As I said, the Qalandiya checkpoint deserves its own very special post. It is a special kind of oppression that has been mastered by Israel, and it really deserves some praise.
I spoke briefly before about the mechanisms of separation between Palestinians that Israel has devised. Palestinians in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, and in Israel proper all have different forms of identification. People in the West Bank have West Bank or “green” IDs. They can travel in areas “A” and “B” of the West Bank (Palestinian Authority controlled) but not in Areas “C” (Israeli controlled). For example, yesterday we had to cross a checkpoint to go to the Dead Sea, which is in area “C”. We were allowed in because two of us were carrying US passports, but they could have just as well turned us away. Then we saw signs for a fresh water spring and did not get as lucky at that checkpoint. We were turned away because two of us were carrying “green” IDs.
Palestinians in Jerusalem carry Jerusalem or “blue” IDs. They can travel in all of those territories. However, if it is proven that they live anywhere other than in Jerusalem, they get their Jerusalem IDs taken away and the state replaces them with “West Bank” IDs, effectively barring them from entering Jerusalem or “Israel proper”. The reason for this is the Judiaization of Jerusalem, which I wrote about before. By various means Israel is trying to decrease the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem and transferring them (yes, ethnic transfer) into the West Bank. By emptying Jerusalem Israel can unilaterally make it the capital of Israel and ban even more Palestinians from entering Jerusalem.
Palestinians who live in Israel proper carry Israeli citizenship but are not treated equal to Jewish Israeli citizens. After all, it is the Jewish State and if you’re not Jewish in a Jewish State you are not equal. There are few borders through which Palestinian citizens of Israel can cross into the West Bank where other Palestinians who share a culture and an identity are a majority. This matrix of separation and control has effectively created almost three divided Palestinian populations within the same territory, and that is not to mention the refugee status Palestinians of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon who cannot even dream of seeing Palestine. Jews in this country, however, all have Israeli citizenship, and they can come and go anywhere. No separation mechanisms are set up for them. They have separate roads to drive on and different color license plates so they can drive on them.
Qalandiya is the main and permanent checkpoint that separates Palestinians in the West Bank from Jerusalem and from Palestinians outside of the West Bank. Qalandiya is a monstrosity.
If you have a visitor’s visa or a Jerusalem ID or a permit to visit Jerusalem in your West Bank ID you can go to the bus station in Ramallah and catch a bus to the Qalandiya checkpoint. Then you have to get out of the bus and walk through the checkpoint. (Unless you have a foreign passport with a visa. In that case you can stay on the bus and the soldiers will check your passport on the bus. I always encourage foreign passport holders to walk through the checkpoint at least once). Walking through the checkpoint the separation and the dehumanization continues.
The checkpoint is a giant momentary prison. Meaning that in the few minutes while one walks through she is in an animal cage. To get to the soldiers there are a sequence of barriers and corridors. People have to wait at the whim of the soldiers. They usually allow three people in at a time, and between those three people they typically allow several minutes to pass before they let anyone in. Meanwhile Palestinians are left waiting in multiple lines in cages–literally long cages in corridors. Not only are there wire fences on your left and your right as you wait, basically the exact width of a human being. But the fenced wire also covers the top of the corridor. Literally, Palestinians pass through cages to get to Jerusalem.
Once as I crossed Qalandiya I heard a conversation between two men who did not knwo each other. Above the cage we stood in, a bird was flying. One man said to the other, “Look at that. Look at the freedom that bird has. It has more freedom than we do.” And the other man replied, “You’re wrong. That bird is also carrying Palestinian ID.”