Posted below is Terry Crawford-Browne’s response to Friday’s interview on Palestine, he will be based there for three months as a World Council of Church’s observer
Thank you for the interview yesterday. I hope you were pleased with it. We covered a lot of ground, but at least two of my answers probably were not satisfactory.
1. The Wall. It is appalling — part wall 9 metres high, part a series of fences, and about 60 percent complete. It is presently estimated by the UN at 709 kilometres long, 85 percent within the West Bank, which is almost the distance from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. There are 614 closures of various kinds within the West Bank — trenches, gates, earth mounds to stop vehicles, and 68 checkpoints staffed by the Israeli Defence Force or private security or police.
It has hugely devastating impact upon the Palestinian people. I met one man, an articulate computer technician, who has a green ID card so he cannot get into Jerusalem. His wife has a blue ID card, so she lives with her parents in Jerusalem to preserve her Jerusalem status. The husband and their three children live with his father in El Lazariya (Bethany) on the outer slopes of the Mount of Olives. Every school day he drives the children aged 8 to 5 to Zaytoun checkpoint, watches them through the turnstiles and then watches to see that they get onto a bus for school. His wife collects them from school and takes them home in El Lazariya, and stays there until she must get back into Jerusalem by 7 pm. The man’s father suffered a burst appendix about a year ago. It took 14 hours for the ambulance to get through by which time the poison had spread throughout his system. Consequently he has had to have two additional operations, but has had to go to Ramallah for these. Ramallah is considerably further and more difficult to get to in such circumstances.
Another man, a teacher in El Lazariya, lives on the Mount of Olives within the checkpoint. Logically he should have a blue ID, but he and his neighbours have green IDs which make them subject to arrest. He daily travels the other way through the Zaytoun checkpoint. The Israeli viewpoint is that he is free to move his place of residence to El Lazariya where he works, and therefore he is “surplus” in Jerusalem.
We monitor Qalandiya checkpoint three times a week from 5 am until 8 am, when about 2 300 people pass through. Between 5 and 7, they are mainly building and other labourers working in Jerusalem on a permit system akin to the pass laws. There is a black market in permits to get a job, and the employers are hugely exploitative. If a man is late for work because of delays at the checkpoint, he may arbitrarily be dismissed so tensions can get high. Our role is to calm the situation where possible and, if necessary, phone through on hotlines to higher authorities for interventions. From 7 to 8, the people passing through Qalandiya are mainly school children, women, elderly or people who have permits for medical attention etc. We send our log reports to the UN for their reports and statistics.
We have a third checkpoint to monitor, but I haven’t yet been there and we’re awaiting new instructions for that one.
Essentially the EAPPI programme is an attempt by the WCC to serve as peacekeepers instead of the United Nations who are prevented by the Israeli government from such a role. Obviously the Israelis don’t like our presence, so we have to tread carefully: we are on 90 day tourist visas. We wear identifying jackets everywhere, and so are known as “the vests.” But as with the apartheid situation, the intention is that an international presence has a calming influence on both sides.
2. As with white opponents to apartheid such as the Black Sash and End Conscription Campaign, there is a very small Israeli peace movement who oppose the Occupation. We try to give them encouragement and support, so between 1 and 2 pm (today being Friday) we stand for an hour with the Women in Black in West Jerusalem. I shall be spending the weekend in Jaffa/Tel Aviv and on Sunday have an appointment with Who Profits?, an organisation of women who track which international and Israeli corporations are profiteering from the Occupation. Lev Leviev, until recently said to be the richest Jew in the world, has made his money on Angolan blood diamonds and property development in the settlements. His Africa-Israel Corporation almost crashed last month, but seems to have been saved because its bankruptcy would have such impact on Israeli pension funds. He has recently left Israel for London. Arcadi Gaydamak was two weeks ago sentenced in absentia by a French court to eight years imprisonment for his role in the Angolagate arms deal scandal. He had ambitions only a year ago to become mayor of Jerusalem, and even prime minister of Israel. He too has skipped the counntry, and gone back to Russia. What is increasingly evident is that Israelis have been mesmerised by money and power — eg Leviev and Gaydamak, and that Israel has become a criminalised economy.
What is your postal address so that I can send you EAPPI’s Arabic language magazine that we distribute bi-monthly?
If you are interested, I would be most grateful for further slots on your programme both whilst I am still here, and after I return to Cape Town in mid January.