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Forbidden to Go Home Together

Separate and Unequal

by AMIRA HASS

R. had a work meeting in Ramallah. She planned to return home, to East Jerusalem, with M., her partner, who works in Ramallah. They reached the Hizma checkpoint, east of the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement, where there is a permanent Israel Defense Forces post that checks all travelers heading to Jerusalem. You are forbidden to take this route, said the soldiers. Only your husband is allowed. Take the Qalandiyah checkpoint route.

R. and M. have been married for about 10 years. He is a Palestinian, born in East Jerusalem, an Israeli resident. She has an ID card from the territories. She has a permit to be in Jerusalem, at home, with her children and spouse.

As soon as they were married they applied to the Israeli Interior Ministry for "family unification." Despite promises, including written promises, she is still waiting for the residency document. They’ve been through a lot of Kafkaesque travails as a result, but the new prohibition against going home together shocked even them. They thought it might have been a soldier’s whim, but a news item in Haaretz last Friday made clear to them that it is a military order, signed by Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, commander of the IDF in the Judea and Samaria region. The order forbids Palestinians from entering Israel via any route other than 11 special crossings that were allocated only to them – and they can only cross those on foot. Palestinians are not allowed to drive inside Israel. The order also prohibits Israelis from bringing Palestinians into Israel through passages designated for Israelis only.

At the Hizma junction, which is for Israelis only, the "seam administration of the Defense Ministry has not yet hung the signs that it already hung on the road leading from the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem. The signs are hung alongside the road and at the military checkpoint, and say, in Hebrew and Arabic, "Passage is for Israelis only. Transporting and/or movement of people who are not Israelis is forbidden through this passage."

The yellow signs explain who is an Israeli. The definition is in the major general’s order, and is the standard definition used in military orders declaring "a closed military area" to Palestinians, where only Israelis are allowed to enter. "An Israeli," says the order and the sign, "is a resident of Israel, someone whose residency is in the region [meaning the occupied territory - A.H.] and is an Israeli citizen [a settler - A.H.] or one who is eligible to become an immigrant according to the Law of Return-1950 and someone who is not a resident of the region but has a valid entry permit to Israel [a tourist - A.H.]

A military source confirmed to Haaretz that a decision has been made to allow Palestinians who work for international organizations to travel, with their foreign co-workers, through two passages designated for Israelis only "instead of making them go to the ends of the earth" to passages designated for Palestinians only. The problem with the separate passages is not only that they are remote and distant, as the military source admits; the problem is not only the wasted time involved in reaching those passages, the revolving doors that suddenly are locked, the humiliating crowdedness, the alienating technological devices or that most of the "passages" effectively legitimize more land expropriation and annexation of Palestinian territory to Israel. The problem is that they are another building block in the policy of separate development for Jews and non-Jews, another expression of the mentality that cloaks itself in security but whose real purpose is to preserve the hegemonic privileges of Jews, at the expense of the Palestinians in the territories conquered from them.

This policy of separate development of two demographic groups in the same territorial region – the occupied West Bank, where the Israeli army is the sovereign – began with the first settlement. It continued and deepened as the settlements proliferated and grew into separate demographic-territorial pockets where Israeli law, which does not apply to the original inhabitants of the area, is in force.

The residents of those territorial pockets also won extra rights, which are denied to the native neighbors and the non-Jewish citizens of Israel. Like the right to choose where they want to live, on both sides of the Green Line. Protected by the superiority of the ruling military force, territorial borders were set and bureaucratic limits were placed that a priori limit the separate development of the native Palestinians: The area available to them is gradually shrinking, water quotas are dwindling in comparison with what is made available to Jews, freedom of movement is limited, and economic development is shackled and controlled.

With time, and with international accommodation and the increase in the number of Israelis who benefit from the system, the settlements are being transformed from "Israeli territorial pockets" to Jewish territorial contiguity, in which there are poor, rights deprived, over croweded and inferior "populated pockets" of the Palestinians.

A comparison between flourishing Pisgat Ze’ev on the lands of Hizma and Anata with Hizma and Anata, hemmed in and suffocating behind a horrendous cement wall, proves that the policy of separate development began long before the suicide bombings and the rise of Hamas.

AMIRA HASS writes for Ha’aretz. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza.