'Anabta, Qalqiliya, Tue 21.4.09, Afternoon
Translation: Galia S.
14:20 – A sign hung by women settlers welcomes us at the checkpoint. It says, "We thank the women of MachsomWatch for helping the terror".
Talking to the soldiers, we draw their attention to the fact that the sign is actually an incitement and it surely doesn't belong in an IDF post. The checkpoint commander agrees, takes the sign off and puts it into a garbage bag lying next to the checkpoint.
The traffic is thin but there is one detained vehicle. The soldiers suspect that the vehicle carries various parts stolen from other vehicles, which the driver tries to smuggle from Nablus into Israel. As far as we know, the smuggling usually goes in the opposite direction, but the soldiers insist that they wait for instructions from their advanced command post.
15:00 - There is still no answer from the advanced command post, and we decide to continue on our way. Before we go, we exchange phone numbers with the detained driver and ask him to keep us posted, if necessary.
After we leave Anabta, around 16:15, I call the driver and he says he is still detained at Jubara checkpoint. I call the IDF Humanitarian Center and the soldier promises to check the matter and get back to me. At 16:45 I call again and she connects me with the DCO right away [District Coordination Office of the IDF Civil Administration that handles passage permits]. At the DCO I am asked what it is all about, as if the matter hasn't been checked in the last half hour, and they promise to get back to me. However, this time they are efficient and the soldier calls me 5 minutes later and says "he is a criminal". When I ask for some more details, she says that the vehicle he was driving is stolen as are the various vehicle parts in the trunk, and that the police came a few minutes ago and arrested him. I try again to call the driver but his phone is off.
15:15 – As we arrive, the traffic is flowing. The soldiers neither stop nor check any of the cars. We say hello to the soldiers and the checkpoint commander turns his back and leaves the post. Two other soldiers greet us back and we come closer to ask about today's happenings at the checkpoint. The commander comes back and orders us to leave the place. We try to explain that we have the right to be here and even tell him it is his duty, as the checkpoint commander, to talk to us, but he only repeats his order to leave the place. He soon returns to the other post, where we see him making a phone call and we assume it is to the police.
Since it seems that nothing is going on at the checkpoint, we decide to leave, but on our way to the car we see 2 cars, one in each direction, that have been stopped and sent to the shoulders. All the young men in the car are put down and taken behind the concrete structure, but pretty soon they are taken back to the car, still detained. We saw earlier a man in civilian clothes hanging about behind the concrete structure. We were wondering if he was connected with the constructions at the checkpoint or perhaps he was from the "Shabak" [Israeli General Security Service]. It seems now he is from the "Shabak". Zehava approaches the detainees, trying to talk to them. In the mean time the police arrive to check why and how we disturb the soldiers (Yael and I are making jokes. Is there a policeman who will find it in his heart to detain Zehava, all 79 years of her?). The detainees are afraid to talk to Zehava. The policeman, a nice-looking Israeli Arab, tries to maneuver between the childish checkpoint commander and us. A military jeep with officers arrives and the policeman stops the negotiation with the sergeant and starts talking to one of the officers who have just arrived.
The checkpoint, that only minutes ago was quiet, is now crowded and threatening. There are lines of about 8 cars in each direction. The detainees are told to stay in the cars and are taken one by one behind the concrete structure. Each one of them gets his ID card back as he returns to the car.
The policeman writes down our names and the officer's and leaves the place.
The officer apologizes on behalf of the junior soldier, asking for our understanding and explaining that not all the soldiers know how to behave. We ask him why only 10 minutes ago no car was stopped and checked and suddenly people are detained, randomly as it seems, and the lines get longer and longer.
Doing it randomly is exactly the point, he explains, so as not to let the Palestinians think there is routine. We go on asking what the Shabak is looking for and whether they are here a lot. It turns out that, yes, they are here a lot and they do whatever they want to do. Meanwhile, one car and its passengers are released and a few minutes later, the other one.
15:45 – We leave Anabta and go to Dir Sharaf.
16:30 – When we arrive there is a line of 6 cars at the entrance to Qalqiliya. A taxi driver tells us that up to 10 minutes before the line was long and stretched to the junction.
Ten cars are waiting to leave the city. A tanker with Israeli licence plates is detained at the exit. While two soldiers are questioning the driver, the line is getting longer. A truck carrying cows is detained at the entrance to Qalqiliya. The driver is waving the permits he has in his hands, assuming, based on past experience, that there shouldn't be any problem. He is frustrated by the delay. The soldiers' attitude toward us is hostile and we cannot come close to the man. Then comes another soldier, a less hostile one, talks to us and goes to take care of the truck driver. He releases him immediately.
A few minutes later the soldiers let all the cars in both directions pass without inspections. The lines start shrinking. The tanker-driver is also free to go.
16:45 – We leave Qalqiliya.