Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 11.3.10, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
“Biden’s here to make statements and plan how to bomb Iran. Not because he cares about the Palestinians.” (Abu Bashir’s parliament at the spice shop in Huwwara)
The morning shift called to tell us that the army units had been replaced; now the checkpoints are manned by the Border Police and today there were delays. Apparently things had changed by afternoon.
Za’tara: 21 cars on line coming from Nablus. The line moves quickly.
Huwwara village: At Abu Bashir’s parliament (he sells labaneh and spices next to the falafel stand).
People tell us that Biden’s visit today is only for the Israelis. To issue statements and to plan the attack on Iran. Not out of concern for the Palestinians. Here no one has any expectations.
Huwwara checkpoint, 13:45
A jeep with two passengers is stopped on its way to Nablus and the Border Police inspect it “hard.”
One passenger is moved aside, the second apparently told to dismantle the radio and display it…The first passenger says that it’s because of the alarm.
Vehicles leaving Nablus are inspected at random, and there’s no line. The Border Police stop a bus and remove the passengers for inspection. It takes a few minutes. They make a big effort to move us back from our usual corner, with threats and such. We remain where we are.
Awarta village, 14:00
We had arranged to introduce ourselves to the members of the local council (the majlis or baladiyya).
Some of them were elected and serve without pay, and three others are salaried and deal with problems that come up. There’s a sparkling new local council building in Awarta, an impressive structure with an imposing office for the local council head; the crowd around us made it hard to know who he was.
The main problems are:
- Freedom of movement
Private cars are not allowed on the direct road to Nablus. As you know, only trucks are permitted to drive on the winding village roads and enter Nablus through the Awwarta checkpoint. Everyone else must make a long trip via Odala-Beita-Huwwara to enter Nablus; Awarta is located on its outskirts. The trip takes half an hour instead of five minutes, a waste of gas and time.
They don’t understand the logic, since the huge trucks go directly through Awwarta to Nablus.
- Cultivating agricultural land
The village has about 7000 inhabitants. There are 8000 dunums to the north of the village, where the settlement of Itamar is located. Access to those lands is forbidden to Awarta’s farmers.
A work permit can be obtained only twice a year. As a result, the lands are neglected.
We were told, for example, that Hassan’s land used to produce 1000 kg. of olives, but now gives only 10 kg. each season. Hassan takes a book dating from 1965, listing Awarta’s lands, out of a cabinet.
People are afraid to complain.
30% of the laborers work in Israel, many of them without permits.
It’s hard to obtain a work permit. 80% of the young men have been in Israeli jails, and therefore can’t get a permit to work in Israel.
15,000 former residents of the village have left and now live abroad! If I understood correctly, transfer is proceeding apace.
3. Visits to tombs by the ultra-orthodox and settlers
About two months ago we described the violent actions of the army in the home of the Shurav family, who live next to the cemetery. It turns out that the violent events occurred at two additional homes which the soldiers entered, as well as at an observation tower in the olive grove – along with praying and prostrating themselves on the graves of the righteous, they also destroyed gravestones. Such visits occur all the time. Twice a year they turn into a major incident which threatens the residents of the village.
The village of Odala
Located south of Awarta.
Here, too, we’d arranged to meet the head of the local council, and additional representatives arrived.
Freedom of movement.
A few times a week a military vehicle shows up and sets up a roadblock near the well and stops men, women and children for inspection.
Sometimes people get stuck there for three hours and lose a day of work.
Harassment of villagers by the army
n The army enters; sometimes children throw rocks. Children are detained for 2-3 hours.
n The children were 10-12 years old.
n About one month ago, the army threw a tear gas grenade into the mosque courtyard while people were praying.
n Five young women from the village were arrested at the start of the second intifada in 2000, and have been imprisoned since.
The conversation began hesitantly. At the beginning we said who we were, and why we came. Afterwards the talk flowed. We left phone numbers, and promised the village representatives to return in two weeks.
It’s the start of a relationship.
Meanwhile, perhaps we’ve planted a few seeds of hope on the day Biden gave a speech in Tel Aviv.
But no one here believes in declarations. “It’s just wheeling and dealing between the Americans and Israel.”
On the way back there were no delays at the checkpoints. Only the two of us were detained at the Shomron Gate checkpoint, because Machsom Watch flags were flying from the car. They wanted to know where, exactly, we’d been. They took our IDs, we stood next to the checkpoint offices. Our IDs were returned after being checked.