Mine is lost. The clothes are inconsequential, but after a last-minute shopping trip in the West Bank, I had tucked in a few small pieces of Hebron pottery. Swissair had better find that bag!
Many more items of consequence are being shipped from the West Bank, including my notebooks, a DVD from Jenin refugee camp, pamphlets from our numerous meetings, and several books purchased in East Jerusalem. Everyone we met advised us not to carry any political materials with us leaving the airport in Tel Aviv. As it turned out, I made it through security and customs just fine — no questions asked. But had any sensitive materials been found in my bags, there could have been risk not only to me, but to the Palestinians I had met with. I might have been stalled by questions at the airport for a few hours; a Palestinian activist whose name had been found among my effects could have suffered a much harsher punishment.
That unpredictability — never knowing when you will be stopped, questioned, even detained — pervades Palestinian life. Even when the Israelis close a few checkpoints in the occupied territories, they leave the infrastructure there, just in case. The idle guard booth and the open gates serve to remind Palestinians that they are trespassers in their own land, taunting them with a day or two or a few months of easy movement. But the apparatus is always there — the Israelis are always prepared for whatever measures “security” might dictate, today or tomorrow or a few months from now. The occupier never fully packs his bags.