Back in the West Bank (part III)

Posted: August 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Settlements, this is personal | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

This is my third and final post regarding my recent army service in the West Bank (here are parts 1 and 2). Next week it’s back to blogging as usual.

A few hundred meters from our base, located north of Jericho, lies the settlements “Mevo’ot Yericho“, home to a couple of dozens families. As far as the army is concerned, Mevo’ot Yericho is not different from Kibbutz Gilgal, Tomer, or any other Jewish settlements in the area. There are soldiers guarding at the gate, an army patrol occasionally drops by to check if everything is OK, and the residents of Mevo’ot Yericho pass daily on our checkpoint, about a mile up the road leading to Jericho city. Nothing can hint that Mevo’ot Yericho is – according to the official minister of justice report – an illegal outpost, part of the much debated list of outposts that are supposed to be evacuated somewhere in the near future.

Mevo’ot Yericho started as a station for agriculture experiments that belonged to Mitzpe Yitav settlement, some 3 milles away. This is common practice in the West Bank. You start with an army post or an excavations project or an agriculture one, and before you know it, there are some mobile homes there (the people working on the station must sleep somewhere, no?) and the families of the so called workers arrive to spent some time with them (with all the house furniture in the back of the car), and from here there is no going back. Nothing – be that a nature reserve or a scientific project – is ever innocent in the West bank. Everything must be seen and understood in the context of the occupation.

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Back in the West Bank (part II)

Posted: August 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

It’s been nine years since my previous military service in the West Bank. Back than, I promised myself that it was the last time I took such an active part in the occupation, but I didn’t keep my word. In the last three weeks I have been stationed in a small base in the Jordan Valley area, north of Jericho. I have a few more days to go. In my previous post I discussed the reason that brought me there. Now I’d like to report some of the things I’ve seen and learned.

The first thing one notices upon returning to the WB are the increased limitations on the Palestinians’ lives. When I was called to the territories for the first time, in 1993, Palestinians traveled freely into and out of the West Bank. During the Oslo days, the WB and Gaza were sealed. Now, after the second Intifada, Palestinians can’t even travel freely between their own towns and villages (though some of the roadblocks were removed recently). Most Palestinians are not allowed to use highway 90, going along the Jordan Valley, and some other main roads as well. The result is that on the West Bank Highways, you only see cars with the yellow Israeli license plates.

There are, however, exceptions. Some Palestinian Authority officials are allowed to pass through roadblocks. Others have permits to work at a certain settlements, or inside Israel, on the other side of the Green Line. Some live near the major highways, so they are issued a special permit to use certain roads which are normally reserved for Israelis. All this leads to an incredibly bureaucratic system of permits and approval, issued and renewed every few months by the army and with the supervision of the Shin Beit (the powerful internal security bureau). In most roadblocks and checkpoints one can find thick leaflets explaining the rights granted to the Palestinians by every permit. And when the permits are not enough, each Palestinian is registered on the IDF computer, so it’s possible to check where he is allowed to be, if he can use a specific “Israelis only” road, where can he work, etc.

This complicated system is operated, at ground level, by 20 years old kids or by reservists on units such as mine. Read the rest of this entry »