Qalandiya, Tue 26.2.13, Morning
The checkpoint was almost completely empty when we arrived at 05:45. People entered freely through the revolving gate in the third lane (the leftmost) during most of the time we were there. The revolving gates at two of the fenced corridors were out of order for a while but still almost no line formed in the cage-like passage, and if it did it was only very briefly. The humanitarian gate opened once for a wheelchair.
Since this was the second consecutive shift during which we witnessed these encouraging signs at Qalandiya in the morning, we talked to the DCO soldier responsible for the humanitarian gate to discover why. He said that according to the counts provided by the checkpoint manager the same number of people cross on what’s considered a good day as on what’s considered a bad day, so it’s possible that the problems arise because of variations in the timing of arrivals (an old explanation). He also noted that not every day is like today, or like last week, and tomorrow or the next day the lines may stretch all the way to the parking lot. So it’s too early to recommend that we stop coming to Qalandiya and devote instead more attention to other problematic locations in the Jerusalem area.
There was an interesting development – we ran into Yoaz Hendel and a group of students (all male, most wearing yarmulkes) he’d brought along. Hendel, you recall, was the Prime Minister’s communications adviser until they parted ways because of the Natan Eshel incident. Shortly afterwards, Hendel wrote about Machsom Watch in his column in Yediot Aharonot (if I remember correctly), asking why the Israeli left has a monopoly on defending human rights? There’s no reason, he said, that people on the right shouldn’t be equally concerned about protecting human rights. So he formed a group called “Blue and white for human rights”, recruited students from Bar Ilan University (in coordination with the administration) and began bringing them to the checkpoints to see what happens there. It was a pleasant meeting, perhaps because it was too early in the morning to get into discussions about questions like how is it possible to reconcile support for human rights with support for the occupation. So we wished them success. Maybe there are some members of Machsom Watch interested in beginning a dialogue with them to offer a broader perspective on what it means to defend human rights.