Qalandiya

Jul-2-2003
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Ar-Ram: A soldier was carefully
examining a young woman' Arabic school books. When we approached
and bluntly stared, he stopped and let her leave. Six detaineesinfo-icon
were standing in the blazing sun ("They are used to it,
reasoned one of the soldiers), and we weren't allowed to approach
them. A very hostile group of border policemen. An ambulance
arrived, red light blinking, waiting in the VIP lane. Nobody
approached it. We said 'There's an ambulance!!!'. The soldier
answered: 'Oh, really?' however moved over, and 7 minutes later the
ambulance was free to enter Jerusalem. Two more ambulances arrived,
and were ignored, until we made conspicuous phone calls, then
released in no time to enter Jerusalem. A 51 years old woman,
Palestinian ID (no permit), was not allowed to enter Jerusalem to
fetch her 70-something year old mother from the hospital. Our
attempts to help failed, and eventually the woman went back.
Finally, a higher officer arrived, who first accused us of
disturbing the soldiers, then 'mellowed' a bit, and we were able to
hand over the Moked cards to the detainees. Some were released, and
the tension seemed to somewhat relax. We left.

Qalandya South: We were approached by a desperate man who seemed to
have been waiting for us. The soldiers won't allow him to sell his
plums in the shade near the checkpoint, and forced him place his
two cartons of fresh plums on the street side, where it is hard to
sell because people don't stop. He has two wives and 13 children to
feed. The soldiers said that he can't sell his plums in the
checkpoint area, because that way he can gather information about
them (he is however allowed to stand there when not selling his
plums ...) (I want to add that last Saturday, when coming back from
Ramallah, I was approached by a very young man who sells coffee at
the street side. He built up a booth, made of four clogs and a
peace of cloth from above where he places the thermoses he brings
from home. Minutes before he had been ordered by the checkpoint
soldiers to tear down and destroy his booth, threatened that they
would return in a few minutes and if by then he has not destroyed
it he would be taken to prison. So he did it. They, by the way
never came back to claim their threat. All he wanted to know was
WHY. 'Why' he asked me with a trembling voice. So I promised to
ask. I called the “humanitarian”moked, I was answered the most
common answer of any totalitarian regime throughout history: that
If the soldiers would not have had a 'reason', they would not have
done it. Then I called Naama who unfortunately this time identified
with the army's cliches, and explained to me that it was for the
Palestinians' sake, so there wouldn't be a traffic jam. Roni
Hammermann told me that another rationale that is also periodically
enrolled is a dusty mandatory law that forbids peddling on the
street side. Who knows, maybe this time it was an Ottoman law as
this time one was only allowed to peddle near the street. (How
unbearably creative is the imagination of the occupier).

Qalandya North: The checkpoint commander called us for a briefing.
We are not there to resolve the Palestinians' problems, he
explained, just to monitor. "You see, the Palestinians invent
things and because you are 'softer' they exploit you, but it won't
work". He asked us to move outside the checkpoint, and to only
communicate with the soldiers through him. We moved more to the
side, when the apparent headmaster of a girls' school arrived with
22 other women on their way to a wedding in Ramallah. She
approached N. and asked who was in charge, and he seemed confused
for a second. She stated her purpose, and immediately suggested
that they would leave their IDs with him, until they returned at
approximately 7 pm. And so it was. Apparently, we learnt later,
this went well, and agreed. Two women and a child who only spoke
Arabic who were refused passage, pleaded for something, which no
one understood. Through the Moked it transpired that they live in
Eizarie, on their way back home. The soldier wasn't willing to
listen, claimed that he knows all about these pleas, and knows when
he is lied to. He started his checkpoint duty only that very
morning ... We got into a lengthy argument with the commander, who
insisted we move beyond our willingness to move, and we finally
gave in and left. Apparently this new group of soldiers are harsher
than the previous group, that queues are longer, three hours at
times, and that most people are not allowed through.