I want to relate a very small moment from my visit to the West Bank.
Last Thursday morning, a friend and I took a cab out of Nablus to the Jewish settlement of Ariel. Nablus is of course a legendary Palestinian city, and our driver was a Palestinian, driving a yellow Palestinian cab, and as we came down the road off Highway 5 toward the settlement, I sensed apprehension on his part.
I think you can glimpse that concern in his eyes in the photo below.
Approaching Ariel, 1
The road we were on is actually a shared road. Right before you get to Ariel, there’s an Israeli military checkpoint on the right with two heavily-armed soldiers and concrete barriers. This checkpoint blocks the Palestinian village of Salfit, which is at the edge of Ariel.
And the military checkpoint is there so that Palestinians don’t come out of Salfit and go into Ariel.
The photo below captures the moment that we passed the checkpoint at Salfit. What the hell are we doing going toward Ariel? Our driver is identifiably Palestinian, in a Palestinian car– now approaching the Ariel gate.
And he’s afraid. That’s why he suddenly holds up his hand to show he means no harm. And in the next couple seconds, he turns sharply around to the left, so that the guards ahead of us don’t freak out.
Approaching Ariel, 2
You can see the guards in this photo. They’re the two dark figures at the center, under the red-clay tile roof. They’re not soldiers. My friend and I later talked to them. One was a yokel with a wispy blond beard, and a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. The other was a tough, darkhaired woman in a jacket. Settlers.
Last summer the Nation published an important piece by Stephen Robert, a one-time Zionist, saying that the situation in Palestine is “apartheid on steroids”. When you travel around the West Bank–and Israel too– you understand what he means. There’s a thorough-going philosophy of separation. Keep the Palestinians here so that Jewish society will go on unperturbed. Keep the societies apart.
In that photo, our driver has brushed up briefly against the separation line. And he’s afraid.