Short skirts and falafel, a different kind of confrontation
Palestine-Israel, Local, 9/22/1997
"Go to Lebanon and show us what you can do there. You pretend to be brave here against unarmed Palestinians but there you run away from Hizbullah," yelled a Palestinian youth after he was beaten up by an Israeli soldier. Minutes later, a fist fight broke out between a few Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers who were guarding the new Jewish settlement in Ras Al Amoud neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The scuffle between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers and policemen has become almost a daily event in the area since the Jewish settlers took over the houses. And as time passed by with no change being seen on the horizon, the daily scuffles not only became routine but they also lost part of their momentum.
When Peace Now activists increased their presence at the site protesting the new setlement, the Israeli police brought in numerous policewomen in order to cope with a possible eviction by force of the left wing protestors. Galia Golan, a spokewoman for Peace Now, expressed her fear that the mounting number of female soldiers and policewomen was an indication that the police might resort to force to quell the left wing demonstrators and to evict them from the area. But the eviction did not take place and the new female reinforcements that arrived to the scene had become target of funny comments from the Palestinian youths.
Perhaps for the first time in their life, Palestinian youths whistled and threw humiliating remarks at the policewomen. One would comment on the policewoman with brown eyes. Another would draw attention to the short skirt. A third shows interest in the long blonde hair of a tall policewoman holding a club in her hand.
It took only a few minutes to irritate those women. They disappeared for some time and then a border policeman, Colonel Atef Hassan, came and screamed at the boys. He threatened to take them to jail if they continue to harass the women soldiers. He later ordered them to either go home or go into the Peace Now tent, which had been set up shortly after the settlers took over the Arab houses.
I asked Samer, a 15 year old boy, why he was making such advances at Israeli poliewomen when his fight is purely a political one. He said it was a golden chance for him to retaliate the humiliation Palestinnian girls face when Israeli soldiers act in a similar way. "Everything has a price," he said. "Now we know how to let the Israelis pay back."
Three women, with their children, stood from a distance watching. They had seen such a sight many times over the past few days. They all live next to each other in a one floor building near the seized houses. One of them started talking about how difficult their life has become after the settlers took over the houses. But shortly afterwards, a man who seemed to be living in the same neighborhood intervened and interrupted their talk. "What good is it talking to the press? We have given dozens of interviews to newspapers as well as to television stations. But nothing has happened apart from the fact that these settlers have managed to publicize their aggression." He added that he wouldn't be surprised if more donations were received by the settlers after their takeover of the Arab houses.
Ironically, the only Arabs who gained from the Ras Al Amoud takeover are the adjacent Panorama Hotel and a little falafel restaurant across the street. Many TV crews booked a number of rooms in the hotel with some even hooking up microwave link and satellite uplink facilities. They all expected the situation to deteriorate down to an open confrontation. The falafel restaurant owner has reportedly doubled the price of his sandwiches after access to his shop was denied to most of his local customers who were replaced by an army of journalists who too had to spend their days and nights on standby.
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