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.
Where Has the ‘Green Line' Gone? Where Have All the Red Lines Gone?
The ‘Green Line' is the ceasefire boundary between the State of Israel and its neighbor states, as established in the 1949 treaties signed at the end of Israel's War of Independence. The ‘Green Line' has been recognized by the international community as the state's border. Since the 1967 ‘Six Days War', the ‘Green Line' has been systematically erased from the maps and the borders of the state blurred in its citizens' consciousness.
What do Israeli soldiers know about this, those who were born and raised inside the well-oiled Occupation machine? What do their direct and indirect commanders teach them? Is the military system really interested in offering such knowledge to its soldiers? Or perhaps it is more comfortable perpetuating ignorance in order to hold off any independent thinking and difficult questions on their part?
The ignorance shown by some of the soldiers regarding both the ‘Green Line' and the more and less distant history of the State of Israel appears to intensify their abuse of and violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. As far as many Israeli soldiers are concerned, the Palestinians inhabit Israeli state-lands after having stolen them. Hence, these soldiers feel ‘entitled' to cross all the red lines of proper human conduct in order to defend the borders of their homeland, as it were.
Some soldiers sanctify the borders stipulated by the bible; some do not differentiate between the terms ‘The Land of Israel' and ‘The State of Israel'. This blurring also typifies the information available to officers and soldiers regarding Area A and Area B, designated by the Oslo Accords as under the security jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, respectively: official road signs placed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the heart of Area B (area under Israeli military control), forbidding entry of Israeli citizens, deliver false and deceptive information - as if this were Area A (supposedly under Palestinian security and civil control). They perpetuate the ignorance of commanders and soldiers on the ground, who rely on these signs and do not bother to inform themselves of the facts that appear in official maps.
From MW reports:
... At the end of our shift, a woman-sergeant approached us, wanting to talk. It was a conversation, not an argument. Naturally she delivered the phrases she hears from her commanders, but also attended to what we had to say. I asked her if she knew where she was, for she kept speaking of Palestinians crossing over into Israel. She explained: ‘This side is blue (Israel), here it's red (Palestine)...' - this is how the army avoids the need to use definitions such as the State of Israel, the ‘Green Line', border, Israeli territory, Palestinian territory, let alone that forbidden word, ‘Occupation'.
I've already heard these expressions used by soldiers before. How simple and easy - there's a blue area and a red area and people happen to be there, but this is totally insignificant. There happen to be occupiers and occupied, too, but so what?
One needn't always bring politics into everything. A game of colors. Clean, neutral and elegant. (Azzun Atme, 25.9.08)
Michael had a conversation with two Golani infantrymen at a checkpoint, and explained his view that the Israeli army has no business being in Hebron.
Soldier A.: Why not?
Michael: Because Hebron is not in Israel.
Soldier A.: Hebron is not in Israel?
Soldier B.: That's right. Hebron is not in Israel. Ariel is in Israel.
... 11.20 Dora Al Fawar. On the road climbing up towards Dora, at the taxi stop, we detect an army jeep. We chose to stop and see what was happening. A moment after we stopped a soldier arrives, demanding we leave the spot and situate ourselves in the junction itself (some 100 meters down the hill). Without reacting or speaking to him, we simply disembark to stand right there. He demands we split, since we are in Area A (Palestine). I suggest: perhaps we should check the maps and see where exactly Area A starts?
The soldier: Perhaps I kick you in the face?
... Arriving at Huwwara checkpoint, we encounter three young women-soldiers who came to visit, from brigade headquarters. They wanted to speak with us. To find out where we come here, what's the story. We explained. One of them, looking younger and more innocent, even, then the others, asked with deep conviction how we suggest to prevent THE DANGER without checkpoints. It took time until she admitted the danger simply meant Arabs, and as for the claim to the land, after all ‘The land was really given to us by the God of Israel so there's nothing to discuss and no one to discuss it with, and besides, even if we're not religious, after all in 1967 we conquered all of this, so it's ours, isn't it?" (Huwwara, 28.9.08)
... All the soldiers with their heavy gear are already lying around on the sidewalks, by the houses in the area. They welcome us with cheers and applause for the "traitor-women". Did you bring cameras? Write something about us for the press. They're glad to be done with Hebron today (all their gear is right there beside them) and none of them are wearing bullet-proof vests. A single soldier is deep in prayer. In the checking line there are quite a few children and the inspections are slow, as if who cares whether the children will be late for school. After a minimal verbal exchange, we realize there's no one to talk to.
"This here is the State of Israel... the lives of Palestinians are worthless... I defend only Jews..." said the platoon commander.
(Tel Rumeida, 7.10.08)
Translated by Tal Haran