Checkpoint Detention & Festival of Resistance
IWPS in Palestine 2017
As on most Fridays we were on our way to Kufr Qaddoum’s weekly demo against the annexation of the village main roadleading to Nablus by the illegal Kedumim settlement built on their land (more here http://iwps.info/villages/
Protests on the several previous Fridays were smaller than usually because villagers were busy picking their olives; as a result the violence by the Israel’s Occupation Army had been less. For that reason we were surprised to be stopped on a beautiful sunny day at the flying army check point about 1 km before the village by six heavily armed soldiers, with their jeep parked on the side of the road.
They asked our two Palestinian friends for IDs and wanted to know if my IWPS colleague and I were going to the village ‘to join the riots’, as the soldier put it. Of course we were not, because they were not riots, but they insisted on taking our passports, threatening to call the police, who can arrest foreigners, if we refused. They then kept our passports, which is illegal, but so is the occupation they enforce, so no surprise for their disregard of rules.
More cars arrived, with journalists and photographers working for Palestinian and foreign media and they were all detained with us with their IDs ending up in the pocket on one of the soldiers. We were annoyed because the demo was possibly going to be more violent with fewer people witnessing what was going on and reporting.
But being there for over three hours was an opportunity to experience the resistance of Palestinians and the inability of the occupation machinery to break their spirit.
In fact the response by the large group of media and other activists was such that the soldiers did not feel good in their skins and most of the time had to succumb to their detainees, peacefully and with a sense of humour, trampling over their attempts to dominate us and set ‘red lines’, the phrase soldiers repeatedly used pointing at an imaginary line on the road.
There were two folding STOP signs and a young soldier (they are all young about 18 or 19 being moulded while most pliable) declared ‘This is the red line-don’t cross it or I’ll arrest you’,
Initially soldiers would not let us out of the cars, but soon we were milling and the road joking and laughing and taking pictures of them searching Palestinian cars and photographing drivers’ IDs and registration plates.
Then the Palestinian TV crew arrived shouting ‘Salam Aleikum’ to us and drove across the ‘red line’ parking several metres past it.
For some reason soldiers allowed it to stay there with one journalist and all the others joined us at the other side of the ‘red line’.
The situation was turning into a festival of resistance with ‘detainees’ going back and forth laughing and joking, asking soldiers difficult questions, such as ‘why are you here’ (one soldier answered ‘every week stones are thrown at my friends’) insisting that they needed to go to the shop to get water, urging soldiers to return the IDs to several taxi drivers who were wasting their day just because they picked a fare going to Kufr Qaddoum, etc. etc.
A ’detainee’ who went to the shop returned with a bag full of water bottles and it was passed around together with ‘Ali baba’ chocolate wafers.
The Army car left and came back after an hour with a new set of soldiers, who decided that Palestine TV crew cannot walk any more to their colleague in the van across the ‘red line’ and the soldiers ended up acting as waiters taking to the TV guy, first bottle of water, then Ali Baba wafers, then pumpkin seeds, and when the guy requested a microphone, a soldier brought him that too so that he could report about what soldiers were doing to us. The situation was surreal and so hilarious that I worried that soldiers might feel too humiliated and do something stupid.
The traffic intensified and soldiers became very busy checking cars and ID’s and our ‘detainees’ started playing Palestinian music and taking pictures of butterflies to kill the time, as we were informed by the soldier at the very start that we were going to leave the checkpoint at the same time as them, and that we are going to miss the ‘riots’.
We briefly considered a dabke session, but there was too much traffic through the checkpoint. The jokes never stopped coming followed by a roar of laughter. Somebody came up with a saying in Arabic ‘ habsu wa naswi’, roughly translated ‘they arrest us and we soon forget about it’.
This is the life all Palestinians live all the time but a journalist remarked on the uniqueness of our situation saying ‘this is the first checkpoint he has seen, set up for foreign activists and the media, while ‘ordinary’ Palestinians were allowed through’.
Again a ‘nothing can surprise us’ kind of laughter followed, but the fact is that Israeli occupation is beginning to cause such an outrage outside Palestine that the Israeli occupation machine cannot be nonchalant any more about those witnessing it and spreading the word.
So yalla, yalla, as many of us as possible should come to Palestine to witness an unbelievable brutality and also learn noble but determinant resistance with the human face of the Palestinians.
PS Spoke to the people in Kufr Qaddoum – indeed the occupation army was extra rough today, while international witnesses and the media were kept detained. At the end of the demo the army ambushed the demonstrators from the house they took over aiming to make arrests. They chased people through the olive fields but thankfully did not get anybody. Just as well as more than 170 people from Kufr Qaddoum have been imprisoned since the demos started six years ago.