A Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine

Palestine Update 352


A Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine
– On Faith, Humor and ‘Dutch Candy’

Now that nearly half of the population of planet Earth are experiencing some form of ‘curfew’ or another, Palestinians would like to share a few suggestions on how to survive the prolonged confinement, the Palestinian way.

Call it‘quarantine’, a ‘shelter-in-place’, a ‘lockdown’ or a ‘curfew’, we Palestinians have experienced them all, though not at all voluntarily. Personally, the first 23 years of my life were lived in virtual ‘lockdown’. My father’s ‘quarantine’ was experienced much earlier, as did his father’s ‘shelter-in-place’ before him. They both died and were buried in Gaza’s cemeteries without ever experiencing true freedom outside of their refugee camp in Gaza. Currently in Gaza, the quarantine has a different name. We call it ‘siege’, also known as ‘blockade’. In fact, all of Palestine has been in a state of ‘lockdown’ since the late 1940s when Israel became a state and the Palestinian homeland was erased by Zionist colonialists with the support of their Western benefactors. That lockdown intensified in 1967 when Israel, now a powerful state with a large army and strong allies, occupied the remaining parts of Palestine – East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Under this lockdown, the Palestinian freedom of movement was curtailed to the extent that Palestinians required permits from the Israeli military to leave the Occupied Territories or to return home, to move about from one town to the other, and, at times, to cross a single Israeli military checkpoint or a fortified wall. In Palestine, we don’t call our imprisonment a lockdown, but a ‘military occupation’ and ‘apartheid’. As for ‘shelter-in-place’, in Palestine, we have a different name for it. We call it a ‘military curfew’.

The period between 1987 and 1993 was a virtual ‘lockdown’. Thousands of people, mostly children, were killed for failing to respect the rules of their collective imprisonment. In Gaza, even when a full military curfew was not in place, we rarely left our small and crowded neighborhoods, let alone our refugee camps. We were all haunted by the fear that we may not be able to make it home by 8p.m., the time designated by the Israeli military for all of us to return home. Every day, ten or fifteen minutes after the nightly curfew set in, we would hear the crackling and hissing of bullets as they whistled through the air from various distances. Automatically, we would conclude that some poor soul – a worker, a teacher, or a rowdy teenager – missed his chance by a few minutes, and paid a price for it.
Read Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine from IMEMC

Netayahu-Gantz agree postponement of Palestinian land annexation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on 90 percent of the contentious issues with the leader of Blue and White, Benny Gantz, including postponing the move to annex Palestinian lands for a period of 4- 6 months, according to sources well-informed over the negotiations. The two Israeli officials decided that the government should have one primary concern and that is to fight the coronavirus and approving the state budget to prevent a health and economic collapse. They also agreed to postpone the issue of annexing the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea regions, and impose Israeli law on settlements in the occupied West Bank. The sources went on to state that Netanyahu feels there is a great conspiracy to remove him from power, noting that the PM talked about some “hidden forces” which he described as a “deep state that wants to see him locked up.”

Haaretz’s Investigative journalist, Gidi Weitz, said on Friday that Netanyahu informed his associates that even though he has been elected repeatedly, in reality, the country is controlled by a “deep state…There’s no democracy here, but a government of bureaucrats and jurists,” he said, adding: “they want to see me sitting in jail.”  The Prime Minister accused the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, of being behind those forces seeking to topple him. In his view, the law enforcement agencies have information that would justify a criminal investigation against Lieberman, but won’t use it as long as he’s working to destroy Netanyahu politically.  Weitz’s report said that it is still unclear whether courts will open because of the coronavirus crisis. “He’ll start the trial, respond, see how the winds are blowing, and then he can make a decision,” a politician who knows Netanyahu said.

The politician said Netanyahu might seek to be appointed president, which gives him complete immunity from prosecution. He believes the Knesset would elect him president while his trial is ongoing, because they’ll want to get rid of him, adding that the High Court of Justice wouldn’t necessarily intervene. Sources believe that this issue will be decisive in whether or not there will be a unity government, which could last three years, or if Netanyahu will drop it when it suits him to head to new elections bringing him back to power.
Read full report in Aawasat.com

Rights Groups Call for Immediate Preventive Measures in Israeli Prisons

The Haifa-based Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – and the Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association sent an urgent letter to the interim Israel Prison Service (IPS) Director Asher Va’aknin demanding immediate preventive measures to detect and prevent the spread of coronavirus at Ofer prison.The Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported on April 1 that Palestinian prisoner Nour Eddin Sarsour, released the day before from Israel’s Ofer prison, has tested positive for coronavirus.

The report from the Palestinian detainees’ commission is extremely worrisome and indicates the need for immediate measures to detect and isolate prisoners who had been in contact with the released individual who tested positive for coronavirus, the two rights organizations said in a joint press statement.
Read full report in Palestine Chronicle

Existential fears, Hope and Solidarity: Coping under 30 days of Quarantine in Aida Camp
Abdulrahman Abu Srour holds up his medications for diabetes and blood pressure that he receives from the UNRWA clinic in Bethlehem. © 2020 UNRWA Photo by Yumna Patel

It has been one month since the city of Bethlehem was shut down due to a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the city and its residents were put on lockdown, including thousands of Palestine refugees. The lockdown could not have come at a worse time for the residents of Bethlehem, who largely depend on tourism for their livelihoods. In the matter of a day, thousands of people were unemployed, not knowing where their next paycheck was going to come from or how long it would take before things returned to normal.  Entire communities, like the Aida Refugee Camp, immediately felt the impact of the shutdown as their workforce were suddenly at home, schools were cancelled, and the bustling streets of the camp fell silent.

For people like 56-year-old Abdulrahman Abu Srour, one of the first things that came to his mind when he heard the news of the outbreak was his health. Like many of the older residents of Aida, Abu Srour has a number of pre-existing health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.  “We were seeing on the news that the virus was severely impacting people with chronic illnesses, like myself, so this was very worrying,” Abu Srour said.

But when he saw a post on Facebook from Ibrahim Abu Srour, the Community and Camp Services Officer (CCSO) in Aida, offering to pick up people’s prescriptions from the UNRWA health center in Bethlehem and bring them back to the camp, Abu Srour said his spirits were lifted.  “It was such a relief that Ibrahim was going out of his way to do this for people like myself, so that we don’t have to go out to the city and potentially expose ourselves to the virus,” Abu Srour said, adding that the decision of UNRWA to give beneficiaries two-month prescriptions as opposed to one has also “been a huge help.”
Read report in UNRWA

Jewish Settlers Beat Palestinian, Abduct his Sons near Ramallah
A group of Jewish settlers today brutally attacked a Palestinian man in the village of Kubar, northwest of Ramallah, and kidnapped his two sons, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA. Some 10 armed settlers from the illegal settlement of Halamish – located near Kubar – attacked Samir Zeebar and then kidnapped his two sons, Abdul Fattah and Mahmoud, who are in the 20s, while they were plowing their land. Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routine in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

“Jewish settler violence should not be analyzed separately from the violence meted out by the Israeli army, but seen within the larger context of the violent Zionist ideology that governs Israeli society entirely,” wrote Palestinian author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle, Ramzy Baroud.