'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Mon 28.6.10, Afternoon
For the first time in weeks, the Gaza flotilla is no longer top news around the world. But Israel's action against the flotilla lit up, if only for a moment, the darkness in which we live on a day to day basis and a darkness under which we continue our activism against the Occupation. The scene illuminated during the flotilla "incident" is certainly dismal. But we know that already, and have no other solution but to continue to shed light on what we can. In fact, other than the checkpoints, the most powerful tool of the Occupation is the much less visible bureaucracy of Occupation, carried out in the recesses of the DCO offices and designed to harass and humiliate. About that, we were enlightened today.
Routes 55 and 60
It seems as if the settlers' world is holding its breath until September 2010 when the so-called freeze on building in the settlements is lifted. Meanwhile, the outpost building at Shvut Ami is painted blue, maybe even with some white clouds on it, and the road being repaved toward Jenin, on route 60, is closed, closed. We wonder whether U.S. Aid, which is actually helping Palestinians, is being hindered by the IDF! We, of course, are told, non verbally, to turn round, from the checkpoint at Shavei Shomron.
There we learn that checkpoints are alive and well, if only for short and temporary period. Assira, outside Nablus was closed for a couple of hours recently, by a "rolling" checkpoint – not features of the past.
The tower lookout window is open, and below, there are three soldiers at the checkpoint, not checking traffic, but slowing it down. That, in itself, is an unusual sight. Soon after our observations start, the three soldiers move away, and traffic flows much more smoothly.
13: 25 Irtah
A man is wandering near the Separation Barrier, outside the compound, and an armed guard, of the private company variety, is "shouting" to the man, but non verbally, meaning with his arms, to stop. Neither individual approaches the other. The man puts his bag down on the ground. Clearly, not a photographer's bag, and clearly not a dangerous bag. He shows his ID to the guard.
The compound by Irtah is empty, cars and a bus parked outside, the kiosk and its incongruous chairs and table, closed.
Few workers returning home. But a family, with several small children, returns and goes inside the building.
We learn, first, that the DCO is issuing far less permits and making far more trouble. The nursery man's brother can only stay, on his own lands, until 19:00 each day, not until 22:00. His father, who is a landowner, who once had a two year permit to "visit" his own fields, now, has a six month permit. We are told, "There are always new stories." Indeed: the nursery owner's own permit was "mistakenly" issued by a soldier whose only interest was in going home. He told the nursery man to "come back in two days."
The DCO offices, which we cannot visit, on the northern side of Qalqiliya, are a disgrace. As at Irtah, armed guards patrol above the heads of the Palestinians. What is new is that Palestinians are being seen in smaller and smaller rooms, men and women together – a no no in Muslim culture.
We must ask the Ecumenical Accompaniers to go there, since we can't.
13:45 Habla Gate
It's not open, as it should be, and a young man tells us, "Usually it's 2:00, they come when they want to…" Not the kind of situation that existed a few months ago when the gate would open at the time that was communicated to Palestinians and to us.
13: 55 -- this time, two soldiers appear from a Hummer which screeches its way to the gates and then speeds off, no -- screeches off -- in the same way. The two soldiers have no idea, so they tell us, when the gate should open. "Only the commander knows," and he's nowhere in sight. The two soldiers struggle to open the gates, first one then the other, on the far side of the Separation Barrier, opening them with difficulty and with a great lack of speed. Meanwhile, they have no permission to open the gate on the side where we stand, along with half a dozen Palestinians, a donkey cart, a truck and a tractor, and we wait….
14:10 -- the same Hummer, the same feckless woman driver, anxious to show her prowess at the wheel, makes the Hummer do a pirouette, before coming to a standstill by the Habla gate(s), disgorging from its bowels the commander and a number of other soldiers, including a military policeman who unlocks and enters the concrete checking booth.
The Hummer driver and another soldier now beckon the waiting Palestinians, checking each ID and its matching permit closely. One soldier takes a pile of green IDs and permits and scrutinizes them closely.
14:15 -- nine people wait, plus an assortment of four wheeled vehicles. Every two minutes, the numbers increase, from nine to twelve to fifteen.
14:20 -- a woman we've met at Ras Atiya greets us, invites us to her home (if only), and says that now the access to Ras Atiya is much more difficult for her, since the old Separation Barrier checkpoint is closed. She has to take a taxi now from Habla.
And now, a bunch of sheep and goats wait on the far side as the human "beneficiaries" of the Occupier's checking and permit system dwindle to nil.