Thursday, December 20, 2007

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From: "partnersforpeace"
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 18:53:20 -0000
Subject: [partnersforpeace] Op-ed from Jerusalem Women Speak 14 participant, Wejdan Jaber
Metal Detectors: My Biggest Fear
It's not the dentist or public speaking that I am afraid of. It is
the metal detector that is my biggest fear.

Every time I approach a metal detector gate, I get this strange fear
knowing that my ability to proceed to where I am going will be decided
by the person operating detector. Most times, I succeed in explaining
the reason the bells and whistles go off when I walk through the metal
detector, but sometimes I am not even allowed the opportunity to
explain and get denied entry.

In 1968, I was born with bi-lateral hip dislocation. I went through
several painful surgical operations to fix it, but none of them
worked. I grew up with my disability and the immense physical and
psychological pain it caused, including several years of being bullied
and picked on in school. Thirty years later, I had garnered the
courage and the money to replace my dislocated hips with a brand new
pair of artificial hips. Little did I know that my new hips would add
a new level of complexity to my life.

In the West Bank where I currently live, there are 85 manned checkpoints, 460 physical
obstacles, and many other "flying" checkpoints that cut the roads between Palestinian
cities and villages in the West Bank (UN OCHA report, Aug. 30, 2007 - www.ochaopt. org).
Only a few of these checkpoints are on the 1967 "green line" between the West Bank and
Israel, restricting Palestinians from entering Israel. Several of these manned checkpoints
contain metal detectors.

In metal detector line, I often see women taking off their jewelry or
hair pins; men taking out coins from their pockets; and older people
leaving their metal canes to the side or putting them through an
X-ray machine before they go through. It is like a test, I feel,
where everybody is eager to be let through and to collect their
belongings after the gate. It is a standard procedure that everyone
has to go through. If you are a Palestinian with dark hair and
"Middle-Eastern" features, this procedure may be more than just
standard protocol for you. You are a walking suspect because "you
fit the profile", and then, when the metal detector sounds its bells
also, it is as if it is shouting, 'Here she is, catch the terrorist!'

On a cold morning in January 2004, a 22-year-old mother of two
children, Reem Riashi, was sent by Hamas with an explosive belt to
Erez checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. She managed to
go through the Israeli security checks by claiming that she was
disabled and that she had metal parts in her body. Once she made it
through, Reem set off the explosive device taking her own life and
killing four Israelis. Reem must have realized that her suicidal
mission would leave her two children motherless, but I do not think
she recognized how her action would effect the thousands of disabled
Palestinians with metal parts in their bodies, including those who
have been wounded during confrontations with the Israeli army and have
bullet remnants or shrapnel in their bodies. She left all of us
prisoners because we set the metal detector off wherever we go.

In June 2004 while I was working for the United Nations office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights. I was assigned to travel from
Gaza to Cairo to help with the work of the UN Special Committee that
investigates Israeli practices against Palestinian people under
occupation. The only way I could travel was through the
Israeli-controlled Rafah Crossing, south of Gaza. After waiting for
eight hours under the hot sun of a summer day in Rafah, I was ordered
to return to Gaza at once because the metal detector at the borders
went off. I tried to explain to the Israeli soldiers –whom I could
only see at a distance- my situation, but they would not come down
from their monitoring towers to check me personally. They kept on
saying through their loudspeakers "go back, go back or we will shoot".

And that's what I did. I went back through the metal detector gate
and I called the UN liaison office to see if they could help in
coordinating my passage as a UN employee, but they could do nothing.
Dismayed by knowing that I could face this every time I want to leave
the country, I headed home in tears. On my way back, I could not stop
thinking about the amount of anger, humiliation, and deprivation that
any human being can tolerate before he turns into a suicide bomber.
Of course, I didn't forget to stop by my office at the UN to hand in
the UN Passport that was issued to me especially for that mission.

www.filastiniyat. org

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