Checkpoint Zero is a play by Don Mamouney and Assad Abdi currently (28/7-24/8) showing at Marrickville's Sidetrack Theatre. It's a boy-meets-girl story. Specifically, Palestinian student boy meets Israeli soldier girl while the latter's on checkpoint duty. Mamouney has described the play as "a plea for a new way of imagining the future of Palestine/Israel. Not two separate ethnic states but a modern, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country able to sustain both Palestinians and Jews."
Checkpoint Zero was reviewed in The Australian Jewish News of 15/8/08 by David Kary. The final paragraph of his review reads as follows: "Sadly, despite the strong staging and the intentions set out by the playwrights, the play was unbalanced and came across as deeply pro-Palestinian. For this kind of play to work it just has to come across as even handed. What sticks out above all is the insulting portrayal of the male Israeli security guards who come across as heartless, paranoid thugs."
Just imagine: 'Sadly, despite the strong staging and the intentions set out by the playwrights, the play was unbalanced and came across as deeply pro-Jewish. For this kind of play to work it just has to come across as even handed. What sticks out above all is the insulting portrayal of the male German security guards as heartless, paranoid thugs.'
Anyway, what the AJN's reviewer fails to understand is that Israel's hundreds of checkpoints (and its occupation generally) produce "heartless, paranoid thugs." Just listen to this Israeli soldier: "I don't believe in it: I think this is not the way to do anything to anyone, surely not to someone who has done nothing to you, but you can't help but enjoy it. People do what you tell them. You know it's because you carry a weapon. Knowing that if you didn't have it, and if your fellow soldiers weren't beside you, they would jump on you, beat the shit out of you, and stab you to death - you begin to enjoy it. Not merely enjoy it, you need it. And then, when someone suddenly says 'No' to you, what do you mean no? Where do you draw the chutzpah from, to say no to me? Forget for a moment that I actually think that all those Jews [i.e., the settlers] are mad, and I actually want peace and believe we should leave the territories, how dare you say no to me? I am the Law! I am the Law here! And then you begin to understand that it makes you feel good. I remember a very specific situation: I was at a checkpoint, a temporary one, a so-called strangulation checkpoint, it was a very small checkpoint, very intimate, four soldiers, no commanding officer, no protection worthy of the name, a true moonlighting job, blocking the entrance to a village. From one side a line of cars wanting to get out, and from the other side a line of cars wanting to pass, a huge line, and suddenly you have a mighty force at the tip of your fingers, as if playing a computer game. I stand there like this, pointing at someone, gesturing to you to do this or that, and you do this or that, the car starts, moves towards me, halts beside me. You come here, you go there, like this. You barely move, you make them obey the tip of your finger. It's a mighty feeling. It's something you don't experience elsewhere. You know it's because you have a weapon, you know it's because you're a soldier, you know all this, but it's addictive." (from Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Saree Makdisi, 2008, pp 53-54)
It's the occupation, stupid.