Unknown chemicals sprayed in Palestinian cars at checkpoints

By Abir Kopty | 972 Magazine | Febr 5, 2012

Lately I’ve been going to Jenin every two or three weeks with family members. We usually do our vegetable shopping in the city market.

Last Saturday, on our way back from Jenin to Nazareth, we were surprised to find a new technology to check “suspicious” cars at the Israeli checkpoint.

The checkpoint examination usually goes like this: There are about six lines of cars going out through the checkpoint. At each line, there are one or two “security” officers that ask for IDs, and decide whether the car and its riders do or do not constitute a major threat to Israel’s “security” and “existence.” If they do not, the officer gives the car a white ticket, which means they are done with the “security” check. If they do, then the car gets a green ticket. Once you get the green one, you have to go to the far right line for a special check. You are asked to open all doors, take out all your belongings and go through a physical check while the car is separately searched.

You can’t ever understand the logic and the considerations of any of the checkpoint’s officers. Sometimes our car gets the green ticket, sometimes the white.

Last Saturday we got the green one. We went to the line that checks the cars and we were surprised to see this strange little machine that looks like a hospital’s IV machine.

Jenin checkpoint (photo: Abir Kopty)

We were asked to roll up all windows, leave one centimeter of the two front windows open, exit the car and go through the physical search. My brother and I started asking questions about this machine and what it does. The officers refused to answer.

According to Haaretz, this contraption is also used at a Bethlehem checkpoint, and I assume in many of the “privatized” checkpoints, where the state has outsourced the managing of the checkpoint to private “security” companies in order to “civilianize” the checkpoints – another failed attempt to whitewash the occupation.

The procedure is described by Haaretz as follows:

Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch.

If you look at the pictures carefully you can see clearly a small box connected to the tubes, filled with unknown contents, which are believed to be, as international workers told Haaretz, “nausea-inducing chemicals.”

Jenin checkpoint (photo: Abir Kopty)

When we got back to the car, there was a slightly strange smell and we felt a bit dizzy. We were not sure if we were imagining it, or if something was sprayed into the car.

I suggest that human rights organizations take the initiative to obtain a sample of the material being used, and examine it. I have a very strong feeling it will include prohibited materials, tested on Palestinians first, to then be marketed to the world as a new technology from the “successful” Israeli military industry.

Abit Kopty is a political and feminist activist and blogger. Her blog, where this piece was initially posted, can be viewed here. Follow her on Twitter at @abirkopty.

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