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.
En Route to Health
Continuing the Spotlight featuring the restrictions imposed on ambulance movement through Israeli army checkpoints (here), we extend the discussion of restrictions and bureaucratic blocking imposed on the weakest member of the Palestinian population: the ailing and those needing medical care. For decades now the Palestinians are caged behind barbed wire and bureaucratic obstacles whose sole purpose is to limit their movement and travel to destinations of medical care, affiliation and identity. Apparently, in the eyes of those controlling the occupied population, issuing permits and implementing Occupation policy on the ground - and meeting the pain and suffering face to face - hundreds of thousands of human beings, old and young, are nothing but names and ID numbers.
As soon as their liberty has been robbed and their treatment becomes less and less human, they lose the right to enjoy the considerate and sensitive approach normally expected towards the ailing, the disabled, the suffering. Their health, their fate, is decided by coldly alienated procedures and regulations that have nothing to do with any measure of mercy.
...a silent woman leaning against the wall of the waiting shelter. With the assistance of a driver who translated we learned that the foetus inside her is dead and she must reach the Mukassad Hospital. The date on the medical document is 19.8.08, namely the day before yesterday.
Yesterday she had come to the checkpoint and was not allowed to cross -- we have no idea why. She stood there, leaning, wrapped in her grief and bereavement, unable to act. (For full report press here)
An elderly man comes to the exit station with a document for a medical appointment, with an earlier date. He asks to be allowed to go to a hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment to his leg. He doesn’t have a referral or an approval. He does not get a permit and returns home. If there were a doctor at the DCL perhps it would be possible to give him a transit permit; he is so helpless and miserable. (For full report press here)
A man with a child about 6 years old in his arms came down and asked to be taken to the clinic which is about 100 meters distant from the checkpoint. But he was refused because he didn't have a permit. A stormy argument ensued, while we remained silent, interested in the results, but not interested in hearing the soldiers telling us we were interfering with the work of the border policeman who was not interested in contacting his superiors about this matter. He knows his job and is familiar with this man who is a manipulator. (For full report press here)
Two women were caught passing without permits and they turn slowly back to the camp. One of them holds a baby, just a few months old. About five minutes later the soldiers are “alerted” again to turn the women back once more, as they try to pass. They go back in a procession, the mother says she must get to a doctor with her baby. They have no papers. Again they are forced back to the camp. (For full report press here)
The power invested in the soldiers and their heightened suspiciousness and fatigue make them numb and prone to act arbitrarily. Sometimes, after splitting hairs about a patient’s documents piled up high to prove his ailing condition, the soldier, who orders not with his voice but with a finger gesture: “Get back!” or with a lifted palm of his hand: “Stop!” might just irrevocably decide his fate. An ill Palestinian died while being detained at a checkpoint: “The man, 63-years old, was held up for a long time at Hamra Checkpoint (Jordan Valley)... The ID check persisted. He was consequently dehydrated and died of heart failure.” (Ali Waked, Ynet 4.4.10)
The woman is feeling unwell and wishes to get to the Augusta Victoria Hospital. But they are told that one of the documents lacks the doctor's signature next to the stamp. She has no choice but to return home, swallow some acamol and go to bed. 21st century medicine at its finest! (For full report press here)
A sick young man is taken out of the cab and left to stand in the cold while the soldiers pretend to be immersed in the checks. They won't let us come closer and are, of course, unwilling to talk. (For full report press here)
The turnstiles placed at the entrance to checkpoints are suited for the average human body width (60-70 centimeters). A disabled person in a wheelchair is fated to a long delay and at times cannot even cross over to the other side of the checkpoint because the opening mechanisms of the gates built for the passage of wheeled carts of chairs are out of order and do not get repaired. Not for lack of mechanics, but simply because they have not been repaired for years now, nor the intercom buttons.
By the Occupation’s rules, only one person is allowed to escort an ill resident of the Occupied Territories to hospital in East Jerusalem, sit by his bed and nurse him. Since women are perceived as less dangerous than men, it is usually they who escort the ill. By the sickbed of an ailing or dying child it is not the two parents sharing concern or even taking final leave of their loved one. The mother will sit there in her solitude. Any permit for patient or escort is not conditioned by the person’s medical state or the need of an escort, but by the approval of the secret services, exclusively.
Written by Tamar Fleishman
Photography: Yehudit Levin
Translation: Tal Haran