Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 14.6.09, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
DCO representative - Nabil; X-ray truck active next to the pedestrian checking lines.
3 checking posts active, relatively short waiting lines, relative quiet over the loudspeakers. Average waiting time in men's lines in front of the metal detectors and turnstiles - 15 minutes.
At various spots along the fence of the taxi park next to the checkpoint there are small foci of fire and smoke - piles of rubbish being burnt.
A pair of international monitors - of the EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniers) - she from Sweden, he from Scotland - report to us after having crossed the checkpoint out of Nablus, that about 20 cars await inspection on the vehicle lane exiting the city.
A long line of yellow cabs exiting Nablus. Until recently this has been strictly forbidden, considered a serious threat to Israeli security - few were the vehicles allowed to cross the checkpoint, even fewer cabs. Until now the Palestinians could only travel by cab to the taxi park north of the checkpoint, proceed on foot to stand in the waiting lines, cross turnstiles and metal detectors, be harassed, show IDs, open bags, cross more turnstiles, finally exit the checkpoint, walk to the taxi park south of the checkpoint, and mount another yellow cab to their destination.
Today the cabs drive through the checkpoint. More than 25 cars wait in line, accordingly to the DCO representative there is pressure since morning. Most of the time two inspection posts are active. The driver approaches the Military Policewoman (with her blue baseball cap), hands her his and his passengers' IDs, she glances at them and the party proceeds. Indeed!?
The DCO representative urges the soldiers to hurry up, the line is endless. When he's around, a third inspection post is activated.
15:25 A young man is taken off a cab and roughly pushed into the detainee cubicle. This is reason for a party and the third checking lane is closed again. The soldiers crowd in one of the posts, giggle, photograph us, light up cigarettes.
The women MPs demonstrably feel very cozy throughout the checkpoint. They cut across the vehicle lanes without paying any attention to cars in motion. They stand in front of vehicles, preventing them from moving on. They hand a driver his ID who reaches out to take it but they pull their own hand back. Just for kicks. Fun. A "securing" soldier points his rifle at the head of a driver, thus completing the picture of outrageous reality.
15:40 Sniffer-dog and senior trainer soldier-girl arrive with a novice trainer.
They begin to inspect. First along - a Ford Transit cab. Six men, a woman and child are taken off the cab and stand next to the post. They stare at the dog who jumps, drools, licks and stomps over the upholstery inside the cab on which they had been sitting until a minute earlier and on which they will sit again. Yuck. The check takes four minutes, and the whole embarrassing ceremony close to ten minutes. About ten times longer than the usual check.
The next victim is an old jalopy. Two men, one young, the other older. The back doors are reluctant to open for the sniffer dog ladies, nor is the dog that keen on going in. Still, it is pushed in by the novice trainer. Forward - over the seats, back and forth, sniffing, filthying, surely leaving behind traces of drool and hair all over. Finally the dog finds its desired 'sweet', jumps out of the car and gets a hug and a pet from the proud trainer. Fooey.
At this point, the DCO representative responds to our call. "Any special reason for car inspections?" we asked him. Obviously the passengers are not "suspect" and the whole show is carried out for the sake of a novice trainer. We reminded him of the instruction not to make dogs enter cars that are not specifically suspect. He emphasized his awareness of the disrespect shown by inspecting a vehicle with a dog, but says this is the discretion of the checkpoint commander. However, in the next inspections we monitored the dog only sniffed the exterior and trunk of cars.
16:30 The detainee is allowed to leave.
17:15 Over ten vehicles waiting for inspection. The DCO rep. is already gone. Inspections are slow. Occasionally they stop altogether when the soldier is busy on the phone or with other matters.
17:25 The dog, senior and junior trainers leave the checkpoint.
17:55 We left. At least 15 vehicles still waiting.
Beit Furik Checkpoint 16:50
The shed where once Palestinians waited endlessly to be checked on their way into and out of Nablus to Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan - for Israeli security required their belongings to be rummaged through, and them to be questioned why and wherefore and to let them wait until khaki-clad forces would deign to open the turnstiles - this shed is gone. Disappeared. A figment of memory.
Still regular soldiers stand there, making random checks of entering and exiting vehicles. Especially exiting. And they still chide drivers for not halting behind some imaginary line "as they should".
But we were shooed away, and were even asked what we were doing there and did not get to hear the standard lecture explaining to whom this land belongs. We left at 17:05.
Za'tara/Tapuach Junction Checkpoint 17:50
One checking post only functioning for vehicles coming from Nablus. About 43 cars waiting. We called the army hotline to report this and request intervention to hasten procedures. As usual they said they'd look into it...