|By Huwaida Arraf||
21 February 2002
I am just getting home after a grueling experience at the Qalandia checkpoint (on the road from Jerusalem to Ramallah). For two days, Israeli soldiers have not been allowing anyone through this militarily occupied area. Palestinians have been forced to make an alternate walking route, through tough terrain to get around this Israeli military point and go about their daily lives. Yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot up a number of Palestinian cars and were firing live ammunition at anyone approaching the checkpoint. Earlier today at Qalandia one Palestinian man was killed from a bullet to the eye, and a Palestinian woman, Randa El Nablusy, was shot while riding in the passenger seat of a yellow (Israeli) plated van, with her 1-½ year old child on her lap. These kinds of daily incidents rarely get reported in the international media.
As I was making my way back to Ramallah, with my fiancée and fellow US citizen, Adam Shapiro, we noticed men lined up at the checkpoint. We stopped to observe what was happening and video document the scene . Palestinians were being commanded forward, one at a time. They were instructed to put their belongings on the ground and then prove that they were "clean" to Israeli soldiers standing approximately 15 feet away. This included disrobing for some of the men, per instructions by the armed soldiers. When the Palestinians would get out of line, the soldiers would bark at them and fire shots in the air. After we had observed approximately ten minutes of this, the soldiers decided to completely close the checkpoint. No one was to be allowed through. Some Palestinians began pleading that they needed to get home for the Muslim holiday (of Eid al-Adha), but to no avail.
The commander of the unit
on duty then noticed Adam videotaping and demanded that he hand
over the tape. Approximately three other soldiers surrounded
Adam and he was being pulled while trying to keep the camera
out of the soldiers' possession. Adam then handed the camera
over to me. I began to walk quickly away. Soldiers followed and
pushed me to the ground. I huddled over my camera and declared
that the soldiers had no right to be doing this, and that there
was no way I was giving up my personal camera and
I resorted to the media and personal contacts, all the while still on the cold concrete, refusing to hand over my tape. After two hours and the help of many people, including a lawyer friend, the commander was forced to let me and Adam go, with our tape. Even according to Israeli policy, these soldiers had no grounds or legal right to be holding us or demanding our videotape.
The commander refused to give us his name or military ID#.
 Adam and I are volunteers with
International Checkpoint Watch.
We regularly monitor Israeli checkpoints and document abuse
or other kinds of ill treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli Army.
Copyright 2002, by Huwaida
Arraf. May not be used in whole or part without written permission.
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