Palestinians Terribly Unhappy Israel Upgraded Checkpoints to Make Their Lives Easier

How’s this for ‘peak palestinian’:

Photo: Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jizz

But in recent months, Israel has renovated Qalandia and Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem, creating more lanes and introducing automatic gates in which Palestinians tap biometric entry permits to pass.

Workers and analysts told Al Jazeera that despite the easing of conditions, they believe the new policies are part of an Israeli propaganda campaign aimed at enhancing its own image in the rest of the world and pacifying the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank.

“Before four months, it took more than one or two hours to pass the checkpoint, but now it just takes about 10 minutes,” said Rauf Akram, 55, who works in construction in Israel.

“It’s a new building with new facilities, so it’s more comfortable for people, especially the elderly,” he said, adding that Palestinian workers are able to leave their homes for work later.

Nevertheless, “it’s still all political,” he said. “We are under a military occupation, so all these shows of respect mean nothing.”

At the walk-in entrance to Qalandia, Palestinian crossers pass through steel turnstiles, one by one, to the sound of music softly flowing from speakers. At times the songs of famous Arabic artists, like the legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz, are played.

A large television screen hangs from the wall near the entrance and an on-screen Israeli official directs Palestinians on each step of the journey towards Jerusalem.

Ramadan decorations bedeck the walls, while a voice wishes Palestinians a blessed Ramadan over a loudspeaker.

A spokesperson for Coordination of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a branch of the Israeli Defence Ministry that implements policies towards civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories, told Al Jazeera that the renovations and technological upgrades are part of a project aimed at easing congestion and were meant to assist the Palestinian economy and enhance Israeli security.

“It helps with the economic situation because the salaries that you get in Israel are much higher than what you get under the Palestinian Authority (PA),” the spokesperson said, adding that Israel has also increased the number of permits issued for Palestinians in the West Bank to work inside Israel. “This is also helpful for security.”

Palestinian workers interviewed by Al Jazeera were aware of these policies, with one worker who did not want to be identified saying: “The main interest for Israel is to relieve some of the pressure on Palestinians. They are interested in giving us an easier life solely so that we don’t explode.”

Mushtaq, a 35-year-old who works in construction in Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera that he believes these renovations and policies at the checkpoint are meant to “reflect a nice image to the world”.

“It helps the workers, but it’s clear they (Israel) doesn’t actually care. They just want to show a better image to the world,” he said. “It’s all propaganda.”

When asked about the Ramadan greetings and decorations, Mushtaq became agitated. “Israel is using our religious celebrations for their own political interests,” he said. “Even our religion is not safe from Israeli propaganda.”

Saleh Abd al-Jawad, a professor of history and political science at Birzeit University, told Al Jazeera the new policies reflect Israel’s “carrot and stick” approach to governing Palestinians.

“If you are quiet and submissive, then you can have more. And if you resist, we will make your life more difficult,” Jawad explained, highlighting Israel’s differing policies in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, where Israel has enforced harsh, punitive measures on the population.

“In exchange for peace, you (Palestinians) must be quiet and behaved, and then we (Israel) can offer you a better economy,” he added.

Jawad suspects the new policies are connected to US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century”, the full details of which have not been made public. The long-awaited plan, headed by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, is expected to include an economic component which would encourage investment from regional powers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Shir Hever, an independent researcher and journalist told Al Jazeera that “Israeli generals are afraid that the PA may collapse” and are also introducing policies that can further disconnect the experiences of Palestinians in the West Bank from those in Gaza, as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy long practised by Israel.

These policies, however, are not just targeting Palestinians, but the larger Arab world, Jawad said.

“It’s part of this campaign of capturing the Arab mind. Today Israel is not only looking at Palestinians. The big cake is in the Arab Gulf,” he said, referring to Israeli attempts to establish formal ties with some Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Oman, based on a mutual interest in containing Iranian influence.

A woman, who did not want to give her name, told Al Jazeera on her way through Qalandia that “this is all about Israel forcing itself onto the Arabic world.”

“They (Israel) are working [through the Arabic language and Ramadan greetings] to force their image into the minds of the Arabs.”

“They want us to normalise the idea of Israel,” she said, before quickly passing through a new and polished electronic turnstile.

So let’s break this down. Israel spends ALOT of money renovating checkpoints – needed for very real security reasons – in order to benefit the palestinian Arabs by 1. making their passage into Israel easier and 2. helping boost their economy. The upgrades include nice things like Arabic music and Ramadan greetings.

But many palestinian Arabs complain this is all just to 1. make Israel look better to the world (‘renovation-washing’ if you will) 2. help promote good relations with the Arab world 3. accept the idea of peace with Israel and 3. accept the existence of Israel.

As I said, ‘peak palestinian.’ Too many would rather suffer, wallow in self pity, complain to the world about us and continue to do the kinds of things that made checkpoints necessary to begin with.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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