+972 Mag | Staring into the eyes of the occupation

This is one of those occasional articles that strike a chord with me; mostly because it speaks to a place that still weighs heavily on my conscience.

I passed through this checkpoint about twice a week for a summer, often it was crowded, the cage-like apparatus was humiliating and sometimes they would sing to us over the intercom while we were pushed back and caged in due to slowdowns in permit examination.

The thing that rattled me is how it made me feel twice a week for a single summer. The tension, fear, humiliation and rage it instilled in me is like little I have felt before. The idea of life constantly under occupation; either through a daily commute from Bethlehem into Jerusalem or the complete denial of a work permit still stuns and evades me. 

I saw more of it than most can say they have, and I still can’t grasp it. I can’t grasp the daily toll it takes on all of the people I left behind. The weight of summer in a place where I left only friends, acquaintances and colleagues will affect me forever. Yet those people weren’t my family, my childhood friends and lovers. It wasn’t homeland I was barred from or a prison I couldn’t I leave. Its a place with its own emotions.

Leehee Rothschild | June 24, 2013

We went to Bethlehem yesterday for a direct action where a group comprised mostly of Palestinians, along with several Israelis and internationals, tried to walk across the Bethlehem checkpoint and visit Jerusalem. The Israeli army stopped us as we reached the checkpoint and prevented us from continuing on our way. Some of the soldiers engaged in some form of dialogue with us, while shoving the Palestinian activists away from the checkpoint. Most of them kept repeating that they were “just following orders.”

One female soldier asked her commander if she could use “reasonable force” against us, adding, “look at them, they look like animals.” She also stood there mockingly chanting “El el, Israel,” at the Palestinians, and became extremely agitated as I started to videotape her.

The soldiers quickly called for reinforcements, and eventually we found ourselves surrounded by dozens of soldiers and cops who looked like they were preparing to make arrests. At that point, three Palestinian activists declared that since they were not allowed to go pray in Al Aqsa (Jerusalem), they would pray right then and there at the checkpoint. They started praying, with Palestinian flags serving as their prayer rugs.

The soldiers, who assumed that the rest of the people present were journalists and foreigners, decided to refrain from arrests, since “it wouldn’t look good.” They did, however, follow us back to our cars to make sure we were really leaving. We did, but the Palestinian protestors voiced a promise: “Next time, we will pray in Jerusalem.”

It was an opportunity to see the reality of checkpoints and permits that reign over Palestinian lives under occupation, determining who can go where and when, separating Palestinians living in the West Bank from those in East Jerusalem, severing family ties and friendships, controlling movement and dictating professional and academic choices. It was also an opportunity to see apartheid in action, as settler cars drove by us throughout the entire encounter; the soldiers allowed them to pass through the checkpoint with hardly a second thought. At times, they complained about the inconvenience the Palestinian protestors caused them by blocking their road, while the protesters were demanding the  right to travel on it. It was also one more opportunity to challenge the checkpoint regime, to expose its abnormality, cruelty and arbitrariness.

(cont.)

(via shiknatnapishti)

(via shiknatnapishti)


Palestinians protest violence against women at the spot where a woman was allegedly murdered by her husband in the West Bank city of Bethlehem earlier that week, 1 August.
(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Palestinians protest violence against women at the spot where a woman was allegedly murdered by her husband in the West Bank city of Bethlehem earlier that week, 1 August.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)
The reactions of the UN, US, Israel and churches aren’t especially surprising and regardless of what was said, its doubtful that they actually worked that out with church officials. If anything the churches bickering is a notorious reason behind stalling repairs. I understand the point given behind inducting these sites, but I don’t know how much fodder this will give them in establishing any arguments for sovereignty further down the line. Anyway:

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The Palestinians on Friday persuaded the U.N. cultural agency to list the Church of the Nativity — the place where Christians believe Jesus was born — as an endangered World Heritage site despite misgivings by churches in charge of the basilica.
[…]
The Palestinians had argued that the shrine faces imminent danger, both because of overdue repairs and Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank.
Israel and the U.S. strongly opposed the emergency bid, arguing that the church is not under threat, a position backed by a U.N. experts committee.
Israeli officials have said they don’t object to the church being listed, but reject the “endangered” label which implies culpability of Israel, which in practice remains the ultimate sovereign in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians are “engaging in unilateral actions that only distance peace” and that UNESCO is driven by political considerations.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinians now plan to submit more sites in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The new bids could stir more political tensions, particularly in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed to its capital after the 1967 war.
Ashrawi said Friday’s vote is the beginning of a process.
“Our identity, our place in civilization, in history, are being recognized, are beginning to be safeguarded in the face of the Israeli occupation’s encroachment, the confiscation of our land, our culture,” she said.
The U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said Washington was “profoundly disappointed” by the vote. The U.S. has been trying to block the Palestinian recognition campaign, and withdrew tens of millions of dollars in funding from UNESCO after the Paris-based agency accepted the Palestinians as a state member last year.
Joining UNESCO was part of a wider Palestinian attempt to win global recognition for a state of Palestine in the territories Israel occupied in 1967.
[…]
Today, Bethlehem is ringed on three sides by walls of cement slabs and fences of Israel’s separation barrier — to Israel a defense against Palestinians militants, and to Palestinians a blatant land grab disguised as a security measure.
A U.N. experts committee recommended that the Palestinians go through the normal procedure, instead of seeking the “endangered” label, but the Palestinians refused to withdraw the bid.
The churches in charge of the shrine — Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian — also expressed concern, apparently fearing a World Heritage designation would lead to interference by the Palestinian government and the U.N.
The church is run according to a 19th century codex, known as the Status Quo which assigns responsibilities for upkeep that are jealously guarded by each denomination.
Palestinian officials say they’ve addressed the concerns by the churches.
In Bethlehem’s Manger Square, next to the shrine, reaction was relatively muted Friday.
A celebration organized by local officials only brought several dozen people to the square, including youngsters in yellow T-shirts with the inscription “I love Jesus.”
Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ayah said she hopes the new heritage listing will bring more visitors. Currently, some 100,000 tourists come to Bethlehem every month.
Shop and hotel owners routinely complain they lose business because Israeli-run tour buses stop in Bethlehem just long enough for a visit to the church and then take pilgrims back to Jerusalem, a few kilometers (miles) to the north. During a recent visit, most shops on Star Street, part of the pilgrimage route, were closed.
Nabil Ziacaman, a souvenir shop owner, said Friday’s vote is a step toward recognizing a state of Palestine, but won’t help his business. “Everyone in the world knows the Church of the Nativity and where it is located,” he said. The new label “won’t bring more tourism.”

The reactions of the UN, US, Israel and churches aren’t especially surprising and regardless of what was said, its doubtful that they actually worked that out with church officials. If anything the churches bickering is a notorious reason behind stalling repairs. I understand the point given behind inducting these sites, but I don’t know how much fodder this will give them in establishing any arguments for sovereignty further down the line. Anyway:

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The Palestinians on Friday persuaded the U.N. cultural agency to list the Church of the Nativity — the place where Christians believe Jesus was born — as an endangered World Heritage site despite misgivings by churches in charge of the basilica.

[…]

The Palestinians had argued that the shrine faces imminent danger, both because of overdue repairs and Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank.

Israel and the U.S. strongly opposed the emergency bid, arguing that the church is not under threat, a position backed by a U.N. experts committee.

Israeli officials have said they don’t object to the church being listed, but reject the “endangered” label which implies culpability of Israel, which in practice remains the ultimate sovereign in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians are “engaging in unilateral actions that only distance peace” and that UNESCO is driven by political considerations.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinians now plan to submit more sites in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The new bids could stir more political tensions, particularly in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed to its capital after the 1967 war.

Ashrawi said Friday’s vote is the beginning of a process.

“Our identity, our place in civilization, in history, are being recognized, are beginning to be safeguarded in the face of the Israeli occupation’s encroachment, the confiscation of our land, our culture,” she said.

The U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said Washington was “profoundly disappointed” by the vote. The U.S. has been trying to block the Palestinian recognition campaign, and withdrew tens of millions of dollars in funding from UNESCO after the Paris-based agency accepted the Palestinians as a state member last year.

Joining UNESCO was part of a wider Palestinian attempt to win global recognition for a state of Palestine in the territories Israel occupied in 1967.

[…]

Today, Bethlehem is ringed on three sides by walls of cement slabs and fences of Israel’s separation barrier — to Israel a defense against Palestinians militants, and to Palestinians a blatant land grab disguised as a security measure.

A U.N. experts committee recommended that the Palestinians go through the normal procedure, instead of seeking the “endangered” label, but the Palestinians refused to withdraw the bid.

The churches in charge of the shrine — Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian — also expressed concern, apparently fearing a World Heritage designation would lead to interference by the Palestinian government and the U.N.

The church is run according to a 19th century codex, known as the Status Quo which assigns responsibilities for upkeep that are jealously guarded by each denomination.

Palestinian officials say they’ve addressed the concerns by the churches.

In Bethlehem’s Manger Square, next to the shrine, reaction was relatively muted Friday.

A celebration organized by local officials only brought several dozen people to the square, including youngsters in yellow T-shirts with the inscription “I love Jesus.”

Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’ayah said she hopes the new heritage listing will bring more visitors. Currently, some 100,000 tourists come to Bethlehem every month.

Shop and hotel owners routinely complain they lose business because Israeli-run tour buses stop in Bethlehem just long enough for a visit to the church and then take pilgrims back to Jerusalem, a few kilometers (miles) to the north. During a recent visit, most shops on Star Street, part of the pilgrimage route, were closed.

Nabil Ziacaman, a souvenir shop owner, said Friday’s vote is a step toward recognizing a state of Palestine, but won’t help his business. “Everyone in the world knows the Church of the Nativity and where it is located,” he said. The new label “won’t bring more tourism.”

Children walking in front of a mural painted on the West Bank separation fence in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, May 14, 2012. Photo by Reuters

Children walking in front of a mural painted on the West Bank separation fence in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, May 14, 2012. Photo by Reuters

DSC00552 on Flickr.
Strategically located just three short blocks from the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint. Well done.

DSC00552 on Flickr.

Strategically located just three short blocks from the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint. Well done.

Bedouin watering their animals at a well in Bethlehem, Palestine - circa 1920 to 1933. This is front of the Church of the Nativity. 
Bedouin watering their animals at a well in Bethlehem, Palestine - circa 1920 to 1933. This is front of the Church of the Nativity. 

cantbeneutralonamovingtrain:

Land Day demonstration in Bethlehem, March 30th, 2012

This was at the part of the checkpoint where vehicles and trucks travel through.

greenshirts:

In Bethlehem, Palestinian teenagers paste posters of themselves holding painted flags representing countries that support Palestinian statehood onto Israel’s separation barrier.

greenshirts:

In Bethlehem, Palestinian teenagers paste posters of themselves holding painted flags representing countries that support Palestinian statehood onto Israel’s separation barrier.

DSC00471 on Flickr.

DSC00471 on Flickr.