Israeli Soldiers Hold American Citizens At Gunpoint
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 [1]. 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
tape. The area was never declared a closed military zone, nor were we asked to stop taping, so there was no grounds on which they could confiscate my film. This whole time I was lying, facedown on the cold cement with soldiers standing above me, and 3 guns pointed at my head and body. I pulled my cellular phone to call the American Consulate for help. After I explained to the marine guard on duty that I was an American citizen in a very dangerous situation – I was surrounded by Israeli soldiers pointing their guns at me, and needed help, the marine guard asked me "What do you want me to do?" I asked if he could communicate with the military, because they were not allowed to be doing this to me, he told me that there was nothing that the American Consulate could do because they were closed. I
repeated that I was an American citizen that needed help and I needed to talk to the emergency person on guard. I was told that he was the emergency person on duty and there was nothing he could do. No advice, nothing.

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#.

[1] 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. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
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