'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Eliyahu Crossing, Qalqiliya, Tue 30.6.09, Afternoon
Today we have gone on our observation tour following last week's story in "Ha'aretz" daily by Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (24.6.09) reporting that Israel removed tens of checkpoints in the West Bank in the wake of the international pressure.
We wanted to check the story and especially to get the meaning of the expression "random check" mentioned in the story in connection with some checkpoints. The description word "random" is very tricky, as we already know (One vehicle out of five, thirty or hundred? Who is checked and who isn't?)
It is reported in the story that all the checkpoints around the city of Nablus, on which complete closure was imposed in the past, have been removed. Not quite true. The checkpoints do operate but the pattern is different. Another issue concerns the claim appearing already in the headline that Israel "removed" checkpoints. It is important to see the difference between removing checkpoints and keeping unmanned or non-operating checkpoints. At Burin junction, for example, a "flying" [unmanned mobile] roadblock was in operation until a year ago (which means a roadblock that doesn't operate every day), but although the roadblock is unmanned and the traffic in the junction is flowing, the concrete blocks and the soldiers are still there. It will take only a minute to reactivate it. The same is true for Jit junction, where the concrete blocks are still lying there on both sides of the junction although the checkpoint has been unmanned for a long time. Of course there has been a big change at Nablus, Tulkarm and Qalqiliya checkpoints in the last months. But what struck us was to see how easy it would be to reverse the decisions. Palestinians we have talked to today have also mentioned it.
14:50 - We leave for the Palestinian territories.
14:55 - The traffic flows without delays. The posts in the middle of the road are empty, abandoned. At the post on the road shoulders there are soldiers with guns pointed at the road (picture attached).
Anabta (Einav checkpoint)
15:50 - According to the newspaper story, the checkpoint has been opened but the soldiers don't check Palestinian cars, only the ones with Israeli licence plates, to prevent Israeli citizens from entering the city. The fact is, according to R., the checkpoint commander, that Palestinian vehicles are "selectively" checked. We ask again what this means. R. answers that he checks "what looks suspicious". We ask what it is that looks suspicious. "The looks," he says. "Just as you looked nice, at first". (He means me. When he tried to keep me away from part of the checkpoint grounds, I insisted that it is public area and, therefore, my movement should not be restricted). We go on asking what "selectivity" means. "Do you check one vehicle out of ten, thirty?" We ask. "Is there a clear-cut decision?"
R says there is no clear-cut decision and it's up to him to decide. It is impossible not to see that the selective checking is carried out only at the entrance to Tulkarm. At the exit - and in the direction of Israel - the traffic flows without delays.
16:10 - The access road to Sarra is blocked. Picture attached.
17:50 - Thirteen vehicles coming from the north. The post for those who come from the west is unmanned. According to the newspaper story, this is the only checkpoint where Palestinian cars are regularly checked in the entire northern West Bank area. What we have seen today refutes this claim.
18:10 - We return to Israel.