Beit Iba, Sun 23.12.07, Afternoon
Summary. A winter’s afternoon shift in the OPT, and no wonder why an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, comes to mind:
“The time has come the walrus said
To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings.”
True, we can’t help but observe that we’re surrounded by fields where cabbages grow and by “kings” or rulers who have to be obeyed. Other than that, each MachsomWatch shift consists of “many things” – all of them having to do with the basic denial of the “other’s” humanity and the right to a decent life. So, it matters little if one talks of “shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,” for the bottom line is always that close by to all our homes, and not “Through the Looking Glass,” is a bleak, harsh reality that is completely appalling and unspeakable, and if not reported by us, remains ignored and unseen.
15:40 Beit Iba. At the “new” checkpoint, there’s a long, long line of women, small children, pushcarts for babies and elderly people going through the so-called “humanitarian” line. Nothing humanitarian about, it, however. After the Eid el-Adha holiday, it’s not surprising that families return home, laden with packages. And, since it’s the army of occupation, with no understanding or willingness to understand a festival that is not theirs, such packages are thoroughly searched. True, there are no “cabbages” for these “kings,” who must be obeyed, to examine, but there are the usual black plastic bags with pittas, large wrapped throwaway diapers plus more unusual gifts or purchases after a holiday.
A husband and wife return with four or five brand new electric heaters, still in their original packaging. (Not so surprising, after all, it’s winter). The heaters have to be unwrapped, untaped, as the commander, Y., and two soldiers, the husband and wife, plus their small children stand around to watch this sorry spectacle. “Don’t you know” says the commander, using of one of the stock phrases of the occupation, “that somebody came by recently with a … (fill in the blanks as you will – bomb, gun, knife, grenade, toy pistol, etc.)
The DCO representative, R., meanwhile, plays with the second turnstile: young men coming from Nablus have already lined up behind the first, and have still to pass through, after, of course, they’ve gone through the new magnometer and done a pirouette for the women military police inside the new concrete checking booth.
One young man has left his ID in Nablus, approaches R., who calls over the commander to show him documentation the man has on him, and he passes. There are not that many young men behind the first turnstile, never more than 20 during this shift. The long line is the humanitarian one.
And the large numbers are provided by the army of occupation. There are already nine or ten soldiers when two more arrive, the women “dog” soldiers, who talk to the commander at length. The total, 13, including the DCO representative and the two dog soldiers. The commander is called to deal with a young man, with a blue ID, coming from visiting relatives in Nablus, on his way home to Taibeh. He passes, after exchanging some pleasantries with the commander.
15:50 -- there are two lines of vehicles from Nablus, but we can’t see the end. Three soldiers check a car, coming from Nablus, in good condition: its driver stands and waits. Not only is the trunk checked, but the hood lifted and the engine compartment too. We wonder whether the soldiers are considering buying it, they are intent on examining it so thoroughly. Again, the commander comes out with the usual platitudes of excuses: “Maybe it’s stolen,” etc.
15:55 -- the many soldiers at the vehicle checking area spend a great deal of time chatting with each other, one of them faces us, her back to the oncoming vehicles from Nablus, and waves on a bus with her arm. She repeats this over and over, seemingly amused by her own “cleverness”/arrogance. Three deal with a mini bus, two remain outside as one checks inside. The process takes five minutes, and this is repeated for other such small buses. An ambulance, from the other direction, Deir Sharaf, takes two to three minutes, and the driver of a large Tanib bus, coming from Nablus, says that the hold up is so much better today, only 15 minutes, whereas during the Eid, it was often an hour or an hour and a half. The IDs of people on the bus are checked, and it takes another seven minutes of waiting, and then more waiting as the bus continues to stand.
The large, muzzled dog chafes at the bit in the vehicle checking area but is only used to go over a huge semitrailer, laden with crates and a few trays of fruit. The latter are off-loaded as the dog, the commander shouting at him, is set to sniff every nook and cranny, and the soldiers seem to play a game, throwing something into the recesses of the semitrailer, waiting for the dog to retrieve it, then watching as dog and dog soldier clamber into the cab.
As we leave the checkpoint and go through the kiosk area, back to the car, this semitrailer passes us, and a man, now atop it, shouts at us that neither we nor the soldiers do anything useful!