Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL, Fri 8.6.12, Morning

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Ilil Naveh-Benjamin (translating), Claire Oren (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300, 9:00 - 11:00 AM:
In brief: A soldier laughs at a child’s tears.  Another soldier educates me: as soon as I approach a Palestinian, he stops letting people through.  Again, 6 and 7 year-olds are the dangerous enemy, and at the DCO they’ve invented yet another story.  An intolerable shift.
A hostile team of soldiers. Four open lanes. In the first hour, no unusual events occur.  Later on they start again to prevent small children from passing without a permit.  Every time I approach a few Palestinians prevented from passing with a child, a soldier in lane 2 would inform me over a microphone that I may not approach, that I must stand against the wall.  When I refused to do this, they’d immediately announce that they wouldn’t let people through.
I call headquarters to complain.  I call the DCO to request that they instruct soldiers to let children without permits through.  People on the other end squirm as they did last week, telling me they’re looking into the matter.  Each time somebody else gets back to me and finally they respond:

  • I’ve read the letter you sent and we’re looking into the matter.
  • Listen, between you and me, there’s nothing to look into.  All you need to do is decide whether or not to continue requiring permits for small children, that’s all.  These past three weeks each person has told me something different, and meanwhile children aren’t going through.
  • Yes, I read that.  I agree that children shouldn’t need to carry a physical permit.  But soldiers should still be able to see on the computer that the child has a permit.
  • But that’s effectively the same thing!  That’s not what they told us!  We were told the requirement was cancelled, period.
  • Yes, but I think the decision was not to require a physical permit but still a computer one.  In any case, you can check Sunday with the public outreach officer at our headquarters.  We can’t really argue with civil administration decisions.

That was the response I got.  They gave me the name of someone to speak to on Sunday.  During the second hour of my shift, 5 children were denied passage, their hopes dashed along with their parents’.  A young girl (but not young enough, it seems) was crying as she was pushed back with her uncle while her younger sister passed successfully with her father.  A 7 year-old was sent back with his family.
A female soldier in lane 3 was cheerful, laughing and looking at me spitefully.  A Palestinian with a 3 year-old girl came to her, only to be rebuffed because the girl had no permit.  I approached and she refused to listen.  The soldier in lane 2 said that no one would go through until I returned to the wall.  

I demanded to speak with the DCO representative.  The female soldier laughed, made a call and told me he was on his way.  The little girl stood there crying, and her father didn’t know what to do.  A door then opened and an officer came out.

  • You’re the DCO representative?
  • No, there’s no DCO representative here.
  • Listen, there’s a 3 year-old girl here who can’t get through because she has no permit.
  • Don’t get involved, and don’t interfere with our work.

This officer was hostile, too.  But at least he looked into things and told the female soldier to let the 3 year-old through.