Checkpoint Zero

Despite the extensive coverage of the Middle East in the media, there is little understanding of the realities of the Israel/Palestine conflict. For example, does the average person realise that Israel illegally occupies Palestinian land?

In this sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state’s birth, it’s more timely than ever to publicly discuss what is going on. A new play, Checkpoint Zero, currently showing in Sydney, is one such example of this process. Artistic Director Don Mamouney explains:

Not many people realize that the Palestinian Authority for example is largely controlled by Israel and in fact has very little authority or that Israel has imposed an apartheid like regime on Palestine. Daily life for Palestinians is one of constant frustration and humiliation. At every step their ability to carry out even the most commonplace activities are thwarted by closures, curfews and checkpoints backed
by a Kafkaesque labyrinthine bureaucratic system.

Checkpoint Zero celebrates the courage and obstinacy of the Palestinians and the many Jewish people both within and beyond Israel who have joined with them in their struggle for justice.

I saw the performance during the week and found it a moving experience. Although at times overly melodramatic, the stark and caged stage reminds the audience of daily life for Palestinians. It tells an unlikely though not unheard of love story between a female IDF soldier and a Palestinian male living in the West Bank. The struggles of falling in love are powerfully revealed, not least the fear of being caught.

The IDF soldiers are mainly portrayed as racist men and women who regard the Arab population as a continual threat, nothing more. As a Jew, it was at times painful to see this, though it’s undoubtedly true that one of the main purposes of the ongoing occupation is to humiliate and wear-down the Palestinians. Resistance is supposed to be seen as futile, and yet it continues. As it should.

The play doesn’t mention this fact, but Israel implements openly racist policies towards such “mixed” relationships. This from 2006:

Israel’s Parliament has passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from living in Israel. The move was denounced by human rights organizations as racist, undemocratic and discriminatory.

Under the new law, rushed through yesterday, Palestinians alone will be excluded from obtaining citizenship or residency. Anyone else who marries an Israeli will be entitled to Israeli citizenship.

Now Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip will either have to move to the occupied territories, or live apart from their husband or wife. Their children will be affected too: from the age of 12 they will be denied citizenship or residency and forced to move out of Israel.

Checkpoint Zero lacks nuance in parts, but its overall message is a powerful one. Ultimately, Arabs and Israelis are far more similar than many would like to accept.

In my view, until Diaspora Jewry acknowledges the reality of their homeland and its actions, the situation is unlikely to change. US pressure must be forthcoming, but the Israel Lobby is currently determined to prevent any kind of peace deal between the two sides. Peace is bad for business.

I was glad that the play showed that some Jews are appalled by the actions of Israel and fight courageously against it.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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