Newspapers have recently publicized the arrest of a Palestinian girl named Ghada, who is only fourteen years old, during a visit to see her aunt in the town of Al-Issawiya. Ghada was arrested under the pretext of entering the Arab part of Jerusalem without permit.
After her arrest, Ghada's mobile phone was confiscated and she was forbidden from communicating with her mother, who resides in the town of Al-Ram, a Jerusalem suburb.
After the girl was questioned without her relatives present, she was taken to a court that then released her on bail, which was paid by her uncle. However, the occupation army decided to send her to the Gaza Strip because its computer decided that she is from Gaza, despite the fact that she had never been to Gaza in her entire life. She was born and brought up in the West Bank.
It took human rights groups and lawyers sixteen days to return this innocent girl from Gaza to her mother's bosom.
During the last month alone, Israeli occupation forces arrested 520 Palestinians, including 92 children and 18 women. Although the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip are all occupied territories according to international conventions, Israel prevents their inhabitants from moving from one place to another.
Millions of Palestinians are banned from entering Jerusalem and the majority of Gaza’s residents are also barred from entering the West Bank, and vice versa.
If any Gazan inhabitant residing in the West Bank has unfortunately fallen in the hands of the occupation forces, he will ferociously and cruelly be deported like Ghada.
Definitely, the majority of Palestinians are forbidden from entering the rest of Palestine except those who can obtain a permit from the Israeli occupation forces. The South African apartheid regime did not dare at the time to bar people from moving as Israel does.
There are numerous husbands and wives who are banned from living under the same roof due to the occupation's measures. Moreover, hundreds of thousands are deprived from seeing their loved ones and visiting their fathers and mothers or seeing their children.
What racist hatred is it that deprives tens of thousands of youths from pursuing their studies, and causes the death of tens of thousands as a result of preventing them from moving freely to go to suitable hospitals to receive treatment?
We can remember how the Western media and Western governments moved heaven and earth when the Soviet Union or China barred a dissident from travelling abroad, but we have yet to hear their protests over the banning of millions of Palestinians from the freedom of movement within their own homeland, or from traveling outside of it.
We did not hear one single protest over Ghada's maltreatment or over the psychological trauma she will endure for the rest of her life.
A few days ago, I visited a boy named Mohamed in the Palestinian village of Nabi Salih. He is fifteen years old. I saw how an Israeli soldier’s bullet caused him to lose an eye, a big part of his skull and disfigured his face. He was lucky because the bullet did not end his life, as Israeli bullets have done to many children martyrs.
What’s happening in Palestine is not only an occupation and ethnic cleansing, but a racist discrimination system of Israeli apartheid which, before now, the entire world has never yet witnessed. Like the apartheid regime in South Africa, injustice will not go away by wagering on negotiating with those practising it, but by standing steadfast in its face and imposing total boycott and sanctions on it. There is no another alternative.
The writer is Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative.