I was debating myself about the last photo. I thought I might choose one of my “checkpoint pornography” photos: violence, shooting, children crying, bleeding wounds. Or photos of sick people, sometimes in a critical condition, arriving at the checkpoint with life-supporting systems, transferred from one ambulance to another, a technique known as “back to back”. There are many of those which I’ve never published. Or perhaps it is time for the “waiting project” – photos I took of Palestinians waiting, for the checkpoint to open, for their turn to arrive. At the checkpoint I began thinking about the body language of a person who is used to waiting, and there is not a nation more used to waiting than the Palestinians.
But climactic moments, such as a woman giving birth behind concrete blocks for some privacy have become quite rare. Colonialism, apparently, is a learnable practice, and Israelis have learned it well. Our occupation is becoming more and more efficient and planned, and therefore more aesthetic and photogenic. Less soldiers with helmets and camouflage paint and M-16s, more security guards dressed as civilians, and an elegant pistol tuck under their shirt. Less harassment in checkpoints within the West Bank, more in the terminals into Israel, coming into work.
Palestinian workers are completely dependent on their Israeli employers. They work in Israel (either in Israel proper or in the settlements, but it is one and the same), Israeli goods are sold in the PA territories, and the Israeli manufacturer enjoys a consumer market with limited options. This is the colonial patent. The British did it long before us.
This point is important because Israelis, especially those who consider themselves to be leftists, make more and more distinctions between them and the settlers, until sometimes it seems to me like there’s really a hatred of settlers. They are there, and we’re here. But whoever thinks that only the settlers benefit from the occupation, has not learned anything. The same goes for anyone who thinks the colonial project began in 1967. The next time you walk on a pavement in Tel Aviv, or drive on a road in Israel, try and think who is really doing the planting and the building and the paving. Who is profiting from cheap workers, and who is manufacturing goods to sell in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The occupation is much more than the real-estate deal of the settlers.
The photos show a banal routine of a successful colonial project.
Top photo: Tayasir checkpoint, Jordan Rift Valley, May 3rd, 5:30am. Workers from the Jordan valley work in Israeli settlements in the valley and in Israel. Palestinian residents of the valley heading for Israel will go through one of the checkpoints (Tayasir or Hamra), then again in Ma’aleh Ephraim (unmanned early in the morning, except for a guard in watchtower), another in Anbatta, in the entrance to Tul Karm (usually unmanned in those hours), and then the hell of Irtah, which has been my focus in the past few weeks. On their way home all these checkpoints will be manned.
Middle photo: Palestinian workers coming out of the inspection facility, Eyal terminal, in the outskirts of Qalqilya. May 9th, shortly after 6am.
Bottom photo: workers at the Irtah checkpoint, outskirts of Tul Karm. May 21st, 4am. The number of workers in the area between the turnstile and the facility is monitored. After thirty workers have passed through, the turnstiles lock.
I am taking a break from blogging. Perhaps we’ll meet again in the winter.