Today. 17th Feb 2020, CPT has been contacted about an ongoing delay and intensification of military activity and searches at the mosque CP. Two of us, on call, head there through the souk, gathering some local up to date information on the way – thanks to one CPTer who is Palestinian. The rumour is of a stabbing.
The Old City of Hebron (see map above) is one of the places where Israel’s military invasion of the land of Greater Palestine is most visible and materially experienced, in all its inhumane brutality.
This brutality includes severe restrictions on freedom of movement, body and bag searches – of Palestinians (but not, of course, of the Jewish settlers who have colonised Hebron’s H2 High Security Zone (H2 HSZ)).
The Ibrahimi mosque checkpoint (CP). Hajaz Al Haram. is particularly sensitive as it enforces apartheid and oppressive communal: a) race; b) political; and c) religious boundaries.
This CP severely restricts the freedom of movement of Palestinians to and from the mosque.
This is just part of an array or matrix of control of abuses designed to force Palestinians out of the homes, neighbourhoods, and Palestine itself. In other words it is in effect part of a forced displacement of the indigenous population – a crime and in breach of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Tragically and ironically this intensification of apartheid: the erection of this checkpoint, and others, and the complete closure of Shuhada Street and all its homes and shops, took place in 1994/5 after an extremist settler terrorist massacred over 30 Palestinians whilst they prayed in the mosque in 1994. The Settler/Military/State complex took advantage of this terrible event as a cynical opportunity to further punish the community that suffered this massacre in order to advance their genocidal colonialist project.
Briefly, as background, the Jewish settlers in Hebron are here because this is a) where the Patriarch Abraham is reputed to be buried; and b) to fulfil their messianic Zionist faith in the biblical myth that Yahweh (God) promised the Jews the whole of the land of Israel – known as Eretz Ysrael. In practice this means the settlers are at the spearhead of Israel’s eternal drive to extend Israel’s borders, to settler-colonise the occupied territories such as the West Bank and to cleanse those territories of Palestinians.
So, here we are, back at the checkpoint near the mosque.
Palestinians need to get through this checkpoint (CP) in both directions. Security is most tight for those going into the HSZ. They pass the CP to pray, to access their homes, to go shopping, to school, to meet friends – in short, to live their lives.
Getting through the checkpoint depends entirely upon the soldiers who control the gates. Today, the 17th Feb 2020, there is a long delay and queue – the soldiers are letting 2-3 through the turnstile at a time, people are crammed into a queue waiting to get through. Old people, parents with children. When they get through the turnstile they have to walk in a caged corridor and then take off jackets and belts and go through a metal detector. The men have to lift their shirts and raise their trouser legs. Bags are searched.
Having received the call the on call CPT ers make their way through the souk to the CP. We check we have passports (or other ID, in case), and a camera to record evidence of human rights abuses as indicated.
When we get to the CP there are already about twenty people waiting to get through. They are tightly squeezed in the iron cage (see photos above).
We stand to one side, observing, monitoring and counting the incidents of violations of human rights, including the delay, and the ID checks and the body searches.
Although this abuse of power is in the name of security for settlers, in fact it is precisely the settlers’ (and the state’s Zionist policies) violence that has created this situation in the first place.
We stay for an hour observing and recording, we stay as well in case tensions escalate and there is a violent military reaction. All remains quiet, albeit very frustrating for those at the mercy of the soldiers. And then we return to our apartment. Rumour in the souk is that this increased delay today is part of a training exercise for soldiers new to Hebron.
One example of the use of impoverished language is the use of the term ‘crossing’ to refer to a military checkpoint. This, and the outsourcing of checkpoints to private contractors, seeks to normalise settler colonisation. There are now signs saying “Welcome to … such and such … crossing” surely about as Kafkaesque a mis-signification as one could imagine. These are not welcoming places.
In 2006, the Israeli government began a project of privatizing checkpoints by handing over control of some checkpoints to private Israeli security companies, such as Modi’in Ezrachi and Sheleg Lavan. When Israel privatizes checkpoints, the language surrounding it changes, as well. The privatized checkpoint is renamed a “crossing” or “station”; ID checks are called “services”, and Palestinians are referred to as “customers” or “passengers”. This different language results in changing the appearance of the military occupation to something more legitimate and benign
Today, these checkpoints, like all apartheid barriers, are iron and concrete cages that signify xenophobia without using language at all. They should alert us to the rise and intensification of fascism in Israel, and should remind us of what the Nazis did to the Jews in the twentieth century. This begs the question: how can we, outsiders, best help to stop this ongoing contemporary Holocaust.