'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Jit, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 17.10.10, Afternoon
Only lately have the media begun to call attention to the settlements as "the front line" of the Occupation. It's a complex system - profitable too - what with all the barriers, barbed wire and checkpoints built, rebuilt and taken down, invariably at or below settlements; segregated roads, constructed and constantly reasphalted, tunnels shaped under them for those who should never be allowed above ground, the Separation Barrier and/or Wall punching its way through Palestinian fields and olive groves. But at no time of year is the presence of settlements and settlers, their numbers exponentially multiplied since the Oslo agreement, so much in evidence as during the olive harvest when recurrent and systematic violence is heightened in the context of the olive harvest, and intimidation and denial of access become the purview of settlers as well as the army.
Habla Gate 1392
13:00 -- the gates are opened in desultory fashion, by reservists, one of whom carries his gun at the ready, who refuse to respond to our greetings or questions. Horses, people, bicycles, and trucks bearing nursery trees make up the many waiting on both sides of the Separation Barrier. A truck overloaded with products bound to or from a nursery has its cab thoroughly checked, and the two soldiers mosey around its sides, taking their sweet time. As the driver passes us, he leans over and hands us three guavas!
13:15 -- the school bus, this one bearing the Bedouin primary schoolboys back to their encampment outside the settlement of Alfei Menashe tries to get the kids home. But, no, the soldiers must get into the bus, check the ID of the driver and another adult inside, then make the driver open up all the luggage compartments of the bus, three on each side, as they peer intently into them. The girls' bus comes by ten minutes later.
13: 30 Qalqiliya
A random check today of the former checkpoint lays bare the true face of Occupation. A police car in place, alongside a soldier, and the policeman checks a vehicle, coming from Qalqiliya with Israeli (yellow) license plates as many others of that ilk make their way out of the city.
Above, Zufim continues to show the true face of the settlement freeze: continuous building.
14:10 Mitzpe Yishai
This is a "newer" sub division of Kedumim where yet more private Palestinian land has been taken over by a company called "Kedumim 3000," another example -- says the website -- of an "expansive and flourishing neighborhood."
We have earlier found out that lending a hand to Rabbis for Human Rights, helping Palestinian farmers harvest their olives in "peace" would not be necessary after all, and that the morning "shift" there had trouble from the army, not the settlers. As is not unusual, a "closed military area" was announced. Our curiosity aroused, we still make our way to "explore" and find, on top of the steep hill, facing Kedumim, an unmanned checkpoint, with a barrier across it. Beyond, a bulldozer can be seen at work. Plenty of settler cars make their way out of Mitzpe Yisahi and wait at the sophisticated barrier with its metal obstacles that ascend and descend in the middle of the road, through some magic, or unseen hand until the barrier arm is opened up.
Another police car at the side of the junction, and a stopped car. We nevertheless make our way up to the village of Sarra and use the beautifully paved road, given by the "American people to the Palestinian people," a road which sweeps up into Nablus with a turning off, plunging down to Beit Iba, the former checkpoint which was, in the life of MachsomWatch observers several times built and rebuilt, but today, brings to mind the dusty back set from a Hollywood western.
Since much of the olive harvest is already over, the olive press is working hard, filling the ugly yellow jerrycans with the beautiful smell of the green-gold liquid -- the first pressing of this year's olives.
By now, no surprises: the checkpoint is manned, and we see soldiers from afar, but no line of vehicles waiting to be checked or not.
We are afforded the same treatment here as the school bus at Habla, the luggage compartment, only one, has to be opened by us, but all four doors of the car opened by the military policeman, watched by a soldier clutching his gun tightly, twin image of the soldier pointing his gun at Palestinians crossing the Separation Barrier at Habla earlier in the afternoon.