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Thursday, March 31, 2011

NYT checkpoint op-ed: "We're Jewish, so we can insult Israel" (updated)

The New York Times has an op-ed about the experience of two pro-Palestinian activists, Katia and Alain Salomon, as they 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.
I have never been to Kalandia so I cannot comment on why there are no benches, or why the process is slow. But the authors of the article - who inform us twice that they are Jewish - know one thing:
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?
Here is all you need to know about the Salomons. Yes, they tell us, they are Jewish - but they do not for a second believe that the checkpoints, which have saved countless lives, serve any purpose besides humiliation and intimidation. Nay - their very intent is to humiliate Arabs! Some Israeli architect decided when he designed the building that it must humiliate and degrade people. Because that's how Israelis are.

Later on, they again explain more of what they "know:"
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.
Here's what this awful, humiliating checkpoint at Kalandia looks like:

What fair minded person can believe that this was designed to humiliate people? All I see is "security." Narrow passageways assures that only one person - potential terrorists included - can go through at a time, limiting damage he or she can do. The bars are no more intimidating than those that are adjacent to New York City subway turnstiles. The cameras are necessary so that individual Israeli soldiers aren't attacked with knives, as they have been. The area is clean.

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.

It is a shame that so many Jews like the Salomons don't give their co-religionists the benefit of the doubt as to why they might possibly want to build such a checkpoint. 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 pend a little time researching it.

It is almost sickening that people can write an article like this without once mentioning the challenges that Israel faces and the years of terrorism Israel that forced Israel to build structures like these. If they are as committed to Judaism as they claim, perhaps they can give a little benefit of the doubt Israelis who are trying to avoid being blown up.

Because giving the benefit of the doubt is also a Jewish concept.


UPDATE: I received an email from JB:
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.

(h/t YM)