Reflections by Mazin Qumsiyeh
The old Hebron to Jerusalem (now Hebron-to-wall-near Bethlehem) road was lined up with perhaps over 200 armed special forces. These are not Israeli but Palestinian "security". I was going to pick a friend at Dheisheh Refugee camp to eat Knafah (a Palestinian sweet). Every 10 meters (30 ft) for a stretch of over a mile there was one of those security men. Young people 18-24 years old. The "Palestinian Authority" spends most of its budget not on healthcare or education or any other item but on security. We were told President Abbas is coming to the area (either to the headquarters in AlMuqata’a or to the "Presidential Palace" in Artas area very near an Israeli settlement). After the big motorcade the streets had all been cleared of parked cars. The police were slow to let the original traffic reopen and for cars to park again. At the Knafa shop, we had to struggle to get parking and I think it happened only after the owner gave free Knafa to the policemen on duty. No one knows why streets are closed or what is the occasion for the visits of such dignitaries to our little town of Bethlehem (aka Ghetto 12). After the Knafa we visited the besieged village of Tqu’ just two miles southwest of Bethlehem and we saw the desperation of these villages which get no presidential visits. This village and dozens like it are besieged by colonial Jewish-only settlements which took most of their best lands and water resources. Here the colonies of Tekoa, El David and Nodekim (where Avigdor Lieberman lives) sit on the lands of the village. The water resources have been confiscated and the village must buy its water from the Israeli company that has for some 40 years been pillaging the village water wells. Near the entrance and one of the water wells, a roving Israeli checkpoint stopped my car and the young (perhaps Russian) kid sweating and out of his elements wearing heavy cloths and carrying a gun perhaps heavier than he is asks me to step out of the car and to then open the trunk etc. The home we visited had a father with 10 children way below poverty level but with a dignity and generosity that is legendary for such simple decent village people. Unemployment is rampant and some village people are forced to work in the colonial settlements just to survive. But this family says they would prefer to starve than do that. The colonial settlements have all their needs of water, infrastructure, and Israeli government support (and new buildings not withstanding Obama’s empty rhetoric). The lavish life-style reminiscent of Southern California a few hundred yards away from unbelievable man-made poverty is emblematic of the worst forms of apartheid and human cruelty to fellow humans. On stolen lands and using stolen water, they even have a Jewish only water Park overseeing the desert (the Dead Sea and Jordan are visible) attracting colonial settlers from both sides of the apartheid wall. Oh yes, the three colonies are on the so-called Palestinian side of the wall!. I saw enough for one day and on the way back to Beit Sahour, I console myself with the site of the ruins of a castle of the tyrannical King Herod built near Tqu’ 2000 years ago. He and his brutal rule have long disappeared while the native people (dark skinned and beautiful, the Canaanite descendents remain in the people of Tqu’). I wished Palestinian self-declared leaders go to Tqu’ and other besieged villages.