The Jab’a accident and the infrastructure of occupation

This post appeared yesterday on the Palestine Center blog Permission to Narrate:

When I heard the tragic news this morning about an accident involving a school bus near Jab’a that left several young Palestinian school children dead I was devastated by the details and began to think about how scared those children must have been and how difficult life will be for the families of those involved going forward. It is sad and horrifying any time innocent people, especially children, die or get injured.

I remembered taking the school bus on a daily basis here in the States from elementary school all the way through high school. Our buses always stopped at railroad tracks, even when there was no trains in sight or approaching. It was a policy to stop and have the bus driver open the door and look both ways. At the time, it seemed like an over-cautious waste of time to me but I know it reflects the utmost need to protect society’s most valuable assets; it’s children.

So as I continued to listen to the details I went from being sad, to confused and finally, to angry. Something didn’t make much sense to me. Here are some of the details reported from

Haaretz:

 
The bus was carrying children from a kindergarten in the Shuafat refugee camp on their way to a field trip to a park near Ramallah.

According Shuafat residents, the kindergarten children travelled in two buses, each holding about 80 passengers, including teaching staff and crew.

Here is more from the Jerusalem Post:
The bus had set out from a Palestinian school in Shuafat in east Jerusalem to the Ramallah area for a day trip, carrying some 60 children. It turned around and headed back because of treacherous weather conditions. It was struck by the truck en route to east Jerusalem….

The accident occurred just after 9 a.m. at Kikar Adam, a major intersection north of Jerusalem between highway 60 and highway 437.

The children on the school buses were from the Shufaat refugee camp. Shufaat is inside the municipality of Jerusalem. Their destination was toward Ramallah which would mean they’d have to pass through Kufr Aqab, another Palestinian locality inside the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem.
 
jmap
 
I know this gets complicated, so maps help to simplify things. In the map on the right, you can see where Shufaat is and where Kfur Aqab is. Kufr Aqab is essentially the gateway to Ramallah from the Jerusalem municipality. The green route, in my estimation, signifies the most logical, shortest, straightforward and safest route to get from Shufaat to Kufr Aqab. However, the bus didn’t go that way.
 
The buses filled with Palestinian school children instead followed, again in my estimation, the red route, which is longer, far more rural, more dangerous, out of the way, narrower, more curvy and hillier than the green route. The yellow circle is an estimation of where, based on the Jerusalem Post’s account, the accident happened. So why on earth would a bus filled with Palestinian children take the red route instead of the green route?
 
Because even though both Shufaat and Kufr Aqab are part of the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem, the infrastructure of apartheid, in this case the wall, makes the safest and most convenient route unavailable to these residents of Jerusalem because they were born in the wrong neighborhood- a Palestinian one – on the other side of the wall.
 
jerusalem pointsofentry
 
Have a look at this next map to the right where the green and red lines are my estimations of the different routes as in the map above, but this version includes a thick black line indicating where the wall exists preventing Palestinians from taking the safer, more direct route in green.
 
I want to be clear, the children that died today died in an accident. This accident was most likely a direct cause of poor weather conditions and I’m not placing blame on Israel or Israelis as the direct cause of this accident. Rather, what is important to note here is that the infrastructure of occupation regularly forces Palestinians into inconvenient and, in many cases, unsafe conditions where the likelihood of dangerous events increases. Accidents can happen anywhere, especially when weather conditions are bad, but there is little doubt in my mind that the chances of such a thing happening decrease when you are spending less time on the road in a safer more direct route.
 
As a Palestinian, you can not travel from Ramallah to Bethlehem, for example, without taking a long and often dangerous drive circumventing Jerusalem and going nearly as far as Jericho to do it. For many locals, this is just something they have gotten used to. Sure the road is more dangerous, but it is something they do regularly so they may forget how much safer one can be taking other routes if they were available.
 
As someone who spends most of my time in the United States but visits the region often I have taken both the red and green routes on different occasions and it is easy to notice that the green route is much, much safer.
 
This is life in Palestine. This is occupation. No one should have to get used to it. If we can learn anything from this tragedy today it is that even when there are no soldiers, incursions, weapons or settlers involved, the very infrastructure of occupation increases the risks and challenges facing Palestinians on a daily basis.

About Yousef Munayyer

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Occupation

{ 19 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    http://www.haaretz.com

    After Jerusalem crash, racist comments appear on Netanyahu’s Facebook page
    Posts include sighs of relief that ‘only Palestinians’ were killed, as well as slogans such as ‘Death to Arabs, Why do we help them?’

    Get Haaretz on iPhone
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    Racist comments appeared on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page after the school bus crash near Jerusalem on Thursday in which 10 children died and more than 40 were injured.
    Satisfaction that “only Palestinians” were the victims and slogans such as “Death to Arabs, why do we help them?” were posted on the Facebook pages of Netanyahu, Wallah and the Israel Police.
    Other comments included “Can we send another truck?” and “I’d send a double-trailer to wipe out all those shits” after the bus overturned when it crashed into a truck.
    Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the accident, but his aides did not remove the racist comments from his Facebook page or denounce them.
    “Relax, it’s Palestinian children,” someone wrote on Wallah’s Facebook page. Others wrote “Great! Fewer terrorists” and “May there be such buses every day.” Similar comments were posted on the police’s Facebook page, including “When they grew up they’d be terrorists …. God nipped them in the bud.”

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Do we really need any more evidence that Israeli culture is transforming into a form of Nazism? I mean seriously. It’s right out there in broad daylight at this point. Are you going to censor this comment? Me just flat out speaking the truth about it?

      • Bumblebye says:

        I suppose it’s the same implacable mindset against a people their government has deliberately ‘othered’ and dehumanized. These folks feel completely free to say what they do without bothering to hide their identity, for the most part.

      • seafoid says:

        “Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the accident, but his aides did not remove the racist comments from his Facebook page or denounce them.”

        Of course he didn’t. There are no votes in that.

      • Chaos,

        Israeli culture already made that transformation a long time ago. Anyone denying that is either too emotionally weak to enter those choppy waters, or is engaging in intellectual dishonesty.

    • Hostage says:

      Satisfaction that “only Palestinians” were the victims and slogans such as “Death to Arabs, why do we help them?” were posted on the Facebook pages of Netanyahu, Wallah and the Israel Police.

      There is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that, if Netanyahu had been a Presbyterian, someone would have already demanded that Mark Zuckerberg remove those pages.

      • seafoid says:

        Most of the worst comments come from religious settlers who believe they are doing God’s work by redeeming the land.
        Nobody in the rabbinical community has ever outed them as frauds and hypocrites. It’s all about votes and money.

  2. Woody Tanaka says:

    “I’m not placing blame on Israel or Israelis as the direct cause of this accident.”

    You should. The blood of these children stains the hands of every Israeli government official and every Israeli adult who voted for them and those who favor this apartheid policy. They are all guilty.

  3. seafoid says:

    In Israel, Palestinians are unpeople. They don’t have rights.
    This extends to spatial rights and the right to speed. Jews have a fast life. Settlers can zip from Shiloh to Hebron in 40 minutes. The landscape has been destroyed to make this possible.

    For Palestinians it can take 4 hours to go from Jenin to Hebron. It’s only a few miles further away than Shiloh. Many days it is not possible to travel at all. Jews are broadband. Palestinians are pedestrians.

    It’s all part of the sick system known as Erez Israel.

    • Seafoid,

      You may find this interesting: “The Right of Being: Palestine and Birthright”

      link to ofpeasantsandothermatters.wordpress.com

    • From the entry:

      “For decades Israeli propaganda has by design dehumanized those they oppress. History has been rewritten. Villages have been renamed. Centuries old olive groves burned to make room for further illegal occupation by settlers, who then plant new groves and claim they’ve always done so. Mega-media campaigns are unceasingly launched claiming there are no historic Palestinians; there were no ancient peoples on the land renamed Israel. And this effrontery to the personhood of Palestinians is shamefully echoed in American presidential campaigns. “They are an invented people.” An astonishingly callous, dehumanizing cruel assertion. It further victimizes already shattered victims of atrocities in a highly visible public forum. It is no different from standing in a sex crimes unit to declare rape victims are really imported mannequins, therefore, pay them no mind. It is propaganda of the most hideous sort. The sort that is meant not to incite, but to produce apathy. And so it has. And so remains the still present crisis of the Palestinian state; the state of non being.”

      • Charon says:

        It’s really sad when an American who doesn’t have any friends/family in Israel and doesn’t speak Hebrew can become a citizen and take advantage of the Zionist law of return just for being Jews, or even (as I understand it) being a recognized convert to Judaism. It’s sad because there are Palestinians who have deeded property which was stolen, their homes bulldozed, and are forced to raise a family as citizens of no country in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. As refugees. They have a right to return under international law and UN resolutions which have been ignored for decades. During this stalling process the conditions have changed in Israel proper so drastically that refugee re-settlement is now an unlikely fantasy.

        US presidential candidates are an embarrassment when they talk down the Palestinians. Palestine has been called Palestine since before recorded history. Philistine, Palestine, Syria Palestina as it was even called during the ‘second temple’ era during the times of Jesus. Philo wrote about the Essenes of Judea located in Syria Palestina. And he wrote this in the early part of the first century. The ironic thing is it is the Israelis who have invented a history during the past 100 or so years. And this invented history has become real history. People actually believe it. Now I’m well aware that they teach in history class that this is the holy land from the Crusades. This is the place where many biblical stories took place. It’s just a little strange they have found hardly any archaeological evidence to back up bold biblical claims. I know I’m probably alone in thinking this, but I’ve done a little homework convincing me that the Israelites and Hebrews didn’t live in Palestine. If they did, it was only partially. Methinks they lived a little northward in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. Archaeological evidence and ruins make more sense in this context. There is no evidence of any grand kingdoms in Palestine, but there is up North. Everything is always talked of being built with cedar from Lebanon. It would be a little bit hard hauling cedar logs over those mountains and down to Palestine. Not impossible, but very difficult.

        This sounds a little radical, but I think all the Palestinians should convert to Judaism en masse. Not permanently, just to lie and take advantage of the Jewish law of return.

        • I know I’m probably alone in thinking this, but I’ve done a little homework convincing me that the Israelites and Hebrews didn’t live in Palestine. If they did, it was only partially. Methinks they lived a little northward in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey….Everything is always talked of being built with cedar from Lebanon. It would be a little bit hard hauling cedar logs over those mountains and down to Palestine.

          Very interesting. I want to look into this more. And, I assure you , Charon, you are in good company with such skeptical cynicism.

          This sounds a little radical, but I think all the Palestinians should convert to Judaism en masse. Not permanently, just to lie and take advantage of the Jewish law of return.

          Now, wouldn’t that be something to behold. I wonder how quickly Israeli law would be rewritten if this were attempted?

  4. Winnica says:

    The accident was tragic, and it aches to think of the pain the families are going through.

    The facts portrayed in this article, however, are not accurate.

    1. The Palestinians of Shuafat, like all Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, are the only group who can move freely throughout Israel and the West Bank. The Jews aren’t allowed into Area A (including Rammallah), and the West Bankers are not free to move into Israel. (Some of the resident of Shuafat are Israeli citizens, the rest are permanenet residents, and they all enjoy the same freedom of movement).

    2. Which means that the school children of Shuafat could have taken whatever road they (or their driver) chose to take.

    3. The reason they took the longer route should be immediately clear to anyone who has ever driven in, say, Los Angeles: roads through residential areas are often slower, even if shorter, than freeways. Highway 437 is longer but goes through an empty rural area, and takes less time to drive on. Remove all Israelis from Israel and replace them with Palestinians and a reasonable driver going from Shuafat to Rammallah would still likely take route 437.

    4. The readers of this website will be familiar with the thesis that the Israelis build fine roads for the settlers and narrow backroads for the Palestinians. Route 437 in its present form is one of these roads, and was built for the settlers so that they wouldn’t go through the congested area from Beit Hanina northwards. Since the onset of the 2nd Intifada in 2000, it serves as the main route for all settlers going north from Jerusalem.

    5. Of course, Palestinians use route 437 also, as in the case of this doomed schoolbus, but not because it’s a rural road through nowhere, but for precisely the opposite reason: it’s a fine road and travel on it is swift.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      I think that you are willing to compare the Occupation to a normal city like Los Angeles is disgusting. How far are you willing to propagandize? This is like making excuses for German infrastructure in Poland during that occupation. And you, as a Jewish woman, should be ASHAMED for doing that.