According to the 2003 law, Arab citizens of Israel who marry Palestinians will have to emigrate in order to live with their spouses.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi famously said that “Israel is indeed a Jewish-democratic state: it is democratic for Jews and Jewish for all the rest.”
This rings truer than ever after Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected yesterday (again) the petitions against the Citizenship Law, one of the first measures to make racial discrimination against the Arab minority not just common practice, but part of Israel’s legal codex.
The High Court rejected the petitions against the Citizenship Law in a split, 6-5 decision. The incoming head of the High Court, Justice Asher Grunis, wrote in the decision that “human rights shouldn’t be a recipe for national suicide.” You can read the full verdict here [Hebrew, PDF]. Justice Edmond Levy, a religious and somewhat conservative judge, harshly criticized Grunis for his language, claiming he misled the public as to the nature of the citizenship law.
The Citizenship Law, which technically is a temporary order, came into effect in 2003. It determines that Palestinian non-citizens who marry Israeli citizens will not be eligible for Israeli residency or citizenship. The couple will only be able to unite outside the borders of Israel.
The practical meaning of the law is that Arab citizens of Israel who marry Palestinian non-citizens – something that happens quite often, since these are members of the same nation, and sometimes of the same communities – won’t be able to live with their wives or husbands. If they want to unite, they will have to leave the country. By doing so, the law achieves two (racist) objectives against members of the Arab minority: (a) it prevents non-Jews from entering the country and applying for permanent residency or citizenship and (b) it makes it harder for Israeli Arab citizens to build families in their own community or in their own country, thus encouraging them to leave Israel. Arab Palestinians comprise roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population.
It is important to note that it is not the right of the non-citizen wife or husband that is being violated (since the state has no legal obligation towards them), but that of the citizen, who should enjoy the possibility to form a family and live with his loved one in his own community.
When the citizenship law came into effect, during the second Intifada, a security pretext was used to justify it, claiming that Palestinian terrorists could use marriage to become Israeli citizens. Yet this argument doesn’t hold: even without the law, the security establishment can veto any demand for citizenship or residency. It’s clear – and the public debate around the law doesn’t even try to conceal this fact – that “demographic” issues were the real motive for the legislation, and more specifically, the desire to limit, and ultimately even reduce, the number of non-Jewish citizens in the state.
Until the citizenship order, the only major piece of Israeli legislation that made a clear distinction between Arabs and Jews was the Law of Return, which makes it possible for Jews to immigrate to Israel and become citizens instantly, while non-Jews aren’t allowed to do so, even if their families originally hailed from this land. The 2003 law marks perhaps a new era, in which discrimination against the Arab minority is not only a common practice – for example, in the prevention of Palestinians from buying or building on state land, through the use of state agencies such as the JNF – but an explicit part of the body of laws that apply to the citizens of the state.
The new Nakba Law, which allows the state to penalize institutions that commemorate the Palestinian national disaster of 1948, is further evidence of this fact. The High Court also rejected petitions against the Nakab bill, just last week.
F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, explains why the “multi-state solution” to apartheid didn’t work in his country, and why it would probably fail in Israel/Palestine
One of the ways the whites in South Africa tried to preserve the ethnic separation of apartheid was by introducing autonomous regions for the black minorities, known also as Bantustans. Some of the Bantustans even received “independence,” and unlike the Israeli government, the South African actually tried to have the international community recognize them. It even wanted them to have a seat at the UN but the trick didn’t work – the Bantustans weren’t sovereign nor separate; it was just another form of ethnic segregation and ethnic control. Curiously enough, Israel was the only country in the world to express some sort of limited recognition of their independent status, and one Bantustan even opened a trade mission in Tel Aviv under its own flag.
In an interview last week, the last white president of South Africa and the man who canceled the Bantustans, F. W. de Klerk, told the BBC what made the South African “multi-states solution” fail:
What I supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely separate nation states will be the solution. In our case we failed. There were three main reasons. We failed because the whites wanted too much land for themselves. We failed because the majority of blacks said this is not how we want our political rights. And we failed because we became economically totally integrated. We became an economic omelet and you can never again divide an omelet into the white and the yellow of the egg. And we realized in the early eighties we had landed in a place which has become morally unjustified.
Is this where the two-states solution is also headed? All evidence points at this direction. The Jews want too much land for themselves, and their power allowed them to bring the settlement project to the point of no return; despite efforts on both sides, the economies are still linked to each other. One could claim that Israel is not as dependant on the Arab work force as South Africa was on the black work force, yet it still desires the land in the West Bank and the resources that come with it. The only real difference is between the black leadership in South Africa, which didn’t play along with the idea of the Bantustans, and the PLO, which is only too happy to run its own fantasy of an autonomous Authority. It’s not just President Abbas: Palestinian politics is still very much committed to the idea of a nation-state.
According to de-Klerk’s logic, a shift in Palestinian politics towards a consensus around the one-state solution might be all it takes to end any possibility of an ethnic/demographic separation in Israel/Palestine.
In rejecting a petition regarding Israeli-owned quarries in the West Bank, the court rules that they benefit the Palestinians as well
Who owns and is allowed to use the sand and rocks of the West Bank? This question was at the center of a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice, submitted by Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din in 2009. Yesh Din asked the court to stop the operations of eight quarries under Israeli ownership, claming that they take away valuable resources from the Palestinian people and from a future Palestinian state.
Some 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel, accounting for the needs of more than a quarter of the market.
The petition relied on an article in the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, allowing an occupier to use the resources in the occupied land only for the needs and benefits of the occupied people.
Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.
Yesterday (Monday) the Israeli High Court rejected the petition, allowing the quarries to continue their work.
Some of the arguments the court gives are very strange, if not entirely corrupt: The court accepts, for example, the claim that since Palestinians are employed in mining work for the Israeli companies who own the quarries, one could say that Israel is actually helping the local economy. It also notes the fact that the quarries pay (low) taxes to the army’s administrative authority in the West Bank, which uses the money for its daily operations in the area.
In other words, the quarries not only take advantage of the the Palestinians’ natural resources, they are also used to cover the expenses of maintaining the occupation, which makes them even more profitable for Israel.
The court also cites previous cases, in which it declared the circumstances of the Israeli occupation “unique,” in a way that demands certain “adjustments” to the rights and duties of the occupiers. What is the reason for this unique situation? Among other things, that the Israeli occupation has been going on for so long. Israel, the court says, “is responsible for the development and growth of the area, in various ways” (article 10 in the ruling). Only in the Orwellian language of the occupation can developing the area be interpreted to mean profits through the shipping of its natural resources to Israel.
Addressing these arguments, Attorney Michael Sfard, legal advisor for Yes Din, said of the ruling, “Quarrying natural resources in an occupied territory for the economic benefit of the occupying state is pillage, and the court’s reasoning that a long-term occupation should be treated differently cannot legalize an economic activity that harms the local residents.”
Finally, the verdict also quotes the fact that in the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians agreed to let the quarries operate until the final agreement on the status of the land. The court fails to mention that the final agreement should have been signed, according to the Oslo Accords, by 1999. Still, this rationale demonstrates the destructive role the Palestinian Authority currently plays by allowing Israel to avoid the full legal implications and political consequences of its policies in the territories it occupied in 1967.
The Court concludes that the petition should be rejected for the reasons above, in addition to a few others. The head of the court, Dorit Beinisch, wrote the ruling herself. It was accepted unanimously by the two other justices hearing the case.
The Israeli High Court is often praised as a liberal institution and a unique model of judicial supervision in the toughest of circumstances. The Court has in fact registered some achievements in Israeli society and even with regards to the Arab minority of Israeli citizens, but in the West Bank and Gaza, it has done nothing but provide Israel with a cover of legitimacy for its activities.
The High Court’s track record is very clear: It never questions or stops Israeli policies. At best, it asks for some adjustments to be made.
In the late seventies, the High Court approved the settlements, only adding limits to the State’s ability to confiscate private land belonging to Palestinian individuals; a decade later, the court sanctioned torture (but also issued some vague rules over the circumstances in which it could be used); it allowed targeted assassinations; and it approved the construction of the separation wall deep inside Palestinian territory, only demanding it be moved it in a few cases.
In short, the High Court has never been a venue to challenge the occupation, but quite the opposite – it is one of the branches that institutionalized it, by setting rules and providing a legal cover to colonial policies, for political persecution and for oppression. One can only conclude that in the context of the West Bank, the High Court has been and still is a fundamental element in the construction and maintenance of what is, in essence, apartheid.
Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.
Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):
… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.
This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.
Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.
New Knesset bill aims to have “Jewish nature” of state preferred over democracy, cancel official status of Arabic, and have Jewish law “guide” courts’ rulings
There is one talking point repeated in every hasbara (the Hebrew term for state sponsored propaganda) talk given by an Israeli representative, or in every booklet your campus’ Jewish Agency representative might hand you. It has to do with “the full rights” of Palestinian citizens in Israel, including the status of Arabic as an official language, and the equality of all Israeli citizens under the law. This is the heart of “the only democracy in the Middle East” claim.
Those who are familiar with Israeli society, know that Arab citizens are discriminated against in many ways: Some of these ways are formal—like the new bill allowing segregated communities; the law against family unification of Arab citizens; the absentees’ property laws, and more—while other are a matter of practice, such as the fact that some government agencies won”t hire Arabs, or the that the courts mete out harsher sentences to Arab citizens convicted of the same crimes as Jewish citizens.
Yet a new bill, signed by members of opposition and coalition alike, aims to strip Israel even of the appearance of democracy. If passed (it has a fair chance), this law will determine that in any case of contradiction between democratic values and the Jewish nature of the state, the Jewish element will prevail. More specifically, the bill aims to cancel the status of Arabic as one of Israel’s two official languages; it orders the state to develop communities for Jews only; and in a passage that seems to be taken from the Iranian constitution, declares that when there is no law referring to a certain case, courts should rule in the spirit of halakha, or Jewish religious jurisprudence.
The bill, initiated by MKs Avi Dichter (Kadima ), Zeev Elkin (Likud ) and David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), and supported by 20 of the 28 Kadima MKs, would make democratic rule subservient to the state’s definition as “the national home for the Jewish people.”
The legislation, a private member’s bill, won support from Labor, Atzamaut, Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union lawmakers.
Sources at the Knesset say the law currently has broad support, and they believe it will be passed during the Knesset’s winter session.
The bill is meant to pass a “basic law”—Israel’s substitute for a constitution—and will require a special majority to change it in the future.
People were concerned about the Boycott Law, which aimed to eliminate one of the most well known methods of opposition to the occupation, or by the Nakba Law, which prohibits certain institutions from marking the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. But this new bill takes the game to a whole new level, by formally making 20 percent of Israel’s citizens—a native population that predates the state—as second class citizens. They won’t be segregated in the way blacks were in the South or in South Africa (yet?), but Israel won’t even pretend to be their state anymore, and they will have even fewer rights than Jewish citizens. Israel will truly become, to use a phrase by Ahmad Tibi, “a Jewish democracy: Democracy for Jews and a Jewish state for everyone else.”
The army has taken control over the village of Awarta, which lies near the settlement of Itamar, where 5 members of the Fogel family were murdered. According to reports, hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested, some beaten; all young men were forced to give DNA samples; settlers have built an outpost on the village’s land, which is now guarded by the Israeli army
Army roadblock inside Awarta
Ever since the terrible murder of five members of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar, the nearby village of Awarta is going through what is officially a murder investigation, but looks more like a form of collective punishment—some would say organized revenge — led by the IDF and Israel’s Internal Security Service (Shin Beit).
The events have been going on since March 12, when thousands of soldiers entered the village and began house-to-house searches, accompanied by dogs and Shin Bet interrogators.
Hundreds of Awarta’s 6,000 residents were arrested and questioned. According to locals, the soldiers have taken over four houses in the village and turned them into an improvised interrogation facility. Several of the Palestinians said they were beaten by the soldiers and by their interrogators.
According to reports, all the village’s men between the ages of 15 and 40 were forced to give fingerprints and DNA samples.
A door which was forced by soldiers, in Awarta
15 families have reported of damage to their homes. In several cases, Palestinians claimed that large sums of money – between 500 and 5,000 shekels – disappeared from their houses after the soldiers left. In other cases, doors were broken and furniture damaged during the searches.
Settlers have passed through the village, thrown stones on homes and broken car windows and mirrors. Settlers from nearby Itamar have also taken over private agricultural land owned by the village’s farmers and established on it a new outpost, consisting of four mobile homes and guarded by the army.
A view from Awarta. to the right: the hill now occupied by settlers
On Thursday, Palestinian news agency Maan reported that another 100 of the village’s women had been arrested and interrogated.
Awarta has been under curfew from the previous Saturday until Wednesday, and human right activists have not been allowed entrance into the village. Once the curfew was lifted, activists from the Israeli NGO “Checkpoint-Watch” managed to get to Awarta and report some of the events in the village.
At the time of writing, dozens of the village’s people are still under arrest. Their exact number is unknown.
Broken window in a house in Awarta
I have contacted the IDF spokesperson unit this morning (Sunday) with a series of questions regarding the mass arrests, forced DNA sampling, searches and other activities against the people of Awarta. Late afternoon, I received the following reply:
Since the Itamar murder investigation is still under way, theses issues are still being checked [which "issues"?]. IDF soldiers are present at the outpost due to the high tension in the region.
UPDATE: Maan has reportedthat the army has raided Awarta again yesterday. Nine Palestinians were detained, including three members of the same family, a father, a mother and their daughter.
UPDATE II: Haaretz is quoting[Hebrew] security officials who claim that a breakthrough with the Itamar murder investigation is expected “soon”, following the Army’s activities in Awarta.
Advocacy groups for Israel and government spokesmen often claim that even under the military occupation, the West Bank is governed by the rule of law. Some people say that Palestinians are not confronted by Israeli soldiers and that they are free to “run their own business” under the governing of the Palestinian Authority.
As events in Awarta prove, this is no more than propaganda. When it matters to Israel, IDF soldiers do whatever they want, wherever they want. Palestinians have no basic legal rights. No Miranda, no Habeas Corpus. When the army decides, it can detain thousands of people and invade hundreds of homes, like it is doing in Awarta right now. No warrant is needed, no specific suspicion against someone is necessary (so far, there hasn’t been one public charge against a resident of Awarta). If Palestinians are beaten, or if their property is destroyed or looted, there is nobody they can turn to.
There have been at least four murder cases of Palestinians from the region by settlers from Itamar in recent years. In the last case, the perpetrator was released on bail and didn’t show up for trial. In the one before, the settler who shot a 24 year-old Palestinian farmer in front of witnesses was never tracked down. Itamar wasn’t placed under curfew, nor were dozen of men rounded up by the police (in criminal cases the settlers are under jurisdiction of civilian authorities, not the army).
This is the occupation’s rule of law. One law for Jews, another for Palestinians.
Some stuff you have to read with your own eyes in order to believe it. Prof. Richard Landes, who writes a pro-Israeli conservative blog named Augene Stables, is making what seems like a comparative case for Israeli colonialism.
Answering a reader’s question regarding the legality of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Landes writes:
Indeed, in the history of settling conquered areas, including the record of Islamic conquerors, Israeli behavior in the West Bank as been exceptionally mild and constructive. All the indicators of quality of life are higher there than any of the surrounding Arab states. And all this was accomplished with comparatively little violence from the conquering settlers (the norm is harsh violence from conquerors; the action of the most extreme settlers is peanuts in comparison)
Yes, it’s the old “our blacks are better off than in their own countries” argument – making a surprise comeback into Western political thinking. And yes, Israeli occupation might be “better” than the colonization of Australia or the Armenian genocide, but this is hardly a reason to support it, no?
But even if you do accept the twisted logic according to which one crime legitimize another, supposedly milder one, Landes, like most Neo-Cons, is still avoiding the heart of the matter when it comes to the occupied territories: the existence of two populations on the same territorial unit (Jews and Arabs), one having full citizen rights and the other very partial ones.
Recently, I had a conversation with rightwing Israeli writer Ben-Dror Yemini in which he referred to the situation in the West Bank as “Apartheid-land”. We discussed the application of this specific term, and Yemini even claimed to have used it in public as well, but I couldn’t find any reference to that. Anyway, while I didn’t agree with most of his conclusions – Yemini supports evacuation of settlements but keeping the IDF’s presence in the West Bank – his analysis was pretty honest. When dealing with the legitimacy of the settlements, the policy of separation and the lack of rights is the real issue that needs to be addressed. Unlike Ymini, Landes prefers not to see the elephant in the room.
For a more detailed discussion of the Israeli interpretation to the legal statues of the West Bank and Jewish settlements in it, check out this post.
Following my proposal for artists playing in Israel to insist on Palestinian attendance at their gigs, one of the reader posted this video clip, showing Dusty Springfield’s 1964 refusal to perform in front of segregated audiences in South Africa. According to her Wikipedia page, Springfield ended up being expelled from the country. She did, however, outlive Apartheid.
Not long ago, the large settlement which is now at the heart of the controversy over the refusal of Israeli theater actors to perform in its new auditorium, tried to prove in court that officially, it lies outside Israel, and therefore should be exempted from paying VAT
Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) was present this week at the opening of the new theater hall at the settlement of Ariel. A couple of months ago, several Israeli theater artist declared their refusal to perform in Ariel, which sits deep in the Palestinian territories, some 15 miles east of the Green Line.
Livnat and other rightwing figures believe that Ariel is a part of Israel, and as so, its people are entitled to the same services other citizens receive. “Ariel is like any other community in Israel,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud). The Culture Minister went even further and declared that the state would stop supporting theaters and artists who refuse to perform in any place in Israel, including the Occupied Territories.
But just a few years ago, it was the municipality of Ariel itself declaring that it is not a part of Israel, and even trying to prove it in court.
In December 2007, the Petach Tikva court of appeals issued a ruling (Hebrew) in the case of the municipality of Ariel vs. the State of Israel. In its appeal, the municipality demanded to be exempted from paying VAT to the state; its argument was that the settlement doesn’t fall under the legal category of an ‘Israeli citizen’ or ‘An Israeli resident’, and therefore cannot be required to pay VAT.
Alternatively, Ariel demanded to be exempted from paying taxes over the work of its Palestinian employees.
The Petach Tikva court ruled in favor of the state, and Ariel was required to pay its taxes.
The 2007 case shows again how Israel is trying to have it both ways in the West Bank: claim it as its own territory and reject all efforts to limit or question its actions there – and at the same time, never formally recognize it as a part of the state (that’s the loophole the municipality of Ariel was trying to use), since that would reveal the fact that there are 2.5 million people without rights within this territory, thus officially labeling Israel as an Apartheid state.
In 2007 the Petach Tikva court decided that for tax purposes, Ariel is a part of Israel. At the same time, many Israelis who have factories or businesses in the West Bank don’t pay their Palestinian workers minimum wage, claiming – as one company did before court a couple of months ago – that they are operating “outside Israel” and are subject to Jordanian regulations.
If Ariel and other settlements are indeed part of Israel – isn’t it time that their Palestinian neighbors and workers will have full rights as well?
Poet Klil Zisapel was one of twelve Israeli women that took a group of Palestinian women and children on a fun outing to Tel Aviv, knowingly violating the Entry into Israel Act. In an interview to Promised Land Blog Klil explains her own reasons for taking part in this initiative, and shares some of the experiences of that special day
An unusual ad appeared in the Haaretz daily a month or so ago: it held the story of twelve Israeli women about how they took a group of Palestinian women and children on a fun outing in Tel Aviv; by doing so they intentionally violated Israel’s entry laws and, like their Palestinian travel-mates, taking on the risk of long-term imprisonment. Since the nineties, the Palestinian population is denied permission to leave the West Bank without special authorization from Israel’s military – and such permits are only given to a select few.
“We crossed the checkpoint with them [the Palestinian women] and knowingly violated the Entry into Israel Act. We are hereby declaring this fact publicly… we do not recognize the legitimacy of the Entry Into Israel Act, which permits every Israeli and every Jew to move freely throughout most of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and denies that right to the Palestinian, whose land this is, as well,” said the ad which they published in Haaretz. Following the publication, a right-wing organization filed a complaint with the police, demanding that the ad signatories be prosecuted. The penalty set forth by law for the crime of moving from the Palestinian Authority into Israel any person who does not have a legal pass to be there is up to two years of imprisonment.
Poet Klil Zisapel was one of the Israeli women who took part in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian trip to Tel Aviv. She talks here about the motivation behind the public flouting of the law, the decisions about where to travel, and the shared experiences of that day.
Q: Why did you decide to flout the Entry into Israel Act openly?
Klil Zisapel: “I suppose that this idea comes into being in every one of the Israelis who travels to and from the Occupied Territories and who has any kind of personal relationship with Palestinians. A personal relationship brings into consciousness the absurdity of the situation and makes it impossible to forget the terrible strictures imposed on the population which is living on its own land, in areas that are under Israeli occupation. A real relationship with anyone, beyond the wall and on the other side of the checkpoints, suddenly focuses in the life of an Israeli Jew like me the enormous price that tens of thousands of innocent people on the other side are made to pay.
“It is a daily price, a wicket and strangulatory one – it cannot be described only in words, or at least it cannot be grasped through the enumeration of the prohibitions and restriction in their own right. Relationships with Palestinians make present the terrible things done in our name, as Israelis, and the constant presence of these pangs from our conscience arouses the need to rise up and cross boundaries.
“The initiative itself started with a similar action which Ilana (Hammerman) reported in an article in Haaretz, born of her relationship with a Palestinian family. This was neither the first nor the only case, but in most other cases, violation of the Entry into Israel Act was done for medical or other urgent reasons. However, there were other cases where Ilana drove people who did not have passes in her car, for purposes similar to the ones in the article.
“After a complaint was filed with the police about Ilana, I told her that I would really like to do that sort of thing, too, but my Palestinian friends were afraid – and from their perspective, this may have been justified. The prior and dangerous experience of a young man in sneaking into Israel and moving around its back yards, attempting to make a living, does not leave him space to put himself into danger for spiritual ‘luxuries’, despite the desire to see the Mediterranean or Acca or Ramle, or the curiosity to peek at the tall buildings in Tel Aviv or to visit my home.
“The other women who signed the ad also contacted Ilana, each in her own time and in her own way. It was finally proposed that a joint, multi-person trip be organized, one which could rail against the filing of the complaint, evoke a greater public resonance, and encourage other people to join this kind of initiative. The goal was to make the opening of [criminal] proceedings against us, if such a thing would indeed happen, more comprehensive – and thereby, all the more spurious.
“It is important to note that all of the other Israeli women are or were active in various contexts. Most of them, like Ilana, have already found themselves violating the Entry into Israel Act or one of the other laws of the occupation, through relationships that they had formed with Palestinians. Thus, the public and symbolic action also had significance for the Israel women involved, because it implies and enfolds within it the prior, personal, private civil disobedience that each of us had committed.”
Q: How did the relationship with the Palestinian women who took part in the trip come into being?
KZ: “I cannot answer that question, due to concerns about exposing organizers on the other side. The sanctions that could be imposed on them due to illegal stays inside Israel could be most grave, especially due to the defiant and provocative nature of this action.
“I can only say that people who wanted to come were indeed found. One of the women even told Ilana and Ofra (Yeshua-Lyth) on the last meeting that a million Palestinian women already want to come with us for a trip into Israel. Of course, that is an exaggeration, but we want to believe that this statement expresses the enthusiasm on the other side.
“In a preliminary meeting we talked about options. I thought – and also said – that it would be best to violate the Family Unification Act, which is in fact a law against family unification, and its declared goals are demographic. In other word, cross the checkpoints into the country, with the women and the children, to Acca or to Baka Al Gharbia or wherever, to meet a grandmother or other relatives that they had not seen for years or perhaps ever. There was agreement that it was a good idea, but that organizing such an operation would be complex and take a long time, so that will be next time, inshallah.”
Q: How did you decide where to go?
KZ: “A preliminary meeting was held with the Palestinian women and indeed, there was deliberation about the destinations. Jerusalem, and in particular, the Al Aqsa Mosque, were the preferred destination for them. I’m afraid to say that this was taken off the agenda, because we feared for their safety: there is dense police action in Jerusalem, and many cases of requiring and examining identification papers – especially for Arabs, in an intentional search for people traveling without a permit. The situation is different in Tel Aviv.
“We continued deliberating this until almost the very last moment, and eventually some of the women (depending on the car they were in) visited one place or another and the others did not. But for all of them, the focal meeting was at lunch, in a Jaffa restaurant overlooking the sea, and then we spent many hours on the Ajami beach. On the way back, the women looked at Al Aqsa from Mount Scopus.”
Q: Some would say that the Palestinians have more pressing issues than the need for having a fun day in Tel Aviv.
KZ: “Of course there are countless requirements of the population that lives under occupation, all of which are urgent. However, I think there is a point to choosing such a day of fun. It seems to me that few of the Israelis would say that they object to such a trip in and of itself, if it were not against the law, and that the law was meant to ban entry to people intent on committing attacks. But the truth is that the border is not hermetically sealed. There are many people among us who do not have valid passes, but most residents of Israel, including members of my own family, do not imagine this nor do they think about it. These Palestinians do not cause any damage to Israel or to the Israelis, but they are never openly supported by the construction contractors or restaurant-owners that employ them. If they are caught, they are entirely on their own. Unfortunately, some employers seem to see an advantage in having employees with no rights, without the ability to complain or even to demand their fair wage, if they were deprived of it.
“The great risk which the Palestinian women assumed, and the (small) risk which we assumed are in direct contrast of the daily reality of the pores and holes in the separation policy. I would like to be able to hope that in our unusual and somewhat pointless action can shed light on the absurdity of the Entry into Israel Act. It may be able to provide a peephole into the mass that is blocked and imprisoned beyond the wall and the checkpoints: women, children, and elderly people, none of whom can visit their family members or their holy places or their places of birth. And also, the sea, for those who are moved by it. That day, one elderly woman shed quiet tears when she saw the sea.”
Q: Please tell us more about the day you spent together.
KZ: “The experience itself was really most exciting, and throughout that day I found myself feeling a variety of surprising feelings. For example, about clothing. We were driving down Nordau Avenue in Tel Aviv, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman, her four-year-old daughter, Ilana, and myself – and as we got relatively close to the beach and could see people walking toward it I could see that the girl was laughing, and the mother was laughing with her a bit, but trying to choke down the laughter and silence her. When I looked out the window I saw men of all ages wearing only shorts and beach flip-flops, and nothing else, and women of all ages in the very shortest of dresses – and I suddenly understood that this scene seemed to them (and suddenly, to me, too) ridiculous, embarrassing, and unnecessary. I asked them if she was laughing because everything was so short, so bare (talking with our hands helped, too, and after all, I was also wearing a sleeveless shirt, although my pants came down beyond my knees). The mother, who did not want to offend us, admitted with some embarrassment that it was indeed so, and she was relieved when we laughed together. It was no less hot in their village, but everyone there was covered in such a way that was not disturbing or eye-catching. To tell you the truth, in contrast to what I could suddenly see through their eyes in Tel Aviv, it was a more pleasant sight.
“And on the other hand, one of the women wore makeup. One of the girls really liked the light scarf I brought to cover my shoulders, so I left it for her, to her obvious delight; for other women we bought straw hats, because they loved the hats worn by Israeli women. This is feminine communication which is somewhat silly but is also intimate, and linked us with the women. I have learned not to dismiss this communication, although it could of course be sparse and impoverish communication if that is as far as it goes.
“Here is another example: when we got to Tel Aviv, seeing the huge buildings which stand to such great heights, the four-year-old girl who was in the car with me told her mother that when she gets back, she will ask her father to build a tall building for her, too, in their village. When Ilana translated the girl’s response to me I laughed and asked Ilana: ‘oh no, are we doing a good or a bad thing here?’
“And there was also intimacy which is simply human, which comes into being unexpectedly in the course of such a day. That sort of thing happened when one of the Palestinian young women feared for her unborn baby, whose movements she had not felt since the morning. When finally, in the late afternoon, she told Michal Pundak about it, Michal called a friend of hers, a doctor, and got advice from him: she should lie on her left side and have some chocolate. After long and scary minutes, the baby kicked. The moments of joint concern, the cheers of relief when things fell into place – these formed a deep and enduring bond between Michal and that woman.”
This interview, originally written in Hebrew, was translated to English by Dena Shunra.