Beit Iba, Sun 21.10.07, Afternoon
“Who’s in charge here?” is not the start, or the end, of a feeble joke but a vivid description of the occupation. It’s not only the continuous humiliation and the endless harassment, but the offhand manner – gun of course at the ready -- in which the occupier goes about his business, often creating mayhem but making sure that accountability is pinned on no one.
Beit Iba 14:20
Long before we get to the checkpoint, we’re met by a lengthy line of vehicles, including six long semi-trailers. One of these bears timber from Rumania and Finland. We note that it arrives 15 minutes later at the central checking area from where we first spied it, near the kiosk (there’s a new kiosk on the north side of the road).
Vehicles are now checked close to the main checking area of the old checkpoint, and it’s hard to understand how traffic to or from Qusin is now meant to be checked. But we can’t ask these soldiers anything.
There’s work going on at the checkpoint, a small earthmover in one of the lanes, “brushing” the new surface, another water truck blocking a lane so that an ambulance can’t pass easily, and a group of Palestinian workers, making a concrete “hillside” alongside the north side of the checkpoint (no more grasses)! When we arrive they are on a break, but soon afterwards are seen giving water from their jerry can to the men in the detention compound: three men, not youngsters.
As soon as we arrive, E., the commander (using the same seeming lack of authority as last week) asks us to please not take pictures “of soldiers.” Another solider, a couple of minutes later, asks, with hostility, “Are you taking pictures?” The same DCO representative as last week is also here, tells us that the men in the compound have been there 15-20 minutes, but otherwise spends his time chatting with soldiers, behaving like one of the regulars and helping with checking IDs, although there is a large complement of soldiers already here.
at this moment, a soldier inside the main checking area, begins jumping up and down, like a child drawing attention to himself. The DCO representative grins and slaps him on the back. Suddenly, all the soldiers behind the concrete barrier stoop down, crouch while a group of four others starts to run across the checkpoint, everybody giggling and smiling broadly (they’re having fun, they’re finally playing soldiers. We’re about the only people standing up at this point. Nobody has said a word to us or to the Palestinians, of course, as they wait in line by the carousels (the military police have, of course abandoned their duties). One of them, however, points her gun outside the window of the booth, right at us, shouting and shouting.)! One of the soldiers has fallen to the ground on the far side of the checkpoint (he’s playing wounded), and the others, five of them, leap to his aid, scuttle across to his side and the commander carries him back to the main checking area as the soldiers supposedly under his command continue with their silly laughter.
The earth mover has continued with its work during this farce, and when the soldiers finally get back to the task at hand, we hear a shriek (of joy)? From the Nablus side of the carousels.
the commander, returned from his heroics, is met by the military policewoman who clearly complains to him about us. E. asks to see the camera, is joined by four other soldiers, including the DCO, and all, in unison, shout at us that we have to stand behind the white line (leading to the central checking area from where there’s no way you can talk to the detainees). E. suggests we shout! We demand to know from him why the detainees are in the compound. This week’s story, “they will be let go at 4:00” is again “not punishment,” and he mutters something about “permits,” “checking” and, finally, “they went around the checkpoint…. I have decided to let them go at 4:00.”
Security and checking of Palestinian IDs is clearly not the order of the day of these soldiers as all shout at us, E. pushes one of us, says he’ll call the police, and is about to hit upon the other, when a tee-shirt wearing man enters the fray, declaring himself a “citizen of Israel, and I say you’re bothering the soldiers.” His insults to us aren’t worth describing, that’s not the point of our being at the checkpoints, but it’s not hard to fathom that he’s the contractor working on rebuilding the checkpoint and is the boss of the Palestinian workers here (the ones who gave the detainees water).
The lines of waiting Palestinians increase as all this is going on, one soldier shouts at a detainee who’s dared to stand up – in the compound – to sit down, and goes over with his gun pointed at him. As a young Palestinian stops us to show us his problems about getting permission to go to Wolfson Hospital after an accident near Ariel, the most hostile of the soldiers, at the central checking area, downs his work, stares at us and does nothing. Time to leave these “war games” and a scene where nobody is in charge…..
On the way to Qalqiliya
Two young women settlers, one playing a guitar, on the hilltop which we have observed is sometimes crawling with young settlers, probably about to take over yet another hilltop!