Sunday, October 05, 2008

5-Oct-08: Learning the lessons of the checkpoints


We've written numerous times here about events that happen at the military checkpoints through which Palestinian Arabs are obliged to pass and be checked.

The Hawara crossing, rarely mentioned in the foreign news but the scene of frequent trouble, offers an insight into this ongoing war and the many ways it is not understood by people who ought to know better.

This morning, alert Israeli service personnel at Hawara, located in the Shomron (Samaria) district near Shechem (Nablus) sensed that a man with a bag was worthy of closer checking. Turns out he was carrying two explosive pipe bombs. They detained him and called in a sapper who removed the weapons and destroyed them in a controlled detonation.

Two weeks ago, at the same place, a young Palestinian Arab man was stopped and arrested after pulling out a 10-centimeter (4-inch) knife and attempting to stab one of the Israeli personnel manning the station. YNet reports that "the soldier cocked his weapon, and the terrorist let go of the knife". A pity the report did not state the obvious which is never - somehow - obvious: the armed Israeli military personnel could have easily ended the would-be murderer's life. They had the arms, the military and moral justification and the opportunity. But that's not the nature of the transactions at the crossings. The Palestinian Arabs keep passing through on their journey to Paradise; the young Israeli service people are under strict orders to stand stoically and seek to disarm and stop them.

Two days before that, a Palestinian Arab woman poured acid on a young Israeli soldier stationed at the same checkpoint. He may lose the eyesight in one of his eyes.

The same woman had hurled an acidic substance on a soldier at the checkpoint two weeks earlier than that, managing to injure three Palestinian Arabs along the way according to AFP.

Time to state the obvious, though experience suggests it's rarely obvious to most people: the aim of the Palestinian Arabs mentioned here is not to achieve some strategic goal; not to capture some crossing; not even - based on years of data - to cause harm to the soldiers they regard as an occupation force, and whom we regard as the main reason why more Israelis have not been killed or maimed.

The aim of the stabber, the pipe-bomber, the acid thrower is to bring terrorism into Israeli society. If they can reach women, children, civilians, buses, hospitals, schools, restaurants - then they have won. Those are their goals. That is their morality and their value system.

The picture above shows a 14 year-old, somewhat learning-disabled Palestinian Arab boy called Hussam Muhammad Bilal Abdu. Four years ago, on 24th March 2004, the socially-awkward child was made to place an 8 kilogram explosive belt on his body under his coat and to carry it through Hawara and onward into those parts of Israel where large numbers of Jewish women and children can be found. He was in a literal sense turned into a walking bomb, like so many who have been stopped since then by Israeli forces.

The great gift made to this child by the Palestinian Arab education system was, by his own admission, to impregnate his mind with a vision of sex with heavenly virgins. That, and a daily regimen of Fatah-inspired hate training, was what it took to turn a child into a bomb. (Fatah is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah claimed responsibility for the Hussam Abdu outrage, and freely acknowledged equipping him and sending him.)

After years of construction and much political controversy, the security barrier that has brought such criticism onto Israel has still not been completed. There remain vast swathes of the country where terrorists can cross over unimpeded. And yet day after day, the security personnel manning the checkpoints find and stop terrorists. And day after day, clueless observers, many of them paid reporters for important media outlets, criticize and condemn Israel for the presence of these measures that have saved so many lives in the past eight years.

Not all of them are quite as witless or agenda-driven as the appalling Robert Fisk, author of a classic of the genre. Published in the Independent (UK) in April 2001, his noxious polemic entitled "How pointless checkpoints humiliate the lions of Palestine, sending them on the road to vengeance" appeared less than four months before our daughter and 14 other innocents were murdered by a man who carried a bomb through an Israeli checkpoint and was not stopped.

Fisk rhetorically asks of the Israelis "So why did they stop me? For "security" reasons? Or because their checkpoints are not about security at all, but about humiliation?" The man with the pipe bomb and the woman with the acid can probably help him and his colleagues figure it out.