Everyone supposedly knows that Israeli checkpoints are perhaps the most evil structures on the planet. And since this is so well known, it seems like the New York Times had no problem publishing an op-ed on Thursday that describes exactly how terrible they are.
Written by two pro-Palestinian activists, Katia and Alain Salomon, the article describes their adventure as they voluntarily decided to go through the Israeli checkpoint at Kalandia.
We had no trouble reaching Ramallah from Jerusalem by public transportation. But we had problems on our return trip. We reached the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem on Friday, March 11, at 9:30 in the morning. We chose to get off the bus with everyone else, even though as foreigners we could have stayed on.
We were stunned by what we saw: dwarfing cement structures, barbed wire, cameras. As we lined up we could see an Israeli woman soldier inside a multifaceted concrete blockhouse, peering out at us. Ahead of us there was a tunnel of bars just wide enough for one person. At its end a turnstile was blocked electronically from somewhere.
…After that narrow corridor we stepped into a small area, again in front of a metal turnstile. Many of us were wet, as it had rained in the morning, and it was cold. There were not that many people waiting but only one or two people were let through every 10 minutes or so.
At 12:10 it was finally our turn. We could see the people controlling the turnstile. There were several young Israeli soldiers inside. They seemed to be having a very good time, laughing, horsing around, like all youths. We want to believe that they had no clue as to the moral and physical suffering they were inflicting with their very slow control process.
Is it slower than waiting in lines at an airport? Or to get into a baseball game? Or the lines for popular rides in Disney World, where, if memory serves, those waiting in line have no benches either? Hard to tell from this article.
But we do see something that the authors write that reveals exactly where their biases lie:
We are Jewish, and began to weep. How was it possible that our own people, who have gone through such suffering, can inflict this ordeal, intended to humiliate and intimidate another people?
Yes,the Salomons are saying–and the New York Times editors have no problem publishing–that Israel built these elaborate checkpoints specifically to humiliate and intimidate Palestinian Arabs.
As Jews, of course, they are most sensitive to the suffering of the Palestinian Arabs who must go through the checkpoint. Somehow their minds are eluded by this simple fact: Even if there was a Palestinian state, there would still be similar checkpoints between “Palestine” and Israel–because it would be a border crossing!
In fact, the only time the checkpoints didn’t exist was before Oslo, before the PA was created, when Palestinian Arabs could freely travel into Israel. These checkpoints were built as a response to the terror war that accompanied the Oslo “peace process.” Yet the Salomons cannot bring themselves to mention the words “suicide bombing” or “terrorism” in their article. No, to them, Israeli didn’t build the checkpoints for security–they built them for humiliation.
In fact, the authors simply declare that the checkpoints serve no real security purpose!
One can easily imagine the feelings of resentment that are born from this experience. This treatment is unwarranted from the perspective of legitimate security imperatives; it is degrading and inhumane and not understandable coming from a nation that wants to be perceived as democratic, a nation among nations.
The Salomons emphasize that they are Jewish in order to find reasons to insult the Jewish state. Instead of researching the reasons why Kalandia was designed as it was, they ascribe evil intent to Israel and insist–without any background in physical security as far as I can tell–that these measures are unnecessary.
Of course, there have been cases of stabbings, pipe bombs and other attacks at checkpoints, all of which explain the why the IDF installs cameras, narrow corridors, and iron bars.
What is the reality of the Kalandia checkpoint?
Here’s a photo:
An email correspondent who has worked for the IDF at a checkpoint says:
I served in the area for months, been to the checkpoint itself a few times and the article is BS. Sure, at certain days there are holdups, but usually the traffic is going just fine–both pedestrian and vehicular. Cases where one person goes through every few minutes are very rare and are usually a result of some kind of brawl the Palestinians started with soldiers. When I served there, our batcom received reports of a fight breaking out with the locals at least one or twice a week. The MPs got it particularly hard, as they were the ones in direct contact with the populations. The guys–and the girls–often got hit, spat on and abused in various ways. That is not to say this is an every day occurence, but it happens. The gals there got to use their pepper sprays quite often.
But this is the testimony of one of those evil Israeli soldiers. Obviously, to the proud-to-be-Jewish Salomons, the testimony of a soldier for the army of the Jewish state is worthless. So here is what another witness told me–from the perspective of a civilian who has to pass through:
I used to visit a friend in Ramallah regularly, and I generally crossed Qalandiya with the pedestrians — in part because I had read all these stories from Western activists breathlessly describing the experience with barely concealed horror and wanted to see for myself. (Also, chatting with the locals is always more fun than staying on the bus.) And… it was always completely boring and uneventful. Especially on Fridays, when there was often no one else crossing with me. Stories like this Times op-ed seem completely bizarre to me.
Actually, the first time I visited Ramallah, I had to walk through because I missed the bus and had to take a service taxi. I started walking up to the vehicle check point and got yelled at by a guard sitting in a watch tower. Fair enough. He pointed me to the pedestrian checkpoint, where I put my stuff in the metal detector and walked up to the plexiglass window with two young soldiers, one of whom said something to me in Arabic through the speaker. I told them I didn’t understand, while the fashionably dressed woman in a headscarf behind me furiously tried to explain what they wanted through hand motions. Eventually the soldier switched to Hebrew and asked me to hold up my passport, and then the page with my visa stamp. Then one of them, smiling, asked where I was from. I said California, and the other soldier pulled down the intercom and started crooning “Hotel California” across the whole checkpoint.
All considered, the experience was really underwhelming — much less intrusive than customs in most countries, or even airport security when you’re leaving Ben Gurion.
It is a shame that so many Jews like the Salomons don’t give their co-religionists the same benefit of the doubt that they give Arabs. Checkpoints are specifically designed to stop suicide bombers, shooters, people smuggling in pipe bombs, and people with knives who want to attack the first Israeli they see including the guards. Unlike what these Israel-bashers who love to say they are Jewish claim, there are legitimate reasons for every decision made when designing Kalandia–all one has to do is spend a little time researching it.
But it is so much easier to walk through a checkpoint, once, and write an article about how they aren’t necessary than to actually spend the time to ask the questions that could reveal the answers.
The real question is, why is it that whenever one of these bleeding hearts mentions that they are Jewish, it is in order to denigrate the Jewish state?
The Salomons should be ashamed that they can only find it in their “Jewish” hearts to give the Arabs the benefit of the doubt–but not their fellow Jews.