'Azzun 'Atma, Habla
This report was written on September 1, 2014, “Welcome, First Graders” in Israel, the start of a new school year accompanied by tidings such as: an initiative to cancel the status of Arabic as an official language in Israel (http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/1.2416209), the de-facto annexation of thousands of dunums of land occupied in 1967 in response to the murder of the three youths from Gush Etzion ( http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/.premium-1.2420890) and new lesson plans for the Israeli school system to justify the occupation (http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/1.2421299).
What we saw and heard during the morning shift on 27.9.14 both at ‘Azzun ‘Atma and at Habla combines with the abovementioned tidings to create the intricate fabric called “occupation” which no longer seems possible to unravel.
05:50 ‘Azzun ‘Atma
Twenty to thirty people were always on line while we observed the checkpoint, wanting to leave for work. When more than five have gone through the revolving gate and wait to approach, individually, the two inspection stations, the female soldier scolds them: ”Hey, hey – Stop! Stop! Back, go back.”
An worker for Hansen is removed from the line, sent to sit off to the side. His crossing permit is valid until the end of September, 2014. Nora checked; he’d been blacklisted but it had been cancelled (with Sylvia’s help); he keeps being stopped because the cancellation doesn’t appear on the computer.
After we’d returned from our shift Nora checked with Sylvia: people who were blacklisted and have the blacklisting cancelled receive a crossing permit to Israel but are identified as “worth interrogating,” so the computer doesn’t recognize their permit. It’s not clear who “wins” such a permit, nor when and why the permit is recognized.
At 06:20 two more people with crossing permits joined the first man.
06:45 ID cards are returned to the three detainees who continue on their way to work for the Israeli economy.
Despite the lengthy delay (while they waited other shifts of workers came and went), the Hansen employee keeps his smile and sense of humor; “See you also tomorrow,” he tells the soldier.
06:45 We left.
About 20 people in line on the Habla side.
The procedure is five people at the inspection station and five at the revolving gate before it, waiting for the previous five to finish.
The pink school midibus waits on the Habla side.
Shortly after we arrived a male and a female soldier took a Palestinian to the guard post next to the gate leading to the plant nurseries. As if trying to hide him. We can’t clearly hear what they’re saying. The female soldier removes plastic ties from the other soldier’s vest. The Palestinian extends his hands. He’s cuffed.
We telephone the humanitarian office to complain about the cuffing. S., from the operations room, says he’ll look into it.
07:25 The school bus arrives. The midibus returns to Habla with one (?) pupil.
The handcuffed Palestinian, escorted by the two soldiers, sits in the guard post near the pedestrian gate on the way to the plant nurseries. The female soldier puts his ID card in her trouser pocket. She tells him “The police will come and there will be a bigger mess.” She points her smartphone at him. He objects to her photographing her. “It’s not something for discussion,” she says. “I’m not asking you.”
Again we call S. at the operations room. She’d spoken to the DCL. He’s an “imposter;” “The police are coming.” Nora asks the male soldier why the man is cuffed; “For a reason,” he answers. The Palestinian and those who cuffed him talk among themselves. What we hear is the soldier saying, “If I thought you were a terrorist I wouldn’t be sitting here with you.”
08:08 The soldiers should have finished their shift by now, but as the occupied is caught in a tangle they must wait with him and with another detainee, an employee of one of the plant nurseries who’s “blacklisted by the Shabak.”
Time passes; we learn the vocabulary: “Wanted;” “blacklisted” – “DCL blacklist,” “Shabak blacklist.”
That the soldiers are stuck there doesn’t make them any more sympathetic to an elderly Palestinian who arrives with a donkey cart after the time the checkpoint closes and wants to cross to Habla. The soldier admits he doesn’t like cuffing people, but in the past someone he didn’t cuff ran away.
08:38 The ID was returned to the “blacklisted” man who drove off with his employer.
08:45 We left Habla, the cuffed and the cuffers.
On the way to the occupied territories – a military jeep at the entrance to ‘Azzun. Half an hour later it was gone.