Ramallah, West Bank–It’s a far cry from the daily checkpoints, beatings, tear-gassing and harassment that Palestinians have to go through, but today I can say that a tiny slice of the Palestinian experience became alive to me.
My arrival at Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel early today was the start of a long trip down Israeli security harassment lane. After I showed my passport to an Israeli immigration agent, I was taken to a holding room, where I joined Palestinians trying to visit family and other–mostly non-white–people. Three hours later, I was taken to a separate room, where I was questioned by a bald Israeli who said he was from the Ministry of Defense.
They immediately knew that my back story of why I came to Israel was false, and I had to admit I planned on visiting the West Bank.
After that came questions about my trip last year to Gaza, who I met with there, what I wanted to do in the West Bank and what the delegation I joined today was all about. Absurdly, the defense official hinted that I was suspected of “terrorism”–the term used by Israel and the U.S. to smear anyone who dissents against their inhumane policies of occupation and war. The agent also was curious to find out why I–as a Jew–was on the “Palestinian side,” working “against my homeland and my father’s,” to which I responded that Israel is not my homeland, and that I was for the human rights of all people, including Palestinians. While these questions were fired at me, pictures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres stared down at me, as if to mock me.
I was sent back to the holding room without my passport, where I spent the rest of my time sleeping, watching Curb Your Enthusiasm (a perfect mood-lifter) and messaging Israeli blogger Didi Remez over Twitter with updates on what was going on.
Five hours later, after I thought I was to be deported or detained, I was let out of the grasp of Israeli security on the condition that I not enter the Palestinian territories. As I drove to Ramallah, I passed by countless West Bank settlements–with their gleaming lights–and Palestinian villages surrounded by the illegal colonies. There was no discernible difference between Israel proper and settlement areas over the Green Line, something that I marveled at even though I knew that was the case.
And now I’m here, back in Palestine after one year. One can only be amazed that the Palestinian people remain so strong and steadfast after enduring 62 years of Israeli security harassment far worse than what I went through today.