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Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 25.04.2015:

Column from Bethlehem

April 25, 2015

Toine van Teeffelen

A few weeks ago news came in that Palestinian men over 55 and women over 50 from the West Bank would not anymore need a permit to go to Jerusalem. Mary remains skeptical, especially after she heard that a few ladies of over 50 were refused entry.

Bethlehem is full of rumors about new permit rules. Traders from the West Bank would be able to obtain permits. Medical doctors who work in Jerusalem would get permission to take their West Bank cars to hospitals in Jerusalem – though they would have to take the shortest route and would not be allowed to go to other destinations. Of course, no staying overnight in Jerusalem would be allowed. A few West Bank taxi drivers would presumably be able to take their cars all the way to Amman, as in the distant past.

I suspect that the Great Permit Game is once again taken out of the closet with a political purpose in mind. Likely the new Israeli government will be several degrees more right wing and annexationist and possibly the world will look some degrees less sympathetic at occupation practices. The PR line might now become that Israel is willing to “ease restrictions” and that Palestinians will profit from an ‘economic’ or ‘social’ peace.

At the beginning of the week a visitor group and I had a conversation with a settler from Efrata near Bethlehem. He contended that it was the PLO that frustrated the cooperation between the settlement and the neighboring Palestinian villages, and that the common Palestinian in the street was more than happy to work under the economic wings of the settlements. “Look at the supermarket Rami Levi near [the settlement] Gush Etzion, you see there both inhabitants of the settlements as well as many Palestinians.” Rami Levi is known for its discounts.

Palestinians here remain completely dependent on all kinds of permits to visit their own land. Mary tells that she lately met a man in the nearby supermarket who wanted to buy shavers. The owner asked if he wanted the blue or pink shavers. The man answered that it didn’t matter as there are no men anymore. Theatrically gesticulating he told bystanders what happened during a bus drive to Jerusalem. It seems a woman soldier asked all men to step out of the bus. She used the word ‘willa inta“ – “hey you” – which is difficult to translate precisely but it is rather humiliating and impolite. All men stood up and stepped out of the bus except one. “Why didn’t you step out,” asked the soldier. He answered “You treat us as if we are no men anymore. There are the men,” and he pointed to the women in the bus. Everybody laughed, including the woman soldier. You often laugh here about something funny that has a serious core. Humiliating games are played out all the time, and humour helps a little to protect one’s dignity.

Tamer and I play Monopoly these days. I purchased the game cheaply; it shows London streets but was made in China. The paper money on top carries the portrait of Mao. Mao, in such a capitalist game? I google and yes, for sure it is Mao. A little joke. No economic peace between Tamer and me.

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