For the last sixteen months my staff has suffered the humiliation of
Israeli checkpoints twice a day, once coming to work and once going
back home. Daily, I'm briefed of the horror stories, which
unfortunately have become part of our 'normal' life, about the events
that take place at the checkpoints -- extended delays (at times 4-5
hours to travel what should take 20-30 minutes), shouting matches,
walking through mud, climbing mountains, being refused entry, etc,
However, today's briefing was special, so special I had to document
it. One of my managers lives in Bir Zeit, 7 minutes from Ramallah.
When he arrived at the Surda checkpoint, two hours prior to the start
of the workday, he was faced with a new type of Israeli soldier. As
part of Sharon's reinforcement of all checkpoints around Ramallah
to prevent Palestinian Authority President Yaser Arafat from
reaching Christmas prayers in Bethlehem, Israel deployed Lebanese
phalange soldiers to deal with the population. These are the pro-
Israel soldiers that joined the ranks of the Israeli defense forces in
Southern Lebanon when Israel invaded that country in 1982.
With about two hundred people stopped while on their way to work in
Ramallah and in perfect Lebanese-accent Arabic, the soldier
ordered the Palestinians to make 4 rows as follows; pretty women,
ugly women, men over 40 years old, and men under 40 years old.
Out of necessity to make it to Ramallah and earn a living, three lines
were formed, all females, men over 40 and men under 40. This
bastard Israeli soldier then proceeded to walk past the female line
separating them into his taste of pretty and ugly.
When he reached a female friend of my manager he demanded that
she stop chatting with the men. My manager made a remark to her
that he must be Lebanese. The soldier heard the remark and pulled
my manager out of line and asked to see his identification card.
When he saw on the card that his family name was Zeideh and that
he was a Christian Palestinian (Palestinian I.D. cards are required by
Israel to state a person's religion) he loudly chuckled that he was
better than the other Muslims in the row. My manager, being very
politically aware himself, provoked the soldier by lying and telling
him that he was an Orthodox Christian, even though he is
Marionette, just like the soldier. The soldier quickly reacted in the
opposite tone and shouted to him that if that was the case then he is
the scum of the earth. Little did the soldier know that the Zeideh
family is part of the family tree of the Khazen family, which is one of
the famous families of Lebanon.
The soldier then asked my manager if he was ever in Lebanon.
When he refused to answer, the soldier told my staff member that
he wanted to ask him one question. How do you pronounce the
word, tomato? My manager replied by offering two options as an
answer, tomato, or tomoto. He asked the soldier which one he
wanted to hear. This infuriated the soldier because it was now
revealed that this Palestinian knew that in Lebanon one method of
discrimination was for soldiers to hear this word pronounced, which
can identify if your accent is Palestinian or Lebanese. In Lebanon,
once that was known then the age-old divide and conquers tactics
From that point the solider grabbed my manager and a physical
clash was about to ensue. Luckily, another higher ranked soldier
approached and saw that the situation may be explosive and thus
put everyone waiting on his or her way.
This is the racism, the discrimination, the humiliation, the naked
arrogance and the military occupation that Palestinians have been
screaming to the world about. This is what the Palestinians will end,
with or without the U.S. consent! Merry Christmas.
December 24, 2001
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American and General Manager of
the Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers (www.apic-pal.com). He
lives in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank
and can be reached at email@example.com.