31st January 2017 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Hebron, occupied Palestine
There are 17 permanent checkpoints in the H2 area under full Israeli military control in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), manned by Israeli forces and impeding Palestinian freedom of movement. The official rhetoric of the Israeli government is that these checkpoints serve ‘security purposes’.
In total contrast to this ‘security rationale’, Israeli forces within al-Khalil have often illustrated how the checkpoints rather serve the purpose of humiliating the civilian Palestinian population and dictating their movement. Whereas most of the checkpoints are theoretically in operation 24hrs a day, a checkpoint near Ibrahimi Mosque is closed every evening around 9 – effectively imposing a nightly curfew on the Palestinian population in this area; in order to circumvent the checkpoint, Palestinians would have to take a half-hour long, extremely hilly detour.
Over the last few weeks, soldiers at Shuhada checkpoint have been observed twice sleeping inside the checkpoint. On 12th January 2017 Israeli forces were fast asleep in the checkpoint, thus effectively shutting down any kind of movement for Palestinians, who were stuck outside the turnstile as they waited for the soldiers to wake up and manually open it for every single person. On January 30th, one of the two soldiers supposedly ‘working’ in the checkpoint was asleep again. Both of the soldiers were sitting behind the bullet proof glass, with one of them obviously asleep, in plain sight of anyone crossing the checkpoint. When asked in surprise, if the soldier is sleeping, the soldier that was awake just shrugged his shoulders.
The official rationale of ‘security reasons’ for the implementation of this checkpoint-regime seems pointless. If soldiers are asleep at checkpoints, unaware of their surroundings, how are they really maintaining security? Instead, the checkpoints serve the purpose of fragmentation and humiliation. They lead to the fragmentation of Palestinian civilian neighborhoods: dividing neighborhoods in the same city from each other by fenced off checkpoints, separating families from work, schools, medical care, basic necessities such as cooking gas or a pack of rice. Additionally, the checkpoints perpetuate the all to common humiliation of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli forces; they force Palestinian men to take off their belts ‘for security reasons’ when they pass through the metal detector at the checkpoint – the soldiers clearly know that the belt is setting of the metal detector and even say so – but force everyone to take it off anyways, merely to humiliate innocent people. The long lines in the rain, where Palestinians are forced by the Israeli forces to ‘wait’ to be allowed to pass the checkpoint without reason destroys their sense of worth and dignity. They often have to stand in the pouring rain with no shelter indefinitely. In this system of humiliation, even a less than a month old baby is a ‘security threat’ and treated as such, without any regard for humanity.
In the end, the checkpoint-regime is solely implemented for this kind of humiliation and fragmentation: aiming to create a coercive environment that will facilitate forcible displacement of the Palestinian population. The checkpoints facilitate the expansion of existing illegal settlements. It allows Israel to eventually grab enough land to connect a consistent stretch of illegal settlements that are free of the indigenous population, the Palestinians.