|The picture that emerges
from the map is that most of the checkpoints are deep inside the
territories, slicing and dicing the area into patches. It appears
that the soldiers at the checkpoints are meant mostly to defend the
settlements and the settlers who live outside the State of Israel.
This is most striking when compared to the location of the
checkpoints before the intifada - mostly along the Green Line -
proving that the purpose of the soldiers then was to mitigate the
risk of terrorists infiltrating Israel.
But another impression one gets from examining the
map is that while the deployment of the checkpoints makes life
difficult for peace-loving Palestinians, it also makes the work more
difficult for those who want to strike at life-loving Israelis.
Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz often takes pride in the fact that he
foresaw the uprising, so he had enough time and money to prepare.
That preparation, he says, was first and foremost, to build the
fortifications and the checkpoints.
Bomb and drop
But for the past few months officials in the
Israeli defense establishment and outside it, particularly in the
U.S., are arguing that the checkpoints do more harm than good. They
have turned into a symbol of the occupation, a daily reminder of who
are the lords in the land and who are the subjects. There's barely a
single Palestinian for whom the word checkpoint (and they know the
word in Hebrew, mahsoam) isn't associated with rage and hatred. It
is impossible to know how many Palestinian babies were born in the
endless lines, on their way to the next checkpoint. The only Israeli
faces they know are those of the young, tired and nervous soldiers
at the checkpoints.
Nonetheless, the military echelon has never
pressured the government to think about creative alternatives. On
the other hand, both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the security
cabinet members from the "peace camp," Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, haven't
asked for an accounting of the value of the checkpoints.
Of all people, it was Minister for Regional
Development Roni Milo who suggested that Israel seriously consider a
proposal (that arrived as a hint from Washington) that Jerusalem
learn from the conduct of the Americans in the war in Afghanistan:
Send the warcraft after the bastards, and parachute food for the
Until yesterday, there was no sign that someone up
there has drawn a connection between the checkpoints and terrorist
attacks. Despite authorizations the Palestinians received to
transfer 19 trailers full of equipment for an elementary school in
Rafah, the soldiers at the Gush Katif checkpoint sent them packing.
The efforts of the human rights group B'Tselem on the matter were
for naught. It would be interesting to hear what the children who
have to walk six kilometers to school every day think about their
Bingo in Miami, fire in Jerusalem
Just when it seems we've seen and heard everything
the politicians are ready to say and do in the name of the "war
on terror," someone manages to come up with a surprise. After
the Knesset debated a law to encourage Arabs to leave the country,
and Tourism Minister Benny Elon proposed killing the relatives of
suicide attackers, it is apparently time for some people to make a
bit of money.
Between the lines of the latest plan to compensate
merchants in the downtown Jerusalem area and along the Green Line
"seam," there's a ticking candy bomb that will be very
tasty for bingo tycoon Irving Moscowitz, friend of Ariel Sharon and
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, but that will result in the
Hebronization of East Jerusalem.
"There have been 10 terrorist attacks in
Jerusalem since May, in which 29 people were killed and more than
450 have been wounded," says a ministry-prepared proposal due
for discussion in an upcoming session of the government. Indeed,
following the most recent string of bombings, Sharon and Olmert
promised to compensate the merchants and the residents of the seam,
the old Green Line that divided the city between 1948 and 1967. The
plan, dubbed "Strengthening Jerusalem - special aid for the
center of the city," calls for a NIS 50 million allocation this
year, with a 50 percent discount on city taxes for merchants n the
heart of the city. There is also an article proposing that every
Jerusalem resident who earns less than NIS 10,500 gross a month, get
two tax credit points (just like the residents of Ma'aleh Adumim and
Givat Ze'ev, the eastern and northwestern suburbs of Jerusalem
inside the territories). In addition, the proposal would have all
government ministries conduct their various conferences and
congresses in Jerusalem.
But hidden in Article 5, the last chapter of the
document, which was prepared by the relevant ministries with the
help of the Jerusalem municipality, is the ticking candy bar for
Moscowitz - and the danger for the city. "To encourage the
housing market in Jerusalem, the grants and mortgages plan (known as
the Sharansky plan, after Housing Minister Natan Sharansky), the
plan will include a NIS 100,000 "location" loan to
purchasers of apartments in Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev, and Ma'aleh
Hazaytim. If the purchasers commits to living in the apartment for
five years, half the loan will be turned into a grant."
It would be interesting to conduct a poll to find
out how many of the ministers know that Ma'aleh Hazaytim is the
Hebrew name chosen for a Jewish neighborhood of 119 apartments in
the heart of Ras el Amud, an Arab neighborhood of 11,000 in East
Jerusalem. How many of them know it is a construction project owned
by Moscowitz, who was trained as a doctor, who earns his living from
bingo in America, while he plays with fire in Jerusalem? How many
know that in April, the first 52 of the apartments will be
populated? In other words, Israeli citizens, including residents of
terror-weary Jerusalem, will be handing over their money to a
millionaire who lives in Miami Beach.
It is not Peace Now activists who will be moving
into the new Jewish neighborhood built by Moscowitz, the guest of
honor at the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel in September 1996, a
ceremony that ended with 16 dead Israeli soldiers. But a copy of the
proposal to "Strengthen Jerusalem" fell into the hands of
Jerusalem peace activist Danny Zeidman.
In a letter he addressed to Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon yesterday, Zeidman says that encouraging people to move to
Har Homa and Ras el Amud "is the complete opposite of helping
the residents of the seam areas, because the two neighborhoods will
create new seams." Ras el Amud, writes Zeidman, will be an
ideological enclave of extreme right-wingers in the heart of a
Palestinian neighborhood. Hebron redux.
Rubinstein doesn't get involved with racism
It took some time, but Attorney General Elyakim
Rubinstein finally reacted to the declarations by Tourism Minister
Benny Elon about transferring Arabs out of the territories, and Effi
Eitam's description of Israeli Arabs as a cancer, and their culture
The attorney general pointed out the Supreme Court
decision that rejected a 1995 petition seeking to ban a party from
the Knesset because it included the idea of population transfer.
Rubinstein also noted that three years ago he himself appealed to
the Supreme Court against its decision to allow Moledet to run in
the local elections in Upper Nazareth, because of the local party
leader's rhetoric that Rubinstein is regarded as racist.
Rubinstein noted that he argued that
"precisely because the State of Israel is Jewish and
democratic, it must be specially sensitive to incitement against a
minority. A political party in a foreign country that speaks out
against Jews would be decried as anti-Semitic and cause much
justified concern in the Jewish community," he wrote, adding,
"the analogy speaks for itself."
Nonetheless, Rubinstein says that, "At this
stage, the dominant effort should be the public debate and the
public's judgment. As far as the law is concerned, the issues are
examined on their own merit, with regard to concrete examples."
And he adds, "without getting into the political debate, not
only from the perspective of democracy, but also from the Jewish
perspective, and even in difficult circumstances of a bloody
conflict imposed upon us - there should be sensitivity toward the
other, no matter who they are, and to avoid statements that mean a
citizen should be uprooted." But he summarizes, "For now,
the issue belongs on trial by the public."
The attorney general's position did not go down
well with the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law
Committee, MK Ophir Pines-Paz - and he made no secret of it. In a
letter to Rubinstein, Paz writes that "at this time, with the
public seeking solutions at any price, the law enforcement
authorities should not be caught asleep on duty. Racist solutions
must be made clear to be beyond the realm of the permissible."
Unlike Rubinstein, Paz doesn't make do with talk
alone. He has prepared an amendment to the law granting MKs
immunity. The amendment says that an MK "will not benefit from
immunity for written or spoken words, or actions in the Knesset or
outside it, even if they were part of their function as an MK, if
the verbal expression or the action was incitement to racism."
It will be interesting to see which MKs vote against the amendment.
Copyright 1996, Ha'aretz.
For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.