Eyal, Thu 14.5.09, Afternoon
Dozens of workers returning from work
are standing in a line that extends the length of the parking lot.
The entrance to the checkpoint is blocked by soldiers and two police
cars. According to the Palestinians, they have been waiting for
three hours already. According to the police, they have been waiting
for one hour. The soldiers send me to the police clarify why the
checkpoint is closed and the police send me back to the soldiers.
I hear several explanations: there is a suspicious object, there is
a power failure, something connected with smuggling weapons by the Palestinian
Authority, and other explanations. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that 300 people who are tired after their day’s work
and a sleepless night are waiting during the rush hour at the beginning
of the weekend to get home and they are unable to get through.
About a quarter of an hour after we
arrive the checkpoint is reopened and dozens of workers rush towards
the entrance as fast as they can. There is a lot of congestion
at the turnstile in the entrance, but the people pass through slowly
because each person who goes through has to undergo a biometric check
(as they do when they go out.).
Meanwhile more employers’ cars continue
to arrive and to drop off workers who join the line. At
17:45 I ask a worker who lives in Nablus to call me after he gets through
the checkpoint at Huwwara. I received a phone call from him at
19:00. It took him an hour and a quarter to get through the Eyal
Crossing, get out of Qalqilya, drive 30 kilometers, and get through
the Huwwara Checkpoint.
At about 18:00 the soldiers close the
entrance to the facility at the checkpoint again because they are going
to blow up the explosive. It is apparent that they are trying
to get the workers near the opening through more quickly in order not
to endanger them. Nevertheless, the explosion is done when there
are still workers outside the checkpoint. The explosion is done
in an area enclosed in concrete walls. The entrance to the facility
that was blocked opens again and the workers that have gathered race
to get through the turnstile.
Meanwhile a contractor arrives with
a group of soldiers and commanders with whom we speak. He explains
that this week the checkpoint opened at 06:00 almost every morning and
because of that there were ambulances (injured). Despite the fact
that he known that the soldiers did not open the checkpoint on time
and terrible pressure was caused at the checkpoint because of them,
he is not capable of bringing himself to complain about them, because
“I served as a company commander in the armored corps and I fought
in…and in the war…and they are my brothers, etc. Heaven forbid
that anyone suspect that he is connected in any way to Machsom Watch!
We complain to the unit commander from the Haruv Battalion who are responsible
for security at the checkpoint about the checkpoint opening late, about
the use of gas grenades and stun grenades to control the line,
(That only happens when they get wild and they are liable to knock the
fence down). Apparently we are the only ones for whom the sight
of dozens of people packed in line and having tear gas tired at them
from close range without any way to get away quickly has any affect.
It has none upon the soldiers or their commanders.
We hear that the Brigade Commander
is aware of the problems (At which course in the army do people learn
spokesmanship?), and that a request has been submitted to the authorities
to increase the presents of military police who conduct checks at the
checkpoints, that they are working to change things, and that in another
months the checkpoint is being turned over to a civilian company.
The army is in no way responsible for what happens outside the fence
on the Qalqilya side. Let the Palestinian police come and make
order there. When we asked why they don’t put up rails to
separate the people into several lines, we are told that this requires
a change in the infrastructure, and that is not under Israel’s jurisdiction. So the officer says.
In other words, according to the brigade
commander, the Palestinians can carry out work in the area adjacent
to the checkpoint fence, and we heard that the police and Palestinian
security forces don’t care what happens near the checkpoint and are
even interested in this situation [remaining as it is]. In the
end I don’t know what is worse: the sight of dozens of tired people
crammed into line who only want to get through the checkpoint and get
home, or the fabricated claims that I heard from the soldiers and commanders.
On our way to the car another employer
approaches us. “Believe me, I am right-wing in my opinions,
but what I see here every morning is shameful and an embarrassment to
Israel. I’m a rightist, but I want them (the Palestinians) to
have a state and for them not to come work in Israel.
We’ll get along. And my son
comes with me one morning and goes up to the gate where the workers
come out. Some soldier saw him and didn’t know what he’s
doing there, but told him: “See them (the Arabs)? I can screw
all of them. Wait and see.”
We left at 18:00