Monday, August 20, 2012

The Checkpoint: Terror, Power, and Cruelty
Threats. All day and all night he generates threats: he threatens people in order to extinguish their will. He does not know what their wills actually consist in. He can feel, by now, that part of them wishes he were dead. “If you didn’t have [your weapon], and if your fellow soldiers weren’t beside you, they would jump on you,” one soldier testifies, “beat the shit out of you, and stab you to death.” He imagines them charging his checkpoint by the hundreds: carpenters, doctors, teachers, farmers, mothers, uncles, children, grandparents, and lovers. How could so many people, people who look him in the eye every day, want him dead? How do the Palestinians see him? He does not recognize his own gaze reflected back at him from the windows of the cars he inspects or confiscates. He is no longer his own person.

Now that guilt is impossible, the soldier realizes that part of him is dying. The soldier starts to think that he is the real victim in all this, especially since no one understands that he is bound to fail, that his power makes him helpless. No one knows that since arriving here he has not made a single choice. Sure, the Palestinians are helpless too, but it is easy to see that they are victims, he tells himself. He, the soldier, is a powerful nobody—that is his tragedy.

Anger accumulates. Palestinians come up to him, one after the other, all day long, begging him to let them pass. Telling him they need to get to their schools, universities, hospitals, jobs; they need food; they want to see their children, their parents; they need to get to their funerals and weddings, to give birth. But how the hell should he know? Why do they think he has any clue as to whether they can pass through his checkpoint? He cannot tell the difference between them; they all act the same, the way terrified people act.

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