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Virginia S., Ina P. (reporting) trans. Judith Green

The situation at the Kalandia has deteriorated to a level we haven't seen for years!


As soon as we got out of the car in the parking lot, we heard whistles and piercing shouting from within the checkpoint (always a bad sign).  When we entered at 5:25, we saw total chaos inside.  There were no long lines because the discipline of lining up had broken down completely;  in its place there were innumerable irritable men wandering around the roofed area of the checkpoint, or pushing their way in to get into one of the three narrow passageways, between the bars commonly called "cages" - or trying to climb over the passageways.  In addition, the progress through the "cages" was unbearably slow.  Right away, we also noticed that only four out of the five inspection stations were open.  We called the DCO to ask that the fifth be opened immediately because of the enormous crowd at the checkpoint and the flammable atmosphere.  The answer from the young woman soldier (according to her voice) who was working at the hotline was that there weren't enough soldiers to open all the inspection stations (this is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that we have heard this excuse).


Meanwhile, a large number of people came over to us to ask for our help in solving the problem.  Almost all of them said the same thing:  Up until one month ago, it was possible to cross through the checkpoint reasonably quickly at dawn and later (and we also reported this during most of December and January).  But starting at the end of January and the beginning of February,  the situation changed to become impossible, such as it was this morning.


At 5:50, 2 policemen entered the checkpoint, and we thought that they would take the situation into their own hands.  One left immediately, the second was lost within the aquarium and, to judge by the results of his presence, it was too bad that he had got out of his warm bed this morning and come to the chill of Kalandia.


At 6:00, after a large crowd had gathered next to the Humanitarian Gate (although not all of them had the right to use it, but, because of their despair of passing through the "cages" and getting to work on time, they decided to try their luck there), we called the Humanitarian Hotline and asked that the responsible soldiers for that gate would come out right now.  Two admiistrators, an officer (whom we didn't know previously and who immediately made himself known as brutal in character and rude) and a soldier from the DCO (whom we know as being quite efficient and responsible) came out at 6:07.  At 6:15, they opened the Gate to let everyone through, without even checking permits individually.  But afterward they did check the permits and opened the Gate every time there was a group collected there.


While we were standing near the bars to check (from a distance) the state of the lines within the inspection area, a man who seemed to be in his fifties came over to us and called to the DCO soldiers.  When the officer arrived, the man asked to be let in through the Humanitarian Gate because his leg was injured in the factory the day before.  The officer refused at once - which is within his rights.  But, when the man began to talk with me ("They punish us every day with long waits, just because we want to bring food to our children), the officer screamed at him, "Get out of here!  You are forbidden to go there!" (close to the bars)."Now they are going to determine to whom we can talk here and to whom we can't!" the man continued in my ear.  But, to his credit, he did not give in to his humiliation, he didn't move, and we continued our conversation.


In the end, those responsible for the Humanitarian Gate ruined the impression that they were the only ones who know how to behave correctly when, at 7;15, just the hour when the students start to arrive in large numbers, they decided not to open the Humanitarian Gate any longer.  The people who were already standing next to it for awhile were sent to the end of the lines through the "cages".  When we protested this decision, which seemed arbitrary to us and badly timed, the administrative officer claimed that the crowding in the "cages" had lessened and that people could pass through more quickly than through the Humanitarian Gate (which was contrary to all logic since there were still lines in the "cages" and the turnstiles didn't open freely there).


Meanwhile, new people who entered the checkpoint collected next to the Humanitarian Gate, since they had not received the bitter announcement.  When the soldiers and the officer from the DCO, who had stayed around for some reason, decided to ignore them and let them just stand there until they gave up, we asked them to clarify their policy at the Gate and to understand why, exactly at that hour, they had decided not to open it any more.  First of all a guard approached us and spoke to us rudely.  We told him that, from our point of view, he had no authority at the checkpoint and that we would only speak to the administrative personnel.  But, instead of talking to us, the 2 administrative soldiers opened the Humanitarian Gate for the new people standing next to it - and so the people who had been sent back into line in the "cage" and were still standing there were actually punished twice.


Important comment:  two months ago, we asked for a clarification of the policy of the civil administration concerning the Humanitarian Gatesinfo-icon. We received an answer that the operation of the Gates is not connected to the level of pressure in the other passageways at the checkpoint, but it is supposed to serve the needs of the elderly, the women and children, and the sick, among others, also in situations where there is no particular pressure within the "cages".  Now we will request that the administration clarify this policy also to the soldiers responsible for the Humanitarian Gate at Kalandia, since it seems that they did not receive, or have already forgotten, this message.


We left the checkpoint at 7:30, when the lines finally did not overflow the "cages".


A few conclusions from this morning:


If the situation of the past few weeks will continue, we have to expect that there will be a disaster at Kalandia.   This morning we heard about a man whose leg was broken in the "cage" recently and another one told us that his glasses were broken from the pressure in the narrow passage and the pushing.  This morning, people asked us, among other things, that we should bring TV cameras with us and diplomats so that they could see the situation with their own eyes.


In the past, we were promised, in a celebratory announcement from the civil administration whom we met on our shift, that more mature and trustworthy people would be present at the checkpoint starting from 5 AM, and that all the inspection stations would be open from that hour.  Today we saw no hint of this promise.  The result is the deterioration of the operation of the checkpoint to a very low level, as it was 2-3 years ago, when chaos was the norm here.


If the IDF does not have enough soldiers to man the checkpoint properly, then they should dismantle the checkpoint - or at least bear the consequences of the lack of Israeli soldiers, those who enjoy civil rights and can take part in the political process, vote in the Knesset, organize demonstrations, turn to the High Court, etc., in order to influence the rotten behavior of the state's apparatus toward them.  Natural justice declares that it is forbidden to lay the consequences of an unacceptable and illogical policy on people who live, most of the time, under a military rule and have no civil rights, no power to demonstrate, or any other way to influence the policy and the rotten behavior of the state's institutions towards them.  Any person with the smallest amount of intelligence could not stomach the sight of this unbearable behavior which the people at the Kalandia checkpoint have to swallow.