Imagine being Jewish and landing in Tel Aviv airport, only to be presented with a limited one-month visa, despite having been approved for a three-year work visa by the Israeli consulate in Montréal, on the recommendation of the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish Agency is obviously in contradiction with the political perspective of Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority.1 While the former encourages Jewish people to join in, the latter is concerned about Jewish dissidents who, it would seem, are now considered as a major threat to the security of the state.
Jewish Voice for Peace—which is banned as an organisation—has noted that the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions international movement is considered more of a threat than the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Later, as I arrive in Nablus, Palestine, my welcome is universal and full of knafah. Everyone should have a taste of this addictive cheese-laden and honey lasagna. Only a day later, we were on a demonstration at the check-point entry to Hawarah where carrying a Palestine flag is another major threat punished by gas grenades, sound bombs, and the occasional rubber bullet and live ammunition as well. No time for jet lag in Palestine these days.
Being Jewish in Nablus is a major feature of conversation, English lessons and of course, more knafah and Arabic coffee:? ka’awah. Note that here one must add two-and-a-half heaping soup-spoonsful to boil in the coffee pot; otherwise you risk disappointing the consumers.
Nablus is Nablus and the days are filled with the prayer chants from the minarets rebounding between the mountains on either side, as well as the weapons fire in the evening to finish off the day. The regular Palestinian police are active in the old city and the refugee camps busy hounding the local gangs, armed clans and the opposing political factions. The Preventive Security Police set up by the Oslo Accords to end the Intifada revolts, are still actively seeking out the militants. This collaboration continues in spite of the warnings from the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that such service for the State of Israel would end if the USA’s aid would be cut off to the Palestinian refugee population internationally, numbering more than five million. Also, there are Israel’s F-16s coming around for practice flights overhead and incidentally seeking to intimidate the population.
As far as the US State Department is concerned, though, it is more likely to be met with splattered eggs than a welcoming embrace. The self-induced illusion of the US President’s “Big Deal” has evaporated and Russia is being courted as the patron saint, as well as China.
The lack of any balance in the treatment of the mutual claims to the same land by Israel and Palestine, exemplified by the US failure to recognise Palestine as an independent State, is not only a failure by the current administration but by all preceding presidencies as well. The current “Big Deal” amounts to transferring the occupation of the West Bank to the Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom together with the transfer of the Gaza Strip to Egyptian control.
On the way over from Montréal, an American Christian from Texas is sitting next to me; the pilgrims travelling with him are solidly convinced that they were on their way to Israel even though they do not yet know that Bethlehem is in the Palestinian occupied territories. This Vietnam veteran is sure that the 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi must stay in prison for having slapped “the poor innocent soldier”. He was coming to take over her home, just after her cousin had his skull smashed up by a rubber projectile for having peeped over a wall, as well as her mother being slapped by a soldier much larger than herself.
At the same time, 66% of the Israeli Jewish public agree to coexistence, even while the government continues to hang on like a cat at the edge of a precipice. Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has managed so far to hold on despite the police recommendations of corruption for receiving lavish gifts from sponsors not to mention the suppression of a major newspaper that was not supportive enough. His coalition maintains itself with a majority of one vote while the opposition fails to coalesce together with the Palestinian Joint List of 13 seats due to a self-defeating sense of national chauvinism.
Many municipalities such as Acca, Yaffa-Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem are already a mixed population and are rather peaceful to boot. The war on the Palestinian “enemy” takes place in the occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and often by bombardments on the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Nablus appears to be a city living the 1950s with antiquated facilities, not even any home postal delivery, even though each millennial youth usually has an iPhone and a Facebook account.
Nablus is an example of the historical “uneven and combined development” factor. Nonetheless, the social order remains theocratic, and marriages depend upon the 30,000 shekels (NIS) needed for the dowry. The rampant youth unemployment is obviously not conducive to social stability. While Palestinian labour in Palestinian enterprises gives up 1,500 shekels a month, Palestinian workers in the 1948 State get paid 6000 shekels. The resulting dependence of the Palestinians upon the Israeli economy is endemic with 110,000 labour permits and 60,000 smuggled workers crossing the Apartheid Wall each day. And Israel’s economy is likewise dependent upon Palestinian labour.
It is evident that the threat of violence to Jewish Israelis is blown out of proportion considering the presence of so many West Bankers circulating in the State of Israel in spite of the so-called “Security fence.”
In any case, the lone individual attackers direct their kitchen knives against the most isolated soldier available. The Israeli population responds with an eagerness to share the burden and conscript the religious who attend Torah-study classes in the Yeshivas of eastern Jerusalem in the Meah Shearim district of ancient construction.
The ultra-Orthodox respond with militant civil resistance and occupy major intersections whenever a youth is imprisoned for not having registered with the draft. Ironically, the Palestinian youth are not subject to military conscription and are freer from the State than the Israeli youth— taking into consideration that they don’t serve in the army. For most Israeli conscripts, resistance to the draft comes down to choosing National Service in the public sector rather than refusing to register at all, thus landing in prison.
Among the Palestinians of Nablus, many men have learned Hebrew in prison as if it were an educational institution. Most males have either been in prison for a number of years or have been shot or hit with those rubber or plastic covered bullets.
University educational institutions are packed with youths who are not subject to a military draft, with a majority of students being women. An-Najah University here has 45,000 students out of a municipal population of 500,000. Housing is an incredible accomplishment with ten-story apartment buildings popping up and over the top of the mountains. A political geographer could write a doctoral thesis on the subject, considering that construction is not permitted outside of the Sector A boundaries of this ghetto. Due to the municipal boundary limitations, the population is so compressed that people walking downtown must take to the street to avoid the sidewalks filled to capacity.
While it is said that “Whatever will be will be,” it is not at all certain what that will be.
Abraham Weizfeld is a Montréal-based activist.
1 Coincidentally, that border authority is the one seeking to transfer the African refugee population out of the state.