The checkpoints of arrogance

The tragic failures exposed by the killing of Israel Defense Forces troops at checkpoints at the hands of Palestinian guerrillas released a flood of criticism that forced the military command to learn some lessons and initiate changes in the management and tactics of the roadblocks.

Presumably, these lessons will be implemented and the defensive and security measures, together with the supervision of the checkpoints, will be enhanced. But it is impossible to expect the investigators to go so far as to recommend eliminating the checkpoints, and not because they come to the conclusion that the checkpoints have enormous military importance, nor because the settlers insist on keeping the checkpoints in place because they “provide a sense of security for people on the roads” of the West Bank.

The checkpoints will remain the main point of contact and friction between the occupying power and the rebellious population not because they serve any security purpose, but because their function is to send a message of force and authority, to inspire fear, and to symbolize the downtrodden nature and inferiority of those under the occupation.

The large blocks of cement, the fortified positions and the half dozen or so frightened soldiers at a checkpoint are nothing but a showcase intended to display who has the power to rule the lives of those under rule, or even to cause their deaths – and almost without the use of real force, but rather by relying on the anxiety of the occupied, who have been coerced into agreeing to behave in accordance with the rules dictated by the agents of power.

The scorn for the Palestinians and the arrogant reliance on the mentality of subservience are expressed not only by virtue of the checkpoints’ existence, but also their locations. The checkpoint in Wadi Harmiyeh was there because nobody ever considered the possibility that the Palestinians were capable of exploiting the tactical inferiority of its positioning, expecting them only to wait quietly in line, obsequious to the troops. How dare they break the rules, smash the display and expose the checkpoint as a pathetic symbol of control through force?

Colonial regimes have always been based on the arrogance of a few soldiers controlling the lives of millions of subjects through minimal use of force and reliance on a “deterence” that perpetuates the inferiority of those under their rule. Such regimes can last as long as the subjects agree to behave in accordance with the dictates from above. But the moment the rules of the game are broken and the checkpoints turn from displays of control into barricades of revolt, small groups of soldiers do not have a chance of remaining anything more than props for their commanders’ arrogant contempt.

After hundreds of thousands of people who line up obsequiously in long, winding lines between cement blocks rise up and refuse to show their ID cards or obey the order to go back, and are ready to pay with their lives for their revolt, commissions of inquiry will be established to find out how such a powerful army lost the battle for the checkpoints.

The lesson learned by the British in India (and the lesson learned by all the other arrogant colonialists) won’t be considered relevant because the checkpoints here are intimately connected to the settlements, and the security of the settlements and the approaches to them must be guaranteed at all cost. Thus, the mentality of those who established the checkpoints – based on a colonialist attitude toward the Palestinians – is the same mentality that established the settlements based on the belief that an unctuous Palestinian inferiority would last forever.

Those who planted the settlements in the Katif Bloc or in the heart of Samaria and northern Judea assumed the Palestinians would forever remain obsequious; otherwise, how could one explain the logic of establishing Jewish islands in the heart of Arab populations?

The settlers argue that from the very beginning, Zionism flew in the face of reality. It succeeded, they say, precisely because it ignored reality and never surrendered to the rational concepts of reality that predicted a failure for the cause. Therefore, the demographic and geographic arguments used against the settlers evaporated in the fervor of their visions.

But now it turns out that others too can alter reality through the power of commitment to a nationalist ideology; and the attempt to claim a monopoly on ideals, out of the false belief that the other will not and can not rebel, leads to irreparable disaster.

The so-called settlement enterprise, like the checkpoints set up to save it, will pass from this world because the wheel has turned: Now, the Palestinians are the ones who are rising up against reality, refusing to surrender to rational perceptions of the balance of power that predict their failure. And they have a good role model.


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