Thursday, January 11, 2007

FEATURE: Palestinians continue protests at checkpoints By Mohammed Mar'i

Red Indians Costumes at Israeli Checkpoints
By Mohammed Mar'i
(Distributed by Arab American Media Services, permission granted to republish.)

(Ramallah, Occupied Palestine) -- The Israeli authorities have replaced the Yitzhar checkpoint in southern Nablus, just a few days after they had removed it, as part of the easing of restrictions to Palestinian life, announced by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as good-will steps to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following their meeting in Jerusalem in December 2006.

Israel then announced that it will remove 49 roadblocks of about 400 roadblocks shattering the West Bank. Criticizing Israel's not implementing the agreed upon steps, Abbas said in a Fateh meeting in Bethlehem that "Israel do not abide by its promises". The PLO Executive Committee in its communiqué following a meeting held in Ramallah on January 8th, 2007 denounced "the situation of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank proved that the Israeli allegations of easing of restrictions is not correct and aims for delusion".

The Israeli checkpoints used to be protested and condemned by Palestinian, Israeli, and International institutions. The humiliation of Palestinian civilians and continued closure of major cities led to several ways of protest against them.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Schoolchildren will dress in Native American costume on Sunday, 14th of January 2007 and gather for a peaceful demonstration at Huwarra checkpoint, just south of Nablus to bring international awareness to deteriorating conditions in Nablus including collective punishment and a lack of mobility among its citizens.

A press release from the International Solidarity Movement, which is a Palestinian-led non-violent resistance movement committed to ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, said that this will be the first of four demonstrations to take place in Nablus in the Thirty Days Against Checkpoints Campaign. According to the press release, the reason for the Native American dress, in addition to expected banners and placards, is to "call attention to the similarities between the current process of ghettoization and closure taking place in Nablus and the plight which befell the Native Americans during the early history of the United States. This demonstration will serve as a call to action before the Palestinians are subjected to the same fate as the indigenous people of the US."

The Thirty Days Against Checkpoints Campaign is planned for the next three weekends in January and one in February at the Huwarra checkpoint outside Nablus, the most imprisoned of all West Bank cities. The press release says that the other demonstrations at Huwarra will include scout groups playing music, photos of scenes at checkpoints and Intifada victims, and the last will feature children launching balloons.

Palestinians who travel through the West Bank cities didn't notice any change in the (IOF)'s policy at the checkpoint. . They have horrible experience with them. They have to wait in long lines, under the burning sun or the freezing wind, alone or with their wives and kids, sick or healthy, young or old. Many Palestinian pregnant women deliver at these roadblocks, many sick Palestinian died while waiting the Israeli soldier to let him pass to the ambulance in the other side of the checkpoint or due to heart attack. Many Palestinians were beaten in the witness of their kids. Many Palestinians were obliged to sing songs, to dance, to give the Israeli soldiers cigarettes just to BASS. And other Palestinians were obliged to drink their urine just to cross the checkpoint. Israeli good-will steps no more than a mere illusion for them.

Mohammed Samaheh, a taxi driver from Salfeet area goes to Nablus every day. He said that the rainy weather did not encourage the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to ease their inspections, but instead, they forced passengers out of their cars into the rain for "extra screening". Khalid Saleem, an employee, travels from his hometown Jenin to Ramallah almost every day. He passes Za'tara checkpoint, south of Nablus. This checkpoint controls all Palestinians who travel from the West Bank northern cities to its center or southern ones. He said that the (IOF) serving at the checkpoint stop every car or bus, force passengers out of them into the rain or freezing wind, check their identity cards in search for wanted activists, the vehicles are checked by trained dogs in search for weapons. Ayman Adam, a student at An Najjah National University in Nablus said the same notice about Huwarra checkpoint, just south of Nablus. He goes ever day from his village Kafr el Dick, south of Nablus to the university to obtain his B.A in Business Administration. He said that "the Israeli soldiers oblige all passengers to stand in strait and long rows. They check every one, his identity card, his books' bag, and his body by electronic equipments before he allowed entering or leaving Nablus through revolving doors usually used for cows". "This is a collective punishment" he added. I can't usually attend the lectures at 8 o'clock in the morning because I arrive late. He accused the (IOF) policy as "it aims to increase ignorance in the Palestinian society". Abdullsalam Al Rimawee, an employee from Beit Reema village north of Ramallah, faced similar (IOF) measures at Atarah checkpoint, north of Ramallah and the only entrance for Palestinians who reside in West Bank northern cities. He said that "a unit from the Israeli Borders Police serves in the place humiliates Palestinians of who pass through this checkpoint". "The Israeli soldiers force the Palestinian drivers to stand in long rows; the soldiers don't allow any passenger to leave the car, and we have to stay for hours to pass".

When he was asked: "As someone who is familiar with the conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza, do you feel empathy toward them?" Nissim Levy who served in the Israeli intelligence service "Shin Bet" for 20 years answered Israeli journalist Uri Blau in an interview published in Haaretz on Jan. 6th 2007, saying: "Let's forget our patriotism for a moment. If a boy in Be'er Sheva falls in love with a girl in Haifa, what does he do? He picks up the phone, makes a date and drives to see her. If a boy from Bethlehem falls in love with a girl from Nablus, what does he do? He has to cross checkpoints, he needs a 1,001 permits. The moment that you reach the conclusion that you have nothing to live for, you immediately find that you have something to die for."

(Mohammed Mar'i is a journalist based in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine and regular contributor to He can be reached at