Monday, October 18, 2004

Israel's mistreatment leads to bitterness 10-15-04

Israeli mistreatment leads to bitter conflict
Creators Syndicate Friday Oct. 15, 2004
Daily Herald Monday, Oct. 18, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Qalandiya Check Point, Occupied West Bank -- The metal revolving doors resemble those you might find at any transit station in America. But these turn styles at the Qalandiya checkpoint lead to only one place. Bitter conflict.

To travel between Ramallah and Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians must pass through this military screening. Complete with barbed razor-wire, bunkers, meager tin roof shelter, watchtowers, and sometimes tanks, civilians are forced to stand in packed lines chest to back, shoulder to shoulder for as much as one hour.

Nothing is more dehumanizing or humiliating, worsened by soldiers who are arrogant, insulting and uncaring.

Hundreds of people stand seven across in two "lines," one for women and one for men. In the hot sun, people have the odor of a long day as they push hard against each other desperate to get through.

Feet push forward into the heels of the person in front. Literally on top of each other. You inch forward as if you are not moving.

On both ends of the checkpoint, cars and cabs sit coughing out exhaust fumes, making the experience even worse. Nearby, the 26 foot tall wall of solid concrete stretches as far as the eye can see.

With their automatic weapons ready, the soldiers wave people through slowly, four at a time, with a lazy, uncaring gesture. "Yalla!" they order, Arabic for "Hurry!"

Sometimes, the lines stop as the soldiers make you wait in the choking environment of degradation.

The soldiers appear to speak just enough Arabic to tell Palestinians to come and go. Their eyes are often blue but always cold. If you speak to them the wrong way, they can make your life miserable. They often do.

When you finally pass through the turn style, you pass sandbags and cinder blocks and walk a short distance to the screeners who speak better Arabic, check your IDs, and grill you with many questions.

Amazingly, the security is worse than the security at the airports. You walk through one metal detector and place your belongings atop a cement pillar where they are inspected by hand. So why do they have this security?

Maybe the Israelis might spend a little money on the Palestinians, to make the experience more efficient and more secure. More respectful. Less provocative. But then, maybe the Israelis might also try spending some money to improve the streets in Palestinian neighborhoods that they have turned into de facto prisons through blockades and check points and travel restrictions.

There might just be a little less anger. And with a little less anger, there might be less violence on both sides.

In all fairness, some of the soldiers are courteous. You can see they have a heart and don't like the jobs they have been ordered to do. But there are the young soldiers and the settler soldiers who are religious fanatics who wear a look of disdain that only fuels the fire.

"Why are you here?" they ask. The questions is insulting to a Palestinian who presents a passport and an ID card. I'm not allowed to visit my relatives? I am not allowed to visit my own land? I am not allowed to be in my own country?

I understand Israel's need for "security." But I don't understand a security system based not on security but on intimidation, harassment and indignation.

Palestinians claim Israel's policies are designed to pressure Palestinians to leave the country
rather than to continue to experience the many hardships. It's a subtle but powerful form of expulsion.

I oppose all violence. But when you experience this ugly process every day, you can better understand how resentment can breed violence instead of peace.


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