Back from Israel-Palestine, I want to inform my Fellow Americans

(Mohammad Nabulsi) 100543.1603@CompuServe.

August 23, 1997

Marhaba everyone, Hi everyone,

During my recent visit home, I was travelling between Ramallah and Nablus in a public taxi when we were stopped on an Israeli checkpoint.

A soldier collected the ID cards in the car and took them away for checking, also he took the car's papers and checked them against the chassis and engine numbers, etc. We stayed stuffed in the car for over an hour when many many other cars were stopped and let go. I was wondering if they were just wasting their time and ours and what where they looking for. They looked like they were searching for anything wrong, but nothing in particular.

I wanted at one stage to get out of the car to ask them why we were delayed like this, people in the car told me not to do that, the passenger in the seat in front of me ( a 7- seater car) would not let me get out even. This is the extent of terror and oppression people live there on a daily basis, caused by a government which endlessly is talking about terrorism and is unconditionally is supported by the US government, a self-proclaimed defender of human rights in the world. People are scared to even ask why they are delayed for an hour, late at night.

I estimate that this fear is in part excessive, but in part is founded. That same day an Israeli patrol killed a 19 yr old man they said attacked them with a knife, it turned out later his wedding was two (or so) days later. What was said in Nablus is that eyewitnesses saw him being called by 4-5 soldiers, who soon after started beating him, he tried to defend himself (not heard if he had or not had a knife) and was then shot dead.

Going back to what I've experienced on the way to Nablus. Few minutes after an hour's delay, by that time it was past 10 p.m, the soldiers started to clear the road from their signs, like the big stop sign and the flashing light, etc and pack them back in the army car. They finished packing, then we were told to get out and stand by the roadside. The soldiers then stood behind us and on the side of us. I grew up in Nablus so none of this was new to me, but at that stage I felt we could be close to being shot, I never felt more in my life such need and wish to defend myself. It looked like a firing squad, if they started shooting I would not have been surpried in the slightest. It was not just the time of day, or the nerve racking delay in the car, but their manner and body language, they looked even drier and more distant than usual. Although I did think previously of asking them why we were all held, I really did not think it will make any difference, I just thought I aught to try.

We stood like that for a very long 5-10 mins, and then one of them started giving the IDs back and letting us one by one into the car, except one. They told him (in broken Arabic with Hebrew) to come with them. He simply complied. His brother was in the car with us and I told him to ask them for a telephone number for his family - they had a mobile phone with them, but he did not dare ( and I don't blame him, often people who intervene end up being taken as well).

So, this is just an ordinary day's living for Palestinians. In fact, the soldiers knew there was a US national in the car and I think they've noticed I was also carrying a European passport, so if anything, our experience may have been mild compared to what it would have been without Eurpean and US citizens being in the car. One fellow was saying we were going to get beaten up when they told us to get out of the car, he was saying it in an informative way only, not complaining or anything.

So, a question I'de like to ask people for ideas : what can an ordinary person do to change a life like this ? Is there anything civilised that can be done, is there any way Israeli authorities can be negotiated with or written to change their procedures of stop and search and arrest ? I am not talking about anything wild such as them stopping to arrest people on whim, but to simply change the way they do it to a humane way.

What I have in mind are ideas of what can a few of us do in the way of writing to appropriate authorities/embassies to ask that they change the way they stop people on the road, on the way they take someone in an army car without giving him or his family any reason why, where or how long for.

I think people's life quality will be improved if simply when the army decides to arbitrarily arrest someone, they make sure to pass on a telephone number for his family to be able to talk to him, or if that's too much then to at least find out where he is, plus the name or ID of the arresting officer. I am sure the red cross is doing things like this, but what about the first night or two that young man had to spend ? what about his family ? Imagine how kids might grow up having experienced their father or older brother got arrested and beaten up for no reason ?

So, is there something a few people or even one person can do ? write to someone or a department or an embassy ? So far friends have suggested I write my experience to a newspaper. I am not sure if that'll get anywhere. Besides, there is nothing exciting about this story, it seems a big deal in Europe or the US, but over there its just standard daily life, which in fact is why it is so bad.

So, any ideas ?

Salaam, Mohammad.

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