I was nearly 12 years old when my father was shot in front of me at the Qalandia checkpoint. I am almost 22 now and I still remember the horror of that moment.
The Qalandia checkpoint is one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. It separates Ramallah residents from southern Palestinian towns and the northern Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The checkpoint was built when the Second Intifada started in 2000.
My family lives in Jerusalem and my school was in Ramallah at the time. On Nov. 16, 2002, my dad came to pick me up from school but when we reached the checkpoint, the soldiers said it was closed for today.
“We need to go home,” my father shouted.
“It is closed. Go back,” the soldier replied.
My father and I tried to go near the soldier to convince him that we had no place to go, when all of a sudden, the soldier decided to shoot.
I can’t recall what happened next, but I remember the sight of my father’s blood on the floor, and people gathering around us, frantically trying to get him some medical care.
Miraculously, he survived with an injury in his stomach.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians are subjected to similar treatment at Israel’s 528 permanent and its 455 “flying” checkpoints throughout the West Bank. According to the Israeli police data, some 20,000 people passed through Qalandiya daily through September 2011.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister, established the policy of checkpoints between Palestinian cities after the year 2000. His successors Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu followed the same strategy, cutting vital highways uniting cities around the West Bank.
According to the blogs written by Israeli soldiers, checkpoints are part of “Israel’s defensive measures against terrorism.” Checkpoints help identify terrorists and control the movement and activities of terrorist cells.
What the checkpoints mostly do, however, is make the life of Palestinians even more difficult. Hundreds today wait in long lines, slowly advancing on foot, each waiting for a signal to proceed individually.
According to research by Palestinian political movement Al-Mobadarah, at least 61 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints in 2005. No less than 20 mothers and 36 newborns have died as a result.
Checkpoints have also hampered the ability of 80 percent of people to leave their districts of residence over the past six years. Virtually no access has been granted for Palestinians wanting to travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to East Jerusalem.
Sireen Midhat, a university student, shares her story.
“The soldiers asked me to take off my clothes, claiming that I was hiding some kind of a weapon under my shirt,” Midhat said. “I refused, and resisted badly, which resulted in three soldiers beating me up and taking of my shirt forcibly.”
“Thank God I was never asked to take off my clothes until now,” Muna Taji, another Palestinian student, responded. “However, I had to drop out of university, because my parents were scared that I will get shot someday on the checkpoint.”
By Aseel Baidoun
LAU Tribune staff