Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 2.3.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Listeners to the news would have concluded today that the Third Intifada had broken out throughout the West Bank. After deliberating for a short moment, we agreed unanimously (including our devoted driver) to proceed to our usual monitoring shift and see facts on the ground.
At Tapuach-Za'atara Junction,
No waiting lines, hardly any vehicles. Long-haired reservists man the checking posts. Very thin Palestinian traffic on the roads.
Is under total curfew, all shops and workshops are sealed, very few people seen scurrying along the abandoned streets. Fortunately Occupation does not keep the local almond trees from flaunting their magnificent flowering canopies.
Huwwara Checkpoint - 16:00
On the roadside just outside the checkpoint compound, 7 vehicles are parked, their drivers and passengers standing by them in a stalled stance that speaks volumes.
There are 2 refrigerated trucks, one truck carrying oxygen tanks, another empty truck, a van carrying medication with the Red Crescent emblem, a private vehicle whose owner is a physician from Huwwara village. DCO's captain A. arrives within 10 minutes, and before we even begin to ask questions, announces that he knows all the cases! They all traveled "Madison road", breaking the law.
We ask, if there is a law forbidding Palestinians to travel this road,
why is there no road sign explicitly stating this for all to see??
"That's right", he answers.
And why do the soldiers who catch them not prevent them from getting on that road? "You go and stand over there!" he answers us.
The drivers are habitually allowed on the road (soldiers posted at the observation tower at the checkpoint detect them as they turn onto the forbidden road and let them proceed, later going out and 'catching them' at it, and punishing them with detention).
Then he informs us (repeatedly) that they (the Palestinian drivers) are all 'fucking our minds' (maybe he means us too) and releases the truck carrying the oxygen tanks. "There's the law that the brigade commander has set, he's the one who decides and they know it. Let's go and ask them, one by one". Since the question 'what is the law' is not quite unanimously settled between him and us, we refrain from going and asking each and every driver what they know, and say that as far as we are concerned, they haven't broken any law, at most they have crossed a procedural line, and punishing them for it is illegal in itself. Then he releases the doctor. "Just for your sake.
"If he's a doctor he is intelligent and he is still living in Huwwara so he should know where he is permitted to drive and where he isn't".
We said that sometimes people are in a hurry, or tired, and the alternative road for Palestinians is long winding and potholed and it is only human to choose the shorter, smoother road since "the law" is not legal, thus the violation is no violation. And what about the medication carrier? "He is a conniving liar, I know him." But after a while he too is released. All the others are kept waiting until 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 'do their time' of punishment. The soldiers kept their eyes on the watch and stuck to the letter of every second. Then another crane-truck and a private car were also detained for punishment for the same sin, kept 3 or 4 or 6 hours...
A., the DCO representative, tells us of a quiet demonstration that took place inside Nablus, especially women and children, protesting the carnage in Gaza.
At the turnstiles, three checking posts are active, an especially vulgar military policewoman working in the middle post. She scolds a young man missing his ID appendix (not the main registration information) and the securing soldier next to her tells him he must obtain a new appendix, for "this is your passport!"
Another young man is questioned in Hebrew (by MPwoman Natalie) about a tiny flashlight he carries on his key-ring. Since he does not speak Hebrew, he does not answer her. She then commences to yell at him and interrogate him for nearly 10 minutes in Hebrew. He answers her in English, and only after we involve the DCO rep. in the discussion, the young man is allowed to proceed and tells us in English, crossly - "She's crazy!"
She tries to excite her shift mates by declaring there is a "homo at the checkpoint!" and repeats this several times. A young man up for ID check is told in Hebrew to move back. He, too, does not understand Hebrew. He tries to explain himself in English but she yells at him "Now you don't speak Hebrew?" "Shut up!" she growls, teaching him Hebrew. "Throw him out of here" the soldier encourages her.
Again DCO rep. intervention saves the young man and he is released in a matter of seconds.
Pedestrian traffic is rather thin, but the Palestinians still report waiting over an hour and a half. The special side line for women children and the elderly moves quickly without delay.
The Palestinians report that at 1 p.m., the checkpoint was closed for a short while and all Palestinians on the northern side of the checkpoint were instructed to sit on the ground.
Brand new signs - white on purple - indicate in Arabic and English "Luggage Check", "Waiting Point".
17:00 The DCO representative leaves the checkpoint.
The line is down to a trickle and we leave to go gather a testimony at Hares village that will be posted separately.
Beit Furik Checkpoint 15:15
Since we had heard on the radio that there were rioting and stone-throwing in Huwwara as well as around the colony Itamar (on the apartheid road to Beit Furik) we first drove to Beit Furik Checkpoint to see and hear what the local residents have to tell us. We saw absolutely no military presence or colonists on our way there, everything looked as usual. In Beit Furik village, too, say the taxi drivers we asked, everything is normal, no curfew, and passage through the checkpoint today "was alright".
At the Checkpoint itself, few pedestrians who pass quickly, and no waiting vehicles. One checking lane is used both for incoming and outgoing traffic, and for lack of cars waiting is very short.
A sergeant approaches us and warns us in advance that as soon as we cross the 'white line' he will close the checkpoint to Palestinian passage. We tell him something he does not know: that closing the checkpoint is illegal and if he only dare do this, we shall contact the army legal adviser directly. He announces that he only takes his orders from his commander and battalion commanders and we ask him to relay our message to them as well. Thus ends our exchange and we remain standing around the 'white line' without further pestering.
There were no special events and we proceeded to Huwwara checkpoint.