'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 6.3.08, Afternoon
14:33 Ariel - There's a camouflage net spread out on the left side of the road; two soldiers are sitting in the shade (not far from the hitch-hikers' station).
14:38 Zeita - Closed off by a gate and blocks of concrete; Marda - the gate is open.
14:41 Za'tara (Tapuah) - 4 vehicles are waiting from the East - there's only 1 security-check station. From the North - 6 vehicles are waiting - 2 stations are open.
14:45 The wholesale market in Beit'a - open today: according to the workers there, it was closed from Sunday to yesterday (Wednesday).
14:58 The Burin/Yitzhar Checkpoints - unmanned.
15:00 Huwwara Checkpoint -
Brisk traffic in and out; students are going home for the weekend; the shed is full of people waiting: in three security-check stations - 2 female MP's and one male MP - covered by armed soldiers, weapons ready. Today there's a soldier standing in front of the turnstile, keeping people a few meters back; he yells, "Get back there!" at anyone who comes close. As usual, it is the female soldiers who are checking the Muslim men, who have to take off their belts and remove their personal belongings. The line off on the side is moving relatively quickly: older men; women and children. T., the DCO representative is there, there's an x-ray vehicle for packages; there's back-up in the stations checking vehicles entering (we counted 15 waiting vehicles) and exiting Nablus (the Ecumenical Church volunteers counted 20 out-going vehicles in line).
The soldiers at the checkpoint are rude, impatient and shouting.
Some choice remarks made to us:
E., the Checkpoint Commander: "You are Jew-hating, Arab-loving creatures."
One of his soldiers adds: "You sicken the soul."
E., asking us to go behind the white line: "Get back behind that white, red line!"
In answer to our question as to what law requires us to stand behind the line, he adds, "Who decided? - God!"
After a while, he came back to tell us that the police were on their way. Daphne answered, "We will welcome them happily."
In response, E. muttered: "Ahh, mad anarchists!"
He adds, later, demanding that Daphne leave the place: "Would you also like to go into Nablus? To marry your friends? - I'm closing down the checkpoint now; when you cross the red line, I'll open it up again."
15:32 He really did close down the checkpoint; the only thing that made him reopen it at 15:44 was a phone-call to R. and a clear-cut threat to report the entire event, including the names of the soldiers and the name of the DCO representative backing them up, to the Legal Advisor.
A man who went through, accompanied by his wife and three children, told us he lives in Ramallah, where he owns a restaurant. On his way to work every day he has to go through three checkpoints. He added, "I'm 35 years old and I haven't yet had one good day in my life." ...
15:51 The pressure has lessened at the vehicle-checking station for those entering Nablus. A very strict security check prevents many vehicles (relatively) from entering the city. The DCO representative tries to intervene and check the reasons for these refusals more closely.
16:10 There are three detainees in the solitary confinement area.
- When I approached the detainees, one of them - who has deep scars on his forehead (implying past head injuries?) - told me - "I swear to you, I didn't try any tricks; I don't know why he detained me..." Afterwards he told me that he's sick - in the head. From what I understood from him, they tried to go through the Humanitarian line, because of his head injury. We bought them something to drink.
16:30 There are two settlers near the x-ray vehicle. One of them goes in the direction of the watch-tower and disappears from our view; he later returns. He and his friends look pretty relaxed in the middle of the checkpoint. There doesn't seem to be a white line or a red line or a beige line for them. Photos on MW site.
16:39 There's a female student detained near the women's security-check hut. They wanted to put her in there, but since the three detainees are there, she asks not to stand close to the men. Her ID was taken away from her because she was laughing and the soldier thought she was laughing at him. She speaks English, arrived from Venezuela, her behavior is relatively free (not meek), despite the fact that she is Muslim and dressed modestly. The DCO representative intervenes and tries to shorten the time she's detained.
17:01 The three detainees are let out of the solitary confinement area after an "educational experience" - and returned to the front of the line.
17:45 An army hummer vehicle arrives along the apartheid road, behind it there is a "hunter" - a truck and trailer for capturing people using the road 'illegally'.
The shift had split up - Daphne and Tamar had continued on to Beit Furik and Awarta:
16:30 Beit Furik - A car and then another from the Beit Furik direction, and a long line (about 12) from the Nablus direction.
At the beginning, we stood behind the checkpoint, the concrete wall separating between us and the soldiers, the Palestinians and the checkpoint. There's one detainee - an old man who arrived without papers, who is taken in for a security check. He is standing near the soldiers, not in the detainees' hut. The Checkpoint Commander, M., approaches us. He doesn't try to move us away; we have a pleasant conversation. He's embarrassed, due to the amiability with which we approached him, but he softens and tries to hide a little smile as he goes back to join his friends. All of a sudden, a short female MP, (the same one who spit at Fathia two weeks ago) starts yelling at him to get rid of us, otherwise she will close down the checkpoint - so he comes back to get rid of us. We refuse, saying politely that we are not bothering anyone or standing near anyone. She continues yelling - from a distance - for him to get rid of us quickly, till he announces that if we don't move behind the white line, he will close down the checkpoint.
At 16:50 the soldiers close down the checkpoint, on orders from the female MP. During both incidents, at Huwwara and at Beit Furik, we called Naomi L., and according to the decision reached, together with the lawyers, Naomi sent a fax to the Legal Advisor, in real time, which said that although he has said that it is illegal to close down the checkpoint, and although a directive has been sent to the soldiers, the soldiers were at that moment closing down the checkpoint.
I advise all shifts - every time the checkpoint is closed down because of your presence or your refusal to move behind the white-red line (as described by the commander at Huwwara today) - contact Naomi L.. We will pile the Legal Advisor's desk up with faxes, to let him know that his directive is not being implemented in the field.
M., the commander, was uncomfortable; I showed him the Legal Advisor's letter; he was afraid to take it, but read it while I was holding it. The other female MP, Pazit, called him, "Come over here. Stand here. What do you care; as long as they're here, we're keeping the checkpoint closed!" It's clear who's running the checkpoint.
17:00 We decided to leave, so as not to make matters worse for the Palestinians. In any case, there is no sense in standing that far away, where you can't see or hear what is going on. The checkpoint reopened as we left.
17:15 Awarta - There's a line of 8 vehicles from Awarta towards Nablus and 5 leaving Nablus. Suddenly we saw hands waving at us from the concrete hut near the checkpoint. We went closer and found a concrete confinement hut, with no door, and with 14 (!) young men inside. They are all students who were detained three hours before, when they tried to cross Madison track on their way to Awarta (they were probably trying to save themselves the trouble of going through the Huwwara checkpoint by doing that).
The fact that all 14 of them were together made the detention easier, but since there wasn't much space, some of them "spilled" out (there's still a concrete barrier between them and freedom). The Checkpoint Commander, a smiling kibbutznik, kept warning them to go back inside the cell. We called the Humanitarian Center.
Suddenly the Checkpoint Commander came running up to Tamar and told her to take him in her car to chase and catch 6 Palestinians he had seen crossing Madison trail. Tamar, shocked, asked him, "Am I supposed to take you to catch Palestinians in my car?" He was angry with her, of course, since, according to him, they were going straight to Tel Aviv from Madison trail (which is between Nablus and Awarta).
17:45 The commander came to release the young men, but he was going to leave behind the 4 who were outside the cell. But what happened? He couldn't remember who they were. He tried to pressure the Palestinians to give up the guilty parties, but they, in an act of solidarity, were willing to stay locked up and not give up the criminals. In the end, he chose one of them and decided to leave him behind and release all the others, after an educational lecture in English (at the beginning he wanted me to translate into Arabic, but at that very moment I forgot the little Arabic I knew). At first the young men refused to leave without their friend, but when they saw that the Checkpoint Commander couldn't care less whether they all stayed or left, they decided to go. Our repeated requests didn't help. The commander refused to release the lone detainee. He also said that he was suffering because of us, so we decided that perhaps our presence was making him keep the young man detained longer. (This turned out to be a mistake, since he kept him detained for another hour and a quarter after we left.) We phoned R. (he's at home - told me to call T.); it took another half hour before we got T. on the phone - but not long after that, at 18:30, the young man was released. This was about 4 hours after he was first detained. By the way, they were all taken back to Nablus; now they were told they would have to leave via the checkpoint - another hour's delay.
On our way out of Awarta, we saw 2 soldiers, not far away from the junction, standing and waiting for "the hunter".
18:00 The Burin/Yitzhar Checkpoints are unmanned.
18:38 The army hummer is near the entrance to Beit'a.
18:40 Za'tara - 9 vehicles are waiting from the North; 2 are being checked; none waiting from the West.
18:48 Zeit'a is closed off by a gate as well as concrete blocks.
At the entrance to Marda - soldiers at the entrance as well as 2 army hummers.
19:05 At the exit - towards Israel - 3 detainees are sitting with their backs to the passers-by.