Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Fri 5.10.07, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
From the north there is a queue of 12 cars. Only one checkpoint is staffed. We ask why only one checkpoint is functioning and the soldier promises that they are about to open a second one.
The roadblock commander, A., opened a second checkpoint and the queue is quickly reduced.
A Palestinian man, who is evidently troubled, comes up and presents his story to us: he is a resident of a village close to Tulkarm. He is taking, so he says, psychiatric drugs. He has no I.D. card or any other documents and he doesn't even know his I.D. number.
He arrived thus, without any documentation, this morning, by cab, at Za'atra roadblock, having already managed to cross two roadblocks: Anav and another roadblock he can't pronounce. He wants to go to Ramallah. His brother works in Ramallah. The soldiers at the roadblock refuse to let him cross and order him to go back to where he came from. The young man insists on waiting at the roadblock until he crosses, even if they call the police. It is clear that the man is not mentally fit.
We ask if we can sort the issue out with the roadblock commander who immediately threatens to stop work, and not to let anyone through until we move away and give him ‘working space'. We move to where we are permitted, where we can still hear the military policewoman, who is particularly crude, has a particularly small vocabulary, with particularly violent body language, shouting about the young man: "He thinks he can do as he pleases... thinks he has the authority... he hasn't got anything".
The officer explains to the young man that, as he has no documentation, he cannot cross. The young man is unable to listen and interrupts him with a stream of stammering mumbling which annoys the officer. The officer says, maybe to the young man, maybe to us, "I'll come back in ten minutes so that he can calm down".
Later the officer tells us that he works with the Operations Room at the Brigade, not with the DCO, and the young man hasn't got a permit to cross. The police have been called.
There are no cars and only one checkpoint is left open.
We contact the DCO and ask for a representative to come and sort the problem out. After a while we call again and are told that a DCO representative is on his way to the roadblock. And indeed he arrives. After shaking hands he talks to the soldiers. A military policeman, with a dismissive gesture, signals us to ‘get away from here'. We approach the representative to inform him of the details we have, such as the telephone number of the man's brother with whom we have talked a number of times, and even the brother's I.D. number - in the hope that this will help to locate the man's details. The DCO officer promises to talk to us later.
The young Palestinian man does not stop talking and interrupting the soldiers' conversation while he tries again and again to repeat his story.
The soldiers lose their patience (which was limited from the start) and shouting starts. The military policeman confronts the young man physically and shouts at him "You will not cross". The crude military policewoman (her name is possibly Sivan) attacks the young man, whose mental condition is obvious and it is not necessary to work in a mental institution to see it, with provocative physical gestures and says: "What do I care... shut your mouth... come over here and we'll show you". It sounds and looks like a drunken brawl in a bar.
Orit tries to calm the situation and says that the young man is sick and unable to control himself. Orit approaches the military policewoman and gives her a gentle touch on the shoulder, and she pounces on Orit as if she has been bitten by a snake: "Don't touch me... don't you dare touch me again..." and she swings her hand in Orit's direction at the same time.
The officer, enraged by all the noise says to us: "You are not helping me, move fifty metres away from here". A second exclusion and we are really not near the roadblock and they are the ones who have moved over to where we are watching what is going on.
We refuse to move away.
The officer, A., physically drags away the military policewoman who has lost control of herself and who demonstrates the problem of young soldiers who use aggressiveness which they mistake for authority. I regret to say that the military policewoman does not even have the vocabulary to express herself with, not to mention any Arabic obviously.
The military policeman, who a minute ago was angry and shouted at the Palestinian, suddenly laughs perhaps at him, perhaps at us. The situation is very confusing for the young man who is very confused anyway.
The officer again threatens collective punishment by stopping the work of the roadblock if we don't move another 20 metres away.
The Health Coordination Centre rejects us completely - they don't intervene in such cases.
The DCO officer finds time to talk to us. According to him the I.D. number and the name of the brother are not relevant. He gives us a speech on how: "Every Palestinian knows that an I.D. card is necessary and that he cannot cross without one... every Palestinian knows his own and his mother's". When we stress to him that the young man is obviously not mentally stable, and that he has already crossed two roadblocks without a permit, he replies: "In his condition, above all, he should not be wandering about. He may suddenly want to cross into Israel. Only with his I.D. number, and his mother's or his wife's can we sort this out. The police will arrest him and check it out".
We, not the soldiers or the DCO officer, heaven forbid, check it out. We contact the brother and request their late mother's I.D. number.
The brother manages to pass the young man's I.D. number to us. We pass it to the DCO officer. The officer, A., and also the military policeman ask us for the details and even want to know how we got them. Suddenly we are not interfering with their work.
The DCO officer informs us that according to the investigation the young man has been ‘prevented' by the Shabak and has even been in prison and the police, who have been called, will deal with his case. From now the young man who refused to obey the soldiers and retrace his tracks has become a detainee. As we know there is no detention hut at the roadblock and he is ordered to sit at the side of the pavement, in the sun, and wait. The young man has already been in the sun for hours. Thirsty, hungry (the soldiers eat, together, in the DCO car) he needs the toilet. Ofra brings him water.
One of the soldiers ‘relaxes' with the troubled young man: "Come here... where are you going... what's wrong with it here", and then tries to define the limits for him, he signs with his hands in the air the boundaries and orders him: "Stay here... sit".
There are no cars at the roadblock.
The police have still not arrived. The young man wanders around. We continue on to Huwwara.
In Huwwara town, at the side of the road, a Border Police car is parked.
The Yitzhar Junction roadblocks, in both directions, are not staffed.
10:40 a.m. .
One checkpoint is staffed. There is almost no one coming or going. Even the coffee vendor and his son are not there. Apparently the soldiers have managed to enforce the Israeli law.
We return to Za'atra Junction. The young man is still there. The police have still not come. He comes to talk to us, an action that alerts a soldier who barks at him: "I told you, sit!"
I go over to the soldier and tell him that the young man has been in the sun for hours already, he is thirsty and hungry and perhaps he can be allowed to sit in the shade somewhere. The soldier replies that the only shade is under the watchtower and he is not permitted to sit there. I suggest the hitchhikers' station by the roadblock and the soldier regards me as if I am joking: "...that's for Jews". How sad. He agrees with me that it is not good.
Ofra goes to the Officer, A., who says that if the police do not arrive within half an hour they will release the young man into Nablus. The young man is now ready, after hours, to go back but he is not allowed to.u We decide to wait. At 11:30 a.m. the young man asks if he can go, the officer abuses him and states: "Half an hour from when I told you not her (Ofra)", i.e.: he has to wait until 12:00 p.m.
Due to our constraints we leave the roadblock.
We contact the DCO to find out if the young man has been released. Ellen informs us that he was indeed permitted to go.