Eyal Crossing, Ras 'Atiya, Thu 5.11.09, Afternoon
We tried to reconstruct part of the tour of the seamline zone that we took two weeks ago. There is information from a conversation with S., head of the Eyal crossing and Grisha, commander of the Liaison and Coordination Administration at Qalqiliya-Tulkarem, that needs to be verified and compared with Hagit's report from November 6th.
"I can't permit them to be given weapons." ??
13:15 - Agricultural Gate 1392 Near Alfredo's Nursery
The gate is open three times each day for farmers crossing to their fields on the other side of the fence. Palestinian workers are sitting along the road to the nursery next to their cars. We asked how they are doing and received the following stories:
Waal Marabi from the village of A-Aatiya brought his children back from school in Ras Atiya. At the checkpoint in front of the village (gate 1351) he was stopped by soldiers who demanded to see his children's birth certificates. The children are listed in his I.D. card, but the soldiers were not satisfied with that. Waal decided to protest and said that he would not get out of his car until the police were called to help. An officer arrived and threatened him with a weapon. Waal insisted that the police be called. Another officer high-ranking officer arrived and saw that the scene was building up to shouting and armed threats and made a compromise between Waal and the officer. Five months ago Waal was handcuffed at the checkpoint and arrested. The soldiers know him. "They make trouble every time." Waal Marabi asked that the Liaison and Coordination Administration be made aware of the harassment.
When he leaves and reaches his fields near Qalqilya he has to sign in, as well as at checkpoint 109 (also known as Gate 1144).
Other workers also joined the conversation and protested about the regulation of signing in when they came and went, even when the weather was bad as during the past few rainy days. If they refused to sign, they are listed on the computer and then need to waste time getting to the Liaison and Coordination Administration to arrange a new permit.
We drove to check what was happening at Ras Atiya. Sleepy soldiers checked the entire car. The drivers had to get out of their cars and enter the army booth and sign in. Two high school students were walking from the village going to Ras Atira and were not checked. They looked frightened.
15:30 Eyal Crossing
A canteen car with a Soldiers' Welfare Association emblem is parked on the side of the parking lot. "It's for the workers to buy coffee and tea in the morning" explain the Palestinians. They complain about Sundays when there are a lot of people coming to work including those who remain in Israel throughout the week. "Then they open only two checking booths." We walked towards the checkpoint fence to try and see over to the Palestinian side where they said that there was a roof to protect people from the rain who come in the morning when it is dark. Of course we were caught by S., the commander of the crossing who instructs us to leave. Since we remembered him from the first day he has been working there we called him by name and invited us to speak with him.
We told him about people's complaints and he refuted our claims, saying: "Every day all eight check booths are open from 3:55 to 8:00 AM and if any of the inspectors are absent he fines the "Modi'in Ezrachi" (the civilian company that operates the checkpoint) NIS 3,000. He will soon have a generators that will back prevent the computers from shutting down if there is a power failure. The Palestinians have learned that they don't have to come early and wait in line because they move through the checkpoint quickly. You yourselves wrote that it takes 20-25 minutes to get through...There are never more than 100 people waiting in line."
"The problem on Sundays is checking the luggage of people who remain in Israel throughout the week. What can you do? Even at Ben Gurion Airport there is a waiting line if there are a lot of passengers."
What about providing shelter from the rain in the parking lot? The photographs Nir Kafri took of workers waiting in the rain for their rides remain in our minds. "When she's going to work my wife also goes into a bus stop, and it might be full of people. They have to wait because all kinds of unfair people employ them and offer them work permits. We clean the restrooms and put toilet paper there three times each day. There were people here to measure the area for a shelter, but right now it's a matter of budget."
While we were still talking Lieutenant Colonel Grisha arrived, the commander of the Liaison and Coordination Administration, and was also aware of the report written by Machsom Watch that stated that "it takes 20-25 minutes to get through the checkpoint." I've just come from a meting with the Palestinian organizer to deal with the lines in the morning. They want weapons to perform their tasks. Even if it's political, I can't permit that."