Not the best way to end the conflictBy Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz 09/17/2000
Sometimes it's hard to believe that the hand is the same hand and the head is the same head: At a time when the prime minister is bringing up very daring ideas in the negotiations with the Palestinians, and especially insisting on defining the "end of the conflict," his government and its institutions are sticking to a policy toward the Palestinians which is so cruel that it raises great doubts as to the purity of the government's intentions. From Israel's point of view, the policy of conquest is continuing as usual, and it will not end a moment before an agreement is signed.Take for example the story of Mahmoud al-Batash and Salameh al-Najar, which was reported in last week's Ha'aretz magazine: Two young people living in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, whose parents lost their homes in 1967 and returned to their homes in Jabalya after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. The two young men, who were born in Jordan, have no identity cards. Their crime was to try to enter Israel in order to help support their large families, using someone else's papers. They were caught and sentenced to arrest by a court. So far, the story is reasonable. But that is not enough for Israel. After serving their sentence they were served with deportation papers by an officer of the Israel Defense Forces, who is the area commander. And since then they have been sitting in jail for months, without a trial, waiting for deportation, which will separate them from their families forever. They won't be able to visit their families in Gaza, and their families won't be able to visit them in Jordan. The two young men, whose only crime was a desperate attempt to find work, will soon be marooned, alone and penniless, at the border crossing. Why? Because. Rules.
Did the IDF officer who signed the deportation orders think about the human implications of his signature? Did he see before his eyes the two impoverished families whom he sentenced, with a flourish of his pen, to a painful separation? Did he think that the two deportees are young men like him, with dreams, wishes and loves, and above all, with a basic wish to live in their homes, among their families? One has to assume that he didn't, otherwise he would not have signed with such intolerable ease.
And anyway, what does an IDF officer have to do with the fate of these two families? After all, there was no security risk here. The hand that was so quick on the trigger, is now quick to issue orders. So two Arabs will be deported from Jabalya, so what? Nobody will be held accountable for the false arrest of the young men, whose families are not even allowed to visit them, and nobody has to explain the injustice of their deportation. Israel, which is debating whether to legalize arrest without court proceedings for 24 hours or for 48 hours, throws people into jail without a trial for months and years. Israel, which turned the arrest of Jews in Iran into an international incident, tears families apart with such administrative ease.
About 350,000 Palestinians (according to UN Relief and Works Agency statistics), have fled or been deported from the territories conquered in 1967. Some became refugees for the second time in their lives. They are the easy part of the solution to the Palestinian tragedy. Israel should be interested in solving their problem. They are not the refugees of 1948. Their houses are located in the territory of the PA and their return does not affect the existence of Israel. Thousands of them returned to PA territory as visitors after the Oslo Accords, hoping that the peace moves would benefit them at least a little, and since then they have been prisoners in their own homes. Six years after setting up the Committee of Four, which was supposed to discuss the fate of the displaced persons, the committee has hardly ever met.
But what is there to discuss here? What business is it of Israel's if Salameh and Mahmoud return to their homes in Jabalya or not? Haven't we inflicted enough tragedies on the Palestinians to show pity and humanity, when it doesn't cost anything, at least toward the people displaced in 1967? No. Israel may compromise on the Temple Mount, but not on the miserable lives of Salameh and Mahmoud from Jabalya. Their fate does not disturb the peace of anyone in Jerusalem. There they declare that they want an end to the fighting and are convinced that only signed treaties bring an end to conflicts. But the reality is entirely different. Much more humanity and pity toward the Palestinians are needed especially now, before signing a peace treaty with them.