Zeta, Deir al-Ghusun
It is possible to rule over a foreign nation not only by military force. IDF, the occupying army, has developed sophisticated methods. One is by transit permits at checkpoints. The permits are weapons, impairing the individual’s ability to earn his daily bread, and damaging the economy of the population as a whole. The system creates dependence of the worker on his master. A person can submit a request for a permit and from that moment he is subject to the whim of the master, who may grant or refuse it – in which case the man becammes “refused,” bereft of his rights, without knowing why. The long waiting time between submitting the request and getting an answer is also a weapon, putting the person’s life on hold. His plans for the future are suspended, he lives in fear and stress, his financial state suffers. The master will decide his fate. If we multiply this one case into the whole population under occupation, we see that it is possible to destroy it with the weapon of cunning.
10:30 Tira exit
At ha-Te’enim checkpoint there are about 10 soldiers. They do not check all vehicles. At Anav checkpoint there’s a long line of cars. Soldiers with drawn weapons move them swiftly.
Next to the checkpoint are two conflicting signs. One reads, “Leading to Area A”, and the second, “Area A, no entry for Israelis”. We obey the first sign and travel via Anwata to Zeyta.
At the Council House we meet M., the council head, and A., the man who deals specifically with checkpoints. Today Zeyta has about 4000 inhabitants. More than 15,000 inhabitants have left the place on account of the wars. Some in 1948, and the others in 1967. Many live today in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. After 1967, the Israeli authorities did a census of the village. Whoever did not appear on the list was deprived of citizenship and not permitted to return .Over the years, people have come on visits and remained. In 2000, when a census was taken again, they received citizen permits. Since then, the door has been closed. Only very few received resident status for family reunification. The council head noted that in the Tulkarm area there were no instances of getting citizen status this way.
He spread out a map and explained the problem of the checkpoints :Originally, they set up agricultural gates in Zeyta 2: the northern 510, the southern 564.The northern was open for 2 years during olive-picking season, but passage wasn’t granted to vehicles and so people had to walk a long distance. After 2 years the gate was closed. The villagers appealed to the army repeatedly to reopen it, and got promises which were not kept. They turned to UNIFIL, even to the Red Cross, but the checkpoint remained closed .Today the villagers have only the southern checkpoint, which is supposed to open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, times not indicated. When we visited two weeks ago the checkpoint was closed.
Fortunately for Zeyta villagers, they do not have settlements around them. But the army fulfills the role of the settlers successfully. Apart from the distance the villagers have to walk to work their lands, the army doesn’t allow them to take their sheep to pasture across the fence, and also prevents them from earning an honorable living from their field by restricting the amount of water for irrigation. Across the fence between the village and its fields there is a well with enough water for agriculture. The villagers wanted to install an electric pump to increase their water yield. This was refused. Alternatively, they asked to move a pipe from a well inside the village to the fields. This, too, was refused. We hear similar complaints against the army in other villages, too.
12:20 Zeta checkpoint (564)
It is open, to our surprise. Five soldiers guard it, an army Hummer is parked in the area, but no one passes through. The villagers of Zeta have learned not to rely on the army to open the checkpoint at the appointed hours and so they go further to the checkpoints of neighboring villages, Atil and Deir el Ghusun.
12.45. Checkpoint of the hothouses (609)
It opened exactly on time. About 10 soldiers check the crossers. 7 tractors and about 30 people come out, one after the other. Among them is our acquaintance G. He raises the problem – no renewal of permits – which we will hear again later. G. is joined by R., a tractor owner. He says that his two sons applied for renewal of permits, but received no answer.
13:25 Ha-Zeitim checkpoint (623)
Deir al-Ghusun. About 10 cars wait for their owners to return from work. At 13:30 exactly the eight soldiers open the checkpoint. 10 tractors, some carrying wood for heating, and about 50 people pass without delay. At the exit we meet M. who says he has waited 3 months for a permit to cross to work his fields. The permit is issued for a year only. That is, in a year’s time he will have to undergo the same process after which he may, or may not, get a renewal. M. has hothouses. In order to protect them from rain, he must dig a ditch around them. The soldiers won’t let him take a tractor to dig the ditches, and if the water floods the hothouses and destroys them? “That’s his problem…”
13:50 - Deir al-Ghusun Council. At the entrance gate we meet R. He volunteers to help us get information about the permit problem and contacts some knowledgeable person. We get the following information: out of 450 people who have applied lately, 80 still are waiting, 60 got a negative reply. That is, they are now ‘refused’, with all that it implies.
M., deputy head of the Council, enters. An elegant, impressive man. He adds information: from among Deir el Rusun inhabitants, 350 a day pass checkpoint ha-Zeitim (623). A 150 cross at checkpoint 609 (hothouses), when no fewer than 2000 need permits. Girls who want to help earn income for their families do not get permits. Married women cannot apply for a permit on their own. The husband is the intermediary between them and the army. According to him, there is at present no co-ordination between the DCOs of the Palestinians and Israelisconcerning the permits. M. knows the problem intimately: his two sons applied a long time ago, and still have no answer. He adds from his experience: as a permit owner, he tried to pass a checkpoint, but because of his smart clothes was refused passage. “Also someone who has 50 shekels in his pocket won’t be allowed through.”
He also refers to the stories about sale and purchase of land, an exercise that is aimed at bypassing the problem of permits.
14:40 Anav checkpointis open On the ridge of the settlement Anav we can see a tractor at work.
15:30 Return to Tira.