The other day I posted a piece about my experience of leaving Palestine through a checkpoint in the north of the country. It was an experience that did not compare with any other in my life that I could think of. I found it utterly dehumanising. Yet it’s an experience that many thousands of Palestinians are subjected to every day in order to go to work in Israel or to visit family and friends who have Israeli citizenship.
After posting that piece, I listened to a talk by John Paul Lederach who has spent his life in conflict areas, working alongside local communities with the aim of helping build peace. As the introduction to the audio link states, he begins his talk – which is called The Inter-relational Systemic Ethics of Re-humanization – “with three stories in which peace overcame widespread violent conflict… [and] goes on to present a four-part cycle: suffering, projection of blame, polarization, and dehumanization”.
At one point in the talk, Lederach also mentions that he is interested in etymology and describes the origins of the verb ‘to respect’, stating it is from the Latin ‘respicere‘ meaning ‘to look at’. As with the rest of the podcast, Al-Jalama checkpoint came to mind when I heard this.
If Palestinians could be really seen – as people with lives, families and aspirations, like the rest of us – then maybe more respect could be woven in to the processing system at the checkpoints, making it a more human and less de-humanising system. And this, it seems to me, would be a constructive, circular process, in turn engendering more respect. And so an upward spiral would be in the making.
Here is a poem I wrote after experiencing Al-Jalama checkpoint.