Qalandiya

May-28-2003
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Southern checkpoint: Almost no cars
passing, the soldier checking Id's (probably a new volunteer)
declared he was apolitical but asked us whether we would be willing
to help a Palestinian who wanted to meet someone at the Northern
checkpoint. We were a little bit encouraged.

Northern checkpoint: The moment we arrived, the highest ranking
officer at the checkpoint, Lieutenant Colonel Yoni (in his early
40's), approached us, greeted us nicely and warned us that he had a
high alert situation, he had the name a terrorist who was supposed
to come to this checkpoint to blow himself up beside the soldiers.
He asked us not to stand close to Palestinians, rather, we should
stand near the soldiers. We stayed in our usual place close to the
Northern checkpoint, while a soldier stood close to us watching the
people who walk on the outer pedestrian lane. There were about 300
people waiting on line and we calculated that it took each one
about half an hour to be checked, Yoni was checking. The checking
was not particularly meticulous and we saw that, arbitrarily,
sometimes people with permits were not allowed to go south because
there is a closureinfo-icon, while other times people with permits were
allowed to go through to the south. We called the Civil
Administration and asked whether there is a closure today and what
does this imply for those who have permits and they confirmed that
when there is closure, also people with permits cannot go through
the checkpoints. One man with a permit, after not being allowed to
go through to Jerusalem, stood in line a second time and this time
he got the magical words 'go to the right' - you can pass. Those
whose request was rejected were told with a hand sign:
"Left!" A new group of soldiers came to the checkpoint,
first time we saw them but we didn't check from which unit, and
they were trying to help people go through without standing in line
(women with children, a UN volunteer, a disabled man, a woman
carrying medication that needed refrigeration). Yoni felt he had to
teach the soldiers, who seemed to him very lax, and shouted at them
offensively that because they were wasting time with us they were
not checking and he insisted they don't talk to us. To one soldier
who let an old woman go through he shouted: "You are sleeping,
that woman passed and she may blow all of us up in the air".
Yoni shouted at a man who was on his way from Jerusalem to Ramallah
and walking on the outer pedestrian lane while talking on his
mobile, to get away fast: "Get away from me with that
pelephone!". To another who wanted to ask him to reconsider
his rejection Yoni shouted: Don't come near me, I am afraid of
you". It seemed to us that he was convincing himself, his
soldiers, and us that there is a real danger that he will be blown
up any minute. The fact that he is surrounded by about 300
Palestinians, among whom many are women and children and it is
highly unlikely that any Palestinian would like to cause so much
damage to so many of his own people didn't seem to cause him to
doubt his version. We had the feeling that he was very consciously
trying to create the feeling - the version that all the people
there are potential killers, a new step in the dehumanisation
process and a very convenient justification for treating them the
way they do at the checkpoint. A young woman with a valid permit
was not allowed to go to her home south of the checkpoint. We
pointed out to her that some people who were rejected once by Yoni
were allowed to go through when he checked the second time. So she
stood in line again and this time Yoni took her valid permit and
said it was confiscated because she had misbehaved. We approached
Yoni and asked why he had taken the permit away and then all his
apparent manners and politeness disappeared and he ordered the
other soldiers to stop checking and shouted that it was my fault
and that I was harming the people I wanted to help. I pointed out
that the permit had a valid date, and he said that he didn't care
about the date, there was other information in the permit that he
cared about (he pointed the number of the permit, the series). I
pointed out that it is illegal to take away Id's or permits and he
said he didn't take it away but "confiscated" it and that
he had been ready to give it back in 10 minutes but because of my
intervention he would now give it back after nine in the evening. A
soldier asked other Watchers to get me out of Yoni's sight because
they were afraid what he would do (it seems he could be a very
violent man). The owner of the permit was almost in tears and of
course felt betrayed by us and left, without waiting to recuperate
her permit. We called Naama from the the army post in charge of the
Binyamin area, who confirmed that it was absolutely not permitted
to confiscate any Id or permit and we told her we would complain
about the behaviour of this soldier.

Southern checkpoint: 18:15 When we thought we would be going home
we found 3 Palestinian taxi drivers whose ID's had been confiscated
as a measure to force them to bring their taxi car to the
checkpoint so it would be driven into Ramallah and taken out of the
Ar-Ram - Qalandya - Jaa'ba axis. This measure comes back
periodically, we cannot understand what is the trigger for the
implementation of this policy because there are quiet times when
taxis are allowed to transit in this area and then, for some
unknown reason, they are again confiscated. We could help one
driver, who claimed the taxi was not his and he could not bring it
to the checkpoint, get back his ID. The other two went to talk to
the officer at the southern checkpoint. A man with a Jordanian
passport told us that soldiers in jeep number 11042 had taken away
his Jordanian passport and he would not leave until he got it back.
We called the Moked and they said they would take care of it. At
19:00 we called him again and he said that the Moked had called him
back and told him to wait a little bit. At 20:15 he called me back
and said it seemed to him that "our office phone" (he
meant the Moked) was not working any more because there was no
answer and he still didn't have his passport and he would approach
the soldiers and ask them either to give it back or kill him. He
had been there since 16:00 and was desperate. I called Naama again
and she promised to look into it, while saying "she was sorry
for all the trouble to this man". After 15 minutes she told me
she had identified the soldier who had the passport and I told the
man about it, and he said he had seen the passport in the hand of a
soldier and thought he would soon get it back. At 21:30 I called
him back but his phone was now out of service, I hope he had
reached home safely with his passport in hand.