Every so often something seems to slip by the zionist dominated Copy Desk at the New York Times ….
Here’s the latest one … sent By Sam Bahour with the following comment …
Anyone who has heard me give a talk during the past 6+ years has heard me speak of this crossing the wall phenomena. Now, finally, the NYT has caught up.
Smugglers in West
Bank Open Door to Jobs
in Israel, and Violence
A thriving industry allows West Bank residents to get past what Israelis call a security barrier. It has a dangerous side effect: Attackers sneak through as well.
By JAMES GLANZ and RAMI NAZZAL
DAHIYAT AL BARID, West Bank — At 4:15 a.m. on a dead-end street, a 33-year-old Palestinian man came running from the shadows between buildings with a rickety wooden ladder. He slapped it against the hulking concrete wall and climbed up, hoisting himself the last six feet because the ladder was too short.
The wall, which Israel began building more than a decade ago to thwart the suicide bombers of the second intifada, is supposed to prevent Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank from entering into Israel outside military checkpoints where their papers can be examined.
But the Palestinian man perched in a gap in the concertina wire that tops much of the snaking 400-mile route of the wall. He motioned to a white Daewoo sedan that had lurched to a stop below, and one by one, four young men stepped out of the car, climbed the 13-rung ladder, and slid down a rope on the other side. Within minutes, another car was speeding the men to construction sites in Israel, where they did not have permits to work, and the man with the ladder was leaving to look for more job-seekers willing to pay to scale the wall.
“In the West Bank, you have hustlers,” said the man, who, like more than two dozen other Palestinians interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was breaking the law. “You can either call them hustlers, or you can call them brokers.”
This furtive predawn crossing is part of a thriving smuggling industry that allows untold numbers of people to pass over, under, through or around what Israelis call the security barrier — for a price.
The industry offers economic benefits for everyone involved: Palestinian workers earn double or quadruple the wages they can in the West Bank; Israeli contractors and restaurant owners pay less for illegal labor than for Palestinians with permits; and the smugglers collect $65 to $200 for each person that passes. Punishment for those caught is generally being sent back to the other side.
The system punches a hole in Israel’s system for regulating Palestinians’ access to work inside Israel, and has security implications: Attackers like the two Palestinian men who fatally shot four people this month at a Tel Aviv cafe sneak through as well.
The two men lived in Yatta, a village in the West Bank’s south, near where the unfinished barrier consists mostly of a metal fence with numerous gaps and holes. Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said they had entered Israel illegally, “most probably via one of the areas which are open or not completed.”
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, says that from Oct. 1 of last year to Feb. 1, 21 Palestinians who attacked Israelis were in the country illegally.
Since the Tel Aviv attack, Israel’s Defense Ministry has promised to extend a more effective form of the barrier to the south, an area heavily trafficked by smugglers. But the government’s other response to the shooting, the cancellation of 83,000 special permits for Palestinians to cross during the holy month of Ramadan, may reveal how difficult it will be to stanch the flow.
At the Qalandiya checkpoint outside the city of Ramallah on the Friday after the attack, men stood at the edge of the restive crowds no longer able to pass through, shouting “tahreeb, tahreeb” — Arabic for “smuggling, smuggling.”
“We have to understand that you will never solve the problem,” said Nitzan Nuriel, a retired Israeli brigadier general and the former head of the prime minister’s counterterrorism bureau. “Whenever you have illegal workers, it is part of the reality, it is part of the economy.”
The challenge, said Mr. Nuriel, now a counterterrorism expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, is filtering potential terrorists from ordinary workers. “You have to decide,” he said, “which fish to catch and which fish you can allow to swim.”
Low Risk, High Reward
The economics of the smuggling business are straightforward — and irresistible.
Unemployment among West Bank Palestinians is about 20 percent over all, and is even higher for young people. Starting wages per day, according to Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, are 70 to 80 shekels, or $20. Numerous Palestinians working illegally at Israeli construction sites said they made $80 to $100 a day.
That is still a major bargain for Israeli companies, who have to treat Palestinians with work permits similar to Israeli workers in terms of wages and benefits, covering sick days, vacations, health insurance and pensions.
There are currently about 55,000 Palestinians with permits working legally in Israel, and an estimated 20,000 in the settlements, according to Palestinian Labor Ministry. That is down from a peak of 140,000 before the second intifada in 2000, the ministry says (when the population was about two-thirds the size).
Estimates vary widely on the number of illegal workers. Mr. Shikaki said 30,000 was a reasonable guess; Mr. Nuriel said it was closer to 60,000, depending on the time of year. Most work in construction, agriculture or restaurants.
Mr. Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said that hundreds of illegal workers were picked up each week, but that the authorities were “focusing on arresting those that are attempting to bring in the Palestinians illegally.”
The first time someone is caught in Israel illegally, he said, the police simply record the incident and release the worker back to the West Bank. Repeat offenders “will appear before the courts” and may face other penalties, Mr. Rosenfeld said, adding that anyone suspected of links to terrorism is referred to the military.
But Palestinian workers who have been arrested multiple times said in interviews that the most serious consequences they have faced have been an interrogation and being dropped off at a checkpoint as far as possible from where they were picked up.
Mr. Nuriel, the counterterrorism expert, said that it would be too costly to keep such a large population in jail and that even widespread arrests were impractical, asking, “Who is going to interrogate them?”
An Anxious Routine
At a large construction site in Israel, an illegal worker in a yellow hard hat who goes by the name Abu Khalid estimated that he had gone over the wall dozens of times in the last year alone. Like many others interviewed, he said his routine was to cross the wall, work inside Israel for a few days or weeks, and then go back to the West Bank for a short rest. Some employers house workers in trailers, some workers stay with relatives or friends, and some, like Abu Khalid, camp outside.
At 50, he has a lined, deeply tanned face and, the sign of his seniority on the job, a walkie-talkie in his pocket. Abu Khalid said that a package deal for the jump over the wall and transportation to his work site costs about 800 shekels for a solo trip; when three men go in together, he said, they can cross for perhaps 300 shekels each.
“That’s a lot of money,” Abu Khalid said.
Workers “punch in” as soon as they arrive at a job site, he added, and both Israeli and Palestinian contractors know they have no permits. At day’s end, Abu Khalid continued, “we go find a water pipe to take a shower, and then we find a nice tree and sleep under it.”
Passage is not always as simple as going up a ladder and down a rope. Two young workers — Ahmad, 19, and Bassem, 21 — sat on a terrace in their village, north of Ramallah, and chuckled about a time when tight security forced them to go under the wall, not over it.
“We used to go through a water main like snakes,” Bassem said.
Ahmad’s father, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of legal repercussions, said his son provided a prime source of income for the family. But Ahmad is also a source of deep anxiety because of how he travels to work.
“When he goes and he comes, I have my hand on my heart in fear of something happening,” the father said.
Terrorism Is Bad for Business
Nowhere is passage more perilous than the West Bank’s south, where the Tel Aviv suspects, who are cousins, most likely crossed.
“You don’t know who you are walking with,” said Mahmoud Khalil, 19, a Palestinian who was working at an Israeli construction site but had no permit.
Mr. Khalil is from Yatta, like the suspects, but he said he did not know the cousins and came to Israel only to earn money for his family. He said he paid 250 shekels for safe passage through a large gap in the barrier near the village of Dahriya, southwest of Yatta, and transportation to the work site.
One recent day near Dahriya and neighboring Ramadin, pickups jammed with illegal workers played cat-and-mouse with Israeli military Humvees, racing from gap to gap as smugglers chattered on phones nearby. Workers and smugglers alike understand that terrorism is bad for business.
A driver for the smugglers in Dahriya who spoke on the condition that he be identified only as Abu Ramzi said that he and his colleagues alert Palestinian security forces at the first hint that a client intends to commit violence in Israel. He complained that the Israeli military had stepped up patrols of the southern barrier since the Tel Aviv shootings.
“Before this last attack, the army would act as if nothing was going on — 30 or 40 workers would cross into Israel all at once,” said Abu Ramzi, 34. “This last attack has temporarily complicated our operation.” Still, he said, “we will always find ways to get these workers in.”
That resolve was tested after nightfall last Monday, when five pickups and a Mazda sedan filled with workers massed in the center of Dahriya. With their lights off, the vehicles made two attempts to cross the web of rutted, rocky dirt roads and reach gaps in the fence, but they turned back because spotters saw Israeli Army Humvees converging on the same areas.
Finally, the smugglers’ vehicles roared toward another spot, throwing up thick billows of dust and bouncing the workers mercilessly in the beds of the trucks. At the bottom of the hill, two lookouts were talking on their cellphones under an olive tree. To the west, past the fence, nothing was visible but the distant lights of Israeli towns and cities.
Then the lights of the cars sent to pick up the workers on the Israeli side could be seen approaching on the bare hills. A smuggler yelled, “Yalla, yalla!” — “Go, go!” — and workers leapt from the trucks and began running toward a gap in the fence that had been flimsily repaired. Someone pulled it open, and someone else carefully lifted a few strands of razor wire that had been tossed in the dirt to make the passage more difficult.
The workers, many toting backpacks stuffed with clothing, slid under the razor wire and met the cars. The last man lifted the razor wire himself, slipped under and ran toward the cars, which drove off toward job sites among the distant lights.