'Azzun 'Atma, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Tue 21.7.09, Afternoon
"Wot no checkpoints?" To write of today in the OPT, we need to borrow a phrase from WWII where the blank after "Wot no...." was filled in with whatever there was a shortage of. Years later, the phrase was also employed ironically, and that is the way we use it today. The checkpoints are alive and well in the OPT, and news of their demise is erroneous and premature.
14:30 Azzun Atme
The two soldiers tell us we can't cross, and that the checkpoint, really a "passageway" to the large village to the north, is open from 4:00 until 22:30. The Palestinians on the other side of the wire fence encourage us to cross, and point out the pathway, but we take stock of the cars in the parking lot on the other side - almost like a suburban train station parking lot - and note that quite a few of them are late model vehicles.
Our intention to go around Route 505 to the other side of Azzun Atme is thwarted by the gate leading to the settlement of Elkana (on the map, it looks as if there is a way around). Shaare Tikva, on the other hand, has a fancy entrance, including... trees and lush green grass, so in contrast to the parched landscape around it.
14:40 -- on the other side of Route 5, a road leads to a large, well hidden quarry: Hanson Quarry. There are a few tall palms, a roundabout with flowers, covered in quarry dust, and large signs bearing notices in Arabic and Hebrew about the kind of comportment expected around the quarry as well as a very large poster bearing a detailed map of the quarry: maybe one can take tours of it!?
At Zaatra, from Huwarra a line of seven vehicles awaits checking, but checking is quick, and traffic is generally light today. Noticeably absent, military vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
15:45 Beit Furik
The checkpoint is alive and well, missing only the passageways for pedestrians (taken down as at Beit Iba). Soldiers man the checkpoint with a lone position in the middle of the roadway and may, or may not check passing cars, of which there are not many. A yellow gate is spied a little further away, now open
Awarta is also manned by soldiers who make it plain that we are not to go beyond the checkpoint.
An empty shell greets us. Not a vehicle in the taxi parking lot. Not a single human being in sight in the former checkpoint's long lanes, now eerily empty. But at the roadside positions, soldiers are in place, as well as in the lookout tower by the roundabout. The commander tells that Palestinians can all cross, as can "Arab Israelis." As for Jewish Israelis, "What would they want to go to Nablus for?"
On our return, on Route 60, we note that at the outpost of Har Gilad, alive and well, there's a new addition. A khaki army tent is placed on the side of the outpost settlement, just above the roadway, flying its standard.
We hear of many problems at checkpoints and huge delays yesterday at Shavei Shomron, Anabta and Huwwara (where settlers caused trouble).
In conclusion, whereas many MachsomWatchers have, in the past week, been asked about the future of the organization, and people have unkindly and incorrectly told us that "there is no longer anything to do," we must protest and indicate, loudly and clearly, that there is still an Occupation, and that there are still checkpoints, hindering freedom of movement in the OPT.