Monday, August 16, 2010

Would you kindly please go inside the gas chamber ?

Generations of Israel Defense Forces soldiers have learned a limited lexicon of Arabic expressions while working West Bank checkpoints, patrols, arrests and searches of Palestinian homes. The expressions are designed to order civilians to stop, open the door, identify themselves and present identification papers.

"I wanted to see if it was possible to see Palestinians as human beings and not as potential threats who suddenly take out knives or pipe bombs," said Eliezer Cohen, a poet and social worker who initiated the idea. "This is antithetical to the entire viewpoint on which we were educated in the army."

"In the beginning, instead of starting the sentence with 'Wakef' (stop), we said 'Sabah al-heir' (good morning ). This changed their reaction almost immediately," Cohen said.

"Instead of saying 'gib al awiya,' ordering them to show ID, we said 'min fadlakum' (please ), with an emphasis on the request," he said.

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