Beit Iba, Jit, Sun 18.11.07, Afternoon

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Alix W., Susan L. (reporting) Guest: Mary D

Beit Iba

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure
suffering and humiliation" (Elie Wiesel). Today's monitoring of the
slowly but surely about to be enlarged Beit Iba checkpoint reminded
us of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that
states that every human being is born "free and equal in dignity and
rights," meaning that human dignity ought not be humiliated. The
violation of that right, of the human dignity with which each human
is born, is humiliation, and that violation was witnessed over and
over again today.

15:00-16:10 Beit Iba
A large group of young men wait on the Deir Sharaf side of the
checkpoint for their bus to come through. They've obviously been told
to get off and walk through the checkpoint, through the turnstiles.
One set of turnstiles functions, but this week, the concrete central
checking booth is no more (about to be replaced, but once again,
there's no work going on at this time in the afternoon). To make up
for the lack of the central checking booth with its tiny windows and
military police and computers inside, there are plenty of soldiers,
usually three, but sometimes five, at the checking table, two at the
lines leading from the turnstiles for those without briefcases or
packages, one for men, one for women, and a single soldier for a
lane that functions both as the access point to Nablus from Deir
Sharaf and the so-called humanitarian line for the elderly and
mothers with small children. Here the lone soldier makes a mother
with newborn infant and two toddlers pull out her ID, open up each of
the several plastic bags she carries and continues to insist on the
one he almost missed checking when we try to help the young mother
with her load.
There is indeed nothing humanitarian, nothing human, about this group
of soldiers, either at the pedestrian crossing point or at the
vehicle checking area. At the latter are four talkative soldiers, the
lines either to or from Nablus never numbering more than five or six
vehicles. But two ambulances wait for as much as five minutes, cars
are thoroughly searched, inside and trunk. The soldiers joke and chat
with each other non-stop, they show not the slightest concern for
professionalism or rigorous security conduct. To this group of
soldiers it's all a lark, there is nothing serious about their
What they do is to humiliate and degrade passing pedestrians. The
commander (communications pack on his back) stands at the checking
table, together with two to four other soldiers, his gun pointed and
held only several centimeters from women's handbags, mens' briefcases
and everybody's shopping bags. At the same time as pointing his gun,
he may check an ID, calling on his mobile phone, and when not thus
employed, he flips through exercise books, smiles, making jokes and
comments, in Hebrew, to the passing young women or male students or
to the soldiers supposedly under his command. At one point, he uses
his teeth (hand occupied holding a pointed and loaded gun) to tear
open a plastic bag containing, probably, a birthday card. The other
soldiers at the checking table take things out of every passing bag,
but use their hands, and even tiny plastic bags found in the recesses
of a larger bag are opened up. The invasion of personal property
turns to invasion of the person at the turnstiles where young men are
made to lift up jackets, shirts and undershirts as the soldiers josh
and chat with each other. Toy boxes are also invaded and poked into,
but a woman bearing a blue ID card returns from Nablus with her
daughter and a large toy rifle (thoroughly examined, of course).

The Palestinians bear all this with their usual grace and seem to
endure and endure. But one can't help wondering to what extent
people, who pass here usually twice a day, become marked or haunted
by these experiences -- just how this continuous and unabated
humiliation and degradation takes root in their lives.

16: 20 Jit
No checkpoint today at Jit Junction