But before I do that, I would like to share an experience myself and some friends had at a checkpoint recently. I think that it is important for people to see this not from my experience, but from the experience of a Palestinian, my friend Raad. This is not a unique story, nor is it as bad as it could have been; it is just one moment in the life of a Palestinian traveling in his own country.
thanks & more soon!
IOF Soldier: "You are disgusting Arabs and you should be beaten like animals and stay in jail."
January 12th, 2006
January 12th, 2006
After a successful non violent demonstration against the illegal Israeli apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Bil'in, we came back to the ISM apartment to hold our regular evaluation meeting to discuss what had succeeded in the demonstration and what we could improve. During the meeting we received updates regarding a small village called Bardala in the Jenin region which is closed by a checkpoint controlled by the IOF.
The people of Bardala and some local organizations were holding a nonviolent demonstration against the checkpoint which not only prevents freedom of movement for the people, but also their ability to trade in farm products. We decided that some ISM activists would go there and stand in solidarity with the Bardalla farmers in their struggle against the illegal checkpoint. A Palestinian was needed to go with the international activists so I offered to accompany them and we traveled back to Ramallah to take a taxi to go to Jenin. After changing and packing our bags, we left Ramallah at noon in a taxi and started our journey in my beautiful Palestine. We traveled for more than two hours and arrived in a small village called Al Zababda close to the place of the demonstration. We stayed at the Na'eem Khader Center where we were given a gracious welcome. We hung out for a bit and I told my friends that we should go to sleep early because we have to be ready at 9 AM to start travel towards the demonstration at Bardala.
In the morning we took a car prepared by PARC, Palestinian Agricultural relief committees, the organization who asked us to come to the demonstration.
On the way we realized that we had to pass the Tayaseer checkpoint. Unfortunately, when the driver saw one of the soldiers at the checkpoint he said this soldier is the worst of all of them. When I saw how the soldier was treating the people in front of us I realized he was right.
When it was our turn in line the solider collected our IDs and the passports from us and suddenly he asked us to get out of the car and stand in one row. He was speaking in Hebrew, I told him "we don't understand you, what are you saying ?" and then he started screaming at me saying "Shut up, at this checkpoint we only speak Hebrew!"
Suddenly we realized there was a soldier speaking in English at the checkpoint, it was an American guy who was serving in the Israeli military and after approximately 40 minutes, the really aggressive solider called the American soldier over to give the international volunteers their passports. They decided to hold me and my friend until they got an answer from the secret service and they told us to stand with our backs to the checkpoint and that we could not use our phones. They also asked the driver to drive the international volunteers away from the checkpoint. The aggressive soldier kept screaming at us saying "You are disgusting Arabs and you should be beaten like animals and stay in jail, you shouldn't be going around with pretty American and European girls."
Our friends tried to call us but he wouldn't let me answer the phone and told me to turn it off. Instead I made the phone silent and kept in touch with the rest of the group, who were approximately 100 meters away, via text messages.
The aggressive soldier told me I was a Hizballah terrorist and that he would break my bones. I told him "ok" and he responded by saying "Shut up!"
After another 40 minutes the officer received and order from his command to take our phone numbers so we gave them to him and I found an opportunity to talk because he told us to keep our phones on because the Shabak might call us to check. After just three minutes I got a phone call from a friend who was working with ISM asking if we passed the checkpoint or were we still detained. When I started talking to him the aggressive soldier started screaming at me to shut off my phone but I told him the Shabak called me back and I'm talking to them. I don't know why, but the soldier believed me. After just 15 minutes they received and order to release us but the officer refused and sent back a message saying he needs the commander of the area to tell me to release them.
The officer received the order to release us three times and he was just looking for a reason to keep us and beat us. When they received the order for the first time, an officer of the checkpoint told the aggressive soldier "go eat so you can be strong and ready to beat them."
But after another 15 minutes two international girls who came with us decided to walk toward the checkpoint to see why the soldiers were still detaining us. Suddenly the crazy soldier who has no regard for the language problem just ran toward the roadblock and hid himself behind it so both of the girls could not see him. He started screaming in Hebrew, the girls could neither hear him nor understand him, so he cocked his gun and pointed it at them and when I saw that I got kind of crazy because I was afraid he was going to shoot them. His commander was screaming at him asking him not to shoot and suddenly the American soldier appeared again and screamed "stop! stop!" and told the girls to walk away from the checkpoint. The crazy soldier put his gun down and walked away and the American soldier just followed the two girls to see what was going on and why they wanted to talk to him. They spoke to him and asked when we would be released and if there was some kind of problem.
Then the crazy soldier came back to the checkpoint and his commander asked him to clean his gun and said "it is a very terrible thing for this to happen at my checkpoint, and before you talk to me clean your gun." After that he asked him why he got crazy and tired to shoot the internationals because they are not dangerous like the Palestinians. The soldier answered saying "you know the orders that we have" (if someone comes toward the checkpoint and you ask them in Hebrew to stop and they continue, you should shoot them with no regards as to whether the person in front of you doesn't know Hebrew or even is deaf or crazy, just shoot!). After that the commander called the American soldier and gave him our IDs and told him to tell the internationals that it is because the Israelis respect them that they will release us.
Israel's policies of apartheid and racism will never succeed or help in solving the conflict, and they have nothing to do with 'security.' They will just increase the hate and the bloody situation we are in will continue. This is against the interests of us all, and international law and the Geneva conventions are clear; UN Resolution 242, 338 call for Israel to end the occupation of Palestine and 194 asks Israel to solve the refugee problem. The Geneva convention and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man say that people under occupation have the right to resist, and that occupying forces should respect the rights of civilians.
The international community should guarantee human rights for all, yet they have failed the Palestinian people miserably. The individual activists who are coming from all over the world to support us in our non-violent struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation show real support for human rights. We see these activists risking their lives along with us, and they come because they believe that we all have the same dreams, even if we live in what's called the Third World.
I call on people from all over the world to just visit Palestine, Jerusalem , Bethlehem, Nablus , Ramallah, Hebron all of these places and just to observe the situation here. I wish you all everywhere a happy new year full of love and peace and hope to see you in Palestine.