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Sonia Nettnin: Checkpoint Violence & Free Movement

Checkpoint Violence and Free Movement

By Sonia Nettnin

January 9th is Election Day for Palestinians. They will vote for their new President, who will represent the people at a crucial, historical crossroads.

However, Israeli Occupation Forces prevented the Palestinian Presidential Candidates, except Abu Mazen, freedom of movement in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. On the Palestinian National Initiative web site, AlMubadara.org, reports explain that last Wednesday at the Sanour checkpoint, Israeli soldiers beat Palestinian Presidential Candidate, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, and his team to the ground. At gunpoint in the cold, the Palestinian men remained in one position on the ground for over an hour. They show a photo of Barghouthi surrounded by Israeli soldiers with AK47s.

Violence inflicted upon Palestinians is not uncommon. In fact, Israeli soldiers abuse the people at checkpoints daily. Documentaries such as “Ford Transit,” by Hany Abu-Assad or “Checkpoint,” by Yoav Shamir give viewers a glimpse of the abuses. People wait in lines for hours in the open air every day. Soldiers stop ambulances and people in need of immediate, medical attention. Soldiers do not discriminate in their abuse: every Palestinian is fair game. Sometimes, they separate small children from their mothers. Children’s cries are everywhere.

Israeli soldiers force Palestinian men to the ground. When a soldier humiliates a man in front of strangers, friends and family members, I can only imagine what it is like for the Palestinian man. He endures pain, but redefines what it means to be a man.

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When Israeli Occupation Forces prevent Palestinian men from work or they take away their land, these men have no means to support their families. The Palestine Monitor’s web site reports over 70 per cent of Palestinian families live on less than two dollars per day.

Yet, the world is silent.

In the U.S., I have not seen or heard one detailed, news report about the violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people. U.S. media associates the “t” word with Palestinians. However, Israeli Occupation Forces are not under the same microscope. As a result, the media’s spin cycle projects fear in most Americans, who summarily dismiss the Palestinians with the “t” word.

According to closure maps reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there are 703 checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories. The UN OCHA defines road blocks and closures as checkpoints, roadblocks, earth mounds, gates, and road obstacles (for example, a razed road). Needless to say, these obstacles prevent Palestinians from daily, life activities.

The most common response for checkpoints and roadblocks is the security of Israel. Yet, how can checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza prevent a suicide bombing in Jerusalem? Moreover, how does the oppression of Palestinians who live in the occupied Palestinian Territories and work in Jerusalem make Israelis safer?

If Israelis want security, then they should end the military occupation. Israelis and Palestinians want security, but neither side will have it as long as the oppressor-oppressed dynamic dictates their relationship. If Israelis want to end the oppression, then they must communicate that message to their government representatives.

Whether the future brings a one-state solution or a two-state solution, Palestinians need human rights and equal status with Israelis now. People need freedom of movement without subjection to harassment and violence, so they can perform daily, life activities. The right of free movement without violence from soldiers includes Palestinian Presidential Candidates, so they can canvas voters before elections.

This solution may sound simplistic, but both sides gain from it. Israelis separate themselves from militarism and use their energy toward a prosperous economy. The Palestinians have the opportunity to rebuild their economy and native land. In the future, who knows what both peoples can create together.

The current, checkpoint abuses of a people reveal the strength of the Palestinians. I did not understand the depth of the word, “resilience,” until I learned the Palestinian narrative. These people struggle with harsh, living conditions and they deserve normal lives.

For January’s elections, the people need safe access to polling places so they can vote for their new President.

I cast my vote for an end to all barriers and obstacles, so that Israelis and Palestinians can be free


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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