'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 28.4.09, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Memorial Day. The West Bank is completely closed.
The national commemoration day has apparently fully motivated the settlers to educate us once again.
14:45 Za'tara junction checkpoint.
A Palestinian van/taxi is parked in the parking lot. The driver isn't in the vehicle. The soldiers say they don't know exactly what happened, but there was some kind of accident involving the van and a settler's jeep.
The driver of the van was brought over to them (by the settler? The army? It's not clear) to be detained until the Israeli police arrive. It's not clear what they can do with him if there are no witnesses and it isn't clear what happened. The van is new, without a scratch; the other car and driver aren't around. The whole story is murky, but that's all the soldiers know and the driver doesn't speak much Hebrew and is afraid to talk in front of the soldiers. We see police cars pass by, but they don't stop to deal with the incident.
When we passed the checkpoint again on our way back, three hours later, the driver was no longer there.
A settler youth attached himself to us, full of insults, curses and threats. The soldiers fear a confrontation and hurry to send him away.
15:15 Beit Furik checkpoint.
Only cars go through the checkpoint, and they're all inspected. Those entering Nablus are looked over lightly; those going toward Beit Furik are checked thoroughly. There are no lines at this hour.
15:30 Awarta checkpoint
The checkpoint is for merchandise and people with special permits (VIP's). As we approached, we saw cars waiting. When we stopped, they started inspecting them.
A brand-new car belonging to one of the Palestinian organizations arrives, the seats still covered in plastic. The driver shows his permits to the soldiers, but they're not convinced; they tell him to go through Huwwara. He tries to argue with them, without success. It's clear that no security considerations are involved in the decision that he has to go through Huwwara rather than Awarta, 300 meters away as the crow flies. An hour later we'll see him go through Huwwara. The arbitrary application of rules in this case cost him "only" one hour.
A settlers' vehicle stops near us; a man and woman in their 50's get out. Unlike the rabid youth we left behind in Za'tara, they tell us they're from Qedumim, and try to convince us, and explain that we're wrong. When they realized their efforts were in vain they claim that we're "abnormal from a national point of view." We didn't understand exactly what they meant; it sounded to us like a compliment.
15:45 Huwwara checkpoint
There's a dog handler and two inspection booths at the vehicle checkpoint. The dog handler comes over to us and orders us not to take photographs. She says she saw herself in one of our clips on YouTube showing a vehicle being inspected by dog handlers, and was extremely offended. She says that many lies and insults appear there, and demands we remove it from the site. We tried to explain that the clip only describes what goes on, that we've nothing against her, but the job she's doing is an severely damages the Palestinians' human rights, and is many times more shocking than whatever injury our clip causes her. She didn't understand what we were talking about.
Buses carrying children to Nablus; they burst loudly into song when they go through the checkpoint.
Few people going through the pedestrian checkpoint.
An elderly man, a resident of East Jerusalem, argues with a soldier who refuses to let him leave the city. The soldier claims that Israelis aren't allowed to go through during the week, but only on Saturday. The man insists he has to leave today (Tuesday). Finally the soldier lets him go through and says "But this is the last time." A few minutes later two more young men arrive, also from East Jerusalem, who also want to leave the city. At first the soldier also tells them they can leave, but this is the last time. The female MP immediately accuses him of "undermining her." The soldier retreats and tells the young men they can't go through the checkpoint. He tells them they can leave only through Beit Iba. They try to explain that a taxi to Beit Iba and back to where they are now will cost them about NIS 200, but he's not convinced.
The elderly man who succeeded in going through starts talking with us. He doesn't understand how he's supposed to know whether he's allowed to go through or not, when, and how. The sign greeting people coming to the checkpoint says that Israelis are forbidden to enter Area A, but he's not an Israeli, he's not an Israeli citizen, he lives in East Jerusalem. We give him the phone number of the humanitarian office.
A surrealistic conversation develops with the soldier and the DCO representative:
"Israeli citizens are allowed to enter the city only on Saturday."
"But he's not an Israeli citizen," we reply.
"So if he's a citizen of the Palestinian Authority, it's ok."
"But he's also not a citizen of the Palestinian Authority." We try to explain the absurd situation in which residents of East Jerusalem find themselves. "They have a certificate of residence, not of citizenship. They can't vote for the Knesset, and can vote for the Palestinian parliament."
"So why is his ID card blue?"
"That's their residence permit, its not a Israeli ID card."
The whole story is too complicated for the soldiers, and we have to agree with them.
17:00 The entrance to Beita.
A flying roadblock at the entrance to the village. Border Police officers and a line of about a dozen cars. The commander explains that there's no particular reason for these checks. There's no alert, there wasn't any incident. From time to time they set up a roadblock. When? Whenever it seems appropriate to him. For how long? For as long as he decides. What are they checking? Whoever looks suspicious to him. How does he decide? Their face. He explains that it's so they'll know who's in charge, as if they needed a reminder.