Spotlight highlights Checkpoint events characteristic of the policy of the occupation: the systematic repudiation of basic human rights in the occupied territories. For Palestinians, reality is a complicated tangle of problems (survival in the everyday, education, health, making a living…) that cannot be solved because the Israeli occupation is conducted by enforcing countless inhuman bans. The Spotlights rely on collections of relevant reports from the field.
"He that spareth his rod, hateth his son", Proverbs 13, 24
The sense of superiority that many Israeli soldiers have over the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories seems to them as God-given as Creation itself, and based on their being armed with weapons and arbitrary rules. They also seem to feel even morally superior to their subjects. The Occupation, ongoing for over forty years, and a reality in which the army controls every single detail of Palestinian life, fortified by the faith in the Jewish People's merits as "The Chosen People" over the other - the stranger, the Arab- makes those soldiers see the Palestinian as inferior, regardless of age, gender, social status or education. Hence, too, their ‘educational' mission. When they wish, they pontificate and scold, or punish, as if they were some parents concerned with the upbringing and disciplining of their wayward children.
A spectrum of ‘educational' punishments (accompanied by lectures) is exercised against Palestinians at the checkpoints: solitary detention for hours in the ‘hole' or ‘cell' (a concrete lockup, or side shed), sometimes with violent means - shackles, blindfolds.
From MW reports:
... A Palestinian UN vehicle is detained at the side of the road for 30 minutes because the soldiers claim its passengers were rude to them.
(Beit Iba, 20.10.08)
... Commander Arie grips a ‘leaker' (a Palestinian who bypasses the checkpoint or the waiting line and seeks a shortcut) who even tried to escape him, and as a punishment - forcibly twists his arm behind his back while leading him towards the concrete detention cell, giving him a body search that includes ‘helping him' splay his legs by kicking his shins, and finishes up the treatment with smashing him into the cell itself."
‘Educational' punitive measures are imposed as well on drivers who have parked their vehicles at the wrong spot, even if they did not know of the new instructions there. The punishment would already teach them.
From MW reports:
... We found three detainees being held in the cell. They said they were taxi drivers who had ‘misparked'. They're veteran drivers and this is the first time something like this happens to them. The commander said they'd be held for three hours and next time they'll remember the lesson and not stand where they're not supposed to... Our call to the army hotline confirmed this. The commander had chosen to act as an ‘educator'. Three hours in the hold would teach them not to be where the army decides they must not be. He, the commander, was even humane... He brought them a bottle of water. And announced again that they should wait there quietly and learn their lesson.
Armed with his rifle and authoritative face, the checkpoint commander struts around the compound under his charge: "The checkpoint is mine, I set the rules".
Or orders drivers not waiting in a straight line facing the checkpoint, or trying to pass each other impatiently and get ahead in line, to get back to the end of the line - seeing this as an educative punishment.
From MW reports:
One of the lanes (coming from Ramallah) is blocked with a red plastic barrier. This is an ‘educative' act, the drivers must line up on a single lane. A taxi driver is asked "Where did you come from, from this waiting line? You passed others up, didn't you? Right? Get back". The driver makes a U-turn and gets back to the end of the line. Another driver approaches: "Why did you pass others up?" The driver: "Everyone do that". The commander, snidely: ‘Everyone do, eh?' The other soldiers repeat the driver's grammatical error. One of them finally tells the driver: You don't say ‘everyone do', you should say ‘everyone does that'. The driver: "Okay, everyone does that." The commander: "And now go on, get back". The driver goes back. We saw five drivers making punitive U-turns.
Like parents sending their child off to solitary confinement in his room until he internalizes the lesson of his conduct and never again does what he is not supposed to do, soldiers punish Palestinians by curbing their freedom of movement until they ‘learn' not to be rude, not to lie, not to take over in line, not to push, not to forget their IDs, not to throw cigarette butts on the ground, not to litter, not to smile, not to answer... not, not, not... and again, not!"
From MW reports:
We attempted (loudly) to make the commander aware of the fact that the detainee is asking for water. He did not respond. Dorit took the initiative and entered the compound near the soldiers' post, holding a water bottle.
Dorit: Excuse me, would you please give this water to the detainee.
Soldier: Would you please scram? Right now! Out of my sight!
Dorit: I'm already out of it - just take this bottle and let him have a drink please.
Soldier: Do you realize he swore at me?
Dorit: I'm sorry about that, but would you please give him this water?
Soldier; He swore and spat - he does not deserve a drink of water. I didn't have a drink of water either.
Dorit: So have a drink of water first, and then give it to him please. He's thirsty.
Soldier: He's been there for three hours and he'll stay longer. Why did he swear at me? I am not giving him water and you get out of here.
Dorit: I'm getting out, I'll just give him this water first.
Soldier: He will not have a drink, I'm not giving him any. If this was a heat wave I'd let him have it, but it's not hot today and I'm not letting him. He'll end up having to go take a leak. Get out of here.
I get out and the detainee did not get a drink of water.
(Beit Furik, 6.11.08)
He told us his brother was detained because he argued with a soldier. When we addressed the soldiers we were told that he indeed hit a soldier and was therefore detained for two hours. His brother insisted that he did not hit the soldier but argued with him after being pushed by him.
Two hours later we reminded the commander that it was time to let the fellow out, which he did not hurry to do so we would not let up and finally he was released after being detained for two and a half hours.
During our vigil we witnessed another ‘educative punishment' by the soldiers: Taking a Palestinian off a bus for having thrown a cigarette box out the window. When we expressed our amazement, one of the soldiers answered: "In Tel Aviv, too, people are punished for littering out of a car".
Translation: Tal Haran