I spent a couple of hours waiting in line this week at the Qalandiya checkpoint. Our home in Kufur Aqab lies beyond the ugly Israeli concrete wall that forces us to wait a long time to pass through an Israeli checkpoint, even though our car carries an Israeli licence plate. This week, the checkpoint was extra bad because Israel had closed for weeks all other entry points to Ramallah, making traffic on this road so overcrowded and giving the Israeli forces manning the checkpoint a huge task.
The area around the checkpoint is also in dire need of repair, especially since the last rain. The problem is that everything beyond this arbitrarily located wall and checkpoint is totally without any attention. Technically, it is part of Israel since it was unilaterally annexed shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Israelis at the time unilaterally doubled the size of East Jerusalem and then added it to Israel. No nation in the world, including Israel's beloved Washington allies, have recognised this annexation, even after US President Donald Trump’s administration announced the move of its embassy to Jerusalem.
While this area beyond the wall is the total security and administrative responsibility of Israel, the Israelis have allowed it to fall apart, paying little or no attention to its infrastructure, especially the roads, which are filled with huge pot holes. Unregulated buildings have arisen all over this area, making it one of the most densely populated areas because of its duality of being part of Jerusalem, thus allowing Jerusalemites to live legally in it while having access, without any restrictions, to Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank.
My daughter, Tania, is a Jerusalemite married to a man from Ramallah. Every time we want to travel to Jerusalem, her husband, Samuel, who has a valid permit to travel to Jerusalem, has to disembark from the car and go through the physical checkpoint, while we stay in our car, waiting in line for our turn to show our documents. On Tuesday, when we tried to cross the checkpoint to go see the new baby, Samuel had to get out of the car, while we waited in line for a body search. Our other grandson, two-year-old Saleem, cried his heart out as his father went out in the cold and waited in line, while we stayed in car. Suddenly, the lights went out at the checkpoint and this made the already slow car line come to a standstill.
I remember, years ago, before Israel had created all the alternative roads for settlers, that the checkpoints were not this bad. In fact, till now, any checkpoint that is used by settlers is much easier to cross than checkpoints exclusively used by Palestinians, even though at all checkpoints, only cars carrying Israeli plates are allowed to cross. Palestinians like my son-in-law, who have permits, are not allowed to use any checkpoint, except Qalandiya.
Naturally, this reflects on the contradiction of life for Palestinians under foreign occupation, whose orders come from a minister of defence appointed by a government elected to office by 60 per cent of the population. Palestinians living under occupation are not allowed to participate in the electoral process, which defines how their lives are governed.
For Israelis and their friends, who bury their heads in the sand and deny that an illegal occupation exists, I have a simple request: Come and spend some time in the occupied Palestinian territories and experience the simplest of all rights, that of movement.