DCO (District Coordination Offices)
Translating: Naomi Gal
Bethlehem – Checkpoint300:
07:10 AM, we arrive amidst masses of people who had already left the Checkpoint and they report a relatively good morning. There is no one inside, but after a few minutes the hall fills up again. We hear no distress’ sounds from the other side, on our side the passage proceeds rapidly. It seems that the new method of checking a fingerprint instead of the “Bassma”, checking the whole palm, accelerates the passage considerably.
7:20AM, crossing over is done for now and the soldiers leave. One window remains open.
8:20 AM, Etzion DCL:. quite a few people come to us for help, all of them prevented from crossing by the GSS. There is no one inside. A few minutes later two people arrive and ask us to wake up the soldier in the window. We call the woman-officer inside and the soldier wakes up and lets them in. He asks who we are, and whether we’d like to come in. After an explanation about our true identity he sees no reason not to let us in, as well, and indeed we have the dubious honor to enter a room with the windows for the public. Less than 10 people are sitting there, angry since they did not know that the time for receiving new magnetic cards begins at 12:00 on Sundays. Although a notice is posted in the waiting room, it is still unexpected. A young woman without a head cover has not been here for the last two years and she is in a rush to get on time to work. Since she has no choice, today is her assigned day, she sits down to wait for hours until the soldier will arrive.
13:40 Habla agricultural gate. The gate is open. Not many people crossing. It turns out that the gate is open in the afternoon only from 17:00 to 17:30!! People complained about it last week so we called Tedesa at the DCO. We told him of the complaints, and that half an hour in the afternoon isn’t enough time. While we were speaking to him the owner of one of the plant nurseries arrived to complain, and since Tedesa said that none of the locals had complained – we gave him the phone. Unfortunately, “there weren’t any complaints,” because the owner of the plant nursery preferred to say that everything was fine (every subject knows the lord is always right) – you can’t blame him.
On the way to Huwwara there are no road signs identifying large, significant Palestinian localities along the road (Nabi Elias, Funduq, Kafr Imtan, etc.). That could be a good project for “Combatants for Peace” – to erect signs at the entrance to those localities. Who’s in contact with them?
14:40 Huwwara checkpoint. Manned by soldiers and MP’s. They inspect every vehicle and there’s a fairly long line (more than 12 cars). One car was delayed longer than others while we were there. A soldier makes a call about that car; we learned later it was missing a license plate. But in the meantime that allowed some cars to cross without inspection. An additional vehicle arrives – a passenger in the back seat has to get out, is questioned and a few minutes later gets back in and the vehicle drives on. A military ambulance stands near the checkpoint.
15:40 Awarta (Tapuach) junction. We counted 21 cars waiting. They’re inspected one by one.
Driving west, next to the road to the west of the center of Ariel are various tractors and some temporary buildings. Does anyone know what’s going on there??
16:05 Azzun Atma. About 40 people on line when we arrive. All stand beneath the new, covered crossing. Only two booths are open. The soldier we ask about opening an additional booth says there are only two MP’s and four soldiers for security. The soldiers are religious but polite, those crossing are tired but obedient…
We learned a relatively new term, “00”. They say, “00, come here.” It turns out that workers in quarries, recognized factories and people who live on the other side of the road don’t have to go to the booth; they just have to show the soldier their permit. The permit is timed: from 05:00 to 17:00; some are valid from 12:00 to 24:00
Visiting villages: Kafr Thult, Azawiyya, Mas-ha, .
The head of the village has no information about how many permits were issued for the olive harvest and how many people were refused permits because the farmers contact the Palestinian DCO directly. They want to postpone the hour the gate opens during the winter from 06:00 to 07:00 because it’s still dark at 06:00, and dangerous to move around. They also complained that during the olive harvest the gates opened only twice a day. We spoke with the new head of the village. He intends to consolidate the requests for permits next year so it will be easier to deal with them – as much as possible – and also promised to provide us with a list of people currently blacklisted. His goal is to encourage jobs and enterprises in the village and says that Kafr Thulth is now one of the more economically sound villages, with one of the lowest unemployment rates on the West Bank.
Many farmers attended the meeting with the head of the village to present their complaints, some of which are old and had been raised before: Muhamma Qadus, from whom 40 dunum were stolen because the fence at Azzun Atma was moved; others not permitted to reach their lands; the gate opens too early during the winter; the rains have eroded the road the army paved to the Magen Dan gate and it must be repaired.
We met with our acquaintance, the outgoing head of the village, who is still involved in running the village in an advisory and supportive capacity. By the way, the village head of Mas-ha is a voluntary position, so the occupant must also make a living, and he was working when we arrived. At the end of October, with the approach of the olive harvest, those blacklisted were invited to meet with ‘Adel to see what the reasons were. No one showed up. At one point during the harvest those with permits were called to come pick, but some didn’t show up. There’s no data on how many people received permits; the village head said he’d ask again over the village loudspeakers; people who’ve been blacklisted should inform the village head, or tell him why they didn’t show up for the harvest. We looked into the dates of the work supplementary to the actual harvesting; the Palestinian expert says they need about 20 days to prune between 20.1.13 and 10.2.13, and about 15 more days to plow between 13.2.13 and 1.4.13. We’ll talk to ‘Adel about it, ask him to consider their needs favorably.
All that is part of the Palestinians’ tsumud effort, their refusal to abandon their land, but the tremendous injustice of the security fence which doesn’t follow the Green Line and robs them of their land remains unsolved and leaves its mark.
Translator: Charles K.
A’anin checkpoint 06:25-06:40
A rainy dawn at A’anin.
We arrived five minutes before the checkpoint closed. One of those crossing told us that about 30 people went through to the seam zone, despite the rain. He also said his wife can’t get a crossing permit to the seam zone even thought his father has land trapped there between the fence and the Green Line. “We went to Salem (the DCO) this week; they said she’s not my wife.” We took identifying information to find out more about this Rashomon.
Shaked/Tura checkpoint 06:50-07:25
A relatively small checkpoint that handles a small population, so it’s not clear why it’s necessary to fill it with endless fences, poles, sheds, roofs, traffic signs, road markings and a traffic light, unless someone’s benefitting from it (not necessarily Israel’s security).
We arrived at the same time as the soldiers who hurried to open all the gates and let people cross ten minutes before the official opening time. While we were there they weren’t able to open the lock to the fenced corridor for pedestrians, so today all crossed through the middle of the checkpoint. The strike of Palestinian teachers reduced significantly the number of people crossing this morning to the West Bank.
Reihan checkpoint 07:35-08:15
Had this been a standard border crossing between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine we would undoubtedly have been amazed at the tremendous investment in landscaping and care of the area. But it’s an occupied area, stolen from the local inhabitants, and the bucket hanging above the fake well won’t help.
Very heavy traffic of people and vehicles, along with intermittently heavy rain. Most traffic heads toward the seam zone and Barta’a. Hadi’s stand is bustling; the rain brings him customers. His brother is helping him today, benefitting from the teachers’ strike. A local youth asks for help; he wants to get to the Saint John ophthalmic hospital in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem but can’t obtain a crossing permit. We gave him Dalya Bassa’s phone number; she’s the coordinator for health matters at the humanitarian office.
At the end of the shift Neta took Amjad and his son (West bank residents)to an ).appointment at Rambam Hospital in Haifa (Israel
14:20 – Etzion DCL
Despite the stormy weather, seven cars waited at the parking lot. Inside the hall there were a few youngsters who were asked in by the Sha"bak. A soldier announced that today's distribution of magnetic cards will end at 14:00. The sign on site reads that the DCL is open until 16:00, and the answer to the question why they stop at 14:00 was: "The soldiers have to rest".
We've asked the humanitarian center to place a complaint for discontinuing distribution of cards at 14:00.
We were approached by that young fellow who said that he was taken out of his house at 2:00 AM and was held in detention for 3 days. He complained of hunger. After him more people came out of the building after receiving passage permits to Jerusalem for Christmas. Apparently the soldier who took care of them did not need a rest.
We met Jamal, a resident of the village, who wanted to show us the new location of the gate in Jabara’s fence that had been repaired. The decision of the Supreme Court to move the fence back toward the Green Line is being implemented after many years, and all the lands of Jabara and Ar Ras village are being returned. Lands belonging to other villages, including Kafr Sur, still remain beyond the fence. The residents of Kafr Sur asked to be involved in the decision regarding the location of the new gate, so they wouldn’t have to drive many kilometers through the West Bank and then walk many kilometers through their own land.
The location they preferred was near their lands, next to Sla’it, or at a place they pointed out closer to Jabara, where the former separation fence meets the new one.
They said they weren’t consulted, only people from Jubara and Ar Ras, none of whose lands remained in the seam zone.
Following the tour I contacted ‘Adel, the head of the DCO, who claimed at first that he’d already done a tour. Later he decided to have residents of Kafr Sur contact him and Nabu’ani, who’s in charge of the fence, and they’ll listen to their claims in order to decide on the optimal location for a gate for the residents of Kafr Sur. Jamal and his colleagues will conduct another tour on 24.12.12 to determine the location of the gate, as promised.
We were invited after being contacted by Red Cross staff who reported that there were farmers whose lands were in Oranit and who hadn’t harvested their olives this year. We met the Asheikh family who said they own 86 dunams with 700 trees inside Oranit.
Since it’s necessary to coordinate security arrangements in order to enter Oranit, at the end of September they contacted the Palestinian DCO requesting permits and to make arrangements, but didn’t receive a response for a long time. Apparently as a result of pressure from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Authority they finally obtained permits for the remaining six family members, but only on 6.11.12. When they tried to reach their land they were told at the Oranit gate that they are required to coordinate with the army. They said that Nabu’ani arranged things with the army only on 21.11.12, but when they arrived with an additional family, that of Nazmi Asheikh, which also had about 40 dunams of land in Oranit, Nabu’ani refused to admit them.
Nazmi, the representative of the second family, said they weren’t allowed to enter with the first family, that of Ahmad Abu A’aous Asheikh, and were told they must come alone. Although Nazmi entered two days later with a military escort, on 22.11.12, he said no olives remained – some were on the ground and some had been stolen. Last year he’d picked dozens of sacks; this year he gathered only a sack and a half. He was very angry and wanted to find out whether he could sue the army for damages. We told him we’re not involved in such things, that the Palestinian Authority has Israeli attorneys available.
The story of the Asheikh family was more complicated – it transpires there’s an argument over the land. Settlers claim they bought it, and two years ago the head of the family was kidnapped by Palestinian collaborators living in Tayibeh to force him to sign a document relinquishing his rights. His son said they were able to prevent it at the last moment, but the controversy over the land is still continues.
We spoke to ‘Adel, the DCO head. He said that they weren’t allowed entry because of the legal dispute with the Israelis, and there’s an order to gather evidence in the field in order to resolve the controversy. Until then, they aren’t allowed to enter the area. But ‘Adel ordered Nabu’ani to deal with it in two weeks and hurry the “kashaf” process of collecting evidence, to which representatives of the families have been invited. I asked that family members be able to call to obtain information; he agreed. I notified Ahmad Asheikh, through his son, who speaks Hebrew, and was told he contacted his attorney and the Palestinian Authority to take care of the matter. The attorney, Fat’hi Shabita, an Israeli from Tira, who represents the Palestinian Authority, apparently decided to sue for damages and loss of the olive harvest because of the army’s delay and the investigation which they said should already have been conducted last year, prior to the harvest season.
They’re also complaining about the army’s delay in granting permits for November.
‘Adel says the requests weren’t submitted in time by the Palestinian DCO; the delay was due to their indifference.
The Palestinians are angry at Nabu’ani, whom they said treated them very rudely and wasn’t willing to listen to them.
They were pleased that ‘Adel got involved, and also asked to receive permits for two more laborers because they won’t be able to finish pruning and plowing in January. The request was denied for now and will be considered only after the controversy and the evidence are dealt wi th.
13:45 Habla gate – People were inspected and crossed as usual, but five minutes before the gate was to close a man arrived from the Habla side and began talking to the soldiers. An argument ensued; the soldiers didn’t allow him to cross and sent him back.
We approached a soldier who was near the gate to find out what was going on; she told us not to talk to soldiers. Meanwhile a young man arrived from the plant nurseries with a horse cart, wanting to enter. He did, leaving the horse and cart next to the gate.
He spoke to the soldiers, argued with them, but they didn’t allow him to enter. When he came out we asked him what was going on. He said the cart belongs to his cousin who’s waiting on the other side. The soldiers aren’t letting him through because his own permit is for the Eliyahu crossing, but the cart’s tire has a flat and he can’t drive it that far so he asked his cousin to give him the cousin’s permit (which is for the Habla gate).
We telephoned ‘Adel from the DCO, told him the story and asked him to help them before the gate closes (in two minutes). He asked whether the cart was empty; we said yes. He immediately spoke to someone and the soldiers received a phone call as a result of which they let the man through with the cart. Then they immediately locked the gate. Boy, did they give us a look!
‘Adel called to ask whether the cart had gone through. We “thanked him,” of course. He asked whether we were on the Eliyahu checkpoint side. He’s eager to meet us. We drove there, met and spoke to him. He apologized of course, thanked us for contacting him and asked us to get in touch with him whenever there’s a problem and he’ll help if he can.
We continued to Huwwara. A flying checkpoint at the Yitzhar junction. Palestinian vehicles were stopped and inspected.
15:25 The Huwwara checkpoint was empty. We continued to Za’tara, which was manned, but vehicles went through without inspection.
17:15 We left.
Translator: Charles K.
14:15 – A man complained to us that although he has a document from the police confirming he is no longer blacklisted, he was told at the DCO that he’s still blacklisted in the computer. We referred him to Chaya.
An older man who’s been blacklisted by the Shabak for the past two years told us that he paid an attorney NIS 8,000 who was unsuccessful in cancelling it. We referred him to Sylvia.
Two young men exited, one after the other. The first received a permit to visit his father who’s hospitalized in Israel. The second, whose wife is in Jerusalem, received a family reunification permit valid for one year.
We were told eight people were waiting inside for magnetic cards.
15:30 Three older men who’d gotten what they requested came out. They said they arrived at the DCO at 13:30 – in other words, they’d waited two hours.
A man about 40 years old bitterly complained that he’d been refused an entry permit to Jerusalem to take care of a relative with cancer. The relative has no first-degree relatives in Israel. We spoke with Dalya Bessa’s office; they told us he does have a permit and should go back to the DCO to obtain it. He returned, but didn’t get it. They told him to obtain a new permit from the hospital. Why? They didn’t bother to explain. Arbitrariness? Malice?
A young woman who teaches computers in the university applied for a new magnetic card. She’d lost hers. The soldier yelled at her in Arabic to look for it again. We spoke to the humanitarian office; apparently as a result of our intervention she was allowed to re-enter. This time she was told to report the loss to the court.
1) Report of the morning shift on Highway 60 from Jerusalem to Nabi Yunis (the entrance to Halhul and to Hebron)
07:30 - 07:45 AM, Hussan and Nasha: people handed over documents relating to police and Shabak matters, and also received such documents.
08:15 AM, Etzion DCL: magnetic cards aren’t being issued today because of the Moslem holiday. About 30 people arrived, just because they had a free day, but they had to return home empty-handedly. More people will probably come later in the morning. The only permits issued are for urgent medical matters.
08:30 – 09:00 AM: people asked advice regarding police issues.
Etzion DCL, 14:20 PM:
A man who approached us said that an announcement had been made to those waiting that no entry permits would be granted to people wishing to visit Israel during the upcoming holiday. Everyone waiting for such permits was told to apply to the Palestinian DCL. Only those with appointments at Israeli hospitals can obtain entry permits at the Etzion DCL.
14:25 PM. A blind man who had an appointment on 2.11.12 at a Jerusalem hospital received a permit for that date. He also asked for a permit to visit on an earlier date during the holiday, but didn’t receive one. We tried to help him get a holiday permit but weren’t successful.
A few people exited with permits for hospital appointments.
15:30 PM. An elderly couple, husband and wife, came out. They’d renewed their magnetic cards. They had waited since 14:00.