Tuesday, January 16

MCC Palestine Update #9

MCC Palestine Update #9

16 January 2001

The days of the Clinton presidency are numbered, and the chances of any form of agreement before he leaves office are fading fast.

Today, January 11, some roads were opened--however, the internal closure in the occupied territories seems, for the most part, stronger than ever. MCC Palestine has agreed to help connect two agricultural roads; this will connect the villages of Ein Kinya and Deir Ibziya, with the benefit of helping the villagers of Ein Kinya travel during closure conditions, assisting farmers brings goods to market, and protecting agricultural land from confiscation by the settlement of Dolev.

Below is a piece by Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy which speaks movingly of the realities under siege in the occupied territories.

1. A siege at your gates
Gideon Levy

At around nine o'clock in the evening, the stomach pains of 10-year- old Ella in El Sawiya, near Nablus, became much worse. This happened one Friday several weeks ago, at the start of the difficult siege imposed on her village.

Most Israelis are paying very little attention to such "encirclements. ".Ella's father, Hamdan Ahmed, tried to order a taxi, but no driver was prepared to travel at night. He dialed 101 and got through to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, but they explained that he must find a Palestinian ambulance. He didn't have a clue how to do so.

Ella's situation grew more severe and she started to throw up. Her father summoned a neighbor to help him, and together they tried to break through the siege, in order to get Ella to the hospital in Nablus.

Those were the first days of the siege, much better and easier than the siege is now: Then the roads still had roadblocks that were manned by soldiers whom one could at least beg to let the sick girl pass through. According to the father's testimony, the soldiers stopped them and sent them back, in spite of their pleas.

Keep in mind that they only wanted to get as far as Nablus, not into Israel. They tried another route and were stopped by other soldiers. They had to go back home.

A doctor from a nearby village decreed that Ella must be rushed to the hospital. In the morning they tried again, and were again halted by soldiers. A few hours later, Ella died. Dr Riad El-Halu stated that her death was caused by a burst appendix.

This siege has now been operating in the West Bank for three months and most Israelis seem to know nothing about it at all. If they did, perhaps not all of them would treat it so lightly. This cruel siege, unlike anything imposed before it, neither in the previous Intifada nor in the most difficult days of conquest, is taking place not far from our own front doors.
It is only by driving through those areas that one fully realizes its cruelty: cities, towns and villages cut off with impassable barriers. Soldiers are not seen, there are no fences that might possibly be removed. There are only blocks of concrete and mounds of earth some of which, it is said, are booby- trapped, while others are guarded by soldiers who fire from a distance at whomever dares to try and remove them.

With brutality, they close in and block all access to most of the villages and towns in the West Bank. The autonomous Gaza Strip is "only" dissected into three.

If 10-year-old Ella had fallen sick several days later, by which time the "encirclement" had been further improved, there would not even have been a road on which to try to save her - only a scramble on foot, and even that can only be attempted during the day.

The tens of thousands of residents of Hebron and Hawara who are trapped in an endless curfew have been joined by all the residents of the territories in a siege whose barbarity cannot be overstated: neither a woman in childbirth, nor a critically sick person nor someone who is mortally wounded nor a girl with peritonitis can be taken out of their homes.

And what can a resident of the village of Attara do if he has a heart attack? Set out on foot? And what about a seriously injured child in El-Fawar? Should he ride out on a bicycle? Can he bring in a bulldozer to clear the obstruction?

A grave report published last week by the B'Tselem human rights organization accuses Israel of imposing a cruel, collective punishment that has no relationship to security considerations. In truth, it is hard to understand the logic, if that's the name for it, behind this policy of Barak's peace government.

Words are unnecessary to comprehend the seeds of calamity - the justified feelings of hatred and desire for revenge - that are being sown as the result of measures of this kind. In the long term, any instant, imaginary security advantage will exact the price of the suffering it causes in these long, hard nights under siege. Because, what would you do if foreign soldiers were to prevent your daughter, or your neighbor's daughter, from reaching the hospital and, as a result, she died? You'd show restraint? Conciliation?

Make peace with those responsible? This siege is designed only to show public opinion in Israel that "something is being done;" to appease the settlers who demand "let the IDF win;" to make their lives easier even though the price entails tremendous suffering for an entire population; and it is a response to the army and other security agencies whose work is facilitated when two million Palestinians in the West Bank live behind mounds of earth and blocks of concrete.

This bitter reality must at least penetrate into the minds and into the moral consciousness of Israelis. It is doubtful if Ehud Barak and his ministers even know what they are causing. It is doubtful whether any of us, who grew up on the legend of the suffering in the siege of Jerusalem during the War of Independence, considers the fate of Ella and of her people whom Israel has imprisoned in this way, without a trial, without a reason, and without any humanitarian considerations, during this period that is supposedly a time of great reconciliation.

No comments: