'Anabta, Beit Furik, Deir Sharaf, Eliyahu Crossing, Huwwara, Qalqiliya, Za'tara (Tapuah), Tue 30.6.09, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
Today we went on a tour to follow up the article by Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, who reported in Ha’aretz last week (24.6.09) that “As a result of international pressure: Israel has removed dozens of checkpoints on the West Bank.” We wanted to verify the report, and in particular to understand what the phrase “random inspections” – that appears in the article with reference to a number of checkpoints – actually means. As we learned, the adjective “random” is very deceptive (every fifth vehicle, every thirtieth, every hundredth? Who’s inspected and who isn’t?)
The article reports that “the checkpoints around the city of Nablus, which had once been completely closed off, have all been removed,” a claim that is groundless. The checkpoints are definitely operating, although not as before. Another thing – regarding the claim, which already appears in the headline, that Israel has “removed” checkpoints. It’s important to distinguish between a checkpoint that has been removed, and one that isn’t manned and operating. At the Burin junction, for example, there was until half a year ago a unannounced checkpoint (that is, a checkpoint that doesn’t operate every day), but even though it isn’t manned and traffic flows freely through the junction, the concrete barriers and soldiers’ positions are still there, and it would take only a minute to make them operative again. The same is true at the Jit junction; the concrete barriers are still located on both sides of the junction even though the checkpoint hasn’t been manned for a long time.
It’s clear that there has been a great change in the Nablus, Tulkarm and Qalqilya checkpoints during recent months. But the main impression we received today was of the ease with which it would be possible to change the policies. Palestinians with whom we spoke today also mentioned this.
14:50 Eliyahu gate – we left for Palestine.
14:55 Qalqilya. Traffic flows without delays, the positions in the middle of the road are empty, abandoned on the road. Soldiers are in position by the roadside, a weapon pointing toward the road (photo attached).
15:25 The article reports that the Beit Iba checkpoint has been removed, and in fact it isn’t operating today. The article doesn’t mention the Deir Sharaf checkpoint down the road, one kilometer to the south, which began operating immediately after the Beit Iba checkpoint ceased inspecting traffic. The checkpoint is manned by three soldiers, and a fourth is in the observation tower. Traffic going through is inspected at random. We asked the checkpoint commander what “random” means. “What looks suspicious to me,” he answers. “What’s ‘suspicious’?”, we asked. “I don’t know, how it looks, how it seems to me,” he replied.
(We intended to go up to the Shavei Shomron checkpoint where, according to the article, no inspections at all are conducted. The soldiers insisted that Israeli vehicles aren’t allowed to proceed past the Deir Sharaf checkpoint (Not true. It isn’t Area A). Since we wanted to see many checkpoints today, and since we knew from previous observations that no inspections have been conducted at Shavei Shomron for some time now – we gave up.)
15:50 Anabta (which the article refers to as the “Einav checkpoint”)
According to the article, the checkpoint has been opened, the soldiers there don’t inspect Palestinian cars and only check those with Israeli plates in order to prevent Israelis from entering the city. In practice, Ro’i, the checkpoint commander, told us, the Palestinian cars are inspected “selectively.” Again we asked what that means. Ro’i replied that he inspects “whatever looks suspicious.” We asked what kind of things look suspicious. “Appearance. Like you didn’t look to me particularly appealing at first” (He meant me. When Ro’i tried to move me away from an area of the checkpoint, I insisted that the checkpoint is a public space and he can’t restrict my movement there). We also asked what “selectively” means. “Do you check ever tenth car? Every thirtieth? Is there any standard policy?” “There’s no standard policy, it’s whatever I decide,” Ro’i replied. We also couldn’t help noticing that the selective inspections are carried out only for cars entering Tulkarm. At the exit – and toward Israel – traffic flowed without delays.
16:10 The access road to Sara is blocked. A photo is attached.
16:25 Awarta (the checkpoint isn’t mentioned in the article). One truck leaving Nablus is being inspected. A private car entering the city is being inspected.
16:35 Beit Furik. The article reports that the checkpoint was removed. In practice, while we stood there, three of the four vehicles leaving Nablus were inspected. One driver, on his way into Nablus, waited patiently for his turn while the vehicles leaving the city were being inspected, because the inspections aren’t carried out in both directions at the same time. He was inspected in turn, and went in. Attached are photos of vehicles waiting while inspections are carried out.
16:50 Huwwara. According to the article: “The Huwwara checkpoint, to the south, has been opened to automobile traffic, that recently has been able to leave and enter the city freely. The soldiers at the checkpoint are supposed to prevent Israeli cars from entering during the week, but Israeli Arabs are allowed to enter with their cars on Friday and Saturday. In addition, from time to time the soldiers carry out random checks of Palestinian cars.”
The pedestrian area is almost empty. A taxi driver, an old friend by now, says that only villagers who live very near the checkpoint go through on foot (those from Huwwara, Burin, Awarta, Odlalla). Vehicles enter Nablus without being delayed. There are two positions at the exit, a short line (numbering 10-15 vehicles most of the time). Some go through immediately, others are stopped.
17:50 Za’tara (Tapuach). 13 vehicles from the north. The position for those coming from the west isn’t manned at all. According to the article, “This is the only checkpoint in the entire northern West Bank at which Palestinian vehicles are always inspected.” As we saw today, this claim is not correct.
18:10 Shomron gate – we returned to I