Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Mira Dabit

Mira Dabit is a Palestinian youth activist and folkloric storyteller, who lived and worked in north and south Ireland after receiving her BA in psychology and sociology from Birzeit University.

March 9th, 2012 10:08 AM

Checkpoints and Dignity: Daily Life in Occupied Territories

Since I became involved in the ‘Occupy Movement’ in the U.S., and I have now returned to my home in Ramallah on the West Bank, I have thought a lot about how I came to understand concepts of protest and revolution.  I started to become educated about the meaning of ‘revolution’ at the age of seventeen.   Just by virtue of being Palestinian, I grew up with full understanding of what “military occupation” means.  Add to that, the fact that I grew up in family who emphasized concepts of freedom through education, reading and self-improvement.  My father presented me with Marx on Economics at the age of thirteen.  My aunt, a former prisoner in Israeli jails, has always been a constant figure and inspiration in my life.  And, my mother, an English teacher in a Quaker school in Ramallah, made sure that we were fluent in other languages.

But, my true revolutionary experience started as a young adult in 2003.  I began my advanced education studying psychology and sociology at Birzeit University in the town of Birzeit near Ramallah.  During that time, there was a checkpoint (actually, not so much a checkpoint as a ditch in the road) that disconnected Ramallah from about 30 villages before and after the village of Birzeit.  This “checkpoint” that stretched 1 to 2 kilometers blocked cars from the road and forced over 8,000 Palestinian civilians to walk in the ditch every day as we went to work or to school.  The ditch was guarded by a small platoon of Israeli soldiers.  Occasionally, the “Surda Checkpoint” was simply closed, preventing us from reaching the University and completely blocking workers, farmers, elderly and children from accomplishing their daily tasks and getting to where they needed to go.  When we, as young students, demonstrated and demanded our rights to travel to and from the university, we were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and many of my fellow students were arrested.  Worst was that they would close down checkpoint, again blocking us from another day of reaching Birzeit University.  This happened often during exam time and at the beginning of semesters.

Throughout all of this, as a young girl, I gained the most important education of my life, which came more from my life’s experience as a student in Palestine than through books and the degree I was awarded.  My real enlightenment came with my graduation in 2007.  As I left the university, I came to a true understanding of what it means to love one’s land and country.  You might ask why is this so?  My simple answer is that Birzeit University offered a means of building relationships with every faction of Palestinian society.  Through my education, I had been given an understanding of how I could become a part of the larger vision of the liberation of Palestine.  I looked back and recalled days in class when we would hear shouts and screaming, warnings that the army had surrounded the university.  The majority of us would run to the borders of the campus, trying to block the soldiers from entering the university grounds.  Sometimes, the soldiers would throw tear gas into the campus, and other times just their presence was enough provocation to obstruct us from our studies, as if to punish us for daring to want an education.

Despite all this, the checkpoints, the shootings, the constant harassment of people, what impacted me the most was the friendships I had made throughout my first semester at Birzeit University.  I entered my first semester feeling like a lost little girl.  But, I soon emerged as a young comrade among my peers, as we sat for hours on end in our cafeteria speaking of Marxist theory, alienation, the Bolshevik revolution, the power of incredible Arab thinkers and Palestinian poets.

On a daily basis, we would sit, talk, plan, activate.  As a result of this, I started to formulate a true sense of identity, of belonging to something.  I began to understand that despite the suffering we had to endure in order to reach the University, we were the fortunate ones and we had to make the most of it.  I began slowly to understand that some of the friends I met and learned so much from will be or have been imprisoned for political activism – and, by that, I mean non-violent organizing and activism.  Just as I was understanding the cost to us of speaking out, I began to lose friends to Israeli prisons.  Today, returning to Ramallah after being away for some time, I pass some of these friends in the street and we simply say “hello”.  Others, I spend time with on a daily basis, and from them, I learn about the price of freedom and the pride of my people.  Some of my friends remain in Israeli jails, and to them, my heart goes out.

To understand the true concept of justice, peace and a true democratic society, I have learned that we must be able to understand the concept of change.  The world is in a constant state of change, evolution and development or lack of it.  It is through change that the lamp of hope stays lit. 

For someone who has grown up in the first and second Palestinian uprising and faced basic human rights abuses in many forms while at the same time dreaming of freedom, I remind myself that change for oppressed people comes gradually. With all the inspiration gained from the recent international uprisings and Arab peoples’ revolutions, I cannot help but wonder what is in store for the future of Palestine.  Many say that things have to get worst before they get better.  At this moment, I fear that is the reality for Palestine.

Checkpoints and blockades and walls exist in a corner of this Holyland. These insults to the dignity of a people, my people, are visible to the world, if the world would only chose to look at them.  Daily, we live under a constant threat of harassment, imprisonment and death.  Despite this, we take a deep breath before leaving home and do our best to maintain a semi-functioning society of every day people trying to live some semblance of a normal life.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent time in Ireland and in the U.S.  Each time I return home, I feel as if I’ve been extracted from the simple dignity of being a part of the human community and demoted to a place where the definition of my own humanity is put into question every time I walk out my front door.  After returning from the United States where I experienced the absolute freedom of being able to travel between New York and Washington D.C., from Seattle to Texas, unobstructed and without harassment or suspicion surrounding every move I made, I can no longer simply accept the total lack of freedom and respect I and five million Palestinians live under each day in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

On March 4th I was traveling to Jerusalem from Ramallah and an incident occurred that brought the pain of this dehumanizing treatment of my people home to me like a slap in the face.  It was nothing particularly dramatic, and in fact, to the ordinary Palestinian, it was no more than an every day inconvenience.  But, I had just returned from months of tasting freedom in the U.S., and for me, it spoke directly to the tyranny of our lives in Palestine.  I was standing at the Kalandia Checkpoint and as I entered the pathway of tiny metal prisons. There were 10–15 people standing in front of me.  The checkpoint didn’t seem to be functioning, so I asked a woman waiting with her five year old son if things had been moving.  She said “No, not for a while”.  I had somewhere to be at an appointed time, and I thought I had allowed plenty of time to get there, even with delays at the checkpoints.  With frustration boiling in my blood, I looked to my left and just beyond the metal gates that contained us were from about forty young Israelis, probably 17 -18 years of age.  They were dressed in green and they stared at us from their side of the gate while being instructed by Israeli soldiers, in full regalia, about checkpoint operations and protocol.  My eyes were on them and their eyes were on us.  We were not being talked about as people, but as objects of their training.  I listened as they were being educated about the checkpoint with no regard for how their ‘education’ inhibited us from just trying to go on with our day.  I stood there trapped behind a metal gate, and I wondered who to feel sorry for; us, a people who are faced with the daily reality that we live under continuous dehumanization and repression, OR a young population of Israelis being taught to be Occupation soldiers, given guns and uniforms and told to fear another people and to make a living by oppressing them.  In the end, I couldn’t decide …

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles