How To See Palestine: An ABC of Occupation

O is for Occupation

There is no outside to the occupation in Palestine. This entire project is about it. For a newcomer, one of the most notable features is the difficulty of simply moving around. If your vehicle has a green license plate, like the one above, you are restricted to driving on designated roads in the 'West Bank' and you will be searched at any checkpoint going into the 48 or any mobile checkpoint in Area C. If you have an orange license plate, like the one on my rental car, below, you can travel where you want. When we went through checkpoints, if there was no Palestinian person in the car, we would be waved through.
Bus travel involves every passenger being checked. I went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem on the bus. At the checkpoint, our ID was checked twice by different soldiers, whose automatic weapons casually pointed at each passenger in turn. Others in our group had to get out of the bus and be checked outside. There was no apparent logic to these variations, designed perhaps to make sure that you don't know what to expect. The Bethlehem bus is extensively used by tourists and Christian pilgrims so it may have less intrusive security by local standards.
Inside the West Bank, although the settlements are illegal, the regime provides them with services, including public transportation that is available only to the settlers. Throughout Palestine you see their bus stops, always guarded by soldiers and surveillance equipment.
I was only able to photograph this sandbagged turret at Gush Etzion because it was Friday--the Jewish Shabbat--and there were no settlers traveling. The roundabout is the site of a big supermarket and has been the place of many attacks from both sides. Settlers and IDF soldiers also hitchhike at specific, protected locations like this. I didn't see any Palestinians trying to catch a ride. 
People do try and cross the Wall into the 48 on foot. It's a hazardous enterprise. Habshe pointed out this place to me. It's possible to cross the Wall--which is a fence at this point--quite easily here. But snipers are watching and the result would be death. It is not for nothing that so many people compare this to the Berlin Wall. 

All that is to say that the basic infrastructure of transport and all that is associated with it is grounded in its function of sustaining the occupation. To imagine the 'two state solution'--which I do not believe is now physically possible--is to imagine that all this can be dismantled or repurposed. The structures and concepts of occupation are spreading. In the United States, the separation wall has become the signature idea for Trump's campaign, while Britain voted for 'hard' borders with Europe. Occupation's methods are now becoming authoritarian strategies worldwide.

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