Etzion DCL, Mon 24.1.11, Afternoon
Tunnel CP, 3pm: to our surprise, there was a long line of cars waiting to pass SOUTHWARDS. It turned out to be the result of channeling all cars to a single file, where the civilian police seemed to be conducting a cursory check. Our car was waved on uninterrupted. On our way back, hours later, that line of cars began already north of the tunnel! We don't know the purpose or reason.
Etzion DCL, 3:15pm: we were interested in seeing whether all comers would be serviced today, as Ora Ardon reported seeing during her shift. Alas, what we saw is the usual afternoon situation at Etzion: about 20-30 people crowding at the turnstile, complaining that nobody had been admitted in a couple of hours, complaining that some of them were waiting since 5am. We made a decision that we would not leave the DCO that day until and unless all the people waiting would be admitted inside and brgan a series of phone calls to the DCL commander, Danny S. He was not on the premises, but kept promising at each call that "Everyone will be admitted today".
Between 3:15 and 4:30, the usual closing time, about 15 people were admitted. 25 were still waiting. Most were there for magnetic cards, a few were there for permits. Those needing permits got priority in entering, as were those waiting to see the GSS -- of which there were none! But occasionally the soldier at the window would call out: "MUKHABARAT". Catching the attention of that soldier is a minor feat in itself. He either does not hear the (very loud) calls we directed at him (which makes one wonder why a window intended to afford the soldier protection prevents him from being communicable), or pretends to. Since he also does not raise his eyes or look through the window, we found ourselves standing at the turnstile trying to capture his attention over and over again, to no avail. A call to his commander revealed that he is "an outstanding soldier". Good for him!
4:30pm. Miracle of miracles, at this hour, the DCL was not locked. Nobody came to clear the hall and lock it up. On the other hand, nothing esle happened, either. Still almost 20 people were crowding the turnstile. Some turned around dejectedly to leave, and we tried to urge them to wait just a bit longer, since we had the explict promise of Danny that "all would be admitted". In the next hour, about 5 more people were admitted. When they emerged, we found out from them that the number of open windows had been increased from ONE (which it was all afternoon, if not all day) to TWO; that the equipment was working (the stop in admitting people had been attributed to an equipment failure) -- the woman had a brand new magnetic card to prove it. And that there were very few people inside. Still Danny insisted "all would be serviced". It was getting colder and colder, and darker and darker.
The DCL was still open, which resulted in little more than the results of the regular opening hours -- nada. Close to 6pm a female officer (looking like the cute girl next door) marched in and ordered us all to vacate the premises. We protested, and refused, fully intending to simply sit there until the Palestinians got the service to which they were entitled, and which had been specifically promised. Finally a compromise was struck: A list was made of the 20+ people still there, and Danny promised they could come the following morning, and would be serviced. We gave them our phone number, and told them to report to us if they were denied service the next day. As of the writing of this report, nobody complained. Maybe the promised service was finally delivered. But maybe they didn't show up, or didn't complain to us.
Indeed, their meek acceptance of the humiliation of applying for the magnetic card is frustrating in itself. Dozens of people come to the cold DCL, and spend hours crowded against a turnstile, because neither they nor the army can figure out a civilized way of managing the queue. They are subject to incredibly slow and indifferent treatment, at best, never knowing if and when they'll be admitted, and with utter quiet and resignation are willing to go home unanswered and start over the next week, under the same terms. Although arbitrary queues are the least of the costs of the occupation, it is the easiest for this reporter to identify with, because it is the only thing we, too, are subjected to: the need to queue for some services. Can you imagine if you came to some place (bank, government office, post office, store, whatever) at the right time, and yet had NO IDEA if and when you'd be serviced? Not once, not accidentally, but consistently, systematically, continuously? And had no voice, and no ear for your voice?
We estimate on the basis of what we were told by various people, that on this Sunday, about 50-60 people were admitted to the DCL, out of about 80-90 people who came there. This is supposedly during a full workday, with the average service hardly requiring more than a few minutes! What are they doing there?? And why?? And where do these kids, these late-teens early-20s kids come off being so totally indifferent, insensitive, uncaring, oblivious, to the people they are there to serve??
At 6pm we left. The DCL was closed. The people who had stayed on at our urging started to trudge back home in the cold, on foot. One older woman stopped up to say that her son, who had been admitted, had not yet emerged. There she was, anxious, tired, standing in the dark on her own, waiting for him. And nobody gives a hoot.