What is the occupation? The collective punishment of ar-Ram

There was a Tweet over the weekend signalling the start of the startling [not unusual but anachronistic, a throw-back to the darker days of the Second Palestinian Intifada] IDF punitive blockading of ar-Ram by large boulders put into place by construction equipment.

A piece published in Haaretz, here makes an attempt at explanation: “The Israel Defense Forces is not allowing vehicles in or out of A-Ram, a Palestinian city of 60,000 northeast of Jerusalem, because of a recent increase in stone and firebomb throwing at army patrols by local youth, the army said. Late Sunday night, soldiers placed large boulders across all four lanes of the road at the city’s main entrance to block incoming and outgoing vehicular traffic. Pedestrians are not restricted, the IDF said”.


    LATEST UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency is reporting on Thursday afternoon [12 April] here that the IDF has removed the huge square boulders that it petulantly put at the end of the main street of ar-Ram last weekend.The IDF put the boulders on the end of the main street that comes out right across the street from a large IDF military base [8211]. Other than being a graphic expression of petulance, the gesture was empty of significance, as Palestinians found it possible to move around from the other end of the main street, beside The Wall — or, alternatively, from the alternative option of a bumpy dirt track that opened out right next to the blocked main street… The Ma’an report said that the roadblocks were removed “after intervention from the Palestinian Authority, officials [presumably, Palestinian] said Thursday”.

UPDATE: I drove through Qalandiya and into ar-Ram to see for myself, between noon and 1 pm on Wednesday. I discovered that the road along The Wall was open, and cars can pass in and out of ar-Ram through that route. It is at the other, western, end of the main street of ar-Ram, right across from an IDF military base [8211] where the big boulders have been dropped to block the road. But, I also saw, cars have found another way out of that side of ar-Ram, and are using a dirt road in single file to come out just beside the boulder-blocked entrance.

Ar-Ram was once a beautiful garden community in between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It grew exponentially in recent decades, with thousands of Hebronites moving in and opening shops which thrived on commerce, taking advantage of the daily travellers passing in front of their road-side stores and shops.

It is located just before Qalandia. As the Checkpoint was established there at the start of the Second Intifada, new opportunities for roadside commerce developed, without severe disruption of the established businesses along the route between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

But, when the Checkpoint became more of a “terminal” [looking like the entrance to a cattle processing facility, or worse], the IDF’s construction of The Wall began around Qalandia.

No one was informed about the route of The Wall. Palestinian residents of the area watched it take shape, and only learned what path it would take as the construction proceeded.

Qalandia Checkpoint became a gate in The Wall, which was built at both edges of the checkpoint. The Wall then sliced off the Qalandia/Jerusalem Airport, on the very edge of the area [the runway comes right up to the very edge of the Qalandia checkpoint], but on the “Israeli” or “Jerusalem” side of The Wall, and not on the “West Bank” side.

The route of The Wall then extended south, down the middle of the road connecting Jerusalem and Ramallah. Here, it’s path carved out the Atarot industrial zone, so that it is on the “Israeli” or “Jerusalem” side of The Wall. On the other side of The Wall, here, is ar-Ram…

Now, ar-Ram is like an appendix, surrounded on three sides of the Wall. The suburb of Dahiet al-Bariid, on the south side of ar-Ram, is divided by The Wall into two, with part on the “West Bank” side, and the other part on the “Jerusalem” side [as some of its residents had asked the Israeli Supreme Court to order, which the Court did].

Blocking off the main street with large boulders now, easily, cuts ar-Ram off completely for vehicular traffic. But, there are many many people living in the small and encircled area.

See UPDATE above — There is a way in an out of ar-Ram, but it is the only way in and out [plus the dirt track that emerges beside the blocked entrance]. The first Palestinian football/soccer stadium upgraded by FIFA, the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium, is located in ar-Ram. there are already unbearable traffic jams in and around Qalandia … And, there is no hospital in ar-Ram. What if there is a mass medical emergency? How will ambulances be able to operate?

The mayor of ar-Ram noted that “more than 70 percent of A-Ram residents work in Israel proper, while nearly 60 percent of the city’s pupils study in Jerusalem or in schools out of A-Ram”

He said this sudden and shocking move by the IDF was “collective punishment”.

The ar-Ram mayor told Haaretz: “It’s true, there were incidents [rock throwing, etc]. But how many people were there? No more than 20 to 30 little kids who see this as a game. If something like this would happen in Tel Aviv, would they close down the whole city? And why would there be army or police patrols around here anyway? Israelis don’t come here”.

The Palestinian Authority Cabinet recently adopted a set of recommendations following the terrible crash in the road between ar-Ram and the Jaba’a checkpoint, just before [or after] the junction in front of the Adam settlement. In the crash, a fuel truck collided with a bus carrying kindergarten schoolchildren from the Palestinian towns of Anata and the Shuafat refugee camp on an outing, in which five small kids and one of their teachers died. The Palestinian Cabinet recommendations involved establishing of an important civil emergency coordination point inside ar-Ram…

For purposes of the article, and after having been asked by Haaretz, some further explanation was given: “The IDF Spokesman said that during the past few weeks, ‘representatives of the Civil Administration approached area residents and officials of the Palestinian Authority and asked them to stop the violent and dangerous behavior; when there was no response, the obstacles were placed. Placing obstructions in Judea and Samaria is done in accordance with situational and security assessments. The IDF works to assure a normal life for all the residents of the region, while taking all necessary security precautions’.”

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