No, it cannot be assumed that all soldiers at checkpoints always behave the way those stationed recently at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus do. Other soldiers do not necessarily speak as rudely to the hundreds of people waiting in the cold and the rain to cross from one side to the other at the checkpoint the Israel Defense Forces placed on their own land in the heart of the West Bank.
To the person who says "people are dying here," in an attempt to make clear that closing the crossing hurts the sick, they do not all answer, "Go ahead and die, and take your bags with you." They do not all push them with their rifles, as was documented by Machsom Watch in a report published here. They certainly do not all name a stray dog that frightens those standing behind metal turnstiles that turn and jam, "Mohammed." They may think it, but they do not announce over the loudspeaker while closing the crossing four hours before the declared time, "Remember, this land belongs entirely to the Jewish people and not to anyone else."
The women of Machsom Watch, who for five years have been monitoring the checkpoints and who have witnessed varying degrees of rudeness and abuse by soldiers, felt the need to make public a detailed report of the soldiers' behavior witnessed by some of them during their afternoon watch. They also sent the report to the GOC Central Command, Yair Naveh, who ordered an investigation due to the seriousness of the incidents described.
However the rude, indifferent or polite behavior of soldiers is merely a by-product of the basic state of affairs. For five years the IDF has limited to the minimum the freedom of movement of Palestinians on their land, in the occupied West Bank. This is accomplished by a combination of dozens of checkpoints, roads closed to Palestinians, hundreds of roadblocks and locked gates that have divided the West Bank into enclaves, or "territorial cells" in military jargon.
In many cases, entry to these cells is prohibited to those who do not live there. The IDF has made sure every territorial cell has only one or two entrances, depending on its size, on "security alerts" and on the number of settlements and outposts in the area. At every entrance is a military post and a roadblock of some kind, at which soldiers may detain those wanting to cross for an unlimited amount of time. No other Israeli political-security tool can match the severity and impact on geopolitical-economic change that Israel has wrought in the West Bank like these territorial cells, which Israel has turned into a fact on the ground thanks to lack of interest on the part of the Israeli public and the world.
Each territorial cell is surrounded, like an ocean, by Area C. That is a category Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat agreed on when they signed the Taba agreement in 1995 - an area in which Israel has full civilian and military control. The Palestinians innocently believed at the time that this was temporary, and that all of Area C (except for the constructed areas of settlements) would become Area A (full Palestinian control) by May 1999.
In September 2000, Area C comprised 60 percent of the West Bank. Many Israelis do not consider this area occupied, but at most "disputed" as a bargaining chip over which the stronger side would win.
Many IDF commanders may be convinced when they set up checkpoints in the heart of the occupied West Bank and prevent the occupied from making a living, visiting family, or obtaining medical care, that everything is truly "for security." The security of the home front, the security of the outposts, the security of the illegal settlements and the security of the occupying force.
They may truly believe that when they prevent 800,000 people from traveling further south than the Tul Karm-Nablus line for more than a month as part of measure named "differentiation," and since August have closed the main roads to them, they are utilizing a legitimate tool of the ruler. Perhaps the Nablus Brigade commander who ordered the closing of the Hawara roadblock at 6 P.M. instead of 11 P.M. is convinced it was necessary for security. As his soldiers who name a stray dog Mohammed are convinced of their patriotism and Zionist sentiment.
But the closing of roads to Palestinians and the creation of choked-off enclaves also dovetails Israel's plan to force a political solution on the Palestinians, by which their state will be composed of "territorial cells" connected somehow or other by roads and surrounded by a wide sea of settlement blocs, Jewish territorial contiguity and roads for Jews only.
People will always remember the headline "92 percent of the West Bank" that Sharon or Barak supposedly considered "giving" the Palestinians. People will always be tired of hearing the stickling, irritating details of the methods by which Israel, using some security pretext or other, is consistently crumbling the Palestinian people into communities cut off from each other, on their own land. The voice of the soldier over the loudspeaker saying, "This land belongs only to the Jewish people" aptly echoes the policy he is carrying out.
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