ProcedureThe term for the confiscation by the army of a Palestinian family's house; the family is allocated some small space, generally a room, but is denied almost all communication with the outside world.
Palestinians who live in the `seam' area (q.v.), i.e. west of the new `separation fence' and east of the Green Line, must obtain permits from the Civil Administration enabling them to go through the checkpoints into and out of the `seam' area. In other words, they need permits to continue living in their own homes. The permits are given for a limited time only and when they expire new application must be made. They are not automatically given to everyone who meets the necessary criteria and even those who have valid permits (q.v. tasrich – passage permit) can find themselves detained at the checkpoints from time to time. In legal terms their personal status – i.e. their citizenship, family status, claim to ownership of land etc. – is by no means clear-cut. Within this category of person are also included the spouses of Israeli citizens – they hold Palestinian ID cards yet are living in Israel. As we have already noted, the family reunification scheme has been suspended in the wake of deliberately slanted bureaucratic problems and, most recently, by a racist law passed by the Knesset.
The Hebrew acronym is shabahim, literally translated as `persons staying illegally'. People with Palestinian ID cards staying in Israel without having the proper permits. They are the victims of the arbitrary policies governing the issuing of permits and of the total suspension of the family reunification schemes. When an `illegal' is caught, he is required to complete and sign a lengthy personal questionnaire, all in Hebrew, in which he will be asked a great many detailed questions about his stay in Israel including, for example, the names of those who employed him and where he stayed overnight, etc. On a separate page, he will be asked to sign an undertaking not to repeat his `offence' and must also post a guarantee of several thousand shekels. Getting caught a second time will land the `illegal' in jail.In Abu-Dis, the Military Police turn a blind eye to those slipping through from the Palestinian side of the `separation wall' into Jerusalem, but they wait in ambush to catch the `illegals' on their way home again.
These, according to the soldiers, constitute the permanent hassle facing them at the checkpoints, and within the term are included journalists, photographers, Arab Knesset members, demonstrators, members of human rights organizations, and especially the women of MachsomWatch. In short, a leftie is anyone who wants to see and know about what's going on. `The lefties have destroyed the army!' proclaimed a sign that for months on end decorated the Huwwara checkpoint.
The use of the third person plural is always coupled with categorical statements: “They are all liars”; “They are all terrorists”. This is the justification for the army's tough stance vis-ֹ-vis the Palestinians. “They know” (and nevertheless they carry on doing whatever it is that is under discussion). This is the accepted formula used to explain particularly harsh behaviour by the army as, for example, the imposition of the `Stop all Life' order (q.v.), the destruction of homes, the confiscation of taxis, detention at checkpoints, etc. “They know” is the explanation offered for why there are no adequate public notices or announcements of the restrictions and prohibitions that change from day to day.
This is the term that the soldiers habitually use to describe the Palestinians. When one takes a mass of people, all in a hurry, all edgy and nervous, and has them walk towards the checking stations between concrete barriers or some other form of fencing, when they must then go through narrow, cramped turnstiles known, so cutely, in Hebrew as carousels q.v. which all too often become stalled with frightened people inside, and one then behaves very crudely towards them, detains them for hours on end in the heat or the cold and the rain, what, after all that, does one say of them? One dismisses them with scorn: “They're just like animals!” Just for the sake of comparison, take a look at the behaviour of the average Israeli driver when he finds that his parking spot has been usurped…
As the soldiers see it, a baby must provide a Palestinian with a wonderful cover-up for a Kalashnikov: “What have you got there, a baby or a Kalashnikov?” as one soldier is recorded as having said to an obviously pregnant woman.
Services It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of (mainly) young men whose names appear on GSS lists and who thus cannot be granted a magnetic card – the absolutely essential, though not necessarily sufficient, condition for receiving a permit to move around the territories, and in and out of Israel or the `seam area' (q.v.). On the face of it, this GSS list – from which death alone is usually the only release – is meant to filter out those regarded as dangerous. But in fact, any Palestinian with the means to appeal to Israel's High Court will generally find that even before his appeal is heard his name will be removed from the list, which surely indicates that there was no reason whatsoever for it to have been there from the outset.
A camera at a checkpoint is like a red rag to a bull. For over the soldiers there always looms the long shadow of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Since the camera can record violations of human rights, hence any photographic record is potentially threatening. Soldiers will usually try to justify their objections to photography by saying that the checkpoint is a `closed military area' and thus `secret' and that photography is therefore forbidden there. This is a patently absurd claim since thousands of Palestinians go through this `secret' place daily, sometimes – to their regret – even twice daily, and see everything that goes on there.
The Hebrew term for the turnstiles harks back to the children's playground… Palestinians negotiating the checkpoints must walk 'wahad, wahad' (one at a time) through the turnstile on their way to the other side. The turnstile's revolutions are remotely controlled by a soldier standing some ten metres away. In some checkpoints there are two turnstiles to be negotiated one after the other. Use of the turnstiles facilitates the limiting of contact between the soldiers and the `potentially hostile' population. The width of each wing of the turnstile is less than 60 centimetres (the turnstiles were specially made for the Palestinian population). This should be compared with the 80 centimetres and more that is the width of similar turnstiles in the State of Israel. Completely omitted from consideration here is the fact that people going through the checkpoints are often encumbered by suitcases and large packages, and some of them are stout, or are mothers carrying small children in their arms. The turnstiles frequently get stuck with people caught inside them. In such cases, the burning desire to get out of the checkpoint as fast as possible creates enormous pressure and crowding, tempers flare and patience quickly gets exhausted so that men and women, the elderly, babes in arms, children and the crippled are all crushed up against the metal bars and the turnstile becomes a cruel trap (q.v. 'animals').
Closure An all-encompassing prohibition on any movement from the territories into Israel. Closures are brought into operation at any time when there is any suspicion of some security danger of any sort: warning of terror activities, Jewish festivals and holidays, Moslem festivals and other special occasions as for example the death of Yasser Arafat. If one takes note of what the media have to say, then the closure ends far earlier than it does in reality at the checkpoints. “What do I care if that's where you live ? You're not going through, don't you understand. There's a closure on today. I don't know and I don't care until what time” – these were the words of a soldier talking to a Palestinian labourer who wanted to get to his home in the `seam area' after a day's work in the West Bank.
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”.
Debts for Fines Imposed on Palestinians
One of the difficulties Palestinians face is the fines imposed on them by Israeli authorities, which they can hardly afford. Such fines are for traffic violations and criminal court cases in addition to other kinds of punishment.
We must keep in mind that unemployment runs high in the Occupied Territories and income from work is extremely low. Fines and costs that would be considered “reasonable” inside Israel are practically unaffordable for a Palestinian.
This results in debtors being placed on the “police blacklist”, namely: people whom police debts prevent from entering Israel.
Machsomwatch members try to help these Palestinians arrange their debts optimally in order to avoid this absurd vicious circle: since they are not allowed into Israel to work, they cannot afford to even begin paying their debts, and since they cannot pay their debts, they cannot obtain permits to enter Israel for work purposes.
Because 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.
It's planned length is 680 kilometers, 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; farmland and wells vital to Palestinian farmers will have been seized; more and more people will have been robbed forever 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.
השרוול הוא מסלול סגור ומגודר המוביל אל ומן המחסום. אין אפשרות להיחלץ ממנו אלא בפתחי הכניסה והיציאה מן המחסום, הנשמרים בידי מאבטחים חמושים.
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.
The magic key that opens checkpoints and clears the way to travelling around the occupied territories, that provides at least some illusion of normal life. But there is a caveat to all this: every closure, or encirclement or curfew immediately renders the tasrih invalid. Even worse: a tasrih may be acceptable at one checkpoint and rejected at another, and any soldier can, on a whim, decide to invalidate the document. The body that issues the tasrih is the DCO (q.v.): “Why have you come to the checkpoint if you haven't got a tasrih”? the soldier asked. More than anything else that it may do, this permit underlines the fact that its bearer is not a free man: he is but one level higher than a slave and his fate hangs on the caprice and the mood of anyone in uniform.
Under international law and, in particular, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention dealing with the protection of the civilian population in time of war or under conquest, it is the occupying power that is responsible for the safety, security and general fabric of life of the civilian population within the occupied area. And all this in order to enable the civilian population to carry on as far as possible with its normal life, even when the occupying power is waging a struggle against terrorism. While Israel is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, it does not accept that the Convention's provisions are to be applied in the occupied territories for the simple reason that it does not define the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as `occupied territories'. But in order not to look too bad in the eyes of the world, it has set up a body called the Humanitarian Hotline which is in fact nothing more than a fig-leaf to cover up the absence of any humanitarian approach in its government of the territories. In practice, neither the Palestinians nor the soldiers are aware of the hotline's existence. Yet, for all that, it has to be said that in certain instances the hotline has been of help. But where this has been the case, what has happened is that everyday needs have had to be treated as `special cases' which were then dealt with under the guise of `humanitarian' action, as matters of mercy rather than of law.
AreaThis is a term that has certainly shrunk in the laundering: the reality is bounded by barbed-wire coils or by an eight-metre high concrete wall. What we are talking about is no broad area, but rather one in which the Palestinians are to be closely confined, locked in enclaves with limits marked by the Green Line and the new `separation fence' (q.v.) that has been built to its east. Within these enclaves are Palestinian villages and land now utterly cut off from the continuum of Palestinian life in the West Bank. Thus, for example, the seam area includes considerable stretches of Palestinian agricultural land whose owners live in the West Bank proper and now need special permits – not always available to them – in order for them to be able to work those lands or harvest their olive crops. At the same time, Palestinians who live in the seam area find themselves needing permits to leave and come back to their own homes (q.v. `illegals' in their own homes). There can be no doubt but that the existence of the `seam area' has seriously damaged the quality of everyday Palestinian life.
ProcedureThis is a much criticized procedure whereby ordinary Palestinian civilians – neighbours – are used to act as a human shield protecting the soldiers when, for example, it is deemed necessary to break into a Palestinian home. The Israeli High Court has condemned the practice but, whether because it has become a habit or because it is simply convenient, the `neighbour procedure' is still in use and has even been adopted at the checkpoints. We have observed it at the Beit Iba checkpoints, but it is apparently also used at others, too: The soldiers, fed up with running around on the hillside in pursuit of those who try to evade the checkpoint, pick out one of the detainees (q.v.) – whose ID card they have tucked away for safe keeping in someone's pocket – and order him to take off into the hills and locate and catch the `leakers' (q.v.) and bring them in to the checkpoint. And what happens if the young man takes off into the hills and decides not to turn in his friends, his neighbours, his classmates, and instead leaves them alone to evade the checkpoint as best they can? Don't worry, the Israeli army is not made up of idiots. High up in his observation tower there's a soldier armed with a special pair of field glasses through which he can see all the `leakers'. But why should he run around after them? Let the Arab chap do it for him. The chosen detainee may not know for sure that there's a soldier in the look-out tower, but he does know that if he doesn't do what's wanted of him, his ID number will remain hidden there, deep down in the GSS files, and with it he will have buried his livelihood, the welfare of his family, his studies, his health. One can but speculate on what damage this vicious practice does to the in-any-case fragile fabric of Palestinian society.
The system by which goods are transferred from trucks approaching from one side of the checkpoint to trucks taking them onward from the other side. This system, too, is in use for the transfer of the sick from one ambulance to another. At almost all the checkpoints, those using them must walk a considerable distance from the vehicle in which they arrive at the checkpoint to another vehicle which carries them on the next leg of their journeys. This is particularly difficult for the sick, the elderly and people accompanied by several children. The term `back-to-back' gives no indication whatsoever of the extent of the suffering and injustice involved.