There's one laboratory for ticking bombs that the Shin Bet and European foreign ministers skipped when they demanded Arafat take action against terrorism. At this lab - which has hundreds of branches in the West Bank and Gaza - hundreds, if not thousands, of people are making the mistake of thinking "I'm ready to die with the Philistines."
The labs are the IDF checkpoints and blockades, which gradually have tightened the siege around every Palestinian settlement, making Avigdor Lieberman's plans for the cantonization of the territories look like a humane and enlightened program.
It's difficult to grasp all the information that comes from these besieged places. The lack of medical supplies, such as oxygen tanks, is a daily, desperate routine in the hospitals. Cooking gas and fuel and even drinking water routinely run out. Suppliers have difficulties bringing in fresh food.
Last week, the order went out that Palestinians are banned from using roads in Area C - some 60 percent of the West Bank. Schools are half empty. At Fowar refugee camp, for example, the children couldn't avoid the checkpoints and couldn't get to their school in Hebron for the past three days. The universities are partially or fully paralyzed, like Bir Zeit, where all the roads leading to the school have been closed because of the curfew on northern Ramallah. The school year has already been lost, and along with it the students' expensive tuition.
Along with the checkpoints, closures and curfews, an unknown number of people have lost their jobs in the private sector or have been forced to move, wasting half a salary on a second rent. Every peasant farmer who goes out to work his fields risks his life; whether he has to go through Area C, or because his presence on a security road for a nearby settlement turns him automatically into a "suspect."
The IDF counts every Palestinian mortar and land mine, but doesn't count all the stun grenades and tear gas grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition used by soldiers every day to enforce a total closure.
The northern neighborhoods of Ramallah have been under curfew for the last nine days. The soldiers in their tanks enforce that order every few hours by rolling into the middle of the road and aiming their cannons toward the hundreds of people trying to get to the city center through the hills. Sometimes the soldiers throw a tear gas grenade or a stun grenade, sometimes they shoot "rubber." Sometimes they confiscate the keys to cars and tell the drivers to pick up the keys at the Civil Administration. But the Civil Administration building is in Area C, where Palestinians are forbidden to go.
Without cameras and outside observers, it's as if these things never happened. The IDF can promise that it knows nothing about any shooting. Like the shots that killed taxi driver Marwan Lahluh from Arabe, who tried to get to besieged Jenin via dirt roads, and was shot in the chest by a bullet from a grove where the Palestinians say an IDF unit is posted.
The IDF promises that "humanitarian" cases are allowed through the checkpoints. If so, how come Tamer Kuzamer, a sick baby, and his mother, were not allowed through the Habla checkpoint to get to a doctor in Ramallah? His family looked for a roundabout way, much longer than the direct one, but the baby died en route. Why did two heart patients on their way back to Gaza from medical treatment end up waiting three hours last Friday night until an Israeli lawyer's intervention finally enabled them back into the besieged strip? And why should a woman, who gave birth only 14 hours earlier, have to wait in an ambulance for hours at the exit from Nablus on the way back to a village only 10 minutes away by car? When there are no journalists or diplomats around, the IDF's answer is that "the complaints are not known to us."
Every one of these examples should be multiplied by tens of thousands of people who are daily subjected to the same harm, in order to begin to understand the totality of the Israeli siege. One has to imagine the eyes of all those who see an old man tottering on crutches in the mud and rain as he shrinks past a huge tank, or a young girl with pigtails and in a school uniform, cowering behind a rock as a soldier throws tear gas.
Israel has but one answer: All is fair in the war against terrorism. That's why it's forgotten that the suicide terrorists near the Jerusalem hotel and on the Haifa bus slipped into Israel despite the checkpoints, and that the Jerusalem pedestrian mall bombers came from Abu Dis, which is in full Israeli security control. And that's apparently why there will be only more military escalation and a further tightening of the closure.
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