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Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 30.06.2015:

Toine van Teeffelen

30 June, 2015

During this month of Ramadan, more people than usual are in fact permitted to enter Jerusalem; more ‘categories’ of people allowed to cross; women above 50, men above 55. It looks easier to arrange permits, though there is a difference between theory and practice. Despite being over 50, Mary has lately been refused entrance.

I have the feeling that the present Israeli government, the most nationalistic and right-wing in Israel’s history, considers that a bit of flexibility with the permits on the ground will help neutralizing international criticism on other issues like settlement-building or the Gaza siege.

Yesterday a Palestinian woman stabbed a female soldier at the Bethlehem checkpoint, likely at the moment of body-searching. The soldier is in moderate condition.

The checkpoint was Monday closed from the morning until the evening. People were sitting or lying in front as there were rumors that it would open during the evening prayers. Others tried their luck at other checkpoints, likely without success.

Some here think a Palestinian faction sent the woman in order to stop momentarily the use of permits as a tool of occupation.

I myself think that the stabbing is part of a self-sustaining system. The checkpoints are factories of psychological pressure. On the one hand, there is the unbearable fact that an occupier plays with your daily life in your own country; on the other hand there is the gamut of pressures as a result of uncertainty, powerlessness and humiliation.

The isolated knife-bearer is there to justify the system. It is the proof that there still is terror. Lone attacks on soldiers will happen anyway. With all the pressures and frustrations there will always be desperate people. The checkpoint is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As opposed to the knife-bearer the system looks state-like, rational and professional, supposedly in the service of security, with all the visible hardware like equipment and steel in the halls, and disciplined soldiers working on delegated tasks. (In practice, the system leaks as it is possible for anybody driving a car to hide explosives. The cars are only superficially investigated).

It’s the aim of the system to implicate people so that they grudgingly become part of it, whether by arranging permits themselves or facilitating security checks. As part of the more ‘liberal’ permit policy, the army recently offered to allow a few hundred buses to enter Jerusalem on the condition that the bus company would cooperate in the security check. That was refused as the company did not want to become a security subcontractor.

In this nameless system in which Palestinians do not have the slightest autonomy over their lives, one loses sight of the daily, nameless acts of oppression.

And then suddenly all attention focuses on a stabbing, the blood, the news fact, a tweet of the Jerusalem police chief professionally providing the details about the terrorist action. In visibility the stabbing wins it easily from the system.

And so the well-known story used by the occupation gets shape: “Look, how generous we are with permits. And this is what we get as answer. The terrorists prevent daily life from normally going on. We want to extend our hand in peace but are forced to withdraw it.”

That’s how the system works, the hardware of the checkpoint and the software of managing people and PR.

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