Azzun, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Sun 25.11.07, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
The issue of soldiers punishing Palestinians at the Checkpoint came up at a meeting with the legal adviser of the West Bank command of the army, and lawyers Gabi Lasky and Smadar Ben Nathan who attended the meeting were told explicity that detention/delay may NOT be used as a punitive measure for any reason whatsoever. Detention is allowed only for conducting security checks of the detainee's data, and as soon as this check is completed, the detainee is to be released. Following procedures used by Huwara-Beit Furiq battalion commander at these two checkpoints, we filed a complaint with the legal adviser through the above named lawyers.
A vigil in the shadow of the Azzun and Funduq events. Cold and chilling.
Azzun village is closed and sealed. Concrete cubes blocks the central access to the village, and the Palestinians, in their determined, admirable battle for survival, have already organized to transfer goods and people 'back-to-back'. At the entry stands an army jeep with reserves soldiers, who disappear as soon as they notice our camera. We picked up Adam and Rachel, the international volunteers who were beaten up badly on Saturday and whose cameras were stolen by the reservists at Azzun because they filmed them firing live ammunition in all directions above the heads of people in the village center. We picked them up so they could testify, as the head of the DCO in Qalqiliya recommended. We warned them not to sign anything not written in English, and sure enough, at Qedumim police station no one spoke English and they were sent back and invited to come the next day, perhaps the only English speaking woman around will be present and take their statement.
For lack of Palestinian transportation, they walked all the way to Funduq, where they were blocked by soldiers telling them that only Israelis, in other words colonists, were allowed to pass. After we intervened (Tami called the local brigade, and we the army hotline), the soldiers were instructed to let them through and even arranged a ride for them to Karnei Shomron colony after they said they were headed for Tel Aviv.
Rachel from Australia and Adam from England, charming, beautiful youngsters - answer our question what they're doing so far away from home: "That's what we've been asking ourselves..."
Funduq village is closed off and sealed, all the metal doors are shut and not a soul is seen on the main street. We meant to talk to people and take pictures of the damages but there was no one to talk to. On our way home, we see Palestinian vehicles coming from the west being directed to long, winding side roads full of flying roadblocks, while the main road through Funduq serves only colonist traffic. Massive presence of Border Patrol, army and police. A week too late.
Beit Furik Checkpoint: There's a judge at this checkpoint - the battalion commander:
15:30 - two men shackled and blindfolded sit in the detainee pen. One of them twists and turns uncomfortably, both bent over on the bench. A Palestinian passing through from Nablus to Beit Furik says that when he came into Nablus this morning (10:30 a.m.) those two were already sitting in this very position. The DCO officers are not available on the phone and a complaint to the army hotline rushes to the checkpoint a special patrol that arrives at 4:12 PM to relieve the two of their plastic handcuffs and blindfold and give them the leftovers of the soldiers' lunch and some bread. Then they are taken one by one to the latrine. We called DCO Nablus to ask about the deatinees and were told that "the battalion commander and everyone else are in the picture". Asking why they were detained, we are told "They probably did something". We want to know why they were held cuffed and blindfolded so long, and are informed that "there is probably a reason for this". When will they be released? "The battalion commander decided to have them released after 6 hours of detention". Under the circumstances, it is obvious that the two are not under arrest or on a wanted list, and the "workshop" they are undergoing is an 'educational' measure, to teach them some of the battalion commander's doctrine.
At the checkpoint, many pedestrians bound for the villages, men standing almost touching the soldier who is conducting his checks are required to lift their shirts and show they're not bearing some explosive device on their bodies and have not come to assault soldiers. Or just for the sake of humiliating them. All veiled women are taken to the hold and- with the door left wide open - required to remove their veil and reveal their face. Cars are inspected to the point of rummaging.
One soldier takes the trouble to walk all the way to where we stand, just to threaten that if we dare cross the white line, he will close the checkpoint to Palestinians.
The threat was not carried out.
Huwwara Checkpoint - there is a judge at this checkpoint too and he is the battalion commander:
16:50 - the checkpoint bustles with youngsters, yells and crowding behind the turnstiles. The Givati infantry soldiers here don't strain their vocal cords, using a manual megaphone to sound their "One by one..." "Get back!" mantras - all in vain for the youngsters crush against the turnstiles, dying to progress towards the exit and not to move backward. Some of the checks include a stripshow. A student comes out all nerves from this inspection: "I've been here since 3 o'clock!!" One soldier is responsible for chasing away those waiting at the other end, also in loud broken Arabic and gesticulation.
A MPwoman shrieks her orders at the Palestinians, and when they don't understand her, she raises her voice to an impossibly shrill pitch as she sends them on to the X-ray truck. The soldiers scold her not to screech like that.
All pedestrians coming out of the checkpoint report an hour-and-a-half to two hours of waiting.
In the detention cubicle - 2 detainees, who according to the soldiers 'Leaked... took the sneak bypass around the checkpoint". Therefore they are punished with a lengthy detention:
"The battalion commander approved of six hours", the checkpoint commander tells us.
Is it the same battalion commander?
Of the concrete cubicle, the hold, the soldiers say it is not a hold. It is a waiting cell for detainees.
Long live the laundered word.
We called the head of Nablus DCO about the six-hour long detention, asked if this is a new procedure. He expressed his amazement and promised to work his own strings. We said we intend to turn to the chief military advocate about the blatantly illegal proceeding.
We left at 18:00, in order to drive through Funduq and see how the armed forces do their job safeguarding the Palestinians from the colonist marauders, and where have they been all of last week...
The village is under full curfew and the main street is blacked out.