A period of penitential soul-searching

Shufat refugee camp

Wall keeping Palestinian ill-treatment out of sight is really in Israeli minds

By , Friday 6 September 2013 14.29 EDT

 

Most Jerusalemites couldn’t find Shu’fat refugee camp on the map or give you any sort of directions. Yet it’s less than three miles from the Western Wall, fully within the municipality of Jerusalem itself. And despite many of Shu’fat’s Arab residents paying their Arnona (property) tax to the Jerusalem municipality – if they didn’t, they would forfeit their precious blue ID card, allowing them to find jobs in prosperous west Jerusalem and elsewhere – they get almost no services. This is land that Israel claims for itself, so the Palestinian police cannot operate here. But the Israeli police refuse to enter the camp, so it’s an anarchy zone. Local drug dealers sit in the sun at the entrance, under the gaze of Israeli soldiers who do nothing. The UN runs the schools, collects the rubbish and fights a losing battle to sort out sanitation. The Israelis refuse. It is a place without government, without government services and without much hope. And nobody seems to give a damn.

We visit the local secondary school of 2,000 pupils. There is flurry of temporary excitement as a rumour spreads that the water may be running today. It’s a false alarm. There has been no running water in the school for nine months. When we want to visit the loo, the UN man whispers advice: “Pee but don’t poo.” Poo turns out to be a continuous theme of the visit. The camp is surrounded on three sides by the separation barrier, in the valley of a hill on which the camp is set. The hole in the wall for sewage to escape has recently been blocked, creating what the locals call a “shit lake” up against the barrier and causing those the other side of the wall, in the leafy Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, to complain about the smell. Indeed, the smell of shit is the only reason the settlers of Pisgat Ze’ev come into contact with the humanity of those the other side of the wall, fellow members of the same city, a city that is supposed to be one of the holiest places on earth. To say it again: these are people living perfectly properly and legally in an area Israel claims to be within Israel, yet they are still placed behind a concrete cage.

For the last few days, Jews have been celebrating their New Year, Rosh Hashanah. They gather together as families to eat apples dipped in honey and pomegranates. Theologically, this begins a period of penitential soul-searching ending with Yom Kippur. My adopted family in Jerusalem are wonderful, fully engaged with the Palestinian issue and despairing of wider Israeli indifference. But the violin-maker from Tel Aviv is more representative of the Israeli left: “We just put our heads in the sand like ostriches,” he explains. In other words: the situation is too difficult so they give up thinking about it.

Understandably, Israelis hate outsiders like me arriving in their country and talking about the conditions in which Palestinians live. But they are the ones who have to live with constant security worries. And the situation is genuinely complex – especially, perhaps, for Zionists like me. But the wall is not as great a security provider as many assume. It takes under a minute for group of young men to scale it at Shu’fat. Ladders go up one side, a car draws up on the other, also with ladders. In a flash a group of young men are over and speeding off in the car. Thousands do this every day. Only the young, the frail and the elderly are really trapped by the wall. No, what the wall really does is keep the conditions of a place like Shu’fat out of sight and out of mind to the wider Israeli public. It’s more a wall of the mind than a wall of security.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2013/sep/06/israel-wall-palestinian-ill-treatment or http://bit.ly/14qOcMs

Photo (modified) of Israeli border police detaining a Palestinian boy during clashes in the Shu’fat refugee camp outside Jerusalem, by Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/Getty Images), 5/15/2011.  http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/Palestinians-battle-Israeli-troops/G2253

Related Posts

Our ethnic distinctions Alawite history reveals the complexities of Syria that West does not understand By Robert Fisk, Monday 4 March 2013   In Syria these day...
What was common was humanity Rachel Never Died By Aisha Aijaz, Mar 16th, 2012   Rachel Corrie, beautiful soul, born in Olympia, Washington was no ordinary child, no ...
A work in progress The Terrible Beauty of Wikileaks By Idrees, December 10th, 2011 ... Following are excerpts from my long essay on Wikileaks and the Palestine Pa...
Paul Newman is dead Israel's Script Turns Sour By Lisa Goldman, February 22, 2013   For years, Paul Newman and his blue eyes shaped America's perception of Is...
Who will fight the war Netanyahu wants? Will AIPAC and Bibi get their war? By MJ Rosenberg, 12 Feb 2012 12:07 ... These are strange times for those of us who follow the debate about a...
The very idea On Questioning the Jewish State By Joseph Levine, March 9, 2013, 7:30 pm   I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we w...
Israel was the main issue The Neocons Won By Gary Leupp, Weekend Edition March 29-31, 2013   Reading an assortment of commentaries (“retrospectives”) on the tenth a...
Enormous self-regard Newt, the Jews, and an “Invented” People By David  Remnick, December 11, 2011 ... Late last week, as part of a Republican pander-fest for the J...
Left to rot 450,000 Palestinian Refugees face Dire Restrictions in Lebanon By Raed Ayad, 8th Mar 2013   Within ten minutes, not taking into account ...
Must we live forever At 65, modern Israel is falling short of Zionism's most basic goal By Matt Hill, Tuesday 16 April 2013   Soon after the founding of Isra...

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2013/09/07/a-period-of-penitential-soul-searching/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.