Monday, May 09, 2005

The People of Shukba against the State of Israel

When I wake up it's 8.30 already. 'Fuck, the hearing starts at 9... better get out of here ". I look for clean underwear but can't find one. Wel, I'll just have to go without. I put on my half-length trousers , long stripy socks, get on my bike and pedal up the hill to the Supreme Court.
I was supposed to go there with N. "On monday there's an important hearing about the fence... there going to discuss the Hague's verdict for the first time" he told me last week, when we met in Tel-Aviv. But he couldn't make it, so I decided to go by myself. Partly as a solidarity with my housemates in London, who are also going to court today, to fight the eviction; but mainly to see the occupation once more, from close sight: true, no tear gas and shock bombs here, just air-conditioning, suits and legal niceties, 'my honorable friend'. But behind these facades, the court room and the check point both belong to the same world. Without one, the other could not exist.
In the audience I recognize a Foreign Office spokesperson - he used to show up occasionall on the BBC, when I still watched, and speak in an especially obnoxious manner. "I want my daughter to be able to go to the Discoteque!" he once shouted at the interviewer, after a suicide bombing or a Israeli incursion, i can't remember.

The hearing starts with Judge Barak - the head of the Supreme Court - annoucing, in his thin and squeeky voice, that Judge Jubran (the only Palestinian judge) has disqualified himself, because his brother lives in A-Ram, which is about to be discussed today. A-Ram is a suburb of Jeursalem which will be cut off from the city after the completion of the wall.
The State presents an elaborate multimedia installation, showing the exact location of the fence in the villages Budrus and Shukba. 'And this is the north section, where we will have to move two olive trees, because other alternatives are not practical'. Beneath the polite language I think I can here the attorney grinding his teeth. I wonder if he's about to lose it and shout 'It's just two fucking trees for fuck sake get the bulldozers out there and get them out of my sight you supreme cunts!'; but he manges to keep his composure. Euphomisms fly in the room: 'this hill will have to be 'uncovered'' (that is, all the trees uprooted). 'We will provide a solution for the fig trees'. They keep reffering to the Wall as 'the barrier'; even the Supreme Judge get confused for a second and calls it 'the wall', but then he corrects himself: the fence. The Israeli writer David Grossman called this euphomistic occupation-speak 'the words' laundromat'.

After the break, I decide to stay outside a little longer. The next speaker is from a right-wing group 'Fence for Life' pushing for the wall to be built faster. Can't be bothered with that, I thought. But when I go in I found that this is actually the fun bit. The judges don't like him at all.

-The court should understand that these legal proceedings are impeding the construction of the fence....
-Are you saying we are the obstacle? can you prove this?
-Army officers told me that previos rulings have largely discouraged them...
-Are you suggesting that we issue a verdict of encouragment?
-Your honour, while the fence is not yet completed, anyone can cross the line, I am talking about buses blowing up...
-Plese do not try to scare the court.
-There are some quite nightmarish scenarios...
-Sir, if you suffer from nightmares, I suggest you consult a psychaitrist, and not waste our time. -I'm sorry, but I have to put forward the unpleasant truth. Thank you your honour. And can I be excused? ... if my presence is not needed anymore...
Judge Barak murmurs 'we let you argue your case, it's appropriate that you stay to hear the plaintiffs'.
Lesson no.1: don't say bad things about the court, or you'll have to stay after class.

I suddenly notice that almost all the people here - judges, lawyers, members of the public, Israelis, Palestinians, men, women - wear wedding rings. As if behind this disagreement, they all belong to one camp, a secret society of married people. I feel strange about not having one... The hearing continues.

Muhammad Dahle, the lawyer of the people of Shubka, provides the best speech of the day. He is incredibly sharp and witty. I can tell the judges like him; I think I can even see a sense of pride in their eyes, like a teacher being challenged by a favourite bright student. A Palestinian lawyer arguing in Hebrew, better than any Jewish Rabbi!
Lesson no. 2: Nothing makes the judges more happy than a Palestinian Lawyer using Talmudic expressions, in Aramaic. The Zionist dream come true.

At no point does Dahle or the plaintiffs ask the court to accept the Hague ruling; this is a lost case. They ask, however, to listen to the logic of the Hague ruling. Dahle keeps trying to remind the judges the bigger picture. "The State would like to atomize the whole issue of the fence and have us debating this stretch and this village... while we say a simple thing: this is a huge project, it involves billions of dollars, constructing a defence line 650 km in length - don't tell me it's a temporary measure. This is annexation de-facto of 9 percent of the West Bank - for years, if not for generations."
"Let me understand" interrupts him one of the judges "you're saying that the fence should not be built at all?"
"Personally, I am against borders, your honour."
"And more to the point?"
"The State can construct the fence on Israeli territory, if it wishes to do so. If the fence crosses into the occupied territories, the State has to prove that it is an utmost necessity, not simply a 'better route'.'

Later I call N. "How was it?" I tell him of my despaired impressions: on the one hand, the judges listen to the lies of the State about olive trees 'successfully replanted' and 'special gates for farmers'; on the other hand, they refuse to see this as annexation of occupied land, they refuse to see the logic behind things. "True, the supreme court always evaded the big questions" says N "the legality of the settlements, the application of the Geneva conventions... but don't slag these procedures off so quickly. The last ruling made them change the entire route south of Hebron, and it now passes on the 67 borders. And the State have to sweat hard for every olive tree they want to uproot. They gradually learn the hard way that they can't do whatever they want.'
'I think they could probably have gotten away with the whole thing' says N, 'With more or less land grabbed and trees uprooted. But the project will fall apart in Jerusalem. What they are about to do in Jerusalem is total madness. They are going to tear the city from its Palestinian suburbs in the west bank, and destroy the daily lives of tens of thousands of people. The fabric of the city is about to be torn in the most artificial and sensless way, in a matter of a few months. This is sheer maddness. And I don't think it's going to work.'


Bad news come from the other court hearing, the one in London: possession order granted forthwith. We are getting evicted. It's my seventh eviction in three years....


At 11:50 AM, Blogger spud said...

'Born-again' fare dodger pays up

A born-again Zionist who moved to Israel has paid out £400 for hundreds of unpaid Tube fares.
Transport for London (TfL) said the man anonymously posted them eight £50 notes apologising for years of fare dodging.

Mike of TfL, who is donating the money to the Union of Civic Minded and Socialist Squatters said: "This has to be the most unusual letter I have ever received".

It comes days after the announcement that fines for fare evaders on London's transport network are doubling to £20.

In the letter, signed from Y, he said that since becoming a born-again Zionist he realised his years of persistent fare dodging were wrong and that he had deprived London Underground of much-needed income.

He wrote: "My life is radically different to what it was then. I can't stand the thought of stealing and therefore I enclose £400 to cover my fare."

Mr Challis said: "Fare dodging is basically stealing and we strongly condemn anyone who engages in this activity."

Anyone caught without a ticket on the Tube, bus, tram or Docklands Light Railway will be fined £20 from 12 June.


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