Spotlight highlights Checkpoint events characteristic of the policy of the occupation: the systematic repudiation of basic human rights in the occupied territories. For Palestinians, reality is a complicated tangle of problems (survival in the everyday, education, health, making a living…) that cannot be solved because the Israeli occupation is conducted by enforcing countless inhuman bans. The Spotlights rely on collections of relevant reports from the field.
A child crosses a checkpoint
"Childhood is neither nostalgia nor horror, neither paradise lost nor a golden fleece. It is, rather, a horizon, a point of departure, perhaps, a set of coordinates from which the threads of my life could draw their meaning". (Georges Perec, W or the Memory of Childhood)
From the reports
A family with six children, in holiday attire, comes out of the checkpoint to Taiybe. The father tells us that they arrived three hours ago from Habla, but he didn't have his children's birth certificates. Even though they're all listed in their parents' ID cards, they had to go back to Habala and get the birth certificates. The children were crying and afraid of the soldiers; that's how they're on their way to celebrate. (For full report press here)
A mother with children comes to be checked, and the children go through in front of her through the turnstile and wait for her on the other side of the checkpoint. The soldier barks at them to get out of the checkpoint. The children are frightened but don't want to go far from their mother and go out slowly, stealing glances behind them to wait for their mother. (For full report press here)
Inside the inspection zone, right in front of the sterile window was a woman that was holding her child and trying to explain to the soldier that he was sick and desperately needed to be admitted at a hospital. The soldier, after taking one look at the documents yelled: "But you haven't got a permit! You can't pass! Get out!"( a though she had just caught a criminal on the run)- the woman burst into tears and yelled back in a mixture of Arabic with Hebrew: "Do you want him to die? I don't want him to die... I don't want him to die..."- that was already to much for the soldier: "Ouscut! Don't you yell at me! He doesn't look sick to me! What kind of a mother are you? You should have renewed your permit... Bye bye..."
The crying woman ran out and with her child she disappeared in the night. (For full report press here)
The thorough inspection of personal effects of children and toddlers are a consequence of the soldiers' permanent instructions: to regard every single Palestinian who faces them as an enemy, a ticking bomb - and they are the ones responsible for defusing it in time.
Children pass through on their way to school easily (occupation routine): the soldiers open their school bags when they set off the beeper. (For full report press here)
On both sides of the CP, the queue gets longer. Some people want to get out of the West Bank to go to work and others want to enter the West Bank to go to school. The teacher with the old Fiat gets out of his car and calls out to Abbas from the DCO (see photo): "Abbas, well- what's going on? (we are late for) school!" He points to the clock...
07:15: The first to go through - the pupils and the teachers. Today, they inspect all the schoolbags of the little children very carefully. No bomb was found. (For full report press here)
At the Pharmacy checkpoint, in pouring rain, a soldier stops a boy on his way to school: the magnemometer beeps as the boy goes through. The boy is wet and irritated, sits on the curb with the soldier standing over him. He refuses to open his briefcase for inspection. The soldier insists and the boy still refuses. Finally, the boy changes his mind, the briefcase opens and reveals "the ultimate weapon": a metal ruler!! The suspicious ruler is immediately confiscated. (For full report press here)
The children are not spared shows of physical and verbal violence - they are considered "easy prey".
Feels as deserted as ever. the children who pass through the CP have long gotten used to the opening of their school bags. They tell us that yesterday a Palestinian boy of about 13.5 was forcefully struck in the hand by a Border Police soldier. We go to meet the boy. He shows us his bruised hand and says that on his way home, Border Police soldiers instructed him and a friend to open their school bags, at that same time, pressing against his hand with great force. One of the fingers was swollen. No, he didn't go to hospital, because a soldier's word against his... well, the rest of the story is all too familiar...(For full report press here)
foreign photographer that we met told us that as 16:30, when he was in the checkpoint he saw a police man (blue police) walking with a security man who had his rifle pointing at a 13 or 14 year old boy, they took him from the line and told him to stand against a wall and spread his legs, the officer conducted a physical search on him and
then hit him on the head. The three disappeared through one of the gates leading behind the checkpoint.
We asked three soldiers that passed our way about this incident. One of them confirmed it was true, and said the boy "kept trying to pass the checkpoint without a permit". This time they were going to teach him a lesson, it seems. (For full report press here)
A ten year only Palestinian boy was waving his documents about in front of a soldier. He wanted to pass the checkpoint. A civilian security guard ran towards him and shouted (in a distinct Russian accent): "You little son of a bitch, get lost!" (For full report press here)
A Palestinian child under the age of sixteen (not yet an ID holder) must present his/her birth certificate at the checkpoint. At times, children do not manage to meet the bureaucratic demands of the Occupation. They have reached the checkpoint but forgotten the certificate at home, first remembering it when they are already half-way through the waiting line. In any case, a child without a certificate is sent back by the soldier. The checkpoint commander (sergeant or officer) is entitled to rule that in addition to showing a birth certificate, the child must also be accompanied by a parent in whose ID he/she is registered. In other words, regulations are not really unequivocal. This fact arises from the reports, while looking into the matter with various hotlines, and in clarification talks with officials of the Civil Administration.
16:25 - A sick boy of about 15, with a birth certificate and his father's documents, asks to return to A'anin. Since he came without his father, the soldiers do not allow him to go through. In the morning they allowed him to go out to the seamline zone - what has changed since then? (For full report press here)
The speakers screamed,
the soldiers gave out orders in their usual brutal tone, little girls
escorted by their sisters were sent back since they weren't specified
in the sister's ID.. (For full report press here)
Closure....... A 50 y.o. woman arrives with her niece (about 14 - 15 y.o.). But she has an official paper in Arabic but no accompanying parent and thus she cannot pass. (For full report press here)
And the child, the reason for which we stopped in the first place: he had been detained because he was caught at the checkpoint with his uncle (his father's brother) and didn't have his birth certificate (Kushan), which every Palestinian child must always have, with him. His father was sent for and he came from Anata with the document proving that his son had in fact been born. (For full report press here)
In the background, the question resonates - unanswered: "Look, what kind of a world is this? Where little children have to pass soldiers on their way to school?"
At 07:05 the principal of the school in Ya'abed and his daughter who is studying for her matriculation exams arrive in their tiny beat-up car. The girl walks through and a soldier peeks inside her schoolbag. The principal's car is meticulously checked this morning. Five older students and nine younger ones go through, and a females soldier looks inside their schoolbags. Someone coming out points behind him. "Look. What kind of world is this where little children have to pass by soldiers on their way to school?" Someone comes out from behind him and lights a cigarettes and says with a smile, "Whoever comes out of this checkpoint can't help smoking." A 7:30 there is no one left next to the turnstile. There is a new procedure in which an armed soldier stands next to the inner gate in back of the concrete block and checks the children's school bags rather than inside the inspection booth. It's some sort of new security procedure. (For full report press here)
Written by Tamar Fleishman
Photography: Naama Morag
Translation: Tal Haran