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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


While Ramallah prospers 

By Ilana Hammerman

There is new life in the West Bank, according to reports in the press. Freedom of movement, successful commerce, nightlife. Many Israelis certainly feel pride, especially the humanists among them.

The ongoing occupation and the denial of human rights to millions of people is truly not to their liking. However they have neither the emotional strength nor the spare time to take an interest in what is really happening there, in the cities and villages of the wild West Bank, a few kilometers from their homes, in areas where entry is sometimes restricted. Who really knows and who wants to know? At least now we can breathe a little easier.

So it's important for me to tell you, my worldview-sharing compatriots, that many settlements have already almost swallowed up all the agricultural lands from villages in their vicinity. No construction freeze will return them to their owners, most of whom have become day laborers, working or unemployed without any kind of social benefits.

They and their wives and children don't go to the expensive shopping malls in Ramallah. They also can't get to the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv - open to anyone at no charge - unless you smuggle them in, and then you would see what an expanse of sea and sand can do to a boy or girl who lives an hour from the coast but never sees the ocean.

It's important to me that you know that in fact at this time many men - and women, too - go out in the dead of night, climb over hills, crawl under fences, run across freeways, then disappear into the darkness on the other side.

In the morning they report to work, building houses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa or the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Ilit, cleaning apartments and tending gardens in our cities, sleeping for a few days in some unknown place and supporting themselves on a pittance, or on nothing at all if they don't find work.

Thirty-five-year-old Adnan Abdallah from the Deheisheh refugee camp doesn't go out to enjoy himself in nearby Bethlehem. When the academic year resumes, he probably won't return to study at the university either.

For more than a year, he has been sitting in a giant tent at the Ketziot detention center in the Negev, where thousands of people freeze in the nighttime cold during the winter and roast in the summer heat. Did you know?

Abdallah is imprisoned there, without trial, in administrative detention. About two weeks ago they extended his term of detention by another six months, after which it can be extended again and again.

All of these substandard conditions, whose victims I know personally, are the substance of the occupation, and even more than that the substance of an occupation that is not a temporary circumstance of a state of emergency or war, but rather a permanent state of affairs. There is nothing more to say about democracy and human rights in the State of Israel, which generously grants them to you and me but not to the millions who live next to us and near us, who support us through their economy, which is mortgaged to ours and which is subject to our army's control.

Look what's happening under your nose: this deep distortion of our Israeli and Jewish lives will not be remedied by removing some outpost or by easing movement at a roadblock. These are temporary things. There is nothing really self-sufficient that can prosper long-term in the occupied West Bank, neither industry nor construction, and certainly not the lives and respect of most of the people who live there.

Think about how our own well-being is destined to remain temporary in this permanent situation - and not just our moral and emotional well-being, for those humanists and peace-seekers among us, but also our physical health.

The writer is an editor and translator at Am Oved publishers.