In the Chaos, Let’s Not Forget about Israel
As Palestinians bicker over who has sold out and who should step down following the release of the Palestine Papers, another separate but still relevant thought occurred to me the other day as I was crossing the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint on my way home. If there is one constant thread in this insane situation where accusations and conspiracy theories run wild it is that the Israelis have already cemented a system of segregation in place regardless of what scandalous reports or documents are leaked to the public. For Israel, whether the Palestinian leadership is shamed before its people or not is of no concern. For Israel, the Palestinians are right where it wants them.
I’m wondering how many people actually contemplate the many divisions Israel has categorized us under. In the occupied territories, there are the “purebred” Palestinians – those who carry green ID cards and passports (I use this term loosely), who are, for all practical purposes, at the bottom of the food chain. That is, if we exclude the truly unlucky souls isolated in the Gaza Strip. West Bankers must cross Israeli checkpoints even to go from one Palestinian city to the next; they must obtain visas for just about any country they wish to travel to save Jordan and Malaysia. They cannot enter Jerusalem or Israel without an Israeli permit and, if they are unlucky enough to live close to a Jewish settlement, to a bypass road, a military outpost or the separation wall – all Israeli presences in the West Bank – then they are under constant threat of land confiscation or home demolitions.
At Qalandiya checkpoint, for those few West Bankers who do have an Israeli permit to cross into Jerusalem, the line to cross is always long. For one, West Bankers are only allowed to cross from three of the 11 or so checkpoints around Jerusalem and must always do so on foot. This brings us to Class B of Israel’s categorization, the Jerusalemites.
Carrying blue ID cards, these are the Palestinians who were included in the national consensus after the 1967 War and after Israel unilaterally annexed occupied east Jerusalem. One rung up from the West Bankers in terms of travel restrictions, Palestinian Jerusalemites must also get down at Qalandiya checkpoint and walk through if they are traveling by public transportation. There are exceptions though for Jerusalemites. Mothers with small children and the elderly are allowed to stay on the bus (West Bankers don’t enjoy this luxury). And if they have a car, they can also drive through the inspection (if they have a good hour or so to waste waiting for their turn). Still, Jerusalemites, who have permanent residency in the city but not citizenship, can travel between their city and Ramallah without a permit. They can also travel abroad through Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, another luxury denied to West Bankers, who are forced to cross the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.
Jerusalemites can cross the bridge as well. But again, Israel has made a distinction between them and West Bankers at the crossing too. There are separate entrances for those with West Bank IDs and those with Jerusalem IDs, which makes it a bit tricky when, like myself, one parent is a West Banker while the children are Jerusalemites.
There are even more categories Israel has corralled us into, like Palestinians who live inside of Israel. Israel likes to call them “Israeli-Arabs” a term I reject and resent. These are Palestinians who were somehow able to resist expulsion, massacre and fleeing during the 1948 War and remained after the State of Israel was established. They are Palestinians first, Arabs second. Unlike those who live in the West Bank, their very identity is being challenged on a daily basis with attempts by Israel’s establishment to either annihilate it altogether or at least neutralize it and mesh it into an innocuous version of one more minority living in the Jewish state.
In any case, let’s not forget another category Israel created and enforced upon us with a vengeance, that of Palestinian refugees. This category, perhaps the most painful, has been an open wound for all Palestinians since the creation of the problem after the 1948 war. Although over 60 years have passed since then and refugees have made their homes (however bleak) in camps throughout the Arab world or elsewhere, most will still stubbornly hold on to this classification when asked. Not because they are so pleased with being called refugees but the relinquishing of the title means the relinquishing of the right to return, which they are not willing to do.
It is almost amazing that such a small nation – in all, the Palestinians everywhere comprise approximately 10 million people – could be dissected and divided into so many groups. But again, Israel knows what it’s doing. Enforcing a different set of rules for each category is one method to conquer and divide – it is much easier to oppress sub-groups than one united and cohesive people.
And here lies the crux. Palestinians themselves must not be sucked into this evil scheme. If anything is to be learned from the now infamous Palestine Papers it is that Israel is succeeding brilliantly in its grand plan of turning us against ourselves. We see no rebuttal from Israeli leaders to the information from the leaked documents. They don’t care. They are happy with the status quo. And, unlike us, they are united and unrelenting in their Zionist dream of a Jewish state for the Jewish people. We can actually learn quite a bit from them.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.