Palestinians & Israelis split over common adversary: Coronavirus

Palestine Update 355

Palestinians & Israelis split over common adversary: Coronavirus all started in early March, when a group of Greek tourists were visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The virus arrived from abroad, a transmission between cultures, and, through travel.  The news of the first cases of coronavirus in the West Bank echoed throughout the Palestinian Territories on March 5 when, at the well-known Angel Hotel in the biblical city of Bethlehem, seven guests and workers tested positive that same day. The hotel quickly became a quarantine center and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency for 30 days.

The health threat shuttered all businesses, universities, mosques and churches and stopped gatherings in Palestinian cities, leaving some West Bank towns wearing a deserted look. “For the first few weeks the Palestinian authorities were testing on average between a few hundred and 500 per day,” said Weeam Hammoudeh, assistant professor at the Institute of Community and Public Health in Birzeit University, West Bank.

Palestinian and Israeli officials had an understanding on the care needed for Palestinian workers who contracted the infection. There are about 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who normally work in Israel or in Israeli settlements. They earn more in Israel than they would in Palestine and are hence vital to the stability of the West Bank economy. Initially, they were to spend a month or two in Israel and their employers were responsible for providing them with appropriate housing and then if they needed, medical care. But that is not what actually happened.” On March 25, one of the returning workers was left at a checkpoint for several hours by Israeli police. He tested negative after being picked up by an ambulance from the Israeli side. The incident prompted Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, to urge all Palestinian workers to return to the West Bank for their own safety. “Israel did not keep its promise for an organized return of workers to the West Bank,” said Milhem.


Coronavirus lockdown makes for a bittersweet holiday season in Bethlehem unnamed.png

Monks attend an Orthodox Easter service at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City after the church was closed as a precaution against COVID-19, April 11, 2020. (Photo: Afif Amira/WAFA)

This week, Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, are being overwhelmed with mixed emotions of joy and sadness as the Easter holidays and beginning of Ramadan, times of celebration and togetherness, are being celebrated under quarantine. While much of the world celebrated Easter this past Sunday, in accordance with the Catholic and Protestant churches, the majority of Palestinians will celebrate Easter this upcoming Sunday, following the Orthodox calendar.

Church bells still rang out in Jerusalem and Bethlehem this Sunday, but the churches themselves, save a few clergy members, remained empty. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was closed on Easter Sunday. Things are expected to remain similarly quiet for Orthodox Easter next week; with processions through the holy streets of Jerusalem and Manger Square in Bethlehem cancelled for the masses, with some churches urging followers to tune into Easter services online.

After the coming Easter celebrations, in around 10 days, Muslims will begin observing the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan, especially in Palestine, in every sense of the month, is characterized by togetherness. People pray en masse together, eat meals together, and stay up into the late hours of the night sitting with family, friends, and neighbors. Hundreds of mosques around Palestine, are expected to remain closed, and many families who are out of work are worried about how they will be able to put food on the table throughout the month. For now, the streets are empty; and devoid of the nostalgic smells of street vendors frying Qatayef frying and incense wafting out from the churches.

As Palestinian Muslims and Christians’ hearts fill with joy over their shared celebrations, those feelings are inevitably overwhelmed with the sadness that this year, the coronavirus has, in a sense, robbed the holy city of Bethlehem of the festivities that make the city who she is.

Ansar: A Testament to the Ugly Brutality of the Israeli Jailer
EVptoUeU8AAnxNK.jpgApril 17 marks a special day in the Palestinian calendar, that of Palestinian Prisoners Day. This year it takes on even more importance as the more than 5000 Palestinian political prisoners are incarcerated with the added threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Palestinian prisoners have long played a unique role in the fabric of Palestinian society and its collective resistance. They cross all factional and social barriers, and in many cases, represent the best of several generations of leaders. When some in the Western world repeatedly ask “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” we can confidently say that he or she has most likely been imprisoned (or assassinated) by the Israeli state.

 Nearly every Palestinian family has a story of at least one member that has been imprisoned either by Israel or a neighboring complicit regime in the region. As such, the issue of prisoners has historically been a unifying bond for the Palestinian people. Each prisoner is a microcosm of the Palestinian reality, be they arrested while under occupation, in a refugee camp in exile or under the thumb of the apartheid regime in the Galilee or Naqab. Today, the political prisoners in Israeli jails comprise members of the legislature, children, and women; they also include over 430 administrative detainees. These are prisoners held without charge or trial for renewable periods of 6 months, who are often then re-arrested after being released.

Not only is administrative detention void of due process, it is also profoundly cruel; these prisoners know that upon their eventual release, they can be (and often are) picked up at any moment in the future on the whim of Israeli security official.

Palestine wants coronavirus help, Israel gives incursions, killings, arrests
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor- Israeli forces ...

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat says Palestine requested cooperation from Israel to combat the current COVID-19 epidemic but instead received incursions, killings, and demolitions from the occupying regime. Palestine only tried to cooperate with Israel in the fight against the new coronavirus. In response to our request, Israel “carried out 187 incursions in the past days, killed three Palestinians, and wounded 47 others” in the occupied West Bank, Erekat said, adding that the regime also demolished 53 Palestinians buildings and structures, and carried out “188 arrest campaigns.”

He said Israel deprived Palestinians in the East Jerusalem al-Quds of the necessary health services to fight COVID-19, and confiscated food items and refrained from disinfecting public places in the eastern sector of the city. The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has affected 210 countries and territories across the globe, has so far infected more than 1,956,450 people and killed over 123,480.