A friend sent me a link, which I can’t find right now, to a story about Israeli soldiers forcing an Arab man at a West Bank checkpoint to play his violin. Given the history of terrorists hiding bombs in ambulances and other seemingly innocent locations, it’s not surprising that the soldiers wanted to check on the violin, just as in the U.S. the TSA makes you turn on your laptop. Still, the soldiers apparently took gratuitous pleasure in this exercise of power, even ordering the man to “play something sad.”
Unfortunately, there are many stories of abusive behavior at the checkpoints. Put a bunch of 19 year old men in a position where they have absolute power over other people, and some will inevitably abuse that power. The Israeli military can and should, however, do a better job of training and supervising its soldiers.
But let’s also recall, as media stories on the issue never do, that the checkpoints only exist in their current form because of the need to prevent suicide bombing murders. Before the Palestinians began engaging in this “tactic,” they could move more or less freely within the West Bank, Gaza, and even Israel. (Not to mention that Israel wouldn’t even be occupying the West Bank anymore if Arafat had been willing to strike a deal in 2000.)
My (Israeli) wife notes that when (if) there is eventually a peace deal, the Palestinians will be a lot poorer in the long-term than they would have been had a deal been reached before the “Oslo War” was launched by the Palestinians in 2000. Israelis used to go to the West Bank to get good deal on car repair, food, and other items, and later to gamble in Jericho, and many Palestinians used to go to Israel to work. Few Israelis in the future will be willing to hire Palestinians (Thai or Bulgarian workers present much less risk to life and limb), and even fewer will be willing to shop in towns that were hotbeds of terrorism and mayhem.
UPDATE: In a rather uninformative release, the Israeli army reports that it investigated the violin incident, and concluded that the violinist played his violin voluntarily.