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> The permit issue revisited: toward the Easter...
> De schoolbus
> Liberation seeds
> Impressions of Gaza
> The Mad Permit Game
> Verdwijntruc: landeigenaars in Betlehem
> Vanishing Act: Land owners in Bethlehem
> The Crow Cries - Bethlehem 2006
> Sylvana Giacaman
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> Sandra Nasser
The permit issue revisited: toward the Easter season 2012
A brief message from Bethlehem. Yesterday the permits were handed over for the Easter period. That is, Christian West Bankers could check whether or not they got a permit to enter Jerusalem for some weeks.
My wife, Mary, is Palestinian. She and her mother got a permit but her sister not. So far no news. It has become customary that one half of the family in the Bethlehem area gets a permit, the other half not. This is apparently to create uncertainty and confusion, both important tools of occupation. But what is new this season and also last Christmas is that children get permits. The normal “rule” is that children and youth up until 16 years do not need a permit to enter Jerusalem when accompanied by an adult (who should have a permit). But during last Christmas and now also this Easter period children are receiving permits too.
When checking the lists at the parish, where people pick up their permits, Mary noticed that there was a permit for a two-year old child! Our children, 10 and 14 years, did not receive a permit this time, while at Christmas they did. Apparently the idea is to get Palestinian families further used to the permit system. And, in one move, to also close natural access to Jerusalem for all “categories” of people, including children.
All Christians and Moslems in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere should have free access to Jerusalem and to the Holy Places, throughout the year. By arbitrarily issuing permits during the Easter and Christmas seasons it is suggested that Palestinian Christians should feel happy (lucky) to receive access to Jerusalem for a couple of weeks, and forget about the fact that full access is a right and not a favor.
More so, the Israeli authorities are manipulating the handing out of permits to strengthen the occupation; further disconnect the West Bank from Jerusalem, and let people forget that East-Jerusalem has been illegally annexed. When even children need permits, the natural ties Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have with Jerusalem are increasingly made unnatural and dependent upon arbitrary favoritism.
In addition, Christians and Moslems are pitted against each other by institutionalizing two different access regimes for them. Last but not least, people here are not easily brought into challenging the permit system, because they might indeed loose their chances to get a permit when doing so.
By themselves it is understandable that people do their best to get permits. They have to survive, and so have to find and navigate a way to deal with all the obstacles. Often people’s very livelihoods depend on the permits. But let us not forget that the permit system is deeply corruptive, manipulative and dehumanizing. A question we should ask in the churches: Should churches cooperate with such a system by being a transit point for the permits, even when it is done with the best of people’s interests in mind? An uneasy question for all, I realize, but it has to be asked. This is my personal opinion.
A note on action: To underscore the need of challenging the permit system, the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem is planning to issue permits to visitors of Bethlehem. Copying the design of permits the Israeli authorities issue, fake permits will be distributed in which tourists get access to the Church of Nativity for one hour a week, on five strict conditions, issued by the State of Permithood. A serious joke. At the very least pilgrims and tourists should have their eyes opened when they enter Bethlehem.
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