'Anabta, 'Azzun, Deir Sharaf, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Ras 'Atiya, Shave Shomron, Sun 25.10.09, Afte
Today's newspaper reported that Netanyahu, in a Washington Post interview, did not reject establishment of a commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, while a "clarification" by his office indicated that the PM is not considering such a commission. Why bother with this? Only one reason. Facts on the ground never match announced declarations. During July 2009, Israeli authorities eased up at West Bank checkpoints (only one, Beit Iba, was completely dismantled). This easing signified the so called "economic peace" of which Netanyahu loves to boast, while the media could report an "improved quality of life." Why in the summer of 2009? Barack Obama was putting pressure on Israel. Now, several months later, Obama has other concerns, and -- in the West Bank -- it's back to the good old 42 years of occupation, complete with checkpoints seemingly reappearing at a moment's notice.
11:50 Gate 1392 Habla
Winter hours in force, since the gate is now open from 6:30-8:00; 11:00-12:15 and 16:45-18:00. At this hour, some men are already returning from work in the plant nurseries, tractors or horse or donkey carts carry produce or plants across the Security Barrier, but each person's ID and permit are checked, and means of transport examined. Little traffic from the eastern side of the barrier.
12:20 Ras Atiya
On the way, we note that the huge road works going on now for several months near Alfe Menashe turn out to be a new wall, or should it be a new "Wall." At the Seam Line checkpoint, nothing going on, but a bunch of bored soldiers on a 12 hour shift, preferring to be at home asleep, telling us that the busiest time is 6:30 in the morning when the checkpoint opens (and people want to get to work), and that the new "Wall" clearly visible from the Separation Barrier west of it here is, indeed, the ongoing Separation Barrier. The present checkpoint, we hear, will be replaced by something near the Wall, by something "better for them(!)" The soldiers continue to make conversation, asking from whence we and our visitors come. We learn that that they are from Ashdod, Rishon LeZion and Jersualem (sic), but later, the sergeant (from Jerusalem) tells us he's actually from Pisgat Zeev. No amount of convincing him that this too, is "Palestine." To which he replies, with a phrase that we can't believe our ears, "a people needs to expand."
More disbelief, but this time in terms of what we see, not hear. The checkpoint that had been dismantled at the entrance to Qalqilya is alive and well, functioning to such an extent that there is a line of maybe 30 vehicles. There are five soldiers here, two sergeants, a lieutenant and a private. Each vehicle is greeted by the latter with, "Hey, what's going on?" in a relaxed, seemingly friendly fashion. But to us, not a word. We are given the cold shoulder. Trucks are examined carefully, a bus is entered, as in the past, by two soldiers, guns at the ready; taxis bearing young Palestinians (male) have their IDs checked, other cars are waved on. Two soldiers wander down to the parking area, tell a private car to move off to the side and bother the taxi driver parked next to it. On their way back to the checkpoint proper, we ask, naively, why this checkpoint has been manned again. We are greeted with stony silence, the soldiers move on as if we don't exist.
Road works here continue, but the worst, for drivers, is over: just white lines being painted on the roadway.
Believe it or not, the huge earth mound surrounding the town is no more. "4 or 5 days ago it was removed" a smiling young man tells us. Yes, but for how long? This time, the army has done a good job of suppressing just what went on here. This time, not a concrete boulder in sight, the dirt has been completely flattened, spread over the surrounding messy areas surrounding the entrance to Azzun. Until the next time!
14:00 Deir Sharaf
The soldiers are well out of sight of all vehicles, resting on the side, unconcerned about traffic passing to and from across the checkpoint. But at the junction with 55, there is a huge traffic jam: the stoppage is caused by road works, repaving of the already well asphalted "apartheid" roads in the OPT. It's roads behind the Green Line that are in urgent need of repaving, not the kilometers and kilometers of roads in the OPT. However, it's clear, if we didn't already know it, what the government priority is.
We learn here that Beit Iba was alive and well, as a checkpoint, just last week. Stay tuned for the continuing saga of checkpoints and the occupation.
14:30 Shavei Shomron
A bus is stopped at the side of the road, presumably awaiting checking on its way to Jenin. The soldiers confront us and are curious as to how we got here. "By just driving up the road, down which we're now going to go." One of the Huwwash brothers, from the carpentry workshop, near the old checkpoint at Beit Iba, is in a car on its way northwards and waves to us as we turn to go back down to the main road, and he waits to be checked by the soldiers at the checkpoint.
One giant mess, caused less by the checkpoint itself but by the huge asphalt laying equipment that is all over the road, making most of the way up the hill on the apartheid road a one way thoroughfare.
Little traffic, some question about MachsomWatch and where we're going.
14:50 Irtah/Shaar Efraim
Already at this hour, a host of returning workers, but there seems to be no hold up, and a steady flow of mainly men negotiate the last two turnstiles by the Separation Barrier to go back into the OPT. There is new construction going on outside the terminal: a new parking lot alongside the terminal? In any case, it's expansion, not contraction.