'Anabta, 'Azzun, Deir Sharaf, Qalqiliya, Sun 12.4.09, Afternoon
The hills are alive with the color of spring flowers, the pinks now joined by yellow and white daisies and picture perfect, bright red Monet like poppies, spread beneath a grove of olives near Jit Junction. But the hills and the valleys of the OPT are also alive with the sound of occupation.
11:55 Habla Gate 1393
An agricultural gate beautifully personified by the presence of a flock of sheep, making its way across the still open gates, followed by one truck bearing young palm trees and another going in the other direction, into Habla, carrying a load of boxed fruit and vegetables. The bucolic nature of the scene is disturbed by the soldier beginning to poke in and around the boxes.
A pedestrian from Habla doesn't go straight across the security road and the open gates, but makes his way to the side, through an open yellow metal gate, proceeds through a single turnstile and goes to the far side of a house: we can see no more. What on earth is the point of a turnstile in the middle of nowhere, where there are hardly any pedestrians a this hour?
A long line of vehicles from Qalqiliya. As we arrive, no line in the opposite direction, but our presence soon changes that. We're told by two soldiers, only one of whom is the commander, "What's the difference if I give you my name?" So, as is usual, no name, but less usual, no initial, makes its way into our report. "You are not allowed to stand there... it's a military area.... we get our orders from on high.... even if it's your right, I don't care, it's a military area, and I'm in charge.... helping the Arabs just takes away from what we're supposed to be doing." Of course, all this while the line into Qalqiliya, grows and grows. It's a stand off, and we're making things worse, not better.
From afar, we already see a Hummer standing near the entrance way to the town. What we can't see until we pull up alongside is that the earth mound has been "breached," and that there's a small white car stuck in the middle of what is a newly opened pathway through the barricade. Two young men stand by the car.
The soldiers here, reservists, are willing to talk. They've just been sent here, called by the army's lookout tower on the hillside above the town. From the lookout tower, it was clear that the Palestinians had broken through the "wall" only about an hour ago. The two soldiers wait for "reinforcements" or, rather, equipment that will mend the breach and enclose the town of 15,000 people once more. The two young men will be punished. "They know they're not supposed to go through here." The two soldiers have no idea how the earth mound was breached. They are just following orders.
13:10 Deir Sharaf
The earth mover/digger is almost at the main road and is at work on this Israeli holiday....By now, the work has proceeded for several weeks, and the rich greens of the hillside have been gouged out -- lands confiscated from Deir Sharaf residents to make way for the colony of Shavei Shomron's new "apartheid road."
Meanwhile, in the reality before us, the line of vehicles trying to go past the new checkpoint stretches beyond the junction to Shavei Shomron. The reason for the back up is plain. A pickup truck and a semitrailer, both with Israeli license plates (yellow) have been stopped. When this happens at this brand new checkpoint -- i.e., a vehicle is stopped, either going to Nablus or coming from Nablus -- the traffic piles up behind it. There is no room to pass. Things get even worse when one of the vehicles is a semitrailer and has to back itself out of the so-called checkpoint. Of course, there is no room to turn on either side of the roadway, on one side a deep ditch, a swiftly flowing sludgy stream on the other. A twin of the semitrailer, also with Israeli plates, seeming to carry the same kind of what looks like building supplies under its covers, approaches from Nablus, and continues on its way: evidently, that one got through. There is an endless parade of private cars from Nablus, fewer going into the city (or turning off on Route 60 to Jenin, things we can no longer know). The bottom line is that the new checkpoint has created a new form of annoyance, aggravation and hassle for the Palestinians. But isn't that the meaning of Occupation?
Meanwhile, further down the road, not more than four or five kilometers away, the new, or improved checkpoint of Anabta, grows apace although it is still not completed. Not much work ongoing today, however, as it's an Israeli holiday, and here the steamroller and two earth movers lie idle on the newly white gravel at the sides of the enlarged and widened checkpoint.
The first sight that greets our eyes, the semitrailer and pickup truck that we had seen at Deir Sharaf checkpoint, trying to go in the direction of Nablus, have made their way here, and sail breezily through the checkpoint at Anabta, the soldiers not giving a second glance at Israeli vehicles (yellow license plates), and all traffic flowing freely in both directions. We assume it's a long way round to get to Nablus, (or Jenin), but at least a technique to get around the restrictions imposed at Deir Sharaf.
13:40 -- a Hummer, laden with food for the soldiers, arrives. Stops in the middle of the roadway (still narrow at this point) and bars all traffic trying to go towards Tulkarm. The Palestinians can wait -- and wait. One of the soldiers who gets out of the Hummer calls to the soldiers on duty at the checkpoint that, "Since ‘Checkpoints' are here (meaning, MachsomWatch is here), the checkpoint will be closed." Nothing happens, however, he, after all, has no authority, other than wearing a kippa and delivering food, and after four minutes, when the Hummer turns around, traffic again begins to move. The checkpoint has stopped functioning because of lunch delivery not because of the presence of MW!
13:48 -- Israeli vehicles pass freely into Tulkarm, but often the backs of delivery vans are thoroughly checked by soldiers. A lone Palestinian worker, lunch box in hand, arrives, and two soldiers stand with him on the newly graveled widened roadway, gesturing.
13:55 -- Slowing down of vehicles in both directions
There is closure (meaning no Palestinian workers can get into Israel to earn their living for the whole week of the Passover holiday), but an Israeli pickup truck stands near the entrance of the terminal. The reason is clear. There are improvements or repairs underway.
All over the OPT, the checkpoints are alive with the work of Occupation.