Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hot Days in Ramallah

Ramallah.

It is one of those hot Ramallah days.

By ten in the morning, which is the time I arrive, the place is teeming with hopeful applicants. Most have been there since 8:30, when the gate is opened. The Israeli “civil administration” outpost on the edge of the settlement of Beit El consists of a few shacks with corrugated tin roofs topped by sandbags, barbed wire, and an empty watchtower which has seen better days. No cars are allowed into this compound; supplicants and applicants must walk a stretch of the once-flourishing Ramallah-Nablus highway by foot, after scaling some dirt mounds softened and worn down by thousands of feet leading to the compound from the desolate “parking lot” on the Ramallah side of the road.

A concessionaire has been granted permission to dispense coffee, cold drinks and nuts in exchange for sweeping the courtyard. The public toilets are unspeakably filthy, and a healthy swarm of flies enjoys unhindered access to the teeming multitudes.

There are four windows with faded signs in Hebrew and Arabic indicating where different kinds of permits can be applied for and received.

A big crowd of men of various ages and a few women waits patiently at the windows marked “magnetic cards.” My window, a multi-purpose window for various kinds of permits, is in chaos.

A burly young man who has situated himself at the top of the line by the window, is a self-appointed translator for the rest of us ignorants. He is trying to push the pile of applications gathered from the crowd since 8:30 through the small opening of the “window” (protected by iron bars) so that the soldier-clerk on the other side will begin processing them. By ten o’clock, he is lucky enough to have the clerk receive them. I heave a sigh of relief that my application for a permit to use Ben Gurion airport for a trip abroad is among the papers. Or so I think at the time.

I decide to use my waiting time for ethnographic inquiry. A good cross-section of society is represented here. I note that the gender balance is quite acceptable, and follow intently the politics of the gendered body (how much space is allowed a woman to approach the window; what weight the age factor has here; the benefits and drawbacks of the various forms of dress worn by women: full hijab, modified hijab, token hijab, full western dress with jeans, modified western dress with skirt, etc., etc.). The vast majority of the applicants are here to get “checkpoint passes,” given out for varying durations (a few hours to several days, for internal checkpoints).

A smattering want “Israel passes,” permits that allow you to enter Israel. Some, like me, are waiting for airport permits. A young couple from Gaza living in Ramallah are hoping to get permits so they can visit their families in Gaza (have not been able to do so for two years). At 11:40 they announce that the soldiers are going on a lunch break, will reopen the curtains at 1 o’clock sharp.

Lots of comments about the kind of food to be consumed by the soldiers and wishes for good digestion float about. At 2:35 sharp, the curtains on the other side of my window rustle. A huge crowd of hopefuls readies their ID cards waiting for their names to be called. This turns out to have been a false alarm, caused by a careless soldier brushing against the curtain. At this point, a young man strategically situated at the window tells me that he just saw my papers with the new pile to be submitted after the window reopens after lunch. I am crestfallen, thinking they were submitted with the 10 o’clock batch. But one can never be sure.

At 2:45 the curtain is pulled aside. Within fifteen minutes, the soldier has received the new pile of applications, and the applicants remark victoriously that now that they have been submitted it will be only a short wait until the results are out. By 3 pm the names are called out (but from the morning batch of applications). But who can hear their names being called out with so much commotion around? Our tireless interpreter saves the day, shouting out the names.

The most common word shouted out after the names is marfoudh (refused). Others, more lucky, are told to buttress their applications with doctors’ reports, employers’ testimonies, and the like, and to come back the next day.

By 4 pm it is clear that my papers were indeed in the afternoon batch. A quick succession of marfoudhs, and then nothing.

A young man reassures me that they call out the rejectees’ names first. So the fact that I have not been called is a good omen. At 4:50, I hear my name over the din. But how to approach the window with the multitudes of men swarming there (some have climbed up on top of the railings in order to get a better view of the goings-on behind the iron bars). But the gallant crowd allows the right amount of space for a woman to approach the window. The soldier barks out something in Hebrew; by this time a new translator (the first one has departed with his marfoudh) saves the day. I try English. “You are rejected.” Thank you very much. A productive seven-hour day spent in scientific observation with lots of notes for further inquiry.

As I leave the compound, a foreign woman pulls up confidently in her yellow-plated car. The soldiers yell at her to move the car to another place away from the entrance. I know instinctively that she is there to get airport permits for Palestinians invited abroad by her organization or government but in need of a little intercession with the army so they can depart through the airport and not suffer the indignities of the route through Jordan. I had the same idea, of course.

“I am not responsible for the occupation,” she says when I point out that I wished the hundreds of people over there had this same privilege.

“Well, examine your conscience and see if you are not perpetuating it,” was my parting shot as she went into the compound and I set off on my journey back to Ramallah over the dusty trail leading from the “parking lot.”

But who can be sure she or he will not be tempted to use a little intervention sometime?

But then again, what is a VIP under occupation?

LISA TARAKI is an associate professor of Sociology at Birzeir University on the West Bank. She can be reached at: taraki@p-ol.com

More articles by:
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail