August 2017

Restricted Movement

Behind the Barricade

CPT team was recently invited to attend a meeting in Ramallah. As a team, we took a Palestinian service taxi, an orange van which holds seven passengers, to Ramallah from Hebron. On our way to Ramallah, Palestinians in the taxi put their seatbelts on before we left the Palestinian streets of Hebron, as it is law for Palestinians to wear a seatbelt on an Israeli road. Just as the taxi was going to pass an Israeli checkpoint, an Israeli police officer pulled the taxi aside. Four of the passengers in the taxi, including a CPTer, were not wearing a seatbelt when the taxi was pulled over. Once the taxi was parked by the checkpoint, the Israeli police officer opened the van door, asked for everyone’s IDs and inspected to see who was wearing a seatbelt. The police officer seized almost everyone’s ID except for my passport and my fellow CPTer’s passport. Our van was held up for more than ten minutes, which forced one of the Palestinian passengers to be late for a job interview. We would have been held longer if it were not for one of the Palestinian passengers getting out of the van to ask one of the Israeli officers for the IDs. This passenger returned to give back every Palestinian their IDs along with an attached green ticket, fining each Palestinian two hundred shekels, an exorbitant amount that can amount to three to four days of wages.

Seeing that my fellow CPTer had an Australian passport, the Israeli officer did not issue her a ticket even though she did not wear a seatbelt. My fellow CPTer asked, “Why was I not fined?” A Palestinian replied, “Because they are afraid of you.” He told us that the state of Israel gives privilege to internationals because it is afraid of how we would respond to its’ oppression, granting us privilege that has been long denied to Palestinians. Angered by this privileged treatment of white internationals and unjust treatment of Palestinians, my team member said, “What I don’t understand is why they force you to wear a seatbelt when they don’t care about Palestinian lives.”

Checkpoints and the act of detainment deny the privilege of Palestinian movement, and are purposefully conducted by the state of Israel. In his analysis of torture, the theologian William T. Cavanaugh claims that regimes, including Chile under Augusto Pinochet, torture individuals to make them self-disciplining social bodies. After being tortured and released back into the population, the tortured individual feels isolated and has no desire to be a part of the community, and therefore has no desire to resist the oppressive regime. Similarly, Israel establishes checkpoints and detains Palestinians to make them self-disciplining individuals. But rather than make Palestinians feel isolated, checkpoints and the detainment that comes with it is established to make Palestinians afraid of movement.

Every day is a struggle for Palestinians to move. Every day is another day when their body could be pulled aside, searched, beaten, interrogated, and sexually assaulted as they go to work, home, or school. Ultimately, Israel’s checkpoints and their act of detainment is perpetuated to restrict Palestinian movement and force Palestinians to either move away from their home country or stay and watch as Israeli settlements are built on top of their homes.