Pro-Palestinian activists enforce a mock checkpoint in centre of Amsterdam

‘Mother’ cries for her son after ‘soldiers’ arrested him at the mock checkpoint (Photo: AEF, 2003)

The Netherlands has its own way of commemorating the Second World War and celebrating the country’s liberation from five years of occupation. Unlike most countries, the Netherlands sets aside two days to mark these events. The first is a day of solemn commemoration; the second a day of public rejoicing with the young at the centre of attention.

On May 4, the Dutch nationally commemorated the fallen victims. Wreaths were laid on the Dam Square, concluding with a two minute silence to honour the dead. Today, May 5th, with concerts and festivities taking place all over the country, the Dutch celebrated the 58th anniversary of the end of Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945.

‘Soldier’ shouts at child in front of the mock checkpoint (Photo: AEF, 2003)

In solidarity with Palestinians who are still struggling under Israeli occupation, the Dutch section of the Arab European League organized a street theatre performance in the center of Amsterdam. The aim of this performance was to raise awareness with regards to the celebration of freedom on the one hand while, on the other, supporting a Dutch foreign policy that allows Israel to daily practice apartheid on all aspects of Palestinian daily life.

The main theme of the street theatre performance was an Israeli military checkpoint. The performers emphasized the mental, physical and emotional abuse that Palestinians undergo multiple times daily in the course of trying to meet their most basic needs for work, health, food and education provisions.

In a setting of sandbags, barbed wire and blockades, performers were divided between Israeli military soldiers carrying weapons and Palestinian citizens trying to run their daily errands.

The scenes varied in accordance with the reality in Palestine, and included the random detentions of Palestinian men, thrown into military jeeps on their way to Israeli prisons. Palestinian women were violently separated from their sons and forced to watch their malicious treatment by soldiers for the mere fact that they are male. Lines of people, waiting unnecessarily in harsh weather conditions (in this case rain) completed the picture.

‘Soldiers’ push detainee in a truck next to the mock checkpoint (Photo: AEF, 2003)

Israel operates more than 120 military checkpoints all over the occupied territories, separating the area in more than 300 isolated areas. Many of these military checkpoints are right in the middle of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Therefore the checkpoints are not there for the security of Israeli proper but for Israel’s colonising settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians have to wait hours in checkpoints just to make a 20-minute trip from their homes to the store while Israeli colonists pass through the checkpoints with no hindrance. The checkpoints also detain ambulances for hours resulting in the deaths of infant children and mothers in labour.

For Palestinian onlookers it was an emotional experience as it was performed with accuracy and detail, reliving the humiliation and frustration. For onlookers from other nationalities it was a learning experience. Many had no idea that Palestinians where treated so roughly, and felt betrayed by biased media coverage. They felt betrayed as they thought they where well informed. Others who were more informed told activists that they hoped for a fair and just peace. Many pro-Israeli onlookers shrugged angrily at the organizers, unwilling to fathom the bitter pill of confrontation. They chose to turn their backs and walk away.

Related Links:

  • Moving Across Checkpoints, EI Diaries, Arjan El Fassed, 1 March 2001
  • Closure at Checkpoints, PCRS, Dr. Jean Calder, 1 June 2002
  • Forgotten villages: struggling to survive under closure in the West Bank, Oxfam International, 9 September 2002
  • Arab European League - Dutch Section