Qalandiya, Fri 25.3.11, Morning

Orit Dekel, Michal Weiner, Ofra Teneh (reporting)

Translator:  Charles K.

A female soldier with a big gun demonstrated how people like us are dealt with.

We arrive at the Qalandiya checkpoint at 09:30.  We parked in the parking lot.  There aren’t many people at the terminal.  Few cross.  Men seated at the entrance explained that no Friday permits were issued this week for Temple Mount prayers.  Only a few permit holders go through the revolving gatesinfo-icon.  Elderly people and women with small children get into vehicles in front of the vehicle crossing and go through the vehicle checkpoint.

A few lines of cars waiting a long time to be inspected.  We join them.  Our car is flying Machsom Watch flags.  An armed, female Border Police soldier notices us from some distance away, before we drew close to the position, and she gets ready to treat us like women such as we deserve.  We get the harassment reserved for those defined as enemies.  Fortunately, we haven’t yet been denied the ability to say what we think about her behavior and still assume that, eventually, we’ll be able to continue on our way.  But it’s a lousy feeling.  Other soldiers are all around, not one of whom tries to moderate her actions.  The checkpoint commander, moreover, who identifies himself as Shmulik, even backs her completely.

Our contact with her opens not only with a demand to see our ID cards, but to open the hood, the trunk, the floor mats, all the compartments.  All in a peremptory, rude tone, repeatedly mentioning the attack in Jerusalem.  We’re made to understand that we had a part in it and, in addition, that our very presence at the Qalandiya checkpoint testifies to our disloyalty and collaboration with the enemy.  We can assume that the soldier (we weren’t told her name) doesn’t suspect us of concealing a bomb in the little pockets of our handbags – after all, she has the power and the backing to demand we empty them as well as all the bags in the car.  O, we helpless women…We weren’t able to open the hood…but she didn’t cut corners.  She announced in no uncertain terms that we weren’t going anywhere until we opened the hood.  We were sent to a traffic bay to be reinspected.  Again she checked the trunk – taking everything out this time and inspecting it.  She threatens, in all seriousness, that if next time the trunk is such a mess, she won’t let the car through.  The entire process was accompanied by orders to get out of the car, get into the car, don’t answer, don’t talk to her – “who do you think you are anyway,” threats of arrest and to call the bomb disposal squad unless we remove everything from the trunk (which was, as noted, messy).  The checkpoint commander, rude and adamant, showed up every so often to announce that the soldier has his full backing.  Because, that’s how it is, people like us, that’s the treatment they deserve…If we don’t like it, we can go live on the other side – he’s her advocate, he threatens to accuse us of preventing a police officer from carrying out her duties…various uniformed personnel standing around.  They all agree with both of them.  Some silently, others with an occasional encouragement.  We’re getting the treatment that supporters of those who placed the bomb deserve.  We’re the enemy.  The soldier concluded by throwing our IDs into the car.

The incident was extremely upsetting because of the ease with which an angry soldier, backed by her commander, can behave so rudely, violently, allowing herself to harass us for the sake of harassment, as punishment, just because she can.  After all, she just carried out a “thorough inspection,” nothing that violated the regulations.  To the contrary, had she wished, she could have asked us to raise our garments…detain us for a few hours (4 hours, if I remember correctly)…call the police because we spoke impolitely…a feeling that anything was possible.

But we’re not Palestinians (who already know there’s no point asking a soldier to speak politely to them, to say “please drive in reverse” – certainly not just a few days after an attack).  We returned home – we still have some rights here.  For now.