This is the term applied to young men – the age-range affected is varied from time to time – held at the checkpoints while the danger they pose is checked out. Even if the young men have magnetic cards or permits, the checkpoint soldier will take their ID cards from them and relay their numbers to the GSS, and meanwhile send the young people to the detention area. The check lasts anywhere from half an hour to three hours or more, and this in addition to the time the detainees will have spent standing on line before they reached the soldier at the checking station. Detention also serves as an `educational punishment' to be imposed at the whim of the soldier on duty. It should be stressed that, in the vast majority of cases, the detainees are set free to go on their way, without any action being taken against them, at the end of the GSS check.Who is detained? The `leakers' (q.v.) caught in the hills as they attempt to evade the checkpoint any young man who has dared to talk back to a soldier, or look at him in a way that seems like `cheek', taxi drivers who have crossed the `virtual' line beyond which they may not park (see under `sterile'), foreign nationals who want to visit relatives in the territories, `liars' whose accounts of themselves do not ring true in the ears of the soldiers: in short anyone at all can easily find himself in the detention area. Here he will waste half a day or so, whiling away his time on the broken benches, or squatting on the filthy, wet concrete floor. Close by are the stinking latrines, open and with no sewage pipes. If the detainees complain or plead, they are met with orders: “No sitting down!” “No smoking!” or other variants of `security' orders. Women too, it should be noted, are subject to detention, but are only seldom detained.
A body charged with overseeing civilian life in the territories. The DCO is the all-powerful bureaucratic arm of the occupation and, far from sight, it behaves with a violence that is cruel and sophisticated. It occupies a position of absolute power and its authority increases in direct proportion to the extent of its arbitrary behaviour. The DCO is charged with issuing passage permits that let people move around and yet other permits to work or enter Israel. Only if they have such permits (and then only after overcoming certain other difficulties) can Palestinians contrive to leave their own homes and move around the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, get work, stay in touch with their families, get to university, or hospital etc.
Whereas a `closure' (q.v.) imposed on the territories prevents Palestinians from coming into Israel, `encirclement' totally closes off every town and village there – nobody comes in, and nobody leaves. And to make all this more effective, the army destroys approach roads to the villages, or renders them impassable with huge cement blocks, deep ditches and high mounds of earth. Necessity means that alternative routes are developed, roads so full of potholes as to wreck the Palestinians' cars – but worse than this: to create deep hatred and a sense of all-pervading frustration. As one checkpoint commander put it: “They know there's an encirclement, so it's better if they all stay at home”.
GatesBecause the `separation fence' follows such an absurd route, it has been necessary to install a number of gates that let children go to their schools and permit farmers access to their fields (q.v. `seam area'). In actual practice, it is the army that controls these gates and opens and closes them as it sees fit. Thus, for example, during the olive harvest, it is the army which determines the hours when the gates will open and close and thus exactly how long the olive-harvest season can last. In many areas, the Palestinians have simply been forbidden to work their lands at any point in the year, a prohibition whose effect is already visible in the run-down state of the olive groves.
Those caught evading the checkpoints by walking over the hillsides (and thus sparing themselves the checkpoint detentions, harassment, and sheer daily waste of time) are called `drippers' or `leakers'. Punishment for this `offence' is several hours of detention at the checkpoint.
It looks like an expression of affection, but let no one be deceived: it is an expression of unassailable control and superiority. The checkpoints are the most frequently encountered instruments of control throughout the territories, so common are they that they seem to have penetrated into the very bloodstream of the soldiers, so that this is how the commander of a checkpoint will refer to it: “This is my checkpoint and you're not going to tell me how to do my job”.
NinjaTraditionally robed Palestinian women whose faces are almost completely veiled. These women are asked to remove their veils for security or `educational' reasons: “Come on Ninja, let's have a look at you, take it off!”
There are some 60 permanent checkpoints scattered throughout the occupied territories, of which only nineteen control entry to Israel. There are in addition 600 to 700 permanent or mobile road-blocks and barriers of various sorts (the numbers are taken from the B'Tselem report of August 2004). The aim of the checkpoints is to isolate villages one from another, to sever them from the urban centres which serve them, to cut off villages from the main roads that run past them, and to keep children at a remove from their schools. Almost every time a Palestinian steps out of his home he will have to go through a checkpoint. The imposition and removal of checkpoints are major cards in a hypocritical game, whose rules dictate that when some American VIPs are due in the area, or when the time has come to announce concessions towards or some rapprochement with the Palestinians, then the army will proclaim that it has removed such and such checkpoints (it usually speaks of tens ), and it will be MachsomWatch alone that tracks these pronouncements and points to their falsity.
PotentialsAnother category of those who appear on the list of persons `blackballed by the GSS' (q.v.). Potentials are family members, neighbours or friends of anyone suspected of involvement in terrorist activity or who was killed by the army. Such people are seen as having sufficient motivation to take vengeance. Hence, they too find themselves on the endless GSS blacklist. Potentials are twice-punished persons: they are on the dreaded list and they have also lost someone dear to them. This is a term that shows just how well the army itself understands that the occupation creates enmity and the ever-increasing possibility that yet more people will turn to terror acts.
Stopping and examining the documents of pedestrians and taxi passengers at the checkpoints in a random manner. How do they know whom to stop? “Just leave it to us. We know exactly whom to stop.” Clearly the claims of security can play no role here, for if indeed security was the issue, then surely everyone should be checked.
Of all the injustices associated with the occupation, the fence is the most blatant and the most costly. Its planned length is 680 kilometres, and its estimated cost is close to 1.5 billion US Dollars. The International Court of Justice at The Hague has branded it a `war crime'. More than anything else it embodies Israel's obsession with restricting the Palestinians' freedom of movement, with annexing more and more territory, and above all with ensuring that we `keep the Arabs out of our sight'. For, have we not always been taught that: “Out of sight, out of mind”?Is there any security justification for the fence? Before its efficacy can be proven, we shall have had to pay its full monetary cost; we shall have uprooted tens of thousands of olive trees; hundreds of acres of cultivated land will have been laid waste; farm land and wells vital to Palestinian farmers will have been seized; more and more people will have been robbed for ever of the right to freedom of movement; and we ourselves will become the target of more and more international condemnation. Ehud Barak (former chief-of-staff and prime minister) once said: “We are here and they are there”. But the facts give the lie to this claim: long sections of the fence do not divide between `here' and `there', but rather between the various members and generations of Palestinian families, between Palestinian farmers and their land, between Palestinian children and their schools, etcetera (q.v. `seam area').The `separation fence' may, in the short term, lessen the number of terrorist incidents. But has anyone weighed these possible benefits against the certain damage this fence will inflict? Has anyone taken account of the depth of hatred being stirred up by this fence? Can there be any doubt but that it distances us further than ever from any possibility of a lasting peace with the Palestinians? Let's not lose sight of the fact that the fence doesn't just imprison the Palestinians in cramped enclaves, it confines Israel too within a ghetto: in other words, it condemns us to remain nothing but an isolated bubble, it ensures that we will never become integrated into the Middle East.
SterileA racist term that helps minimise contact with a population that is potentially terrorist. There are no Arabs in a `sterile' area. The area of a checkpoint between the turnstiles (the innocuous Hebrew term is `carousels') (q.v.) and the checking-stations of the soldiers must be Arab-free. `Sterile' roads, (sometimes termed `apartheid' roads), are free of Arab vehicles. In Hebron there is what is known as a `purified road'. Recently, the term has widened to include (or, rather, exclude) another category: a sterile area is thus one that is free of MachsomWatch women.