Huwwara, Tue 9.10.07, Morning
At the vehicle checkpoint the checking of the cars coming out of Nablus, which are not many, is very thorough. A machine of some sort is inspected minutely and the driver is requested to unscrew some of its parts.
At the pedestrian checkpoint there is a routine that would be funny were it not so plainly hard on the Palestinians.
There we meet two new Ecumenical envoys belonging to the Accompaniment Programme to Israel and Palestine, a middle-aged Swiss man and a young woman from Sueto, South Africa. The man has taken some pictures, the soldiers threaten to break his camera and call the police. I intervene, telling both him and the soldiers that taking photos is allowed, the soldiers are sure I'm wrong. I call the Humanitarian hotline and ask that the soldiers be informed that it is so. The man is a pleasant, mild person. He continues to shoot Palestinians, but not the soldiers. "They are so young," he says, "almost like my sons."
The checking of the people coming out is thorough as usual, stuff is dumped out of the bags onto the table. At the entrance the checking is random but we observe with amazement the behaviour of the checking soldier. He takes the ID, glances at it and then at the list hidden by the banister of the booth, reaches out as if to hand it to the waiting man, pulls it back, waves it in the air, stares at the sky and hands it back. This self-amusement takes seconds, but he repeats it time and again.
It seems that the main concern of the soldiers today is ascertaining that children accompanying their parents are indeed their children. This odd rule prohibiting under- sixteen-year-old children enter Nablus without a parent and without the stub of the ID or a birth-certificate that proves it, is an old one. The connection of it to security still has to be proved. Today the soldiers seem to think this is the main security risk. A mother is sent to fetch this stub, a woman with a toddler is undrgoing a cross-examination and so does a sub-teen to make sure the woman accompanying him is indeed his mother. When we ask what does this have to do with security we get a lecture, the gist of which is the importance of the checkpoint. Once, the soldier tells me, he insisted that a mother show her baby, she refused, and eventually he saw that the baby was dead. "Two weeks ago'" he adds' "one of your friends said she'd rather see a soldier hurt than a dead Palestinian." He gives us her age (60), her name and city of residence.