Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 24.2.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Due to the fragmentation imposed on Nablus (bidul: no passage of Palestinians of certain age groups into and out of town) during this shift:
- An English teacher working at the Beita village school and living in Nablus wishes to go his rented flat in Nablus. In his ID he is registered as a Jenin resident and commits himself to go to the Palestinian Office of Interior to change his address. Because of his young age, not permitted to enter Nablus (until we summoned the DCO representative).
- A 33-year old man from Tubas traveling with his pregnant wife, employed by the Palestinian Ministry of Health is denied passage: "She may get through, not he" says the checkpoint commander ( they too were finally 'rescued' by the DCO representative and that was our last successful intervention).
- According to the cab drivers and the DCO officer, this morning both doctors and teachers were not allowed into Nablus, and everyone went back the way they came. The Palestinians say the waiting line to enter the city reached all the way to the middle of the taxi park.
- Two Palestinian policemen living in Jenin and working in Nablus are not allowed into the city.
- Three men from Maithsaloun (near former colony Sanoor), a man from Tubas and one from Tamun are denied entry to Nablus only because fragmentation policy bars them because of their age.
- A business-administration student at Nablus' Al Najah University, resident of Siris, has exams tomorrow and wishes to enter Nablus, but is turned back.
We asked all of the above for their phone numbers in order to join the petition we are preparing for the High Court of Justice. They all refused, understandably.
Tapuach Zaatara Junction checkpoint was manned by reservists and there were no waiting lines.
15:20 - At Huwwara Checkpoint,
Very long waiting line to be checked before entering Nablus. The military engineers did not include in their planning considerations a situation in which the army would decide to inspect people on their way in as well... Everyone crowds between the two very narrowly spaced chicken wire fences that constitute the 'sleeve' through which the entry turnstile is usually approached. Two soldiers, pointing their rifles at the pedestrians waiting in this line, perform the selection who will continue into Nablus and who will be refused.
The narrowness of this passage forces everyone to crowd insufferably, men, the elderly, women and children who are not in the banned age brackets. This arouses much resentment among the people waiting. 'It's not enough what they do to us everyday, not this, too..."
An English teacher from Jenin who now resides in Nablus and teaches at Beita is denied entry. He turns to the checkpoint commander, a second lieutenant who must have cut classes when they studied 'the special spirit of the Israeli army' etc.
With a sealed expression he listens to the teacher appealing to him again and again, and keeping still. Finally we approach the DCO representative (T.) and after he hears us out, he gets the teacher through.
Later apparently the officer turns out to be a speaker after all: "Enough, you dumb women. I'm sick of you!" And later, "You collaborate with them instead of worrying about the soldiers".
When we take one step across the 'white line': "You want to go into Nablus too? Go marry them..." From his tone and content it is obvious he despises Palestinians, and more than that the fact that he is has been ordered to deal with them directly and has to handle all the problems that the checkpoint hands him. He clearly has no intention of solving any of them or even listening.
To the attention of Aharon Haliwa, former Brigade Commadner in the Occupied Territories and presently Commanding Officers Training who was instructively interviewed by the press last weekend, about how great victory will be achieved in the next war...
Two soldiers stop a herd of sheep who followed the fresh green grass over to the area east of the checkpoint on the Nablus side. They lock up the shepherd in the detention cubicle and try to chase away the sheep by throwing stones at them. The shepherd's little brothers from Klil village take the sheep away while their brother sits out his punishment, three hours of detention in the cubicle "because he approached the checkpoint with a flock of sheep", as the DCO explains.
16:00 - usual inspections at the ID checkingposts. A soldier inspects the inside of a cigarette pack, lest a bomb be hidden there. The line stretches out beyond the end of the shed. At the entrance line to Nablus, two Palestinian policemen have a hard time accepting the ban on their entry and try time and again to pass, in vain.
Four soldiers huddle secretively and smoke around the entering vehicle checking post, while the DCO representative checks the women and elderly at the special side line and is not available to take care of problems created by the fragmentation policy. Occasionally men are required to take their shoes off going through the metal detector in their socks on the filthy floor. Others are forced to run over to the X-ray truck and back to receive their IDs. Once in a while men are ordered to lift their shirt and undershirt all the way to their chins and expose their entire belly to anyone, while pirouetting. "Come on mister" the woman soldier screeches to the next in line and only then may he approach the turnstile and cross it. The men waiting in line know that insubordination to the rules of standing in line will cost them extra waiting.
16:30 - the shed is full to bursting and the pace remains the same. Young men report two hours waiting time. The vehicle checking line is conducted as usual, passengers getting off 10 meters away from the post, driver arriving with everyone's IDs, passengers waiting far away, the whole checking process sometimes lasting 20 minutes. When the porter cross with his cart to the X-ray truck, the vehicle check halts until the soldiers finish kidding around with him.
A man who drove from Awarta on the Israelis-only road has already been detained for two hours as punishment. The DCO regards this as an obvious fact, so what if there is no road sign forbidding Palestinian traffic? The driver is supposed to know it's forbidden.
A man from Beita village asks us to inquire whatever happened to his 21-year old son who was taken out of his home at two o'clock in the morning last Wedsnesday and nothing has been heard from him since. We asked the army hotline to inquire about his whereabouts.
18:20 - the soldiers announce a 'life-freeze' over the PA system and close the checkpoint. For the next ten seconds they crawl, practice would-be-shooting and leap over concrete ledges in front of the astounded Palestinians. Then they huddle in little groups and chat. Within five minutes, about 60 people accumulate at the entry line, women with babies in their arms, a woman cancer patient on her way back from treatment, people on their way home from work, and the soldiers stand around talking. The DCO tell us it's a 'manoeuver' and we wonder whether the 'life freeze' is for soldiers or for Palestinians? For 15 minutes they sand chatting, entertaining the three long-haired sniffer-dog-lady trainers who came to practice their dogs or themselves. When the checkpoint re-opens, there are already over 100 people waiting to enter, all crowded into that narrow sleeve, and the soldiers checking IDs in the dark. Perhaps "you should buy us some flashlights" they suggest, when we wonder how they can see anything in this dark. The crowd is caught between the fences and two soldiers standing between them and the turnstile. How lucky that minutes earlier they practiced, otherwise how could they have dealt with a situation in which a terrorist would emerge from the crowd... Another lucky thing - as a result of a situation veritably stressful for themselves, they let most of the people through rather quickly, without really checking.
The business-administration student who tried to get in to Nablus for the tenth time was not lucky. The soldiers recognized him. The DCO representative even said he had called the university chief to make sure there were no exams tomorrow. He should come again tomorrow, maybe the fragmentation will be open and entry into Nablus will no longer be a problem. Freezing cold and nervous he had to get back. "To Ramallah" he answered our query. "You won't be allowed through Tapuach Junction" we said. He said: "Don't worry. There are other ways to get to Ramallah."
Beit Furik Checkpoint
17:13 - No detainees. Few pedestrians, rapidly let through. Little blue and white flags are stuck inside the posts. Few vehicles, checked first only in one lane, then two. Beit Furik and Beit Dajan residents have already become used to the fact that only they are allowed through this checkpoint, so no more tragic scenes are held here of relatives wishing to visit their family or anyone who is not officially a resident here. Many greet us warmly although we cannot help anyone with anything.