Clarissa O'Conor | Violence that doesn’t make the news
From Palestine to Penn | How Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement are overlooked
October 7, 2013, 6:36 pm · Updated October 7, 2013, 11:14 pm·
From Palestine to Penn
I have plans to meet up with a friend in Jerusalem and climb onto the bus. It takes about 30 minutes to travel from Beit Lahm (Bethlehem) to Jerusalem, depending on traffic. We pull away from the sidewalk to make our way up and down the hills of Beit Jala until we reach an overlook with a busy highway below.
This is Israel’s Route 60, the main north-south highway for the use of Jewish Israeli settlers living in colonies built illegally throughout the West Bank.
Route 60 is known as a bypass road, and access to it is restricted for most Palestinians. Palestinians wishing to travel north to south or vice versa must use other roads. In some places along the route, you can even see giant yellow gates at the entrances to Palestinian communities put in place by Israel to block their access to this road.
We wind our way down Route 60 until we reach what looks like a high tech toll booth. Most cars whiz through, but our bus pulls off to the side. This is not a toll booth. This is a checkpoint. Younger Palestinians climb off the bus, blue Israeli-issued IDs in their hands, and line up alongside the bus. Older passengers and internationals are allowed to stay on the bus.
Two Israeli Occupation Forces soldiers climb onto the bus with machine guns strapped to them. They walk up the aisles, checking IDs and passports along the way. Once this is complete, the younger Palestinians line up outside to present their identity documents for the soldiers’ inspection as they climb back on the bus.
In this colonized land, only Palestinians who have special Israeli-issued Jerusalem IDs can travel freely into Jerusalem. All other Palestinians cannot travel to this city — a city with incredible religious and cultural significance — unless they apply to Israel for a special permit, which is rarely granted.
Some of my Palestinian friends and peers have applied multiple times for a permit to travel to Jerusalem, only to have Israel deny them multiple times. My friend Feryal Yaish, a student at Al Quds Bard, told me, “After being denied entrance into [Jerusalem] for the third time, my hopes to see the holy city wither away to nothing. The fact that I need permission to visit a part [of] my homeland is irritating enough, but being denied entrance had fire race through me.”
I witness similar restrictions in my day-to-day life as well. On the way from Beit Lahm to Al Quds University in Abu Dis, my classmates and I pass through a “soft checkpoint” manned by Israeli Occupation Forces soldiers. This is known as the “Container” checkpoint because it used to have a shipping container that Palestinians had to file through to show their identification documents to the soldiers. This checkpoint should be considered anything but soft.
Palestinians passing through the Container on their way to school, to work or back home must be prepared to show their identification documents at any time should the Israeli Occupation soldiers decide to stop and search the vehicle — probable cause is not a requirement. When Israel does stop cars, it is usually at night, under the cover of darkness.
Just three weeks ago, on Sept. 15 at the Container checkpoint, Israeli Occupation soldiers arrested Palestinian human rights attorney Anas Barghouti without charge. After being held for 10 days in an Israeli military prison, he was charged with participating in political activities. Palestinians, for whom Israel has an entirely different military and legal system, are legally excluded from political activity. Barghouti is still being held and is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Restriction of movement is a form of violence that Israel commits against Palestinians. This violence rarely makes the news, unlike a shooting or a stabbing, but it happens all the time, every single day.
Israel’s system is certainly not unique in history, and history does not look kindly on such systems. History will surely not look kindly on this one. We condemn the system for basing freedom of movement on the ethnicity listed on one’s identity document that existed during apartheid South Africa. Why do we accept it today?
Clarissa O’Conor is a College junior from Lititz, Pa., who is studying abroad in Palestine this fall. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. View her tumblr here. “From Palestine to Penn” appears every other Tuesday.