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”.

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

Tiananmen Square Moment – A new form of non-violent protest at Qalandia today: Standing up to the skunk spray machine

A small group of protesters in today’s protest at Qalandia marking the outbreak of the June 1967 war stood up in front of — and blocked — the “skunk spray” or “sewage water” machine that was hosing demonstrators with a revolting and persistently-smelly blue-colored water.

Photo by courtesy of the photographer, Mohamed Jaradat

Fadi Quran, one of coordinators of Manara Youth group protests
since the beginning of 2011 stands (with colleagues) with his hands raised
in front of IDF skunk spray machine


It was the first time the “skunk spray” machine was used at Qalandia.  [It was used on Friday for the first time in a Friday protest against the Wall at Nabi Saleh… It sprayed some protesters, then it went into the center of the village and sprayed the streets and the homes, requiring a massive clean-up campaign.]

And, it was the first time Palestinian protesters in the West Bank used this tactic of non-violent resistance.

They stood there and took it.

They planned for it, they trained for weeks for this, and they did not run away as they were sprayed with the very foul-smelling liquid.

They stood there and allowed themselves to be coated, covered, with this notoriously disgusting stuff.

They blocked the machine from moving up the street, which is bordered with small businesses and small apartment buildings — and schools —  and which cuts through the heavily-populated Qalandia Refugee Camp.

And, they won a small victory on an otherwise confusing and disappointing day: the “skunk spray” machine was ordered to retreat back into the protected military zone at the terrible Qalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

It was a revolutionary change in the way checkpoint protests have been conducted until today.

Continue reading Tiananmen Square Moment – A new form of non-violent protest at Qalandia today: Standing up to the skunk spray machine

Qalandia Checkpoint: warping strategies of adaptation

The Spring 2010 issue (No. 41) of Jerusalem Quarterly, edited by the estimable Salim Tamari, contains a fascinating — though academic — analysis of the disgraceful Qalandia (Qalandiya) checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah (and the rest of the northern, middle, and western West Bank).

Salim, who has been teaching for a semester at Georgetown University, writes in his introductory that “Rema Hammami’s pioneering work on Qalandia (the Palestinian Tora Bora)[this is explained in Part Two of this story — it refers to the stone quarry which is the only alternative route around when Qalandia becomes a real hell-hole] takes an ethnographic look at Israel’s regime of checkpoints and barriers within a global context of ‘policing inequalities’. In particular she examines the politics of security, which ‘creates myopia, blindness to the very facts it engenders’. Her essay also examines the creative forces of survival among its victims. In her work the carnavalesque atmosphere of market and circus that permeates ‘border’ zones like Qalandia (and Surda before it), both camouflage and underscore the misery created by the security regime behind it”….
Salim’s editorial can be read in full here.

Reema’s long analysis [Qalandiya: Jerusalem’s Tora Bora and the Frontiers of Global Inequality] tries — almost journalistically, though she probably wouldn’t like to hear it — to describe the infernal atmosphere.

You have to know the place to understand, however, that she is walking, and not driving, through the checkpoint, and that she is describing the passage going from the Ramallah side to Jerusalem
“Heat, wind, dust, garbage. Cars stuck in line, jammed bumper to bumper – probably a two-hour wait. I squeeze through the few inches between an articulated lorry and the next car. On the other side is a porter shifting two television sets tied to his cart weaving in between the oncoming traffic. Ramallah, Ramallah Ramallah, the calls of a van organizer. I shake my head – and point toward the checkpoint. Up through the first set of blocks, the wind blows up white dust from the quarry, the peddlers clutch their sun umbrellas. I pick up my pace, it’s rush hour. Through the second row of blocks and I can see the crowd up ahead, spilling out from under the zinc roof and concrete pens of the crossing. I reach them and ask an old man, how long he’s been waiting: ‘From the time I was born’…

Continue reading Qalandia Checkpoint: warping strategies of adaptation

The Palestinian health care system – one story

Today, at Qalandia “border crossing terminal” manned by the Israeli Defense Forces, Border Police, and private contractors, in the baking afternoon sun, a Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance coming from Nablus was pulled over to the area next to the “passenger” area.

Waiting was an ambulance from the Israeli Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) from the Lachish region in southern Israel.

While they might have been air-conditioned, neither of them had a refrigerated compartment.

Inside was the corpse of a woman who had arrived three days ago from Gaza for heart surgery. Unfortunately, despite a tremendous effort and an arduous trip out of Gaza, across Israel, and into the West Bank, crossing at least three major and several minor Israeli military checkpoints, the operation was not successful, and she died.

Her body was being returned to Gaza via the same long route.

The major Israeli border crossing into Gaza at Erez normally closes these days at 2 pm. It seems it would be open until 8 pm to allow the return of the Palestinian woman’s body.