Anna Baltzer

Einab junction: inside Israel's new terminals

When I first visited the West Bank in 2003, checkpoints were controlled by young Israeli soldiers, nervously clutching their weapons and yelling at Palestinians to stay in line. When I returned in 2005, I found many checkpoints replaced by metal turnstiles into which Palestinians were herded to wait for soldiers to push a button, letting them through one by one or sometimes not at all. Anna Baltzer writes of her experience at one of those terminals. 

Direct action from Birmingham to Gaza

Last week, the US celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the official end to segregation and racial discrimination in this country. As we celebrate certain historic advances, we mustn’t forget that these policies are far from over in this country, and that as we struggle against one injustice we are perpetuating another system of discrimination and segregation on the other side of the world in occupied Palestine. Anna Baltzer reflects on Dr. King’s legacy and the Palestinian struggle. 

The Jordan Valley and Israel's Invisible Wall

15 May 2007 — A few weeks ago I attended an event commemorating Palestinian Prisoner’s Day at Al Far’a Refugee Camp in the Tubas area. To enter the theatrical and cultural spectacle we had to pass through a makeshift checkpoint with soldiers pointing their guns in our faces and screaming in Hebrew for us to get back. Although I knew these were Palestinian actors role-playing the harassment they experience daily, it was very frightening to have men with guns yell at me in a foreign language and stick killing machines in my face. 

Paralysis, prophets and forgiveness

Five years ago, nine-month-old Mohammed and his grandmother were in their West Bank home when it began to fill with nerve gas from a nearby Israeli Occupation Forces military base. The army had moved in on a hill near their home in the Skan Abu Absa suburb of Ramallah, and would frequently shoot all over the surrounding area, often retaliating against Palestinian gunfire from a hill away from the suburb. As the gas seeped into his living room, the baby Mohammed began to shake violently before suffering a stroke causing extensive paralysis. 

Deir Yassin Continues

Fifty-nine years ago last month, the militant Zionist Irgun and Stern Gang systematically murdered more than 100 men, women, and children in Deir Yassin. The Palestinian village lay outside the area the UN recommended to be included in a future Jewish State, and the massacre occurred several weeks before the end of the British Mandate, but it was part of a carefully planned and orchestrated process that would induce the flight of 70 percent of the native population to make way for an ethnically Jewish state. 

Prelude to a third intifada?

It’s been more than three weeks since I last wrote. The reason is simple: things have been awful on the ground here in Palestine, leaving little time for reflection. As usual, Passover — the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from oppression — was accompanied by tightening restrictions on Palestinians. While Jewish Israelis were feasting nearby, travel within the West Bank became difficult if not impossible, except of course for settlers who would breeze by the hundreds of Palestinians waiting for hours at checkpoints on their way home, to work, to the hospital, or elsewhere. Calling the Army was no help since most offices and services were closed for the holidays. 

Whose responsibility?

More than a week ago, the walls of an overused cesspool in northern Gaza collapsed, flooding a nearby Bedouin village with up to two meters of raw sewage. At least five people drowned to death, with dozens more left sick, injured, or missing. Predictably, the international community’s fingers are pointed at the Palestinian Authority, which was warned of the danger of Beit Lahia treatment plant’s flooding but did not take the necessary steps to ensure the villagers’ safety. To many, it’s just another example of how the Palestinians are incapable of ruling over themselves. But the PA is only part of the problem. 

The stories not tragic enough to notice

Today I visited my friend Dawud in Kufr ‘Ain for the first time since he lost his six-month-old baby at Atara Checkpoint. It was heartbreaking to hear the details of the story from a man who just one month ago was asking me when I would come visit his family for pleasure, not just to take a report. He said there was more to Palestine than the sob stories. But today was all about grief. We watched a video of the funeral in silence, and saw Dawud’s mother break down and say she couldn’t take it anymore. 

The crime of being born Palestinian

Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr ‘Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend’s baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father’s, mother’s, and driver’s IDs.