he represented. Before they parted, Peter asked whether Tom had told anyone about his invitation and asked him to keep the entire matter to himself. Mehager was quite frightened.
"I asked him whether I would be under surveillance, or if any sanctions would be imposed on me, and he told me 'no' and promised that everything would be like normal. I decided not to keep it a secret. My colleagues have a right to know that they could be under watch, and I don't want to be party to a Defense Ministry secret."
The Shin Bet said in response that "the organization does not make a practice of detailing its operational activities."