Checkpoint Behavior

The soldiers can study appropriate behavior at dozens of seminars, but their objective will not change: to ensure the regime of excessive rights for the Jews.

Israel Defense Forces officers were among the first to understand the moral danger involved in checkpoints, way before the general public in Israel was prepared to hear about rude or even abusive behavior on the part of the soldiers. Those in the field reported that there were instances of so-called checks that took hours, threats, bullying of women, slaps in the face, confiscation of books and CDs, gas grenades thrown into waiting cars, slashing tires, breaking car windows and shooting for purposes of intimidation and deterence. This type of behavior is not necessary from the point of view of security; on the contrary, it simply fuels the feelings of vengeance that the Palestinians have.

That is why the officers decided to introduce seminars on how to behave at the checkpoints. They even praise the work of the women who take part in "Machsom Watch." But as a result, there are those who delude themselves that, if there is correct education, it will be possible to make the checkpoints humane.

This is the same type of illusion as that held by those who in the 1970s believed that the settlements in the territories were indeed set up for security purposes. Those who delude themselves today like to forget that the checkpoints are not located on the border of a sovereign state, but rather deep in the occupied territory of the West Bank. How much military manpower - which would be able to protect the civilian hinterland much better from the actual border - is required for these roadblocks? Those who prefer to delude themselves that a checkpoint can be humane ignore its role in maintaining the settlement enterprise.

There are checkpoints where the soldiers are particularly polite, for example at Beit El. That is where the diplomats and the various Palestinian dignitaries, the ambulance teams and the journalists, pass through in their vehicles. The delays there are relatively rare. Perhaps it is the sight of the polished cars and the diplomatic passes that arouses feelings of respect on the part of the soldiers, unlike the feeling generated by standing opposite a sweating, unruly and dusty crowd of people.

This checkpoint - through which "regular" Palestinians like the thousands of residents of the nearby villages cannot pass - is meant to ensure the wellbeing of the settlers of Beit El, Ofra and Psagot and the outposts of Givat Assaf and Migron. It is also meant to ensure the ability of the government offices to continue expanding the settlements to create Jewish territorial contiguity in the West Bank. That is the task of all the checkpoints deep inside the West bank.

On the other hand, Qalandiyah is a roadblock designed to anchor, in peoples' consciousness and on the ground, the annexation to Israel of a large area east of the Green Line. Stuck between a-Ram, a densely populated Palestinian suburb and the villages to its west, and the area of Ramallah, it creates two isolated Bantustans. Other roadblocks of annexation that are located a distance from the Green Line - and become fixed in consciousness as "a border line" - were set up, for example, east of the Triangle town of Taibe, south of Qalqilyah at the the "fruit junction," on the Givat Ze'ev-Modi'in road (the Harbata roadblock) or at Houssan (to serve Upper Betar).

The soldiers can study appropriate behavior at dozens of seminars, but their objective will not change: to ensure the regime of excessive rights for the Jews - basically the sole right of the Jews to move from Tel Aviv and to live in the West Bank while the Palestinians are not permitted to move and live in Tel Aviv.

In order to challenge the immoral principles of this reality, the soldiers have to deal with the conventions, explanations and excuses of Israeli society.

This is a difficult task for 50-year-olds, so why should it be possible for those who were born 17 years after the occupation of the territories? If the soldiers were to treat those passing through the roadblocks like equal human beings, they might be forced to ask questions about their own service.

In a society where to be "nuts about the army" is a positive phrase, only a handful dare to translate the moral questions into refusal that entails imprisonment. Numerous others avoid service in less publicized ways. The majority, who continue to serve at the raodblocks, young and old, can not help but internalize the psychology of superiority of the regime of excessive rights. In other words, they consider the thousands of Palestinians who pass by as being entitled to less than the Jews, that is to say, as being inferior - and therefore the address for all types of degradation.