In the wake of recent attacks, a new style of checking at the Shuafat checkpoint constitutes, in effect, a form of collective punishment of a large number of residents who cross daily to work. Such punishment, as is well known, does not reduce the tensions but only aggravates them. Is this the intention? The matter should be checked, under fair and proper conditions.
7:15 Shuafat refugee camp
Hordes of children board the buses in the outer square. The thick melée of children and buses endangers their security, but this is a temporary situation. Until the enlargement of the inner parking lot for buses is completed, the children leave the camp not through the checkpoint but through a gate invigilated by persons from the neighbourhood committee. The arrangement works well. Latecomers cross through the regular checkpoint.
In conversation with one of the members of the committee we learn that after the last two attacks (on French Hill and A-Tur) by persons from the Shuafat camp, holding blue ID's, the pedestrian crossing regulations have been aggravated. The magnometers have been unsheathed , all are checked one by one, and this takes a great deal of time. As a matter of fact, there are two entries with magnometers, but only one is operative, creating a long line which moves slowly (c. 40 minutes to cross, while we were there). According to a court order, such checks may take place only if sufficient checking points are available in order not to harm the crossing of residents who are mostly holders of blue ID's and work in the western part of the city. Clearly this order is not observed.
In addition, there is no humanitarian crossing passage, and children who are late are pushed to the end of the line. (We asked for a free passage, without checks, for them, and the military policeman complied. The adults let the children cross first.) The situation of an elderly man with a spinal implant was worse. The magnometer beeped, and the dumb female soldier insisted he could cross only after bringing a doctor's certificate confirming that he has such an implant. No one thought of getting out of their position to simply check him.
We summoned the the commander of the checkpoint who first sent us to the security guard, but then arrived; and although he told us there was no pressure or delays at the checkpoint ("No way does it take 30 minutes to cross, we invigilate with cameras all the time"), he did agree, after some argument, to check the man and let him cross. We complained to the commander who said he was only obeying orders, and that a request to open more checking points should be referred to the Envelope commanders. We thought he should be the one to do this, but he did not agree.
We spoke with Hanna Barag who submitted a protest and will try to arouse greater awareness to the new problems at the checkpoint.
We had been told that classes in the area schools had been suspended. Today the schools are open, and there are fewer soldiers in the street, aside form a van at the junction ascending from Wadi Joz.
Interestingly, the general strike of Israeli Arabs is not evident in the areas we visited.