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‘Arabs, this way’

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I frequently link the piece Apartheid on Steroids, by an American who was formerly a keen supporter of Israel. I first witnessed apartheid in 2006— the same year Jimmy Carter put the word in a book title. Ofer Neiman writes, “Sol Salbe just posted a translation of an article by a jurist, who recently did his reserve duty service at some checkpoints. His observations of the clearly racist practices would not doubt have some people reaching for their Afrikaans dictionary, and with very good reasons.” Original in Hebrew.

Arabs, This way

Gur Megiddo

19 June 2013

Once again I was called up for reserve duty. In preparation for our move to checkpoint 104 (the one guarding the entrance to Tulkarm situated on the Hafradah (separation) Barrier  south  of the Nitznei Oz interchange), we lined up for a briefing.

The commander explained that the IDF wishes to buoy up the development of the Palestinian economy. The underlying assumption is that a person who has an income is less inclined to participate in terrorist activities. Therefore the IDF allows the passage of Israeli Arabs into Tulkarm [in the occupied West Bank], to spend some money on the Palestinian side and develop trade relations. Our mission is to stand at the checkpoint and ensure that anyone who enters Tulkarm is indeed an Arab. It’s simple: you identify a person is an Arab by the name in their identity card or by their appearance, and wish them a good trip. If Jews arrive, you explain to them that entry is prohibited and prevent them from entering.

When we arrived at the place I noticed that one of the concrete blocks at the centre of the barrier carried a big sign: “The area in front of you is Palestinian area A. There is no entry for Israelis – Entry to this area is in violation of the law.” No sign said “Israeli Arabs excepted”, but simply “Israelis.” I eased my conscience by noting that, there is a real difference between Jews and Arabs here: A Jew who entered the area takes a risk, while the Arabs are in no danger. I still remained disturbed  by the fact that I was required to stand under the hot sun, wearing a ceramic flak jacket and politely inquire: to what race does Sir belong? Is Madam an Arab? A few days later I was asked to help provide backup for a military police unit carrying out vehicle inspection at the Te’enim  checkpoint, located on the fence near the village of Khirbet Jabara. The commander, a second lieutenant, briefed a young soldier: in this lane it’s simple: a car comes, you say “shalom”, if you hear that they don’t have an accent, you opens the gate. Not pleasant, I thought, but nothing new. That’s what every security guard at a shopping mall entrance does.

After a few minutes I noticed that the queue on the right lane was significantly longer than the one in the left (where the soldier was stationed). One of the drivers in the right lane noticed that too,  and began shifting into the left lane. A female military police officer began to shout at him: Hello! What are you doing? And hissed: “Arabs this way.” The driver hastened to mend his ways and returned to the Arabs lane.

I turned to the commander: Hey, is this the instruction? A track for the Jews and a track for the Arabs? “Yes,” he answered simply. “Even Israeli Arabs?”, I  stubbornly queried. He replied: There is no reason that Jews, whose cars we do not check, should be waiting in line. I stuck to my guns: But it can’t be right that the army has issued such an instruction, if you were to tell me that the order was for one lines for Israeli citizens and one line for Palestinian’s I’d believe you. The written order, he answered me, is that whoever has a “Resident’s Tag” passes through the fast lane. But the vehicle that had just passed  did not have  tag, I said. And the commander replied: True, but you could see that he was a Jew, right? 

The debate heated up. I refused to continue participating in the security detail at the checkpoint and the officer, in turn, complained about me to my reserve company commander. Udi, the company commander showed some understanding of my behaviour, but tried to convince me that the separation was warranted. His main justification concerned the security of Jews passing through the checkpoint. He contended that if Jews were to wait for a long time they would become stationary target for attacks. Therefore it’s imperative to reduce their stay there through the use of  fast-through lane. 

With all due respect to this explanation, there is less harmful solution: increase the number of checkers and provide additional check-through lanes. Thus, reducing checkpoint waiting time to zero for all people, Jews and Arabs. 

I get the impression that the IDF did not properly consider the racial segregation of these two checkpoints, and that the instructions were issued haphazardly.  There are two indications that back up this argument: firstly, the large and conspicuous sign at a checkpoint 104 says “Entrance forbidden to Israelis.” If the IDF was convinced of its legal grounds  when issuing an instruction that differentiates between Jewish and Arab citizens, it would phrase the sign differently (or, at least, would have removed the sign). 

Secondly,  taking into account both the  Te’enim checkpoint commander comments and those of Udi my company commander, who doubled up as sector commander, it’s clear that the IDF presents one set of instruction in writing  (separation  on the basis of possessing a  ”Resident’s Tag”), but in practice it carries out a different provision (racial discrimination). 

If the IDF sees separate lining up tracks on a racial basis as something moral and worthy, why not do it openly? Unfortunately I think that giving a verbal command is designed to allow the blame to be shifted onto tho the lowly guard, is a practice for which the IDF is known. When they come looking for the guilty party, responsibility will be sheeted home to checkpoint commander and his soldiers, who didn’t carried out their written instruction. I would not be at all surprised if this would be the IDF’s response to the publication of this item.

The most disturbing thing to me is that most of my reserve unit comrades, beautiful and caring Israelis (really, I don’t mean it cynically), remained oblivious to this racial segregation. Most of them still do not really understand what was I going on about. Had there been a sign saying: Jews to the left, Arabs to the right above, then perhaps it would have raised some unpleasant connotations. Then, even if their opinion would not have changed, at least their stomach would have turned a bit.

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28 Responses

  1. seafoid
    June 20, 2013, 12:12 pm

    “The most disturbing thing to me is that most of my reserve unit comrades, beautiful and caring Israelis (really, I don’t mean it cynically), remained oblivious to this racial segregation”

    Israel was founded on racial segregation. The history of Israel is racially segregated. Israeli archaeology is racially segregated. The drinking of coffee in Israel is racially segregated . Israel’s airports run racial segregation. Israeli schoolbooks are racist.

    But only outsiders and palestinians can see this.

    I wonder why.

    • jon s
      jon s
      June 21, 2013, 7:15 am

      As a former IDF reservist, I empathised with Gur Megiddo’s account of serving at a checkpoint.
      You, however , seem to have gone a bit overboard: history? drinking coffee? all the rest? What are you talking about? I live here (and I drink coffee…) and I wonder where you came up with those impressions.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 21, 2013, 8:05 am

        “As a former IDF reservist, I empathised with Gur Megiddo’s account of serving at a checkpoint.”

        Oh, poor squatter jon. His precious conscious was bothered by the racist evil he was asked to perform. But don’t worry, I’m sure you persevered mightily to overcome your qualms and, in fact, should be PRAISED for conquering your oh, so, sophisticated principles and enforcing the Apartheid laws and oppressing the Palestinians anyway. You’re a regular goddamned hero, jon.

      • seafoid
        June 21, 2013, 9:48 am

        Re the history look it up on Wiki

        Israeli history ended at AD70 and recommenced with the first aliyah, basically.

        No mention of the Palestinians. Or the diaspora.

        Or just look around you in Israel. See how Palestinian history is neglected and Jewish history is funded to the hilt. In the West Bank you could compare funding for Herodion with funding for Hisham’s palace, for example. Anything that bolsters the Jewish link to the land is emphasised.

        Re the coffee I have been to Israel a few times and I lived in the West Bank for a while and it is my impression that Jews drink processed Nescafé style coffee and Palestinians drink Turkish coffee but feel free to correct me.


        Israel’s airports are a joke. Harrassment of non Jews comes as standard.

        The checkpoints are my favourite. Or even look at the visual difference between east and West Jerusalem.

        I hope Jews in Galut are never treated the way their Israeli cousins treat Palestinians.

      • jon s
        jon s
        June 21, 2013, 10:37 am

        I don’t see what you’re trying to prove with the Wiki link. The link relates to the history of the country, and does not end in 70 CE and recommence with the first aliya. Where’s the racial segregation?
        It’s true that the Israeli authorities favor Jewish sites. Where’s the racial segregation?
        Coffee: different people have different preferences and tastes. Many Israelis drink Turkish coffee, as I do on occasion. Where’s the racial segregation?
        Schoolbooks: a much better and more balanced survey can be found here:
        I agree that what occurs at the airport is a disgrace. Efforts are ongoing to change the situation (including through legislation ).
        Yes there’s a visual difference between east and west Jerusalem. There’s also a visual difference between Manhattan and Staten Island. Where’s the racial segregation?
        I note your use of the term “galut” ,which I don’t generally use, making you more of a Zionist than I am.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 21, 2013, 10:50 am

        “Where’s the racial segregation?”

        Yeah, it’s ethno-religious segregation, which is SOOO much better…

        “Yes there’s a visual difference between east and west Jerusalem. There’s also a visual difference between Manhattan and Staten Island.”

        Wow. What a joke. If you honestly think these situations are in any way analogous, then you are a fool.

      • seafoid
        June 21, 2013, 12:00 pm

        Palestinian history has been wiped out. Israel is a tabula rasa.
        700 villages removed from the face of the earth.
        What do Israeli Jews learn in school about Palestinian history ?
        On the wkli link where’s the history of the palestinians post 48? They aren’t even called palestinian. No,. they are Arab Israelis.

        Why are Jewish sites favoured? Are all Israelis Jews? Why is spending so closely correlated to religion?

        Enjoy the coffee.

        Manhattan and Staten island- different boroughs.
        Jerusalem is a united city funded from the same coffers. Why do Jewish neighborhoods have 5-10 times more spending per head than Palestinian neighborhoods? Why are house permits decided on the basis of religion ?

        Why is this so obvious to outsiders but not to Israeli Jews?

      • jon s
        jon s
        June 22, 2013, 4:04 am

        Seafoid, I really can’t comment on wikipedia references. Direct your complaints to wikipedia.
        The many issues facing Israel, such as the inequality you pointed out , are obvious to many people here, and I know that you’re aware of the controversies and debates that rage in every public forum , and private living-room, in the country.
        I think it’s about time that you make another visit, talk to people, see things for yourself.

      • seafoid
        June 22, 2013, 5:19 am

        I’ll take it up with you on Monday. Israeli history is a sham.

        And you’re probably one of the more thoughtful Israelis. But the future of your country is determined by the ignorant.

  2. ramzijaber
    June 20, 2013, 12:13 pm

    While all of us Palestinians have been living this for years and it’s well known to and experienced by any visitor of Palestine, coming from Gur Megiddo, an Israeli reservist, is a welcome addition to the narrative.

    As I was reading the piece, my mind wandered and saw Nazi’s separating Jews from others. What a powerful visual that Gur Megiddo conjured up in my mind. I hope every Israeli and Zionist reads this and sees the Nazi SS officer doing the same to Jews in Europe. Maybe the conscience will wake up.

    • yrn
      June 20, 2013, 1:05 pm

      Dear Ramzi

      Let’s go on with your mind wandering
      What happened to the Arabs, that were sitting in their air conditioned cars after this terrible separation.

      And what happened to the Jews by the Nazis after they were separated, can you tell us.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 21, 2013, 8:06 am

        That’s a stupid point. It is evil, regardless of whether it’s a little evil or a big evil. That’s the issue that you people never seem to get through your thick heads.

      • yrn
        June 22, 2013, 4:14 am


        The one that raised this stupid comparison is your friend Ramzi.
        If he compares this situation “As I was reading the piece, my mind wandered and saw Nazi’s separating Jews from others. ” regarding Arab Israelis sitting in Air conditioned cars, he should go on with the comparison.
        If his issue is to flame your emotions, he is good for the job, as it works for you, but not for others.

      • Djinn
        June 21, 2013, 9:39 am

        So if Australian soldiers were manning points on Australian roads and instructed that all Jews (regardless of citizenship) were sent down a one lane rutted country track while others got to use the speedy new highway, you’d have no problem with it as long as no-one got sent to a concentration camp or was killed afterwards? Apartheid is OK as long as it doesn’t end in murder? (Ignoring the thousands of Palestinians who were murdered by the GoI of course)

  3. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    June 20, 2013, 12:27 pm

    “The most disturbing thing to me is that most of my reserve unit comrades, beautiful and caring Israelis (really, I don’t mean it cynically), remained oblivious to this racial segregation.”

    They’re not. The writer’s problem is that he assumes that if they were aware of it, they would demand change. He seems good hearted, but naive to the extreme. These “beautiful and caring” people are vile bigots, plain and simple. They don’t care that they are oppressing the Palestinians. They are the willing oppressors.

    People like this need to grow up already and recognize that these “beautiful” people are the enemy that he needs to fight. Or he needs to give up the pretense of his own goodness. He cannot be both on the side lines and free of the taint of cowardice and of being an accomplice in this crime.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      June 21, 2013, 9:06 am

      Agree completely. Even among ‘liberal’ Israelis like this writer, there is a stubborn belief that their society is essentially a decent one, and that Israel is essentially a noble enterprise – just that it has become corrupted in practice. That view is very common among ‘soft Zionists’ outside of Israel too. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they insist on believing that Israel is redeemable. They also believe that Israel is ultimately the victim, and always will be. It requires an awful lot of willful blindness and moral dishonesty to believe this, but believe it they do. Which is why ‘soft Zionists’ are so completely irrelevant to the Palestinian struggle.

      • seafoid
        June 21, 2013, 9:51 am

        “Others see apartheid in the differences in the funding that Arab municipalities receive and the untenable gaps in education and income between Jews and Arabs. That perception legitimizes the concept of apartheid.
        True apartheid is in our consciousness and nothing like the expression “peaceful coexistence with the Arabs in Israel” − as a number of the torch bearers hoped for in their statements, to describe this handicap of consciousness. After all, no one calls for peaceful coexistence with immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia or Europe, because peaceful coexistence is what we wish for with an enemy. “

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        June 21, 2013, 10:04 am

        “Even among ‘liberal’ Israelis like this writer, there is a stubborn belief that their society is essentially a decent one, and that Israel is essentially a noble enterprise – just that it has become corrupted in practice. ”

        Exactly right. It reminds me of the self-delusion of many white, male conservatives in the USA to the problems which they resist (such as racism, sexism, etc.) THEY haven’t suffered from the problem, so to them, the problem doesn’t exist. It’s nothing but ignorance or moral cowardice. Those who know better, such as the zionists (especially those who fancy themselves “liberal zionists”) simply have no moral compass and are willful executors of evil.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        June 21, 2013, 10:37 am

        Plus, the emphasis is always on what the ‘excesses’ of Zionism are doing to the ‘soul’ of Israel, and the ‘conscience’ of Israelis. There’s even an element of that in this article. It’s still always about them – Jewish Israelis – and not about the Palestinian victims. And worse, these see this empty hand-wringing as proof of how introspective and moral Israeli society still is, even though it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to Palestinians.

        But this is the quandary of ‘soft Zionism’. If you examine it too closely, it is no longer possible to maintain the illusion that Zionism is redeemable. That is why some such people either become unapologetic, hard-core Zionists, like Benny Morris, or reject Zionism completely, like Ilan Pappe. However, far too many of them refuse to acknowledge the blatant contradiction in the notion that a state built on the violent expulsion of another people can ever be moral or humane.

      • seafoid
        June 21, 2013, 12:26 pm

        But if we get back to the negotiating table Maximus we can bring out the good that is there in Israel and it’ll be all fluffy and wonderful . Those settlers just need the moderates in charge for a more thoughtful Zionism and let’s just think about the future rather than 1948.

      • Frankie P
        Frankie P
        June 22, 2013, 2:46 am

        Netanyahu’s willing fascist oppressors


      • piotr
        June 22, 2013, 12:08 pm

        “Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they insist on believing that Israel is redeemable.”

        At this moment, Israel is coddled by “the only remaining superpower”. Being a small nation, they have the usual mentality “do for your own good whatever you can get away with”. The difference from say, Armenians or Lithuanians is that the latter can get away with less. As the conditions change, the behavior changes too.

        The real problem is in USA. A big nation has lesser excuse for being provincial, myopic and mean spirited. I agree that Israel will have only faint internal capacity to change, but this is not the main factor here.

  4. Erasmus
    June 20, 2013, 12:57 pm

    Re: ..I hope every Israeli and Zionist reads this and sees the Nazi SS officer doing the same to Jews in Europe. Maybe the conscience will wake up.

    C O N S C I E N C E ????
    Which conscience ???
    Whose conscience ???

  5. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    June 20, 2013, 5:57 pm

    This illustrates for me what might be called “community-based ethics,” (or “when is deceit ethical?”) which I’ve been thinking a lot about, trying to reconcile how people practice deception, while considering themselves good, moral people. It’s apparently part of the basic make-up of the CIA, that, to ensure “plausible deniability” for political and other leadership, certain orders are unwritten, and people are pledged and expected to lie, even under oath, denying their existence. [See text and notes in Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters, Chapter One, notes 130 through 144]. In competitive sports, like soccer, or boxing, and in military action, feints, trickery, outright deceit, are essential, and line-drawing is a perpetual subject of analysis. Deceiving your opponent is good, diving to deceive the official is bad (but, if it wins the game, applauded by many), but, in basketball, faking an opponent off his feet, then purposefully jumping into to him to “draw a foul” is a prized skill. In the old British navy, flying false colors was considered standard tactical practice up to a point, to avoid unwanted confrontation, or to gain advantageous position, so long as you presented your true colors before opening fire (failure to do so would have been dishonorable).

    What I’ve distilled is that such deception is okay and even viewed positively (heroically, even), if used to deceive opponents to gain tactical advantage, and is inherently different from deceiving members of one’s own team or community, membership in which and loyalty to which prohibits deception. This serves community strength (and thus is an evolved genetically-based phenomenon), because a sense of trust among the community is essential to high level community functioning. While the freedom to practice deception with opponents also strengthens the community.

    It’s figuring out what community you belong to, and what rules it’s playing by, that is the perpetual challenge, in complex and diverse communities, like modern states, because the answers change, depending what roles and activities are involved. Our make-up which evolved when we lived as part of small family-based groups doesn’t function as well when communities are layered upon us.

    Here you have a jurist, schooled in formal legalities, playing a different role – soldier at a checkpoint in the occupied territories – bringing his legal mind to bear upon a “work-around” put together by the IDF, possibly at the local level but possibly high-up, to practice racism while not creating written records of doing so. The extent to which being both a Jewish state and a democracy may be a contradiction is one of the recurring themes of this blog. I would suggest that considering who is speaking to which communities is a key to understanding the intent and meaning and ethical framework of what is said. Maybe that’s obvious to some, but it’s how I’m only now starting to make sense of it.

    • Xpat
      June 21, 2013, 10:56 pm

      David – thank you for sharing your thinking on this.
      The deniability/self- deception of these ‘beautiful Israelis’ works because of two additional factors:
      1. The insularity of Israel creates the circumstances to differentiate between beautiful and ugly Israelis. Much like the tribal pride many Democrats take in not being ugly Republicans.
      2. These ‘beautiful Israelis’ feel like tourists. The West Bank is foreign and does not relate to their real lives. That’s why Superland made such an impact. BIs could no longer pretend that Israel’s systemized official and unofficial racial segregation was somebody else’s problem.

  6. ErsatzYisrael
    June 21, 2013, 2:33 am

    “A track for the Jews and a track for the Arabs?”

    “Even Israeli Arabs?”

    “But it can’t be right that the army has issued such an instruction, if you were to tell me that the order was for one lines for Israeli citizens and one line for Palestinian’s I’d believe you.”

    Umm, did those army issued instructions say anything about Mizrahim (i.e. Arab Jews) who want to pass through checkpoint 104?

    What’s the procedure for Arab Jews once they arrive at the checkpoint, so that they may pass through?

    Do they get to choose which “track”?

    Or does their Jew part get fast-tracked while their Arab part is made to wait in line, and has to catch up with them later?

    This obscene farce will continue until more people start asking (themselves and others) the right questions.

  7. Citizen
    June 21, 2013, 6:43 am

    Kerry should like this as it seems Israel is implementing his desire to build up the Palestinians’ economy.

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