Our second speaker was an advisor to the Negotiation Affairs Department. I was immediately concerned when in her opening remarks she dropped the following line, “We will be driving on the new apartheid road”. No explanation. Just dropping a word bomb on us and moving on.
So as she talked, I began to research the ‘Apartheid Road’. Route 4370 was built to connect Geva Binyamin to Route 1 (the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway). It was designed to serve Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill and will also serve Arabs and those in the Shoafat Refugee camp.
So, what makes it ‘the apartheid road?’ It is because there are two roads, separated by a wall. One road is for Israeli cars and takes you into Jerusalem. The road for Palestinian cars takes you around Jerusalem since they can’t enter without a permit and can only use certain checkpoints. While visually it is terrible, there is a logic behind it. This is another one of those things that doesn’t feel quite right but I need more time to process it.
She talked about how the settlements are being built and creating transportation problems for Palestinians. The settlers are getting new roads and easier access while the Palestinian villages and towns are not. She also made the claim that the new roads, checkpoints and tunnels are being built with a strategic intention to hide Palestinian cities. There was a documentary made about this that highlights how Israelis know how where and how to get to the settlements in the area but no the Palestinian towns that are right next to the settlements. I didn’t agree with her on this point as it felt too much like a conspiracy theory.
Citing a very common theme throughout the trip, she talked about building permits in Area C. She said that since 1993, only 1% of home building permits by Palestinians have been approved. As a result, they build without permits and then face demolition when found out.
She also told us that her status is Jordanian Resident of East Jerusalem. She is not a citizen, which again is a common theme. As such, if she works/lives abroad for 5-7 years, she loses her status.
One of the more powerful things she said was that she believes settlers are complicit in a war crime. As a result, she refuses to talk to any settler. Other Jews/Israelis she holds accountable but will talk to them. That’s why she would address us as a group.
One of the participants asked her if the new Palestinian state she imagines would be ‘Jew free’. She looked like a deer in headlights at this question, understanding the power of saying it would be Jew free (Juden Frei as the Germans called it). She danced around the question without giving an answer before moving on. She wouldn’t say that Jews would be welcome to live in the new state of Palestine.
Listening to her had me struggling to see a future where Palestinian leadership and intellectually elite would respect Israel’s existence. While she wants to be a citizen of Palestine and live in East Jerusalem in the State of Palestine, she also wants to retire in Jaffa. This didn’t wash with me.
She was the scariest of all the speakers so far for me. She is smart, well spoken, and media savvy. Words have power and she uses hers very carefully with targeted effect. It was the ‘Annexation Wall’ and the “Apartheid Road’. It was also scary to listen to those in our group who appeared to buy into her propaganda.
The pictures below are of ‘The Apartheid Road’ (2 lanes each way, not a 4-lane divided highway) and a sign on one road we passed that takes you into a Palestinian area that has been determined to not be safe for Israelis/Jews.