Marie Campbell is a retired University of Victoria professor who left on December 12, 2002 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.
Qalquilya – December 25, 2002
Today, I spent a couple of hours at the checkpoint outside of Qalquilya, observing what was happening. (I do have it written up but finding the time to sit at a computer is not easy.) At the checkpoint, we make our presence felt by the soldiers as they process people wanting to move themselves or their goods into or out of the city.
It is such a time and energy-consuming thing, just moving a few miles. Our presence reminds soldiers that they must operate under international law and rather than by their own whim. I felt that my first shift there went well. We resisted the soldiers’ attempts to get us to move. While we watched them, the checkpoint was opened more often to allow people to pass.
Being an older woman is a “plus” here. For one thing, I am not really afraid of young men, even in uniform and carrying a gun. And secondly, the soldiers tend to be somewhat more respectful of older women. And they don’t have to do the macho thing with me, as they do with the men in our ISM group.
I must say that I can’t imagine how the Palestinians stand the level of everyday controls that they must live with. Life here is so different from across the Green Line, in Israel. For the week that I was in Israel, I could and did travel, and do everything just as I would have at home. The only signs of trouble or potential trouble were the heightened security posted in public buildings, and of course the ever-present sight of soldiers travelling with their guns. My Israeli friends talked about the troubles, of course. But life continues more or less as we know it at home, while in Palestine, we are really under a state of siege.
Here in Qalquilya, the physical infrastructure, the city and country environment, the means of making a life are being destroyed, and this issue of movement – people simply are not at liberty here. They are prisoners in their homes.