must be joking
There are the usual forms of harassment, such as abusing the vendors, or
chasing away taxi-van drivers everywhere.
Perhaps because, like land-grab and both loud and quiet transfer,
denying people their sources of livelihood is part of official State
policy. And the soldiers have standing orders to implement it, even if
these orders do not appear in writing anywhere.
That is why it has been carried out over the years, in different places,
and by different soldiers, like drizzling rain.
Like shooting at children of Qalandiya refugee camp, that is apparently
official policy. Otherwise, how is it possible to shoot there all these
years, with such ease, at really small children, as if they were some
animals of prey, or plastic ducks at a shooting range, and that this
persists after so many children have already been murdered.
Perhaps it is done in order to make the soldiers immune, to keep them
from 'mistaking' a Palestinian child for a child, and perhaps it
actually takes place in other places with which I am less familiar.
And there are the changing fashions, usually local initiatives of
certain soldiers, that appear and disappear along with them.
For they do not serve the system and the policy, and are meant only to
let the soldiers take out their drives in any way they wish. That is why
they do not normally persist over time, for a newer, better mode is
always invented. More innovative. More exciting for their imagination.
At that time in Qalandiya, the 'fake ID harassment' was fashionable.
It is not simple to travel from place to place if you are a Palestinian.
The entire West Bank is a spider-web of prevention/check points.
Everything is closured. And bifurcated. Smaller ghettos inside larger
ones. Surrounded by barriers and Jews-only roads. Walls and soldiers
Passing from one place to another is not to be taken for granted. And in
order to pass, beyond the risk involved, Palestinians are required to
meet constantly changing, impermanent and unexpected criteria – as a
People would arrive at Qalandiya Checkpoint and then wait as long as
they wait, and undergo whatever they undergo – lifting a shirt,
pirouetting with their exposed midriff, or some other actions, depending
on many things, mostly arbitrary – and finally handing the soldier their
But in those days of the fake-ID-harassment fashion, until this very day
in fact, the ID alone was not sufficient.
Namely, it was not enough for the soldier to check the ID and see
whatever the army computer would come up with. One of the components is
the Palestinian's place of residence. If, say, a person was on his way
to Bethlehem and in his ID he was registered under Nablus, then usually
he would be prevented from reaching Bethlehem, although he resided
Since it is so difficult to cross the checkpoints, just going visiting
for instance, people usually gave up trying.
For there is a limit to what a person can take and to the amount of risk
one is willing to be subjected to just to go visiting.
Crossing a checkpoint, then, is usually reserved for much more urgent
needs. Like work or health. Or if people live just across on the other
side of the checkpoint and really have no choice.
So they did everything they could to make the soldiers let them pass.
They begged. And if they could, they always showed another document. To
explain to the soldier why they wish to go from one place in their lives
to another. Why should they cross over there. Why yes, and not no. Why
is it not allowed. A document that would prove that they were alright.
That would explain why it is natural for them to go there… although it
is actually forbidden.
Many teachers used to cross Qalandiya then, every afternoon. After
having finished teaching in the villages around Ramallah or inside it.
And the official policy even allowed teachers to pass. At least back
That is why the soldiers were so tempted to prevent their passage.
That is why some soldier thought up the brilliant idea of fake IDs.
The teacher would show his/her teacher's ID, and the soldier would say
about nearly every such document that it was fake. Go aside. And whoever
had a supposedly fake ID was detained for hours. And then cross over to
the other side of the checkpoint or not. Depending on the soldier.
At times there was no detention, just "get back" or "don't you get fresh
with me" when someone would say "but I'm in a hurry, and I always pass
here". And here and there, not always, some beatings, to teach them a
lesson. With or without a rifle butt. Or making them sit with their back
turned. Or not. Many of them elderly people. Which did not really matter
to the soldier.
And there was one specific time, that I remember well, because T. was
coming across, an acquaintance of mine, a school principal in Beit
Hanina. And he had a certificate issued by the Palestinian Authority,
especially issued anew so it would look as official as possible, and it
did. And was. And the soldier told him, "It's fake".
I couldn't help myself, and with the voice of the privileged I
intervened and told the soldier: 'But it looks really authentic". And
the soldier said: "That's right, and that's why it's fake. Because it
looks authentic. That's how you know it's fake…'
To this day I can't tell whether he actually believed his own nonsense.
T. told me not to worry, but still I worried. He waited for some hours,
detained. And we talked. At the end of which he went back to Ramallah.
And took roundabout trails through fields at night back to his home in
Beit Hanina. As he usually did those days.
And while T. was detained, M. arrived, whom I hadn't known before, and
wanted to cross the checkpoint. He said to the soldier: "I live in
A-Ram, it's right here, close by. It's actually on the other side of the
checkpoint. I'm on my way home."
"And I'm not a teacher", he added, seeing that all the teachers were
"Get back!" the soldier barked at him.
And it was a long waiting line. And people were bitter. And at the side
more and more detainees were seated. On the ground.
And M. said: 'But I live here. What am I to do?' And the soldier said,
'Only the Palestinian police passes through here, you hear?' And M.
beamed. 'But I am in the police', he said, because it was true. And the
soldier told him, 'You're not in the police.' And M. said 'Yes, I am'
and took out a note, a bit crumpled, and the soldier said, 'This is no
good. Go get proof that you're in the Palestinian police, then you can
And M. left.
Time passed. Perhaps some weeks, maybe less. They were no longer into
fake documents. Perhaps because it was not interesting enough. And they
got back into abusing the vendors who had been left in peace for a while
during the fake-ID business, because this was more 'action'. And all the
poor guys who put up their vendor stands because they really have no
other choice, they were hit once again. The whole repertoire. Throwing
their goods on the ground. Trashing the stands. Only up to this line and
if not I'll hit or detain you. And the next day it's not this line, it's
that line. And that's forbidden. And again everything gets trashed on
the ground. The flat bread and the candy and the rest of those meager
bits of livelihood of a people under occupation.
And once again M. came around, and I was there again, and he said to me:
'Aya, remember me?' And I said, 'Yes'. He took out a piece of paper with
something written on it in official Arabic. Something, M. explained,
that says that he is a member of the Palestinian police. He said it took
him three weeks to arrange this. Endless trouble. 'I paid money', he
said, 'but I have a certificate, look!' he added and smiled.
And I didn't really look, and didn't say anything.
And he got in line, which was long of course, and reached the soldier
who perhaps was even the same soldier from last time, and said to him,
beaming: 'I've got it.'
And the soldier whose name, I think, was Idan or Ido or Omer or Tomer,
gave M. a distrusting look. Surprised.
'What have you got?'
And M. said: 'A certificate that I am in the Palestinian police.'
And the soldier said: 'So?'
And M. said: 'So I may pass'.
And the soldier laughed. And his laughter ripped the skin of the sky
that suddenly became black.
And at the end of his laughter he told him, 'Irja!'. Get back.
And M. did not move. There was concrete now flowing in his legs instead
of blood. And the soldier said 'I said irjja!'.
And I lowered my eyes. When I raised them he was no longer there.
Sometimes I think about that soldier. Idan or Ido or Omer or Tomer. Back
then, from Qalandiya. I imagine him old and bearded and sitting with his
grandchildren in a room and they would ask him questions.
Of course it all depends on history, too. Where that's headed. Whether
abusing the Palestinian people, oppressing it, robbing its lands will
still be considered an urgent must, and the ultimate expression of
citizenship, or not.
Or perhaps the world will change for the better, and he will have to
say, like the rest of the soldiers who served the dark times of history,
'I was young', or 'I obeyed orders'. Or he'll lie and say he wasn't in
the army back then. That he was among the special few who had said 'no'
back then, although it was not the accepted thing to do.
But if everything will be as it is today more or less, and going to the
army regardless of what the army does will still be considered the thing
to do, and his grandchildren will stare at him and beg to hear his army
stories because they too would grow up to desire them and bless and
yearn for them just as he did in his time, will he tell them this story
about how he got rid of M. at the checkpoint?
And if he will not, is it because he has other 'valor' tales, or because
he had long forgotten it in the sea of things, or perhaps because he
does not wish to remember among his more or less fictive memories, the
way in which he harassed M.
I assume he will not remember what he did to M. He will not remember
what he did to him because M. was not a human being.
And because M. was not a human being, soldier Idan or Ido or Omer or
Tomer sent him back. And because M. was not a human being, he will not
remember him either, nor know that he did what he did to him.
Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Tal Haran