"Entry Denied" : Israeli forces lock out visitors to West Bank
AS the Swedish boat Estelle heads on its way to Gaza, aiming to challenge the Israeli blockade, Israeli forces have reminded us that they are also controlling access to the Palestinian West Bank.
Last year people coming from abroad were stopped at Ben Gurion airport. The Israeli government's influence even extended to stopping some individuals in Europe boarding planes.
"Reasonable" people suggested helpflly that those who wanted to visit the West Bank should travel via Jordan and present themselves at the Jordan bridge crossings. That's what some have just tried. Here's what happened:
About 7.30 pm, more than a hundred activists from all over the world arrived from Jordan to the Israeli border crossings at the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, telling that they on their way to Bethlehem at the invitation of its Palestinian governor and of civil society organizations there, and that they were carrying with them notebooks and school equipment for Palestinian pupils about to begin their school year.
However, their entry into the West Bank was denied. In the Israeli-controlled area of the Allenby Bridge was seen a major alert of military forces, and journalists there were told that the area had been declared "a closed military zone"."They did not even let us get off the bus," said Olivia Zemor of Paris, one of the organizers of the visit. "They collected our passports and a few minutes later returned them with each and every passport stamped 'Entry denied'. The soldiers refused to give any explanation, they just said - that's it, your entry is denied, go back to Jordan."
Zemour noted that last year, when she and her fellows tried to reach the Palestinian Territories through Ben Gurion Airport, they were told, "Why don't you come through the Jordan bridges?". "So we did try to get through the Jordan bridges, and now we got a definite answer from the government of Israel."
"Violent settlers, those who under the name of 'price tag' set olive trees and mosques on fire, are all the time getting reinforcements from abroad. For the settlers' friends, Jews and Christians, Israel's border crossings are wide open. From the airport they go to the settlements" says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson.
"When the Palestinians living under Israel's rule try to invite guests to come and visit them, the government of Israel instructs the army and police to block their way. The government has the power and the ability to act in such a belligerent and arbitrary way. But by so doing, the government ends up emphasizing and demonstrating to the entire world that – despite the so- called 'judicial report' which the government commissioned from Judge Edmond Levy - the territory is indeed under an oppressive occupation".
I expect that as with the Gaza blockade, we will hear those for whom Israel can do no wrong repeating like an endless tape or record with the needle stuck that the IDF is acting purely defensively to prevent "terrorist attacks....rockets....missiles....rocket attacks".
Well, you never know, those pencils could be used to poke soldiers' eyes out if the children-who -are- all- raised -as - terrorists can stand on each others' shoulders, and pages from notebooks can easily be fashioned into pellets to be fired as missiles, if we let them get hold of elastic bands.
Of course others more nasty-minded may malevolently suggest that the object of the Israeli occupiers (if we are permitted to call them that) is to make the lives of Palestinians as unpleasant as possible, prevent development, and deny anything which might help their morale, such as visits from abroad, so as better to break their spirit and encourage them to emigrate.
Meanwhile, besides stopping legitimate access and goods just to show that it can, the IDF is facilitating the invasion of the West Bank by hundreds of other foreigners, not only to join the settlers, but by recruiting them to its ranks. Using the war hysteria built up over Iran, it is enlisting young American Jews who will probably end up reinforcing the occupation, and asserting dominance over people whose language they do not understand and whose rights they do not respect.
Israeli soldiers, at least those critical of the occupation, say these extra numbers are not needed, and could find better things to do. But for the Israeli government, giving young Americans the opportunity to strut around with guns is not just about strengthening the occupation of the West Bank. Drawing them into this dirty work is a way of reinforcing the Zionist grip over American Jews, which is also insecure.