Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Collective punishment in Qalandiya

As Israel continues to mete out collective punishments in the occupied territories, Palestinians continue to resist, writes Tamar Fleishman from Qalandiya

Al-Ahram Weekly

It was announced on the noon news-flashes that the security forces had caught a terrorist at the Qalandiya checkpoint. It was said that the man had tried to smuggle eight pipe bombs through the checkpoint in his bag. The terrorist had been taken in for questioning, the reports said, the bombs had been dismantled and the checkpoint had been closed.

The reports were suspicious. Why would anyone not suffering from mental illness, or not sent to check the alertness of the soldiers, try to pass not one bomb, not two bombs, but eight bombs through a checkpoint, when every reasonable person knows that even coins in a man’s pocket, earrings on a woman, and nails in a labourer’s shoes are detected by the scanning machines?

I don’t know whether what was reported to have happened in fact happened. I only know that closing the checkpoint and preventing people from passing for three hours represents collective punishment, which is prohibited by international law. I also know that under the Israeli occupation even the time of millions of Palestinians has been expropriated from them, and that the obligation to give an explanation or to apologise falls on no one and on no authority, and neither is anyone held accountable.

Regardless of all this, or rather in relation to it, on the other side of the checkpoint, the Palestinian side, the war of teenagers against soldiers continued, a war of stones against rifles. Over there, the battle persisted without being reported on or publicised. Teenagers continued to attack the checkpoint, and soldiers confronted them with grenades and rifles. However, the teenagers were not deterred and they did not stop in the face of the shooting and gas.

The Palestinian teenagers determine the intensity and the location of the battles, while the Israeli soldiers, in spite of being keen to fight, are restricted by their orders. The soldiers are obliged to respond and not to initiate the fighting.

At first, the teenagers descended from the surrounding hills to where the checkpoint wall stood, and here they created a shaky barricade from wooden boards, behind which they took shelter, throwing stones and bottles at the soldiers. In response, the soldiers left the checkpoint complex and crept up along the wall. Under cover of gunshots and gas they advanced, aiming at the teenagers. Things continued like this until the commander arrived, a second lieutenant, who received orders to withdraw his men. 

Pleased by their momentary victory, the teenagers tailed the retreating soldiers, who, as though their pride had suffered a blow, headed forwards again, firing once again at the teenagers. The latter then opened additional fronts, and the soldiers fired at these as well. They did not show any consideration for the many people forced to cross the main road through the gas, causing them to choke and to have trouble breathing.

When one young woman, caught on the front line with her baby and shading his face with a blanket, complained to the officer about the hurt all the firing and gas was causing her child he just waved his hand and shouted in frustration, “you don’t want us to shoot? Tell them not to throw stones!”

The young Palestinians continued their attacks at intervals, stopping for a few minutes and then starting again. As darkness fell, they had yet to tire and things still had not been settled. The army forces were replaced, and new soldiers took to their posts. But the teenagers were the same ones as before, attacking with determination, passion and rage as the battle went on into the night.

It seems that in Qalandiya at least those fighting in the streets are the ones who have the final word.

I had a moment of personal satisfaction during one of the breaks in the fighting when two students chatted with me, one of them, Al-Hussein Taher, who spoke English, asking who I was and why was I there. I told them, and they asked me to take their photograph with the soldiers behind them and upload it to my Facebook account.

Taher handed me a medallion of a map of Palestine that his friend had been wearing. “It’s a gift. Abdallah wants you to have it,” he said. Touched and flattered, I accepted the gift.

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