Samah Jabr believes that Israeli security pathology is making Israelis even
less secure. She wonders if Palestinians will ever feel secure.
Silence - The New Internationalist
Samah Jabr is a physician and writer who lives in East Jerusalem.
The clapping of the passengers startles me awake as we arrive at Israel's
Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. I have returned to the grave reality of
Occupied Palestine after a 20-day speaking tour in Finland and the United
'We should do whatever it takes to prevent the Palestinians from coming
to their homes,' were the words of David Ben Gurion, this airport's
namesake. 'The old will die and the young will forget.'
I have a conditioned psychological reaction to this place. Nausea and
anxiety overwhelm me even before my name is announced and I am commanded to
drop my hand luggage, remove my jacket and walk with my papers to the
security guards that are waiting at the stairs of the plane. I am acutely
aware that I am the sole individual (and apparent Arab) led the opposite
direction from the airport arrival hall.
With the patience of a person who has endured 60 sleepless hours, I begin
answer the infamous 100 questions usually posed by Israeli security. I was
asked the same questions on my way out of Ben Gurion and at Newark Airport,
where I boarded my return flight to Tel Aviv. I know the answers I'm
supposed to give by heart. I display before my interrogators all available
papers that might give a sense of identity to my alien presence. I show my
blue Jerusalemite identity card, two Israeli travel documents that refer to
me as a Jordanian, my two flight tickets, an American and a Finnish visa,
physician's ID card, a reporter's press pass from the Washington Report
magazine, and a pile of invitation letters explaining the 'whens,' 'whys'
and 'wheres' of my journey.
My foreign acquaintances are dismayed that I have to show so many papers
spend so much time to get through airports. But my Palestinian friends envy
my access to the unusual and hard to come by paperwork that legitimizes my
need to travel. Without these papers, I might not even be able to be here.
Finally, I leave the airport that night, after a long investigation and
tedious search that involved not only the ripping open of my gifts and
emptying of my toiletries, but the reading of my diary and searching of my
planner and address book. I know that the machines they have are capable of
screening any suspicious objects, but it seems to me that it is also
psychologically necessary for the security officials to expose people 'like
me' to this special treatment.
I arrive home to a sad and gloomy East Jerusalem, where depressed,
inconsolable people suffocate at thoughts of death's stench and the taste
grief coming from Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus. The smell of
graves, left after the Israeli army violated our towns and neighboring
villages, seems to have permeated Jerusalem's less contaminated air. In the
name of 'security' and 'fighting terrorism,' the people of this world, the
United Nations, and the international community have allowed yet another
human disaster to happen. The small gifts I bear are welcome, but the cries
of delight do not cover the silence of drained emotions. This homecoming is
like no other I've experienced in the past.
Silence is ominous for us. Jerusalem is silent. My family is silent. What
there to say? I know that many citizens around the world have spoken on our
behalf, but those who can stop our torment have been silent or even
in the crimes against us. Will our old die and we young people forget, like
Ben Gurion suggested? I came through Ben Gurion to see a world destroyed �
the ancient city of Nablus, the new city of Ramallah, and then Jenin, where
once there was a Refugee Camp.
Silence does not keep me from knowing about the two Palestinian young men,
Mahmoud Salah and Izzat Durgham, who were hand cuffed and restrained, then,
stripped of their clothes and executed at a Jerusalem checkpoint. Nor about
the deaf boy who could not hear the instructions to stop and was shot dead
at a Nablus checkpoint. This, also, in the name of 'Israeli security' which
is always offered as more important than the humanity of my people.
One does not have to die at a checkpoint to be suffocated by them.
we line up for hours in the hope that we will be allowed to get through and
earn our bread for the day. In several kilometers, one might encounter more
than one barricade, manned by armed Israeli soldiers, some of them backed
tanks and lookouts swathed in army brown on the hillside above.
No Palestinian can go through the day without traveling either through the
checkpoint and all its rigors, or around on a hilly dirt road nearby
fashioned by those who know
they don't have the right papers to pass. I, for example, can spend more
time at checkpoints than I do sleeping if I am so bold as to try to go to
work on the Mount of Olives and do my errands in Ramallah on the same day.
They are no further than 18 kilometers or 12 miles apart. In this way, we
are exhausted and tormented and robbed of our time and productivity.
So far, check points have failed to provide security to the Israeli
occupation, for it is those who have nothing to hide who pass
through check points. Suicide bombers and gunmen don't go through check
a point, but find their own ways around it. In fact, check points have back
fired and have provided the fuel to the few Palestinians who have decided
that life is not worth continuing.
Recently, special concrete search areas have been constructed to enable the
army to undress people and, if needed, to beat them up away from the lens
an international camera. Women in labor deliver at checkpoints, patients
with medical emergencies die because they are prevented from reaching the
hospital. People are harassed, humiliated and some are just shot and left
die. No wonder people have named these barricades the 'checkpoints of
death.' A Rabbi told me that it is a cardinal sin in Judaism to cut a part
of an animal and leave it to bleed to death, yet the Israeli army regularly
shoots and leaves Palestinians to bleed to death at checkpoints. Are
Palestinian lives worth less than those of animals? We are shown every day
that our lives are worth less than Israelis.
What about Palestinian security? Every day Palestinians are killed and the
world is silent. Silent too when our infrastructure and educational,
cultural and welfare institutions are decimated, when American congressmen
and Israeli Knesset members speak of 'transferring' the Palestinians to
other Arab countries? In a farce, American President George W. Bush
that 'Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.' I have to wonder if Ariel Sharon
thinks so of himself.
We are described sometimes as the last colonized people, the last frontier
of genocide, massacre and ethnic cleansing, words people fear to speak
because they'll be labeled anti-Semites. Always we must couch our horror
appreciation of what the Jews have suffered.
Now, all is silent. Is it the last human disaster? Israel's security
pathology is not a once in a lifetime epidemic in the life of unfortunate
Palestinians. But it is the
terminal illness of the whole Palestinian nation, it is the daily hammer
that hits all of us equally
in Palestine - men and women, old and young, rich and poor, educated and
At home, I look out of the kitchen window to see that the Israeli flags
moved forward, closer to our neighborhood, demarcating the new boundaries
the Pizgat Zi'ev settlement. For 'security' reasons, the Israeli
keep expanding all the time, demanding a larger and larger buffer zone from
the Palestinian land, no matter that many homes are demolished and
trees uprooted in the process.
The Israeli warlords claim that they want peace after separation � they
speak of establishing a wall on the green line, for 'security' reasons.
want separation, which will ensure that Palestinians are denied access to
the land of their immediate fathers and forefathers, while they continue to
have their settlements and their secure by-pass roads to those settlements,
lying within the heart of the Palestinian territories. Would separation
bring security or would it prevent the humanists and the peace loving on
sided to meet and work together, all the time polarizing the moderates,
emphasizing stereotypes and allowing the extremists to win their war?
Over the last 54 years of occupation Israel has been trying to control,
exhaust and terrify the Palestinians in the name of 'security'.. Recently
they have chopped the
Palestinian towns and villages into 69 Bantustans and cantons with their
permanent check points. One cannot ignore the many more temporary
checkpoints, the ditches, the iron gates and all the other colonization
phenomena. Israel has waged several wars, and perpetrated many massacres to
end 'Palestinian terrorism.' But have they really gained security? Did they
manage to stop suicide bombers on their way to causing a mass fatality? Or
was the aggression and humiliation at the checkpoints just fuel for those
who decided that life is not worth continuing? Israel has tried everything;
except ending their occupation and allowing the Palestinians to live in
dignity in the land of their ancestors.
When the Palestinians live as equals with the people of Israel, when the
Israeli people stop following Ben Gurion's advice, when not only 'Israeli
security' matters, but 'Palestinian security' as well, when both of us take
the same bus to work, then the last shall be first in keeping the peace.
fighters will not sacrifice their lives of meaningful expectation to kill
themselves or others. Then, and only, then we will stop fearing each other.
Then, and only then, will we stand a chance of breaking the silence to
up for justice, equality, peace and real security. I hope I'm alive to hear
Back to Top
� Arab World Books