Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, יום א' 16.8.09, אחה"צ
Atara/ Bir Zait checkpoint
Marian, our friend, received a text message informing her about tens of vehicles detained at Atara checkpoint. We hurried and arrived at the place at 15:40. We stood by the pillbox and saw that there traffic, on both directions, was smoothly flowing.
The light that was turned on, the generator's clattering, the empty cans of food, the military foil pot which on it was written in capital letters (just in case the soldiers were wondering): "Kosher" and "Meat", and the leftovers surrounding, were all silent evidence that this checkpoint is in fact manned on occasions.
We decided to look for the people who had taken part in the incident that had occurred at the "checkpoint that hadn't been removed at Bir Zait/ Atara (on the 12th of July- as was reported and filmed in the report from that date), in order to find out what had really happened to Yusuf, the bus driver, at the confined area, and to find out what had caused these people (especially the leader of this group) to react as they did to Yusuf's arrest.
We headed off with only the name of the village and the photos of the people in question. We managed to find Yusuf in no time, he was with his family. At first he felt awkward about the unexpected visit and our curiosity regarding him, but soon enough he got over it and was willing to fill us in with the missing blanks of the story: yes, he had indeed, as expected, been beaten up in the confined area as had been promised to him. He managed to identify the two soldiers that had beaten him up in the photos. They used not only their hands to hit him, but also their rifle. But Yusuf didn't think this was an exceptional incident. Since he passes through the checkpoint twice a day, he has much experience with the soldiers' aggression and he is even used to performing the "Neighbor Routine".
We referred him to Yesh Din's investigator and gave him the required information and details, in case he would like to place a complaint. It's highly doubtable that he will. After all it is the soldiers' word against the word of a Palestinian.
The result of a complaint in such circumstances is a given.
The rest of the people weren't at their homes when we arrived. We found out that A, the person who led the resistance, used to be a political prisoner in the Israeli jail and that he now works in Ramalla, in the high committee for English studies in the PA. The younger men who had also taken part in the resistance and wouldn't move when the captain ordered it, were students (by the content of their bags that Yuduf was forced to reveal before us all, we assumed it was so).
We were driving on the opposite direction to our regular route: to Qalandia and not from it. The checkpoint that is supposed to stop Israelis/Jews from heading on west, from fear that settler might get lost, had detained us.
The soldiers told us to turn our car and head back: we have a warrant". We knew they had one. We have once seen it and taken a copy of it. Nonetheless we still clamed to have the right to head on, or at least to see their warrant.
"Just a moment", said the checkpoint commander. We parked our car when Palestinian vehicles are parked when being inspected, right inside the checkpoint; usually we aren't allowed to even stand there. The commander's "moment" grew longer, and we hadn't yet seen the warrant. "The company commander we bring it in a few minutes", said the commander. He and his comrades we glad to have us as company, something to entertain them and cure their boredom, as opposed to their mates who looked at us with resentment and hurried to walk away from us. We heard the every night, when their shift is over, they get a pep talk during which they hear over and over again (and over again) how important is their job. They were informed that: "Just a week ago a Jew almost got lynched after he entered Ar-Ram!".
-It's always a lynch (in the pep talks), it's always "almost" and always at a Jew.
After a while the two soldiers with whom we were talking, admitted that there was little sense in not allowing us to head on, after all, the road leading to the opposite direction, into Qalandia, wasn't blocked.
"But", said the commander," it's an order, and I am just following my orders..."
He asked us with anger "What can I do to help?"- we didn't' need his help, and only asked that they don't get in our way. But he/they did get in our way: we couldn't complete our shift. The major stop the traffic on both directions so that we could make a u-turn with out any problems (after all we are privileged Jews) and we headed back.