soldier - Ap - Aug 21, 2010
Palestinian women argue with an Israeli soldier while attempting to cross the Kalandia checkpoint August 27, 2010 Photo by AP
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Behind a modest desk with a view of Beit Jala sits a nameless Shin Bet security service officer who is very pleased with himself. He has just saved the Jewish people in Israel from yet another grave security risk by preventing a 47-year-old woman, for five weeks now, from going abroad for urgent medical tests.

Or perhaps this isn't a story about just one officer, but rather about a committee of three. What matters is that Khalida Jarrar, a resident of Al-Bireh, has not gone to Amman for diagnostic brain tests that cannot be done in the West Bank due to lack of the necessary medical equipment.

I first wrote about Jarrar's case a month ago. On July 19, a doctor in Ramallah informed her she could obtain the necessary tests in either Israel or Amman. The Palestinian Ministry of Health told her it would not pay for the tests to be done in Israel.

Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was refused permission to leave in 2008, when she was supposed to participate in the intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo. But until getting that note from her doctor, she had never fought for her right to freedom of movement.

This time, officials in the Palestinian Authority promised they would arrange her exit permit for medical tests with their acquaintances in Israel. They promised, and then they disappeared.

After about three weeks, some of her lawyer friends applied directly to the Civil Administration and tried to discover how her exit permit could be arranged. Two weeks later, the answer arrived in writing: Jarrar, it said, does not have a notation by her name barring her exit.

The Civil Administration officer had relied on computer input from the Shin Bet. So on August 30, Jarrar set out for the Allenby Bridge. But there, the Israeli border control computers had different data: She was not allowed to exit. What had been true a few hours earlier stopped being true when she arrived at the border.

At the time, the Shin Bet told Haaretz that Jarrar had to apply for an exit permit via the Civil Administration's health coordinator. So the lawyers resent all the documents to the coordinator.

At first, there was some delay: The Civil Administration said the documents and the application had not reached their destination. Then work began on the application. But our anonymous man from the Shin Bet is evidently in no hurry.

This is a mere footnote in the chronicle of the Palestinians' life under foreign rule. But this footnote is a typical chapter in the history of Israeli society: a democratic society that gives those wonderful fellows from the Shin Bet a blank check to act like the last of the great dictators and juggle with their subjects' lives - without elections, without oversight, without supervision. Their word is sacrosanct. And if they say, as they did in reply to Haaretz, "Relevant information exists indicating that [Jarrar's] exit from the area poses a risk to our security," we all salute.

If she were dangerous here, she would have been arrested long ago. Her address, after all, is known. Hence the Shin Bet's bluster about "relevant information" showing the danger she poses will somehow materialize only abroad. Evidence? Explanations? Common sense? No need. They, after all, are paid a salary by the Israeli taxpayer in order to invent new kinds of punishment and torture.

For what is the endless postponement of an urgent medical test if not torture of a sick person and her family? And what is delaying treatment, if not punishment of someone who opposes her foreign rulers?

Until six or eight years ago, a journalist's report of a similar situation would have embarrassed someone up there on the security ladder and an exit permit for medical reasons would have been issued despite the "security considerations." But today, the sense of shame has disappeared. Society's backing is assured.