'Anata-Shu'afat, Ras Abu Sbitan (Olive Terminal)
Second Friday of Ramadan.
"We only obey orders, we don't take decisions" -- again and again this is the answer to our questions.
We were greeted by lively traffic of persons crossing when we arrived at 9:30. Passage was orderly, but not without the usual cases of young persons without the appropriate permits who were turned away. Always the usual arguments, but to no avail.
Worth recording is the case of a man with a work permit (Sunday to Thursday) and a letter citing his efforts, at the risk of his life, in saving the lives of people endangered by flooding in Gethsemane (Jerusalem). He was certain he'd be able to cross, as he does daily, and it was touching to see how insulted he felt by the indifference to the citation in his letter. When we asked the DCO officer why he should be prevented when he crosses daily anyway without danger to the public, the answer was that some were prevented to avoid crowding in the area of the mosques. As though to say: the State of Israel acts on behalf of the welfare of Palestinians and of good order! And when we observed that no such restrictions on Jewish entry to the Wailing Wall area, which is much smaller, have ever been imposed, the answer was that Jews don't throw stones, whereas Muslims get involved in disorderly behaviour. We could only stand and pull our hair out in the face of such iron logic. It's not clear whether this officer believed in what he said, or simply complied with the ethic of "obeying orders", and was eager to shut us up. In the event, we learned that today at least 300 men were denied passage.
The road that descends from the pillbox to the checkpoint was blocked, and people were sent on a long detour to the lower checking point from which they had to climb back to the checkpoint. Arguments ensued, almost leading to violence. Only one man with walking difficulties crossed there. Two border policemen, with a brusque and impatient attitude to the Palestinians, sat there. Since in previous years there was a checking point which allowed people to enter the checkpoint directly, we inquired about the reason for the change, and were sent to I., the police officer in charge of the checkpoint. He told us the decision had been made by the border police.
Passing the buck again -- and who suffers?
A 63 year old man approached us when he was turned away. He said he crosses daily and doesn't understand why he was refused today. While we were consulting with ourselves what to do, one of the soldiers (B.P.) asked the DCO officer to check. The upshot was that there had been no reason to prevent him, and he was asked to cross again -- but was then stopped by a police office who shooed him away. After further toing and froing, the man crossed. All's well that ends well?
The age limit for children is 12, but for a feel-better mood, it was raised to 14. And what about the 15 year olds? In Israel, they are minors, under the wardship of their parents.
A brother and a sister arrived, on their way to visit their hospitalised father in Jerusalem. The sister had no problems, but the brother had to be checked before they both crossed. It seems that this time leniency was exercised -- but why not every time, rather than treat Palestinians as confirmed liars?
Sparse traffic, very few pedestrians, most people have moved to public transportation. Private cars in the checkpoint for vehicles crossed relatively fast, but some people were asked to disembark from the buses, and checking was slow.
Particularly vexing is the practice of sending to Qalandia persons whose place of residence in their IDs is neither Anata nor Shuafat. Hanna B. dealt with this in previous years and the practice was cancelled, but it has come back for no rhyme or reason.