By Tamar Fleishman
‘This is what’s on the agenda now at Qalandiya’, a Palestinian man rightly said. For over two weeks the place has been burning.
On the week of the 12th anniversary of the start of the El-Aqsa Intifada, on the day of the murder of the child Muhammad A-Dura, during the days that mark the October 2000 Events, the situation at Qalandiya seems to be on the verge of explosion.
I talked about the symbolism of these dates with a friend that in a comradely gesture offered me help by handing a cloth soaked with alcohol, so as to ease the burning sensation from the gas fumes. He said he thought the youngsters weren’t aware of this coincidence. I don’t know, but I saw their faces and they were raging and their body language spoke of determination and they acted with defiance when throwing stones at the checkpoint which is the symbol of occupation.
The teenagers were no longer afraid of being hunted down in the middle of the night and didn’t cover their faces.
In what other manner can a person who doesn’t hold his own future in his hands be frightened off, a person whose rights had been trampled on and who had his freedom taken away? They know that the cameras document everyone and every movement, and know that the nightly hunters might today or tomorrow or on some other unexpected occasion, burst the door of their houses open and take them to prison.
On the opposite side of these teenagers a military force came out of the checkpoint. At first two, after whom came many, wearing helmets, protected by vests and armed with rifles, stun grenades and gas grenades. A female soldier led the force and was the first to shoot.
The gas fumes had an indiscriminating effect on all those who had arrived at the place on that afternoon; hundreds of vehicles couldn’t drive on and were stuck there.
A man whose young children that sat inside the vehicle were wheezing and coughing , got out with anger, approached an officer to complain that the gas was being aimed at people who weren’t involved.
I couldn’t hear the conversation, but I saw the officer stretching his arm, grabbing the man’s shoulder, pushing him away and turning his back to him.
And again the peddlers hurried to close their businesses and disappear from the fire line of stones and grenades, and again people hurried to cross the danger zone while squatting and clinging to the wall, and a female soldier with a rifle stood inside a niche in the wall, a sniper’s post, and making sure that none of the teenager sneak up and come from behind the shooters.
And as though in a parallel universe, the checkpoint made an effort to maintain the usual bad routine. An ambulance from Jenin was transferring a thirteen year old girl with leukemia who had to be put inside an ambulance from East Jerusalem for treatment at Augusta Victoria hospital. And the policeman at the checkpoint was angry at the sight of my camera, and the person driving the ambulance from the occupied territories tried to calm him down by saying: "Mr. officer, we don’t mind having our pictures taken…"- "You, be quiet!" was the answer.
And one of the cab drivers said that in the morning at Hizme checkpoint (a checkpoint that is meant to serve the settlers and only Palestinians are inspected there and residents of east Jerusalem are the only ones allowed to pass through it), a border policeman demanded that all the passengers, all Palestinians of course, get out of the vehicles for inspections. One of the passengers had a broken leg and asked to stay in the cab. The BP man insisted that she step outside with the others. The cab driver tried pleading with him, but as punishment for this attempt he was detained for three hours by the side of the checkpoint: "I don’t even know her, I just tried to explain to him, so he might take pity, so he understand she was in pain…" he completed his story.
In the occupied territories the rules and laws aren’t determined by justice but by force alone.
(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)
-As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.