Zoriah: West Bank Checkpoints
The following text and photographs are from Zoriah. He is one of the first photographers to use WarShooter. His photography here has spanned everything from AIDS in Asia and the Pakistan earthquake, to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. His series' have been among the most popular content here. Photo editors can also find his work in the WarShooter gallery, or see his resume here.
West Bank Checkpoints Captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, the West Bank is now home to 2.4 million Palestinians and 400,000 Israeli settlers whose right to be there is widely disputed under international law. The West Bank is also home to an estimated 3,000 military checkpoints established by the Israelis to protect the settlers, capture fugitives and prevent the movement of improvised explosive devices. Palestinians question why the Israeli government does not use a trained military presence as border control, working only in areas that offer direct access to Israeli territory to accomplish the same task. They also claim that the checkpoints are used to spy on and monitor the movements of individuals, including political leaders, as well as an excuse to carry out a broad campaign of human rights violations. Every day hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are funneled through these checkpoints. Crossing involves name checks against a daily most wanted list as well as physical searches, both of body and personal possessions. More modern checkpoints use advanced equipment while most leave the searching to young, overworked soldiers who have little patience and often little experience in dealing with people. The lines to the checkpoints are long and can take from several hours to several days to cross. Many individuals must cross several checkpoints just to get from their homes to their schools, places of work or even the market. Many checkpoints require special paperwork to cross and it can sometimes take weeks to get permission to visit a relative that lives in a nearby neighborhood. Individuals are usually routed through a maze of metal or Plexiglas railings and doors while vehicles are stopped, boarded and searched. Although many of the older checkpoints are chaotic and resemble a border crossing to a third world country, the Israeli government is quickly replacing them with more modern, advanced structures that not only provide more advanced security and screening techniques, but a more sterile and less inhumane esthetic. Despite the presence of monitoring groups such as Human Rights Watch, Palestinians are regularly detained, handcuffed and placed in holding cells without being charged, only to be released hours later with no explanation. Others end up in Israeli prisons for several years, sparking desperate actions by Lebanese and Gaza Strip based militant groups. The Middle East crisis in Lebanon as well as continued violence in Gaza were started when militant groups captured Israeli soldiers in hopes of bartering their freedom for that of their friends and relatives, held for years in Israeli prisons without being formally charged or tried in a criminal court system. It is quite easy to see the fear in the faces of the Palestinians waiting to cross the checkpoints. Large groups are packed into tiny quarters and boredom, frustration and fear all add to the somber and tense mood. An Israeli commander, who refused to give his name for obvious reasons, said that the work they were forced to do at these checkpoints was immoral and unjust. This sentiment was mirrored by many of the young soldiers. Towards the end of my talk with this commander, his eyes began to tear and he said “if I was a stronger person I would go to jail instead of doing this.”
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