Anna Baltzer is a fellow Californian and a dedicated activist who spends her time trying to awaken others to what is happening to the Palestinians who are trapped inside Gaza and walled in like prisoners. Gokshura Â Â
Here is a piece on her own experience as a Jewish American being detained for three hours, gokshura strip seached, gokshura and humiliated at what was at the time one of Israel's new Orwellian "terminals".Â Â Â
One can only imagine how the Palestinians are treated, gokshura and yet we know.Â Â
A powerful, gokshura important read. Gokshura Held Inside Israel's New Terminals
by Anna Baltzer
When I first the West Bank in 2003, gokshura checkpoints were controlled by young Israeli soldiers, gokshura nervously clutching their weapons and yelling at Palestinians to stay in line. Gokshura
When I returned in 2005, gokshura I found many checkpoints replaced by metal turnstiles into which Palestinians were herded to wait for soldiers to push a button, gokshura letting them through one by one or sometimes not at all. Gokshura
Each year I return, gokshura the method of control over Palestinian movement is further institutionalized, gokshura most recently Israeli terminal-style buildings, gokshura entirely separating soldiers from the Palestinians whose movement they are controlling. Gokshura
I first encountered one of these terminals after visiting a women's cooperative in Tulkarem to purchase embroidery to send home. Gokshura
Because there are no reliable postal services in the West Bank, gokshura and because I did not want to risk the products being damaged or confiscated by Israeli airport security if I transported them in my luggage, gokshura I knew I would have to send them to the US from a post office in Israel. Gokshura
I had traveled from Tulkarem to Tel Aviv once in the past by taking a shared
taxi to the nearby Einab junction, gokshura where I had walked from the Palestinian road to the Israeli one and caught transport into Israel. Gokshura
This second time, gokshura I was traveling with my backpack and six plastic bags full of embroidery, gokshura and I assumed the trip would be as straightforward as it had been in the past. Gokshura
When I arrived at Einab junction, gokshura I found a large new building, gokshura fortified by several layers of metal fences, gokshura walls, gokshura and gates. Gokshura
The first layer reminded me of rural parts of the Wallâ€”wire fence reinforced with electric sensory wire and razor wire with a heavy iron gate. Gokshura
The gate was open but nobody was on the other side. Gokshura
I walked through and came to two large iron turnstiles surrounded by a wall of iron bars. Gokshura The turnstiles were locked.
Frustrated, gokshura I put down my six bags to rest for a moment. Gokshura
Maybe someone would come back? I waited, gokshura but still there was nobody. Gokshura
I called out. Gokshura "Hello? Anybody there?"
"Please wait a moment, gokshura" a staticky voice above me blared. Gokshura I looked up to find a speaker attached to the turnstile. Gokshura
I didn't have much choice but to wait. Gokshura
Whoever was operating the turnstiles didn't seem to be in much of a hurry, gokshura so I took out my camera.
"Excuse me!" the voice snapped.
"Yes, gokshura" I answered as I took my first photo. Gokshura
"Please put your camera away immediately!"
"Please let me in immediately, gokshura" I answered. Gokshura
"I said to wait, gokshura" said the voice, gokshura and I answered, gokshura "And I am waiting."
The light above the turnstile turned from red to green and I put away my camera and picked up my bags to walk through. Gokshura
It was difficult squeezing into the tight rotating cage with all my bags, gokshura and by the time I'd made it to the other side, gokshura I was hot and cranky.
In front of me was a metal detector surrounded by iron bars. Gokshura I began to walk through but the voice called out from another speaker above: "Stop!"
I continued through the metal detector and groaned, gokshura "What?!" into the air, gokshura wondering where he was watching me from.
"Go back and put down your bags."
I went back through the metal detector and set down my six bags, gokshura which were feeling heavier by the minute. Gokshura I took the opportunity to take another picture. Gokshura
The soldier didn't bother protesting this time, gokshura but ordered me to walk through the metal detector again. Gokshura
I tried to pick up my bags again but he ordered, gokshura "No, gokshura without your bags." I walked through. Gokshura Nothing happened. Gokshura
"Now, gokshura go back."
I closed my eyes with a sigh, gokshura walked back, gokshura picked up my six bags, gokshura and walked through again before he could give me the order to do so. Gokshura
Somehow this seemed so much worse than the turnstiles and metal detectors I had seen at Huwwara checkpoint. Gokshura
At least there you could see the people humiliating you. Gokshura Or maybe it was more upsetting because I wasn't used to being the one humiliated.
Beyond the metal detector was another set of turnstiles, gokshura locked again. Gokshura
I took a deep breath and stared at the red light, gokshura hoping to see it turn green rather than let the guard hear my voice crack if I spoke.
Thankfully, gokshura the turnstile buzzed and I squeezed through to reach the building itself. Gokshura That was the end of the pre-screening. Gokshura Now it was time for the real screening.
The inside of the building reminded me of an airport terminalâ€”high ceilings and multiple floors, gokshura and multilingual signs for travelers. Gokshura
The ones here read, gokshura "Prepare documents for inspection" in Hebrew, gokshura Arabic, gokshura and English. Gokshura The signs didn't clarify where one was supposed to go, gokshura however. Gokshura
There were a series of five doors with red lights on top, gokshura and I called out, gokshura "OK, gokshura my documents are ready... Gokshura Now what?" I had yet to see a human face.
This time nobody answered, gokshura so I asked again. Gokshura Again, gokshura nothing. Gokshura I set my bags down, gokshura annoyed. Gokshura My back was hurting, gokshura I was sweating, gokshura and I didn't know where I was or what was going to happen to me. Gokshura I yelled, gokshura "Is anybody there?! Hellooooooo!"
Eventually a second staticky voice came through from a speaker on the wall. Gokshura "Please proceed to the door."
"The one on the left."
"Left of what? Where are you?"
"I can see you, gokshura" the voice said. Gokshura "Walk backwards and go left."
I saw a door behind me on the left and carried my bags over to it. Gokshura Above the door was a red light, gokshura which I stared at. Gokshura Nothing happened. Gokshura I was ready to cry. Gokshura "Now what?" I yelled. Gokshura Silence. Gokshura I yelled again, gokshura even louder.
"What am I supposed to do?!"
"Calm down!" yelled a cheerful soldier walking by on an upper level above me. Gokshura He was finishing a conversation on his walkie-talkie, gokshura and put up his hand for me to wait. Gokshura I glared at him. Gokshura "Go there, gokshura" he pointed to another door near the one I was standing at, gokshura and began to walk away.
"No, gokshura please!" I blurted out, gokshura forgetting my policy of not pleading with soldiers. Gokshura "You're the first human face I've seen and I'm starting to lose it."
He motioned towards the door and promised that if I stood there, gokshura the light would eventually turn green. Gokshura
I picked up my bags, gokshura approached the door, gokshura set them down, gokshura and waited. Gokshura Eventually, gokshura the light turned green, gokshura this time accompanied by a little buzz that unlatched the full iron door. Gokshura
I expected to find a soldier on the other side, gokshura but as the heavy door slammed behind me I found myself in a tiny room with white
walls, gokshura no windows, gokshura and a second iron door. Gokshura That door eventually buzzed as well, gokshura and I struggled to open it as I held my bags, gokshura settling to kick one in front of me instead. Gokshura
The next room had three walls and a double-paned window with a soldier on the other side. Gokshura
The soldier asked for my ID and I slipped it under the glass. Gokshura He tried to make small talk and asked me what part of the United States I was from. Gokshura I told him flatly, gokshura "For the first time in my life, gokshura I want to blow something up."
He must not have heard me because he let me through to the next tiny windowless room. Gokshura
The next buzzing heavy door led out into the other open-spaced side of the terminal, gokshura where I picked up the pace, gokshura hoping to get out finally, gokshura an hour after I'd arrived. Gokshura No such luck.
One more soldier behind a window beckoned for my passport again. Gokshura "Where's your visa?" he asked, gokshura not finding the stamped slip of paper issued by Israel when the passport itself is not stamped.
Â I answered truthfully, gokshura "They told me at the airport that there were none left and that it would be OK." As the words came out, gokshura I realized how absurd this sounded, gokshura and I kicked myself for falling for it when I'd flown in the week before. Gokshura
How could the airport run out of visa sheets? Wasn't it more likely that they were deliberately trying to inhibit my travel in the Occupied Territories?
It was hard to blame the soldier, gokshura since, gokshura for all he knew, gokshura I'd snuck in over the hills of Jordan. Gokshura "Whatever, gokshura" I sighed. Gokshura "Call airport securityâ€”I promise I'm in the system."
I knew it would be a while, gokshura so I sat down again. Gokshura
I thought I was past the point of anger until I noticed a line of 25 or so Palestinians waiting outside to come in from the other direction, gokshura heading back to Tulkarem. Gokshura Had they been waiting there all this time? Why weren't they being processed?
I asked the guard holding my passport and he said he'd tend to them after I left.
It was one thing to feel frustrated and humiliated, gokshura but another to know that my ordeal had held up dozens of Palestinians from getting back to their homes and families. Gokshura "Wait, gokshura" I said. Gokshura "Are you telling me that in your fancy new facility you can't process people coming in two directions?
Don't let the problem with me delay these people any longer."
He told me not to worry, gokshura that the Palestinians were used to waiting. Gokshura
This made me even more upset. Gokshura I insisted that I would rather wait longer myself, gokshura and eventually he beckoned the group forward. Gokshura
I marveled as they waited patiently and yet somehow not submissively, gokshura beacons of dignity next to my defeated and angry presence. Gokshura I took out my camera and took a few photos. Gokshura
Within seconds, gokshura a guard appeared next to meâ€”in person, gokshura nothing but air between us!â€”and said sternly, gokshura "Come with me."
I followed the guard back towards the section of the terminal from which I had just come. Gokshura We passed through the windowless rooms and into a new room with crates on the floor. Gokshura From there, gokshura the guard opened another, gokshura even heavier iron door, gokshura and motioned for me to pass ahead of him. Gokshura
Expecting the guard to follow me in, gokshura I turned and instead found him placing my bags into the crates. Gokshura
Realizing that soldiers were going to go through my bags, gokshura I demanded to be present during the search to ensure that nothing would be damaged or stolen. Gokshura "That's not possible, gokshura" the guard said flatly, gokshura and the door slammed shut between me and my belongings. Gokshura
I kicked the door with frustration, gokshura realizing that all my contact information for Palestinian organizers and friends was still on my computer. Gokshura I realized that I still had my phone in my pocket and quickly called my friend Kobi, gokshura an Israeli activist. Gokshura I told him where I was and asked if he might make some calls on my behalf. Gokshura He said he'd do what he could and we hung up. Gokshura
I looked around the room. Gokshura It was empty except for a chair and an empty crate on the floor. Gokshura
There were no other doors, gokshura but there was a two-paned window with a soldier watching me from the other side of it. Gokshura "What are you looking at?"
I snapped at the soldier, gokshura and he walked out of view. Gokshura
Another soldier appeared, gokshura a young woman. Gokshura She spoke into an intercom so that I could hear her through the window. Gokshura "Please take off your clothes and put them in the container on the floor."
It took a moment for the words to sink in. Gokshura
Once they had, gokshura I looked the soldier straight in the eyes, gokshura and I began to undress. Gokshura I removed each piece of clothing slowly, gokshura not once taking my eyes off hers. Gokshura
I watched her with a look of hurt. Gokshura I wanted her to see that she was not just searching meâ€”she was humiliating me. Gokshura
Several times she looked away. Gokshura When I was down to my underwear, gokshura the soldier stopped me; she said that was enough. Gokshura
A part of me wished that she hadn't. Gokshura Perhaps if I were completely naked, gokshura she would more likely recognize the extent of my humiliation and her role in it.
The iron door behind me buzzed and the soldier told me to place the crate containing my clothes and phone into the room where I had last seen the guard. Gokshura
My other belongings were long since gone, gokshura and I could hear soldiers in the next room going through them. Gokshura
When I got back to the room, gokshura the soldier in the window was gone. Gokshura I sat down on the chair and waited. Gokshura
The soldiers next door were chatting and laughing. Gokshura I imagined them examining my personal photographs and letters. Gokshura
I was too upset to sit still. Gokshura I stood up and started pacing back and forth in the small room. Gokshura I had to do somethingâ€”anythingâ€”to express my emotions. Gokshura If I could hear them, gokshura then they could hear me. Gokshura I began to sing.
I sang an old song that I'd learned at summer camp as a child. Gokshura Its words were meaningless, gokshura but I sang it at the top of my lungs. Gokshura Within seconds, gokshura the female soldier was at the window, gokshura looking alarmed. Gokshura I waved. Gokshura I sang that stupid song until my voice hurt. Gokshura It felt good to singâ€”I felt empowered. Gokshura It was easier to act like a crazy person than a prisoner. Gokshura
If I was unpredictable, gokshura then they had lost the power to control me. Gokshura
Half an hour passed. Gokshura Or was it an hour?
My energy had worn off and I sat down miserably on the chair. Gokshura I was tired. Gokshura
The soldiers were gone from the next room now. Gokshura What was taking them so long? It was cold in the room, gokshura and I had nothing to cover myself with. Gokshura I began to shiver and rock back and forth on the chair. Gokshura I had no more energy to yell. Gokshura I began to cry. Gokshura
I cried for what felt like a long time. Gokshura
Eventually, gokshura the female soldier appeared in the window. Gokshura I could tell she felt bad for me. Gokshura I looked away. Gokshura
The door buzzed and she instructed me to open it. Gokshura
On the other side was a jacket and a cup of water. Gokshura I put on the jacket and drank the water to soothe my throat, gokshura but I was unimpressed. Gokshura I didn't want a jacket or water. Gokshura I wanted my freedom to leave. Gokshura I wanted my dignity back. Gokshura
Time passed. Gokshura I stopped looking at the soldiers and talking to them. Gokshura I stopped thinking of ways to pass the time or express myself. Gokshura I didn't even feel like myself anymore. Gokshura I felt empty, gokshura defeated. Gokshura I just sat and waited, gokshura with a feeling of profound loneliness. Gokshura
After what felt like an eternity, gokshura the iron door buzzed and I opened it to find all my clothes and bags in a large pile brimming over the tops of the containers. Gokshura The soldiers had emptied every single item separately into the crates. Gokshura
The papers from my notebook were strewn about loosely. Gokshura
Each piece of embroidery had been removed from its protective wrapper and crumpled into a pile. Gokshura A can of tuna had been opened and left amidst the hand-sewn garments. Gokshura
Even the boxes of Turkish delightâ€”a soft sticky candy covered with powdered sugar, gokshura which I'd brought for some friendsâ€”had been opened and rummaged through.
The only thing stronger than my anger was my desire to leave. Gokshura I sat down miserably and folded everything back into my bags. Gokshura I was crying uncontrollably, gokshura but I bit my tongue each time I was tempted to speak. Gokshura
When I was dressed and ready, gokshura I stood up, gokshura collected myself, gokshura and tried to open the door. Gokshura It was locked. Gokshura
"The door's still locked, gokshura" I informed the soldier watching through the window.
"Yes, gokshura please wait a little longer."
"Why?" I asked. Gokshura "You saw everything I have. Gokshura You know I'm not a security threat, gokshura and surely you know by now that I have a visa."
"I'm sorry but you're going to have to wait, gokshura" she said. Gokshura
I couldn't hold myself back any longer. Gokshura I lost it. Gokshura I opened up my bags and took out what was left of my canned tuna. Gokshura With my fingers, gokshura I began to spread the oily fish all over the window. Gokshura
"What are you doing?" asked the soldier, gokshura disturbed.
"You don't respect my stuff, gokshura I don't respect yours, gokshura" I answered.
Next, gokshura I opened a box of Turkish delight. Gokshura "I'm not going to stop until you let me out, gokshura" I announced as I began mashing the gummy cubes into the hinges of the iron door.
"OK, gokshura OK, gokshura" said the soldier's voice over the intercom. Gokshura "You can go now." The door buzzed. Gokshura
I gathered my bags and walked out. Gokshura
A soldier was waiting for me on the other side. Gokshura He gave me my passport and said I was free to leave. Gokshura
I called Kobi as soon as I was outside. Gokshura
He said it was the US Consulate that had helped get me released. Gokshura
The army claimed they were holding me because of the photographs I had taken inside the terminal. Gokshura Interestingly, gokshura they hadn't bothered to delete the images from my camera when they searched my bags.
I told Kobi what had happened. Gokshura
I felt as if I had lost a part of myself inside that terminal as I had slowly lost control. Gokshura
Kobi reminded me that even the option of losing control was a sign of privilegeâ€”Palestinians who behaved as I had would not likely have been freed. Gokshura I tried to imagine what it would be like to endure such an invasive screening every day of my life.
Kobi told me a story about his Palestinian friend, gokshura Sara, gokshura whom he'd met in Maryland. Gokshura
Sara would frequently travel back and forth between her home in Palestine and the United States, gokshura where she was studying. Gokshura
Each time she returned to Palestine, gokshura she was able to walk right through the checkpoints. Gokshura
She had enough confidence to just assert her will and go through, gokshura simply by the fact that she was used to being treated like a person. Gokshura
And each time, gokshura after a few months in Palestine, gokshura she would lose that ability. Gokshura
In just a few hours I had gone from empowerment to craziness to submission to destructiveness. Gokshura
What would I become after months of such treatment?
What about a lifetime of the even worse treatment that Palestinians experience?
It was dark outside the terminal as I hung up the phone. Gokshura I had been held for 3 hours, gokshura and there were no more buses running. Gokshura I could see the lights of a settlement on a nearby hill. Gokshura
I began walking in what seemed like the direction of Tel Aviv. Gokshura
I stuck my thumb out to the occasional passing car, gokshura and eventually a settler stopped. Gokshura
He moved his gun out of the front seat so that I could get in. Gokshura Feeling lousy about it, gokshura I accepted a ride to the nearest bus stop from where buses were still running to Tel Aviv. Gokshura
I boarded the first bus out and cried the whole way back to the city. The original piece is found at Anna's site: http://www.annainthemiddleeast.com/