“Youth and Checkpoints in Palestine” by Abdallah Maraka

This is an article written by my friend Abdallah Maraka, a university student and a tourist guide in Hebron.

Palestine, a state in the Middle East, recently became the core of conflicts not just in the Middle East but in the world. Over the last forty years of  Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land, Israel implemented a policy of movement restrictions including checkpoints, earth mounds, trenches, gates, road blocks, bypass roads, the wall, and a complex system of permits.

I’m not going to write now about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, but I would like to write about the youth in Palestine. The youth who represent approximately eighty percent of the population in Palestine. The youth who are living under occupation and who, for the major part, grew up under the occupation, the Palestinian youth who are dreaming about freedom every day in their life like any other young people in the world.

There are a lot of restrictions that youth face in Palestine. but I would like to focus on one type of restrictions which are the checkpoints, yes the checkpoints, which are like ghosts haunting them, because they are to be found any time inside a city, between cities or even at random, mobile locations, appearing and disappearing overnight. Internal checkpoints are located in many areas inside the cities, local inhabitants know them very well because they must pass through these kinds of checkpoints every day. When they go to school, or to work not only do they have to pass them, but they also have to go through a whole branch of dehumanizing and racist procedures.

IMG_7039

The checkpoint we went through in Hebron, between H1 (the part of the city under Palestinian control) and H2 (the part under Israeli control)

As you pass a turnstile gate, the soldier who controls this gate can close it any time he wants depending on his mood. When you are passing this gate you should not be carrying any metal items, electronic devices, and coins. And the soldier should scan these things for security reasons. Sometimes you need to take off your clothes if the soldier wants, regardless of the weather on that day. Even the Palestinian girls are sometimes forced to take off their cover without any consideration of the fact that they are humans and have rights. This is a small part of the procedures happening in the checkpoints that all young people face every day when they are moving from a place to another within the same city.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the mobile checkpoints. You cannot predict when and where you will face this kind of checkpoints, as they appear suddenly. For example, if you are going to visit your relatives and you are faced with a mobile checkpoint, you will not be surprised if they stop and ask for your ID without any reason. And if you have the courage to ask the soldier the reason for this inspection, the answer will depend on the soldier’s mood but the expected answer will be: “for security reasons” with a silly smile on the soldier’s face. Is this a really convincing answer?!

I live in a city called Hebron in the south in Palestine and if I want to see my friends living in other cities in the West bank, for example, visit someone in Ramallah (which is located in the middle of the West bank) I will probably have to pass through seven checkpoints without counting the mobile checkpoints. Going to Ramallah takes normally between 40 to 50 minutes without the checkpoints, but now, it takes more than an hour and a half. The most famous checkpoint on this road is called (Al-Conteener checkpoint) which is a source of continued suffering and ordeal for Palestinians especially for the youth.

Finally, I have only one thing to say to the whole world: as a Palestinian, I cannot accept this awful situation that the Israeli occupation forces us to be in. Freedom is our goal here in Palestine, it is not just a dream. Our rights will finally be respected one day and  we will be free from all the checkpoints and other occupation restrictions.

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