In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, a couple of pro-palestinian
activists useful idiots bemoan the inhumanity of the Kalandia checkpoint.
We have just returned from a week in Israel and Palestine. We organize a chamber music festival in Southwest France and are interested in bringing Israeli and Palestinian students to our master classes.
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.
As we entered this narrow space I looked at the barbed wire further on. 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?
And then we were seized by fear. If there had been a surge of panic or a fire, we would all have been trampled, for there was no escape. The stories of women giving birth here, some losing their babies, came painfully to mind.
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.
There was no bench in this space, nowhere for old people or children to rest. One child started to cry, another complained of her feet being frozen because her boots were wet. Old women started to plead with the men to let them go through first, but the men refused. They wanted to keep their place in line in order to be in time for prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
We began to talk in English with the people around us. We did not hide that we are Jewish. A couple with a child showed us their appointment slip for a hospital consultation at noon, an unlikely target now, even though they had arrived at 9:30, as we had. As noon approached a few men turned back; it was too late for prayers.
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. Do they have orders to slow everything down on Friday mornings in order to discourage the men who come to pray? Or perhaps to reduce the numbers of people who want to spend the weekend with their families?
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.
Alain Salomon is a former associate professor of architecture at Columbia University and president of a chamber music festival in Southwest France.Katia Salomon heads the association that runs the libraries in the Fleury-Mérogis Prison in France, Europe’s largest.
This piece is nothing short of dishonest.
For a start, there is no mention of why this checkpoint is there to begin with. And the reason is not “to humiliate and intimidate” palestinians.
An explosive device detonated at a border guard roadblock : On August 11, 2004, fifteen kilograms ( 33 lbs ) of explosives were detonated at the Qalandia roadblock north of Jerusalem , killing six border police and two civilians. Two Palestinians were also killed and six were wounded. After the attacks, operatives from Jenin were detained. Under interrogation they revealed that their plan had been to infiltrate a suicide bomber for an attack in Haifa , but there were instructions that he was to attack any city in Israel if he could not reach the target. The terrorist came by taxi from the village of Arabeh in the Jenin district . In a second taxi driving behind them there was an explosive device hidden under a crate of vegetables. The two vehicles drove in tandem towards Tulkarm and from there to Ramallah until they reached A-Ram , to the northeast of Jerusalem . In A-Ram the operatives bought a baby carriage to hide the device in until they reached Haifa . When the operatives realized they would not be able to reach there original target, they detonated the device at a Border Guard roadblock .
Military sources said they believed the suicide bomber intended to travel via the Qalandia crossing to the Tel Aviv area, where he was to set off the 10 kilograms of explosives he was carrying, probably at one of the many Hanukkah shows scheduled for Thursday.
“This attack was intended for inside Israel proper and against Israelis celebrating the Hanukkah festival,” David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, said.
IDF officials hailed the actions of the soldiers at the checkpoint, saying that the bomber might have caused dozens of deaths had he had blown himself up in a closed crowded hall.
PA representatives condemned the attack, which took place at an army checkpoint in the West Bank, in conversations with IDF officers, saying it harms Palestinian interests.
When dealing with people like this, is there a choice?
Certainly explains those inhumane “cameras.”
“Unwarranted from the perspective of legitimate security imperatives”? I think not. Given this reality, I am really glad people are made to go slowly through the checkpoint, monitored and checked closely while doing so.
Another point: even though there is an obvious need for the checkpoint, Israel is not trying to make palestinians needlessly suffer.
A more recent AP article, Checkpoint misery epitomizes a Mideast divide, (February 21, 2010) examined the major Qalandia checkpoint between the northern West Bank and Jerusalem and seemed like more of the same, invoking the familiar “daily humiliation” language.
But to gauge just how humiliating the transit supposedly is, Ben Hubbard, the AP reporter, spent a week at the terminal interviewing Palestinians, and timing their passage through the checkpoint. And even though it’s almost certainly unintentional, Hubbard’s report actually casts doubt on just how much misery and waiting Palestinians experience at these checkpoints.
In fact, judging by Hubbard’s data, Palestinians get through the Qalandia checkpoint more quickly than travelers get through security checkpoints at some major US airports.
Here’s a summary of Hubbard’s report, followed by data from US airports.
- On the first day the Palestinian worker followed by Hubbard takes all of 22 minutes to get through. And this is during the early morning rush – Hubbard admits that “outside of rush hour, crossings can take mere minutes.”
- Day two: also during the early morning rush the wait is again only 22 minutes.
- Day three: progress is a bit slower, perhaps because the day before a would-be Palestinian attacker was stopped at the checkpoint, armed with a “pistol and four knives.” The Palestinian followed on this day by the AP takes 54 minutes to pass though the checkpoint.
- Day four: despite a fight among Palestinians in the line, passage takes only 33 minutes.
- Day five: the wait is down to 25 minutes.
These are not exactly the humiliating, hours-long delays that some media reports have portrayed.
How do these waits compare to what travelers face at, for example, John F. Kennedy Airport in New York? The Transportation Security Administration has suspended its tally of security wait times, but past data is still available at many travel web sites. On Fox World Travel, for example, we find the following information for JFK on a Monday morning during what is apparently the busiest time of the day (8 AM to 9 AM) at the busiest terminals:
Passengers at Terminal 6 – JetBlue had to endure an average wait of 38 minutes and a maximum wait of 45 minutes to get through security, while passengers at Terminal 6 B had to wait almost as long, about 30 minutes, with the wait extending to 35 minutes from 9 AM to 10 AM.
Other aggregated current data from United Airlines indicates that the average peak wait on peak days at JFK is more than 40 minutes, with the situation even worse at other airports. Unlucky travelers at Albuquerque International Airport, for example, faced a peak wait of 40 to 50 minutes.
So, on average, Palestinians get through the major Qalandia checkpoint faster than some travelers at JFK and other airports get through US checkpoints. Considering the extreme and daily terror threat faced by Israel, the fact that people traverse Israeli checkpoints as quickly as they do is a testament to the country’s efforts to balance the demands of security and human rights.
And lo and behold – a water fountain – hardly something you would install if you wanted people to suffer.
The only insulting treatment I am seeing here is the op-ed itself.