Azzun Atma, tamar gate, Wednesday 27.07.11 morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
No partner for this shift was found for me but since I didn't see this as a reason not to go (particularly in view of my familiarity with the labourers' roadblock at Azzun Atma) I went on my own. I thought 'nothing will happen' but it appears that I was mistaken.
Azzun Atma 06.05
The labourers' gate. Outside, along the road opposite the roadblock, many labourers crowd around waiting for employers to collect them. At the roadblock there are 3 soldiers who ignore me and I just stand and observe. To my surprise there is almost no queue which is possibly because the officer sees to it that the inspection windows are functioning efficiently getting the labourers across quickly. This is not to say that the inspection is not thorough: apart from inspection of documents each Palestinian is stopped a second time by the military police to check the contents of their plastic carrier bags which usually contain their lunches. Every carrier bag is inspected.
2 – 3 children go back and forth (I think they are running various errands for the Palestinians, such as getting them packs of cigarettes) and the soldiers make no demur.
6:20 a.m. A group from the night shift at the Hanson company returns home (about 10 workers wearing the company tee shirts).
Here and there I spy a labourer who is sent back to leave a carrier bag which he has not been allowed to take with him. I try to find out from the officer what the problem is (would you explain the regulations to me?) and he moves me back "behind the concrete blocks. At present I am busy, when I have time I'll talk to you". This continues for a while, then another request and another refusal (he is standing and talking to his friend and the roadblock is empty…), but finally he comes over to me and explains: food and tools for work are allowed but 'commercial items' such as, a few electrical mains are not allowed through (as if the Palestinian would do business in Israeli settlements…).
7:00 a.m. I leave. The road opposite is almost empty and I drive to Sha'ar Tamar, an agricultural gate which is close by and which opens from 7 – 7:30 a.m. There are 3 soldiers at the gate and it is already open. The commander appears immediately and informs me that it is a 'security road' and I am not allowed to be here. I disagree and tell him that I am permitted to observe. It then becomes a 'closed military area' and there is a threat that the police may be called. I stand 'behind the concrete block' and observe the inspection of permits from afar. Suddenly it turns out that there are a few carts and donkeys which are not permitted to cross and I hear an argument at the gate. It is not possible to speak to the soldiers (after all I am a criminal in a 'closed military area'). But from the shouting I understand that the Palestinian is transporting two crates on the cart (one with cucumbers and one with sabres [prickly pears]) which are not allowed through. In a conversation with Tadsa I find out that indeed vegetables are not allowed through to the Israeli side "because they sell them there" and, as I have already noted, no commercial activity is permitted in connection with the agricultural gates. This is to say that the army doesn't just deal with security and defence against terrorists but also acts as an arm of the Agricultural and Commerce and Industry Ministries.
7:30 a.m. The gate is now to be closed but the soldiers is prepared to 'do a favour' and leave it open for another few minutes and let the Palestinian through without the crates. The Palestinian gives in and unloads the crates into another cart but it now seems that the pile of leaves meant (according to the Palestinian) as feed for the donkey is not permitted to cross. Tadsa tries to help, the Humanitarian Centre tries to help, but the officer has his telephone on (as if he is on the line but in fact he is blocking his commander from contacting him). The gate is locked and none of my efforts to suggest easing the rules is accepted: as if, these are my orders and I have no discretion…
8:00 a.m. Hanni (from the solitary house refuge (?)) arrives to find out what is going on and invites me in for a coffee (we got to know each other from evidence I collected for Yesh Din). I have to get to a meeting at 9 a.m., and refuse this time. I leave frustrated and the Palestinians leave angrily.