Monday, March 12, 2007

"Let Them Wait"

Over three million Palestinians live in the occupied territories.

Palestinians have lived under Israeli military occupation for forty years.

Twenty years after the occupation began the intifada began. The uprising brought more excessive force from Israel, leading to a second Palestinian uprising in 2000 following the collapse of the Oslo Accords.

Checkpoints are a part of daily life for many Palestinians. Gaza Strip and the West Bank are separated by miles.

In Palestine people often have to travel to work, many times walking long distances to visit family, go to school or visit hospitals.

Palestinians are routinely harassed at such checkpoints for hours before they are many times denied permission to pass.

Herded like cattle and treated no different, the conditions Israeli's impose on Palestinians only fuel greater hostility and animosity among the Palestinian people.

Many of the Palestinian people are not just angered with their treatment, they are hurt, and their pain is etched into many of their faces, young and old.

Another obvious symptom of oppression is the fear many Palestinians feel towards Israeli soldiers because of their routine and systematic harassment, and being constantly treated like a criminal.

Few people really know what it is like for the Palestinians, why they are frustrated while they world ignores them, and in many cases demonizes them.

Israeli Filmmaker Yoav Shamir takes a deeper look into the lives of Palestinians, and how their lives are dictated by various checkpoints where harassment is routine.

At the checkpoints, all Palestinians are treated equally, equally as criminals.

The film is an Israeli film, made with Israeli money, shot by an Israeli. What's more interesting is that the Israeli forces are now using the documentary as training material for their guards.

This film provides an eye witnesses perspective to a situation many Americans do not even realize exists. The film is at the end of this post, but I want to highlight what I view as some of the most important scenes from the documentary.

Tensions can run high when human beings are corralled like animals and treated without the slightest amount of dignity or respect. Frustration is common, but only because of the systematic abuses of power Israeli soldiers display.

In a crowded checkpoint Israeli soldiers command the Palestinians to get on the pavilion - no one gets threw the checkpoint until everyone is on the pavilion. The problem, there is not enough room on the pavilion for all waiting Palestinians to gather on.

One man frustrated, carrying his young child complains that "We have been here since 6 AM."

A sick family is prevented from crossing a checkpoint to see a doctor. An Israeli guard harasses the family with taunts and repeatedly tries to get a four year old boy to answer his questions, when the child is clearly frightened by the guard and does not understand Hebrew.

Dissatisfied with the child's lack of response the guard turns the family away from the checkpoint, saying "maybe" they could come back tomorrow. There appears to be no legitimate reason for turning the family away.

A school bus full of elementary age children rumbles on the scene of a checkpoint and is stopped by the Israeli's. The children are pulled out of the bus, but it is not the Palestinian children the Israeli guards are interested in, it is the Israeli man traveling with them, who is a pastor and has a large cross on the back of his vest.

The pastor was prevented from crossing the checkpoint without just reason after the Pastor told the guards he was crossing with the children to see how they were being treated at the checkpoints, the pastor was obviously concerned about the well being of the children.

Inexplicably, after the children have left one of the Israeli guard insists that the pastor get his picture taken with him. The pastor agrees, only if the guard removes his gun and helmet. The guard complies, perhaps conveying the importance he is placing on the photo of the man. But why is it so important to have a picture of this peaceful Israeli pastor? Perhaps to identify him later, or make him identifiable to other Israeli guards as a "trouble maker".

At another checkpoint an Israeli guard says "Jews are the best." At the same checkpoint male soldiers can be found sexually harassing young Palestinian girls, one even after she has informed the guard she is a minor.

Another checkpoint finds Palestinians who are made to wait in the freezing rain for an extended period of time. Not because Israeli guards are busy, but because Israeli guards are trying to prove some kind of point to them.

A guard checks a mans ID by phone. After he has verified the man is who he indeed says he is, the soldier decides to "make him wait" in the freezing rain for no other apparent reason to other than to prove a point to a nonviolent and productive Palestinian man.

At a Ramallah checkpoint it is snowing and again the Palestinians are forced to stand out in the elements for an unreasonably long amount of time.

A young guard notices the camera and places himself in front of it. "What do you want to film here? Animals, Animals. Like the Discovery Channel" the guard laughs, clearly implying his belief that the Palestinians are animals.

"All of Ramallah is a jungle, there are monkeys, dogs, gorillas (laughing) The problem is that the animals are locked, they can't come out. We're humans. They're animals. They aren't human, we are." He continues, "that's the difference between..." (one can assume "us and them" were the words poised to follow) but the guard is interrupted by another, perhaps sensing the peril of his comrades words.

"What?" The young guard asks his comrade who has interrupted him "Let him film, what do I care? I don't care what people think." Exactly.

Palestinians are routinely turned back from checkpoints not allowed to return home without any justified reason other than the fact they are Palestinian.

At one such checkpoint an old man hobbles with a cane, sits on a gathering of rocks, and almost whispers "Film this. See what they do to us." to the cameraman.

"I'll break her bones." One guard menacingly threatens an older man and his wife as they try to cross the checkpoint. "We are going home" The man replies defiantly.

"Why are you doing this to us?" Rings out an anguished voice. "Shoot me, I don't care." Indeed, in a life like this death may seem a release. "Why are you doing this to us?" and "Why do you treat us this way?" are questions often raised by the Palestinians.

"Is this freedom? Is this the peace they've promised us?"

The closing scenes of the documentary brings us to a scene of darkness, Palestinians lined up against a concrete barrier. A cell phone rings, "We have been waiting for more than five hours." the man tells the person on the other end.

"We're tired of waiting in the cold." Another says.

Another voice in the darkness pleads "I've been here for ten hours."

An Israeli soldier "Let them wait. Let them wait."

The excerpts above were taken from the documentary below.

Update : The embeded video does not seem to be working correctly, the video can be found at Google Video.