Qalandiya

Nov-4-2003
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Qalandiya south: All is quiet.

Qalandiya north: The queues move in almost total silence
at a reasonable pace, but this does not deter the young soldiers
from the usual bullying and yelling.

One of the volunteers checks a mother and daughter -- he
is about to pass the daughter, but is angered by a photocopied
document she produces. Raising his voice, he holds up the piece of
paper and rips it into shreds: "Don't try that again! They're
all the same: they take a permit and copy it wholesale and expect
us to swallow it!"

A sergeant at first displays a measure of mercy with some
"humanitarian" cases. E.g., he waves through a woman,
refused by the volunteers, who says she has a dental appointment
and backs up her claim with an illegible "certificate".
But as the afternoon wears on, his temper frays and by the last
hour of our watch he is yelling with the worst of his fellows:
"Get out of here I said -- and don't come back again or I'll
see you regret it!"

An elderly and clearly sick man is allowed to go through,
but his daughter and her young sons may not-- none of them has any
documents. An older Palestinian in the queue reproaches us for our
inability to help-- "Say something, do something! What are you
here for!" Eventually one of the volunteers intervenes and
waves them on, "Because I say so, that's why!"

A group of young men with blue IDs shuffle disconsolately
alongside of us: they have been invited to Ramallah to a post-fast
meal, but the soldiers have told them that if they go north they
will not be allowed back again. Later we meet the group again: they
wave pieces of paper given them at the checkpoint which promise
that they will be allowed back into Jerusalem, but will that
permission hold good later tonight or tomorrow?

The reserve officer has been waylaid by a group of women
all refused permission to pass and all obstinately resisting the
soldiers' orders to "get out of here, and get out quick!"
The soldiers remonstrate with the officer: "Don't talk to
them, if you do you'll have a whole meeting on your hands. They'll
never let go!" But the officer is equally insistent: listening
to the women is partly what he's here for, he tells the soldiers,
adding that it's his decision and not their business. We see him
examining documents, listening, answering calmly and with a smile,
then taking out his cell-phone and making calls.

From the northwest there are shots and smoke from tear
gas grenades alongside the "security" fence. We see four
or five presumably stone-throwing children and three or four
soldiers. North of the checkpoint, the traffic is in total chaos,
all pretence of lanes going in one or another direction gone, it's
every driver for himself. The noise is unbelievable. No one takes
any notice of the shots. An elderly porter tells us that a child
has been taken to hospital.