Sunday, October 30, 2005

Palestine goes to the Olympics: Winning the checkpoint-crossing event

Palestine goes to the Olympics: Winning the checkpoint-crossing event
By Jane Stillwater

"Palestine needs a soccer team so they can go to the Olympics and win recognition as a sovereign state," I told my friend Cathy.

For the last 40 years, Palestinians have tried everything they could possibly think of to stop the Israelis from appropriating their lands. Using legitimate avenues of petition hasn't worked. Appealing to the UN hasn't worked. Asking America to be an impartial referee hasn't worked. Taking their case to Israeli courts hasn't worked. Armed resistance hasn't worked. Non-violent marches, strikes and boycotts haven't worked. Begging the international community for help hasn't worked. Nothing has worked. The Israeli walls, bulldozers, home demolitions and "settlers" just kept on coming and coming. In desperation, some angry youth have even turned to suicide bombing but that didn't work either.

Maybe having an Olympic soccer team would be the way to go -- to make the world more aware of the sad plight of the Palestinians as their land is being invaded and taken over by 450,000 "settlers" illegally squatting in MASSIVE housing blocs that dominate the Palestinian landscape like gigantic malevolent alien androids, stretching as far as the eye can see on the ridges of almost every hill in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"No," said a friend of mine from Ramallah. "Forget about soccer. The Olympic Committee needs to introduce a whole new sport to the Games -- checkpoint crossing! According to, there are approximately 750 obstacles to Palestinian movement on any given day. Palestine would surely take the Gold Metal on that one!"

Have you seen the Qalandia checkpoint crossing just outside of Ramallah? My friend described it to me. "Imagine an area approximately four football fields square. The temperature is sizzling and the air is filled with exhaust fumes and dust. There are approximately 200 taxis waiting to get through. All of their passengers have to get out and walk into narrow holding pens where they are thoroughly searched before being allowed to cross to the other side of the checkpoint. The whole area is filled with the noise of construction -- with quarries, earth-movers and dump trucks everywhere. And of course there is the ever-present Wall.

"Poor sweet Israeli soldiers stand out in the hot sun for hours in full riot gear, their Kalashnikovs at the ready as they check passports and papers. Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people are constantly waiting. People are resigned to spending their whole day at this Disneyland of all checkpoints. Even the babies have stopped trying to cry. It is an unbelievable waste of time and money.

"This is already a billion-dollar checkpoint -- and all the while the Israelis are building, building, building to make it larger still."

"Do you think," I asked my friend, "that getting through the checkpoint at Ramallah should be an Olympic event?"

"Most definitely. It is a sport of skill, patience and luck. But mainly it is a sport of endurance. Yes, it deserves to become an Olympic event."

Why even try to get out of Ramallah and into Jerusalem or one of the illegal settlement blocs? You got a no-brainer question there. Those places are where the jobs are at. With the construction of enough new settler blocs to hold almost the entire population of Los Angeles, getting to the blocs is on every Palestinian's must-do list if they want to work and feed their families.

PS: What about the Wall? Imagine the wall surrounding San Quentin Prison -- only 450 miles longer and two billion dollars more expensive. But this Wall is NOT about security. If it was about security, it would be a simple direct line along the 1967 demarcations. Instead it goes out its way to snag land and resources away from Palestine and to fragment, isolate and disenfranchise Palestinians -- forcing people who have been farmers for thousands of years to move into Warsaw-like urban ghettos where they have no housing and no jobs.

PPS: My friend Mary Ann said, "Palestinians need to put in their OWN checkpoints." That's a wonderful suggestion -- to make the Israelis go through checkpoints too so they too can be ready for the 2008 checkpoint Olympics!

The Olympic committee could also establish a special "home demolishing" event just for Israelis. So far, 12,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished and 40,000 more have demolition orders already issued on them. The Israelis would do really well on this one.

My only concern is that when it comes to Olympic events such as checkpoint crossing and home demolition, the Israelis may no longer be qualified because they are no longer amateurs.

PPPS: But what about the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympic games when two Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinians seeking the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and nine more athletes appeared to have been killed by the German SWAT team sharpshooters trying to rescue the athletes? No, this is NOT the kind of Olympic event I had in mind. ANY killing of innocent civilians is an abomination -- be it in the Munich Olympic village or during the destruction of 450 Palestinian villages in 1947-48.

"Why can't we all just get along?"