'Anabta, Deir Sharaf, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 12.6.11, Afternoon
The Arab Spring is shifting all the pieces on the Middle East board. In Israel, Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade draws thousands of people, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rarely on the radar screen. What continues to be talked about derisively and dismissively is “The Arab Street.” Yet, at the same time, we MachsomWatchers continue to witness a military occupation whose goals seem to be annexation of the territories occupied and exploitation of its inhabitants.
12:30 a “blue Israeli police” van follows us into the dirt path leading to the agricultural gate, but immediately turns around and leaves.
13:00 – the gate opens on time, with a plethora of soldiers present plus a variety of military vehicles, some of which leave. At one point, there are six to eight soldiers, but, when things settle down, there is the usual complement of four plus the now usual “boss” of reservists on duty at the gate – a military police person, this week a woman. It seems she enjoys the little bit of power she can exercise, not only over the people occupied but also her supposed colleagues, the reservist soldiers.
13:15 – the usual horse and pony carts, tractors, trucks carrying a variety of nursery plants and, of course, people. What is unusual today is that in the time we are there, three people are not allowed to pass the Separation Barrier. The military policewoman is seen to make phone calls, and when we ask a good natured soldier what’s going on and why people are refused entry to their own lands, he grins and indicates he has no idea: “Only the military policewoman knows why.”
13:25 – when we see a chance to ask her, we do so, and she replies by swiftly turning her back on us and walking determinedly over to the concrete checking booth.
13:35 – at the third such refusal, we call the Matak, District Coordinating Officer who enlightens us about why one Palestinian has been turned back. “This is an agricultural gate, and he had marble on his truck, which cannot go through an agricultural gate.” If it was, indeed, marble, it was certainly not a truckful, maybe one slab, which could not be seen by us, so certainly not building material but, instead, another form of hounding for Palestinians which seems to have been invented on this pleasant summer day. As for the other two who were turned back, the Matak has no idea why. Maybe the military policewoman gained status with the first and vowed to continue in this vein.
A troubling graffiti in the former Zim container, which is supposed to provide the Palestinians with shelter from sun and rain, and which is usually free of graffiti. The oft seen Hebrew slogan, “Am Israel Hai” (the people of Israel live).
Qalqilya and Route 55
The entrance to the city, where once stood a checkpoint, is busy, many vehicles in both directions, as is true also along Route 55, which, only a week ago, on Naksa Day, was almost completely free of traffic.
15:00 – to the former checkpoint of Beit Iba, we take the road from Jit Junction and near the sign indicating that the road is a “gift of the American people to the Palestinian people” a lone female camel grazes. A first and pleasant sighting in this part of the northern West Bank.
A group of soldiers can be seen from the junction, but the checking booths are, as usual, empty, and traffic flows freely.
A military policewoman (maybe a twin of the one at Habla), requests and takes our identity cards and the passport of one visitor, tells us to put the car on the other side of the checkpoint. She calls over a couple of soldiers, and the three gather round as we ask if they know what MachsomWatch is or does. They mutter, yes, but seem to have no idea how to look at an ID and mumble questions about where we’ve been, where we’re going, and whether we’re returning..
Behind Abu Ghatem’s house, work proceeds, and a soldier confirms that it is, indeed, a new fence. It looks to us that some of Abu Ghatem’s land must have been appropriated, huge white boulders placed around the perimeter, and we note, too, that near his house a soldier patrols, and the white Matak jeep is standing there. When we take our visitor back to Jubara (on her way to Tulkarm), from Irtah, we learn, for the first time, that for a pedestrian to enter the town, she/he has to take a footpath from the main roadway, “down into the wadi,” whereas the checkpoint on the north side of Jubara is just for people and vehicles exiting Tulkarm.
16:00 Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim)
Streams of returning workers go straight through to the turnstile on their way home, and the guard at the entrance is even helpful today, telling us that this “terminal” is only for Palestinian workers, not for those who want to go to Tulkarm: that can only be done via Jubara.