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The Israeli crackdown on the West Bank as seen from the Qalandiya checkpoint

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The Qalandia checkpoint. (Photo: Scott/Flickr)

The Qalandia checkpoint. (Photo: Scott/Flickr)

Office workers, labourers, students and the elderly often pass through Qalandiya checkpoint near East Jerusalem on a daily basis.  They are often placed far away from the violence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet that distance has become notoriously smaller as they are often made the subject of punishment for a crime in which they had no involvement or knowledge.

The kidnapping on Thursday night of three Jewish religious school students: Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naphtali Fraenkel, hitchhiking in Gush Etzion (south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem) can be felt right across Israel and Palestine including the Qalandiya checkpoint. 

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) response, dubbed ‘Operation Bring Back Our Boys’ has seen about 150 people arrested. The sweeping arrests began in Hebron on Friday and have continued into the wider Judea area. Most of the arrested were members of Hamas, including its leadership.

Whist Israel has the right and duty to seek the safe return of the young boys, it has unfortunately taken the position ‘that what is relevant is not where the attack took place, but where the attack originated, and that the terrorists set out from areas under PA control.’ Thus every Palestinian will ostensibly be held responsible until the boys are safely returned or found.  

As a result not only has Hebron, and the greater Judean region come under an increased IDF presence in recent days, but even remote places have come under greater surveillance. This is not to say that the lack of proximity to Gush Etzion wholeheartedly rules out any given location. However the IDF must only act if and where it has reliable information that requires them to expand their increased sphere of presence. A case in point here is the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Every day I make the journey from Ramallah to East Jerusalem for work. Being less than 20 kilometres in distance it would ideally take about 20 minutes to get to work. However that is not the case, the trip is made to last about an hour each way by the checkpoint. 

The checkpoint features as a gateway in the Israeli constructed Wall (also known as the ‘Security Fence’, ‘Separation Barrier’ or ‘Apartheid Wall’) dividing Ramallah from East Jerusalem. It is one of the busier checkpoints given the high population density of the area. It well known that most of those who travel between the checkpoint do so, so as to make their way to work, school or carry out other basic daily tasks (such as attending a doctor’s appointment). Experience corroborates these observations. Every day, whilst lined up at the checkpoint, I see people carrying their lunch (presumably going to work like me), children dressed in their uniforms and carrying their books (presumably going to school), and elderly men and women (presumably going to see the doctor). 

Given the early hour that I travel through the checkpoint on a daily basis, it does not normally take me so long to pass through, usually ranging from 2 to 10 minutes.  During religious holidays, such as Ramadan, passing through the checkpoint is also known to be delayed as people attempt to get home to be with family and friends. 

The time it takes is very much dependent upon the mood of those staffing the checkpoint. Sometimes not all four gates will be open. Other times the guards may be eating their lunch, in clear view, forcing people to wait until they have finished. Or they could be busy sending an SMS, again people just have to wait until they have finished. Sometimes they are not even interested at all and you can simply pass through without them even looking at your ID. 

In the shadows of any incidents of violence or otherwise, elsewhere in the country, the checkpoint is not spared from feeling the brunt of the response. With the kidnapping of the young Israeli Jewish students hitchhiking in Gush Etzion the checkpoint suddenly ground to a halt. Long lines of students, labourers, office workers and the elderly, lines which had not previously existed at this early hour, suddenly appeared over night.  

The sudden change in circumstances could be felt. One elderly gentleman had become visibly distraught with the situation, yelling and arguing with others waiting in the line. At times he attempted to turn around and leave the line but found his exit blocked by fences and locked gates. At the other end, in the line up to one of the gates, people began to complain that the line was not moving, despite the path ahead being clear. 

As conceded above, Israel has the right and duty to secure the safe return of these three young boys. However they must ensure that their actions are targeted and based upon reliable intelligence, especially the further they move away from the immediate scene of the crime. With the Qalandiya checkpoint, the case is thin. The area surrounding Qalandiya is not known for its support of Hamas (the group accused of the kidnapping), so how does it and the people that pass through on a daily basis suddenly come into the equation? 

Either the sudden increase in time it takes to get through the checkpoint is unrelated to the kidnapping of the young boys or the people passing through the Qalandiya checkpoint were being collectively punished for the kidnapping of the young Israeli Jewish students, a crime of which they had no knowledge or involvement.   

It is from the Qalandiya checkpoint that the fear reverberates. Palestinians have clearly received the message. 

The trip home at the end of the day is normally at least an hour. But today it takes no more than five minutes. Palestinians are staying clear of the checkpoint and the IDF. As I make my way into the city centre of Ramallah it is the same. Shops are normally open until 7 or 8 at night, however today many are unusually closed. People have abandoned the daily travel through the checkpoint, and closed their shops.  They have left to be with their family, seeking refuge in their homes. The only crime for which they are being punished; they are Palestinian. 

Raff Piccolo

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12 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka on June 17, 2014, 11:19 am

    Yet more collective punishments and crimes against humanity by the Zionists and they wonder why the world hates them so. It could NEVER be about their actions, now could it?? Oh, no, never.

  2. Kay24 on June 17, 2014, 12:52 pm

    What a hue and cry about these 3 kidnapped kids, when Bibi did not even address the KILLING of the 2 Palestinians kids by his brutal armed forces. They initially lied about rubber bullets, blamed the victims, and the Palestinians, and the world said nothing. Now Tony Blair comes out of the woodwork, and shows how indignant he is about these three kids (who no one really knows for sure where they are or what happened), and Tony “Iraq has WMDs” Blair has totally ignored these murders, and showing sympathy and outrage for the so called kidnapped kids. He even sympathizes with the parents of these kids, well and good, but he would be credible if he also reached out to the parents of the 2 Palestinian kids, who knows for sure, their kids will never return home alive. Oh Bibi is milking this for all it is worth, and demanding leaders “show” condemnation for this so called crime, when he himself NEVER condemned the killing of a Jordanian judge, or the 2 poor kids killed recently.
    Bibi is a stinking hypocrite, and he is maximizing this situation by minimizing the Palestinans, with military attacks, threats of retaliation, and arrests of every Palestinian man, that they may think is a threat to them. How convenient that Bibi has a poor memory (when it comes to Palestinian deaths), and that the Palestinians did not “retaliate” the way he is doing now, when they lost their kids.
    It is easy to see why the majority of the world dislikes Israel so much.

    • annie on June 17, 2014, 1:24 pm

      What a hue and cry about these 3 kidnapped kids, when Bibi did not even address the KILLING of the 2 Palestinians kids by his brutal armed forces. They initially lied about rubber bullets, blamed the victims, and the Palestinians, and the world said nothing. Now Tony Blair comes out of the woodwork, and shows how indignant he is about these three kids (who no one really knows for sure where they are or what happened), and Tony “Iraq has WMDs” Blair has totally ignored these murders, and showing sympathy and outrage for the so called kidnapped kids. He even sympathizes with the parents of these kids, well and good, but he would be credible if he also reached out to the parents of the 2 Palestinian kids, who knows for sure, their kids will never return home alive. Oh Bibi is milking this for all it is worth, and demanding leaders “show” condemnation for this so called crime, when he himself NEVER condemned the killing of a Jordanian judge, or the 2 poor kids killed recently.

      kay, just thought i’d point out your reference to the kids. it seems mj rosenberg woke up on the wrong side of the bed again. he’s written another post about how horrible mondoweiss is. and one of his big beefs? http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=855aabd7ccd7a77e987004677&id=8328b0abbb&e=4c25168940

      In this case, Mondoweiss (in particular its loony writer/editor Annie Robbins) and Ali Abunimah basically take the approach that the kids are just “settlers” (the term they use rather than say “kids” or “teens”) and therefore not innocent victims. Robbins doesn’t even believe they were kidnapped. “No confirmation,” she says.

      umm, actually i have not called the kids “settlers” even once. like you, i referenced them as “kids“, and once as “youths“, but not once did i even engage over the idea of them being “settlers”.

      also, as i stated yesterday: i don’t know who did it. i don’t even know (because there is no evidence) a kidnapping has been committed. what we have here is stuff being thrown against the wall, lots of speculation and very little fact in terms of the crime. lots of fact in terms of the fallout tho.

      i am reserving final judgement on whether a kidnapping has occurred til evidence (as opposed to allegation or speculation) is presented. of course, i very much hope whatever evidence is revealed is not of a similar nature as the crime the goi recently denied. i wonder if it occurs to mj rosenberg to write about the nakba day killings.

      either way, it seems he pulled this “settler” accusation towards me out of some hat. my archives are available for all to read. there’s just nothing there from me “basically” or otherwise taking “the approach that the kids are just “settlers” .

      are you listening mj, i’m beginning to think perhaps you’re obsessed with me.

      • Kay24 on June 17, 2014, 1:49 pm

        I am with you Annie, MJR seems to take the Israeli reaction, and operating under the assumption that this is a kidnapping, and it seems they are absolutely sure who is behind it. It think it is a miracle to come to that conclusions so far, and within hours. Israel accused the other side especially Hamas, for being responsible, and within hours started “retaliating” in the most inhumane ways. Unlike the brutal murders of the 2 Palestinian kids, when INDEPENDENT videos showed the poor kids being shot, and who the shooters were, there is absolutely no proof, video, or eye witnesses to collaborate Israel’s claims. I used to admire MJR’s writings, but he seems to have gone over to the dark side. Perhaps he really was there, but we did not see. I think it was unfair of him to accuse you of using the term “settler” when you did not, although if they came from the settlements, people have a right to refer to them as such.
        Nice of him to be so concerned, I wish he is just as concerned, when Palestinian kids are called terrorists, and taken from their beds in the middle of the night, and dumped into prisons!

      • Woody Tanaka on June 17, 2014, 2:10 pm

        “I used to admire MJR’s writings, but he seems to have gone over to the dark side.”

        He’s always been there; he’s always been a “liberal” Zionist. As such, he believes that the Jews had the right to take the land of the Palestinians by force and have the right to install and maintain a Jewish-nationalist government there. The rest: the torture, murders, and oppression of the Palestinans naturally and invariably flow from there, but the “liberal” Zionist wants to pretend otherwise because then he’d have to face the fact that he is support of an ethnosupremacist or ethno-religious Apartheid style of government, but only when it benefits his favored ethnic group. Sometimes they get tired of pretending and lash out at those who see with open eyes.

      • MHughes976 on June 17, 2014, 3:26 pm

        Well, annie, perhaps being called a ‘loony’ by some people is a proof of sanity, not to mention of the exemplary rationality and moral soundness that most of us here would attribute to you.

      • just on June 17, 2014, 4:01 pm

        Agreed MH976!

        I certainly would consider it a compliment coming from Rosenberg who is obviously still conflicted and fiercely wants to remain to relevant in “the conversation” .

        I’m with Woody on this as well.

        “Sometimes they get tired of pretending and lash out at those who see with open eyes.”

        What an awful place he must be in– pretending to straddle the fence. I’ve always wondered what “liberal zionist” means anyway! I learn more and more everyday. The two words don’t fit together at all. They are antithetical in the extreme, and any self- described one is delusional at best.

      • annie on June 17, 2014, 8:07 pm

        thanks for your support, and i should just get used to the idea he’s going to be doing this every month or whatever. sorry for highjacking the thread everyone.

  3. eljay on June 17, 2014, 1:51 pm

    >> MJR: Usually the writers at all three are pretty much the same: venomous on Israel and often Jews in general (otherwise known as “Zionists” or Jews who believe Israel should exist).

    1. Since when are “Jews in general” otherwise known as Zionists?
    2. The problem isn’t that Zionists believe Israel should exist – it’s that they believe a supremacist “Jewish State” should exist. Supremacism is always unjust and immoral, but Mr. Rosenberg seems to think that Jewish supremacism is acceptable.

    >> There is no justification for harming kids no matter what the cause. Never.

    I agree.

    • Woody Tanaka on June 17, 2014, 4:06 pm

      “1. Since when are “Jews in general” otherwise known as Zionists?”

      They’re not. The problem is that anti-anti-Zionists like Rosenberg are just convinced beyond measure that the opposition to Israel has little to do with what it does and how it treats the Palestinians but is simply antisemitism. But because that’s simply not true, they have to lie and misstate things and generally pretend that criticisms of specific people who happen to be Jewish are made because they’re Jewish. It’s all very twisted and sick.

  4. DICKERSON3870 on June 18, 2014, 1:31 am

    RE: “Either the sudden increase in time it takes to get through the checkpoint is unrelated to the kidnapping of the young boys or the people passing through the Qalandiya checkpoint were being collectively punished for the kidnapping of the young Israeli Jewish students, a crime of which they had no knowledge or involvement.” ~ Raff Piccolo

    MY COMMENT: Israel seldom misses an opportunity to seemingly over-react to security threats in a way that also just happens to enhance their social control over the Palestinians. In this case the arbitrary use of collective punishment can be used to reinforce the “maintained uncertainty”* that induces in the Palestinians a sense of “permanent temporariness”.
    The seemingly arbitrary use of collective punishment can also serve as an adverse stimulus (which the Palestinians cannot escape) to instill a sense of “learned helplessness” in Palestinian.**

    * FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
    . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .

    SOURCE – http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/alastair-crooke/permanent-
    temporariness

    ** FROM WIKIPEDIA [Learned helplessness]:

    [EXCERPT] Learned helplessness is the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[1] Organisms which have been ineffective and less sensitive in determining the consequences of their behavior are defined as having acquired learned helplessness.[2]
    The American psychologist Martin Seligman’s foundational experiments and theory of learned helplessness began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967, as an extension of his interest in depression. Quite by accident, Seligman and colleagues discovered that the conditioning of dogs led to outcomes that opposed the predictions of B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism, then a leading psychological theory.[3][4]

    Experiment
    Summary
    In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape.
    Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.
    Finally, when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus. . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

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