There are many levels to occupation in Palestine from the obvious to the extremely subtle. A subtle example would be some of the more interesting laws that people must abide by.
Like when you loose your ID document, you must first place an advert in Al Kuds newspaper, apply and go to the court to swear and oath that you are not committing fraud, pay a couple of hundred dollars and finally wait during which time your movement is pretty heavily restricted.
Or the fact that if you have a bank account, you can’t have funds transferred in from overseas beyond a certain amount. Otherwise those monitoring the funding of terrorist cells may pay you a visit.
Nor can people ride motorbikes – and it is odd to realize that you haven’t noticed this before – it would make it too easy for people to bypass the hundreds of roadblocks.
Chemical Engineering cannot be taught at university lest it be educating bomb-makers.
The more obvious of course is the ubiquitous checkpoint. Huwwara is one of the checkpoints that affects many people; everyone who passes out of Nablus to the south must go through this checkpoint. Depending on the time of day and the mood of the soldiers operating the checkpoint, it can be closed or take a couple of hours to get through. And if you are special, and your name appears (correctly or incorrectly) on a list, you can be arrested and go straight to jail without passing go.
This was the case with Amer, who is sitting in front of me trying to study psychology whilst watching TV at the same time. This gentle guy was on the way to Lebanon to his father’s funeral (his father died over twenty years ago in the war in Lebanon and new DNA analysis was starting to allow identification of remains). His name was on a list and he went to prison for 2 years and remained in administrative detention without a specific charge being brought.
If you are an older man, a woman or traveling with children, you can use the ‘Humanitarian line’ that avoids the body checks, the x-ray machines and a lot of the shouting. As I am an old woman with some childish behaviors (and carry a British passport) I can use this line too.
Anyhow this is aside. I got to the front of the line and handed over my visa stamp on paper and my driving license, in lieu of my lost passport.
“Where are you from?”
– from the UK.
“Ah, you have a good life.”
I gave no response. His voice was almost neutral or numb sounding but there was a hint of melancholy. Was he yearning to get away from this mess? Was he trying to pre-empt any possible judgment of him and his actions in the name of the occupation, by making me reflect on the fact that I could (and would) escape at anytime and therefore had no right to judge?
I don’t know. Either way, as so many things do in Palestine, it made me ponderous and it made me sad.