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Reduced to a number – robbing Palestinians of their humanity

25th September 2016 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Hebron, occupied Palestine

Palestinians in the closed military zone in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) are reduced to a mere number. Imagine ‘loosing’ your identity to a foreign occupying army not only taking your land, but attempting to take your personality, your identity, your whole existence; reducing you to a simple number on a piece of paper, stripping you of your humanity.

This is everyday reality for Palestinians in the area declared a ‘closed military zone’ by the Israeli forces, an area that has just recently been expanded and now covers all of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood and the tiny piece of Shuhada Street that has not yet fallen prey to Israeli attempts of continuous illegal annexation. At Shuhada checkpoint, the main checkpoint leading from the H1-area supposedly under full Palestinian control into this ‘closed military zone’, Palestinians are subjected to the all too common Israeli forces’ humiliation, delays, and ‘security-checks’. At any of the checkpoints leading into the ‘closed military zone’, all Palestinians are reduced to a mere number on a list of ID-numbers and names.

Any sign of humanity – erased with the humanity of the Palestinians, who are not persons, but just another number on a long list of numbers. At any of the checkpoints leading into the ‘closed military zone’, Palestinians are one of those numbers – and without a number, they’re nothing. It’s as simple as that, with a number, registered with a foreign occupying army as a resident in your own home, your own neighborhood, you can make it through the checkpoint. Being a number, you might – and only might, as soldiers at the checkpoint can virtually do whatever they want with complete impunity – be allowed to go to your own home.

But being without even a number, not having one’s existence reduced to this mere number on a list, a Palestinian is nothing, nothing. You’re either reduced to a number, or you’re not, not at all. You don’t exist, you don’t have the ‘right’ to go to your home, a ‘right’ being something that the occupying army is almost priding themselves for giving you, for being so nice to even permit a Palestinian to become this mere number on a list. As a number, you might be allowed to go home, to bring your shopping through the checkpoint to your house, as a child to ride your bicycle and eventually be allowed to pass the checkpoint with it. A number might be allowed to pass the checkpoint to go to school or back home after school finishes, to reach their home when their sick, or be carried out of the checkpoint in medical emergencies, as ambulances are not allowed on the ‘settler-only’-road.

A number is ‘privileged’ by the Israeli occupying army to do all these things, to be granted the slightest possible pieces even of the most basic human rights. But a nothing, a no-one, someone that didn’t make it on the list? A father visiting his son and grandchildren. A daughter visiting her sick mother. Siblings coming to congratulate for a birthday or new-born baby, to celebrate a new family member, a family birthday, an important holiday, that traditionally is celebrated with the extended family. A nothing is no-one, nothing is allowed, nothing is possible.

A nothing will be denied at the checkpoint by soldiers ‘just following orders’, soldiers who, if hearing the slightest doubt due to their inhumane, racist and apartheid actions, will refuse that they’re political. In a situation where a soldiers mere presence as the occupying army at a checkpoint denying Palestinians the right to reach their homes or loved ones is a political statement. A statement of support of the apartheid and racist regime that calls itself the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’. Soldiers would defend the action of only checking and numbering Palestinian residents with ‘Israelis don’t pass from this checkpoint’ – openly admitting their racist and apartheid actions, but choosing to defend them as ‘just following orders’. Actions that any human being must recognized are non-defendable, non-excusable – and solely, openly and deliberately aimed at annihilating the existence of a people.

Anyone defending these kind of actions, of reducing a group of Persons to numbers on a list, and trampeling the mere existence of the one’s not dehumanized and humiliated like this, with their feet making them nothing, denying their whole existence; can not hide behind a uniform or orders, or excuse their behaviour. Reducing people, persons with wishes and hopes, dreams and fears, to a number, robbing them of their identity and personality – their humanity – to mere numbers on a list, or even a nothing, a no-one.