Opinion |

Two Roads in the Ramallah District: A Microcosm

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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The blockage of a road into the village of Aaboud, on Wednesday
The blockage of a road into the village of Aaboud, on WednesdayCredit: Nidal Shtieh
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

With the center-right government crumbling and the settlers increasing their organized assaults on Palestinians, with help from our beloved soldiers, writing about two roads in the Ramallah district seems like a luxury, even an act of journalistic suicide: Who cares about such trifles? But it’s precisely the small things and becoming accustomed to them that show the success of Israeli-Jewish society in methodically breaking international law with impunity.

Persons unknown blazed a road through the lands of El Bireh and Ein Yabrud, north of Ramallah. It’s three kilometers long, and mysteriously it stretches between the settlements of Ofra and Beit El. The Civil Administration confirmed it was an illegal road, but did not explain how illegal work with heavy equipment could take place near its main base and opposite two other military camps. We can only conclude that the illegal road construction was done with the army’s blessing while the Civil Administration turned an intentional and encouraging blind eye – until the Palestinians started to protest.

Great resources and money, one hand (military) washing the other (civilian) and the knowledge that no one will be punished for breaking the law: These are the trifles behind this road and hundreds of others built by similar methods in the occupied West Bank. They shorten the way between settlements and outposts – all tainted with smug Israeli criminality – and among these entities and Israel. This is robbery of land and space, which we have learned cum laude from our British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and other forebears on continents not their own.

Israel also excels at robbing the natives’ time, as seen on a small scale in the blockage of the road into the village of Aaboud, northwest of Ramallah. There is a military outpost there with the slogan “The mission – victory in every encounter with the enemy.” That same attitude has guided Israeli commanders and planners in the past: The village land was stolen to build the settlements of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim. After that, for the comfort and growth of those settlements, the roads leaving the village westward were permanently blocked. In May 2002, the Israel Defense Forces blew up an ancient, 5th-century church on the land, the Church of St. Barbara. “We didn’t know it was a church,” the army explained. Ignorance is part of the necessary contempt for the natives.

An orange, iron barrier is installed at the top of the entrance road. The high-tech nation knows how to use low-tech to overcome the enemy. Concrete blocks, a lock and two armed soldiers are allowed at any time to rob the time of some 2,500 residents. Similar gates have been installed at most, if not all, Palestinian communities. In a single decision, any Palestinian village can become a cage. The army says it’s because of stone throwing. Collective vengeance is also prohibited by international law. But those who give and carry out the orders know that they will not be arrested when they land in Berlin or Rome.

For two weeks the gate was locked. People wasted time, effort and fuel to drive a narrow detour road. Take a thousand people, multiply it by 30 minutes added to their travel time – and that gives you 500 hours a day. Multiply that by 12 days and it brings you to 6,000 hours that could have been devoted to livelihood, rest, study, gardening and family, but which dissipated into the air.

Such dissipation of Palestinian time is one of Israel’s tried-and-true weapons, in addition to the engineering of Palestinian geography: We put the Palestinians into ever-shrinking pales of settlement, increase the time and distance between them by means of checkpoints, roadblocks, settlements, fences, security roads, etc.

Last Wednesday night the barrier was opened. On Sunday, the soldiers locked it again. Without being told, they know that one of their missions in exhausting the elderly, young people, women and children is to steal their time.

It’s the small things and their normalization that show the success of Israeli-Jewish society in methodically breaking international law with impunity.

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