Eyal Crossing, Fri 25.6.10, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
Bureaucracy is the source of all evil...the Occupation couldn’t exist without it!
Like the ancient Chinese water torture, one drop at a time – once again we witnessed the poor Palestinian laborers being humiliated here, ground down, minute after minute, day after day – we can only salute their steadfastness, their survival, their persistence despite everything…”the more they are tormented…the more numerous and widespread will they become…”
The checkpoint opens at 05:00.
The first people come through at 05:08. From the Palestinian side of the checkpoint we hear noise and many people shouting, which stops after a quarter of an hour. We also hear noises from within the building. The Palestinians coming out report there’s a long line and disorder on the Palestinian side. One of them says the Palestinian police aren’t present on Fridays and there’s no one to keep the line in order. So he, who made the effort to get to the checkpoint early and get a place in line, is pushed aside by other laborers who arrived after him, and is able to enter the checkpoint building only 20 minutes after the checkpoint opened at five o’clock.
We ask, and are told that only four computer terminals are operating within. From time to time people tell us that the checkpoint should open at 04:00, as it does on the other days. But at least five people yelled to us, “Come see what it’s like on Sundays. Thousands of people…jammed together.”
The main complaints today also are how long it takes to go through the checkpoint and all the humiliating inspections. We asked a few people how it took them to go through from the moment they arrived at the Palestinian side of the checkpoint in Qalqilya until coming through the Israeli side: from 1½ to 2 hours. The first ones said they arrived at 03:30 and exited at about 05:15-05:30. Laborers whom we asked at about 06:00 said that they’d arrived at 04:30 in order to get a place on line.
Again we hear the complaints about crowding in the small inspection rooms; why is that necessary.One of the laborers took his torn ID card out of his pocket to show the others.It turns out that one of the inspectors behind the window, or in the inspection room, suspected the ID was fake and tore the sheet it was wrapped in. They gave the ID back and let him through, but what will he do if a policeman or the Israeli immigration police or a soldier on the West Bank catches him? He’ll probably be forced to waste a day by going to the Palestinian Interior Ministry to obtain a new ID, and also pay NIS 150 for it. The other laborers also say that tearing up an ID isn’t an isolated occurrence, but one that happens every few days to one or two laborers.
We wanted to write down his particulars and complain, but he left – he doesn’t want to get into trouble and lose his work permit.
A laborer coming through the revolving gate at 06:00, who’s apparently seen us from time to time, is very angry; “What are you doing, anyway; what are you writing…you don’t help at all…”
It is depressing to hear this thrown in our faces – sometimes it occurs to us that they’ll do a study once and link our (minimal) activities on behalf of human rights with the conditions of the occupation, and someone – I don’t know whether or not they’ll be serious – will discover that we’re the ones directly responsible for the worsening of the occupation – after all, we’ve been there for years to warn and testify, and things have only gotten worse…
The total number of people going through today, according to the counting device we used, was 1396 laborers. Half the number who go through on Sundays. But the laborers still have to rise as early as usual and arrive an hour and a half before they go through the checkpoint.
A number of people try to cross to the Palestinian side – some returning from a night shift, others apparently because their employer decided not to have them work on Friday. They stand next to the single revolving gate that’s turning in one direction – into Israel at this hour. They wait until they’re seen on the cameras. The first two were seen immediately, but the one inside the building, who sees but is not seen, pressed the button to make the gate revolve in the opposite direction and they were able to return. Seven others stood there helplessly, trying to push the revolving gate so they could go through, tried to get through the locked gate next to the revolving gate, but unsuccessfully. There’s no bell they can push to announce they’re waiting there, or a phone to call from We also tried, and called the DCO. We called twice and were told that they’d talked to the crossing, but to no avail. The returning laborers waited half an hour, even though the line of those coming out didn’t contain many people. Finally, one of the Palestinians waiting to come out went back and notified the inspectors, and someone in the building, seeing but unseen, bothered after half an hour to press the bell and allow them to come in. Thus we saw some of the problems involved in returning from Israel to Palestine.
In the parking area we spoke to a number of people about their working conditions and about the crossing:
One laborer said that because of the long line he gets through to the Israeli side only at 06:30, and to work in Rehovot, via taxis and public transportation, only at 09:00, works until 17:00, gets back to the crossing about 18:00, sometimes only at 18:30. Two weeks ago he arrived at 18:30 and found the crossing already closed. Apparently there weren’t any people coming through and the inspectors decided to close early (anyway, who’d come through – a Palestinian laborer?). They told him to sleep in the parking lot and go to work the next day. Of course, he couldn’t do that – but they refused to open the crossing. He called his employer, who had already gone home and refused to help; finally, he was lucky enough to find a taxi and paid about NIS 150 to go to the Eliyahu crossing and from there get home – probably his entire wage that day was lost…. Three female agricultural laborers said that it’s better when the checkpoint opens at 04:00. They begin working at 05:45, and when the checkpoint opens at 04:00 they have time to change their clothes, drink tea and begin the hard work relatively calmly. Today they’ll get to work, change their clothes and have to start working immediately. They earn NIS 2400 for five eight hour days, and six hours on Fridays. In other words: NIS 13/hour, much less than the minimum wage.Their pay slip records fewer days than they work in the month, so the employer appears to adhere to the minimum wage law rather than breaking it.
One worker whom we approached said that he earns about NIS 250 per day, but his employer deducts NIS 60, the amount the employer has to pay the Israeli office through which he obtains his Palestinian employees. He works from 07:00 to 17:00. He spends NIS 60 every day on transportation, so he’s left with NIS 130 a day to support his family, and, he adds, many days we don’t work – there’s a closure, rain, etc.
Two laborers tell us they’re expert painters. They earn NIS 300 for ten hours of work. In addition to their employer deducting the NIS 60 he pays to the labor office and transportation that costs them NIS 60/day, they have to buy their materials, which they do each time they paint another apartment. The various brushes are very expensive in Israel. They used to buy materials in Palestine, where they’re much cheaper than in Israel, and could bring them through the crossing; that way they could clean them at home. Today they can no longer bring materials through; only a small amount of food for breakfast and lunch.They also don’t take home more than NIS 150 for a ten hour day. Another laborer complained that after the checkpoint was taken over and run by the security company they’re not allowed to bring in cold water, so they’re forced to buy 5-6 bottles of water a day, especially on the hot summer days, in Israeli shops, which costs them NIS 20-40.
But laborers in Palestine apparently earn still less…or there’s no work at all and so people are willing to undergo the torments involved in crossing to work in Israel..”Survival – A Reality Show,” with no million-shekel prize at the end!
And regarding shelter from the rain – it turns out that the satisfaction regarding the new awnings was premature. There’s one large shelter left in the parking lot which on rainy days will be sufficient for only half the number of people there, and all the other shelters have disappeared. One of the laborers said that they were sold to Chanan, from Moshav Neve Yamin. Chanan himself told him.
And let’s not forget to mention that we were welcomed from, and sent back with best wishes to the land of privileges by new trees and ornamental gardens that have been planted there, with drip irrigation…and “Welcome,” “Have a nice day” on signs in Hebrew and Arabic…Yup – they’ve learned marketing, that what’s important is the wrapper, or it might just be the dark history of a certain number of places in the previous century repeating itself.
At 06:30 the flow of people crossing was sparse, not more than one every minute. We checked the Palestinian side; no laborers could be seen there.
We returned to the city for a brief nap before continuing our day – a privilege the Palestinian laborers certainly don’t have, nor one they even dare to dream about.