MACHSOMWATCH OBSERVATIONS DURING NOVEMBER 2003 | Machsomwatch
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MACHSOMWATCH OBSERVATIONS DURING NOVEMBER 2003

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Sunday, 30 November, 2003

During November 2003, MachsomWatch increased its frequency and range of checkpoint observation thanks to an expanded number of volunteers. We now (December 2003) number 230 women. Enclosed is the November 2003 summary of Machsomwatch's observations based on 113 independent observations at 12 different checkpoints. Detailed reports can be found on our website: www.machsomwatch.org and direct links from this summary are provided to the reports referred to below.

 

The attitude of the Israeli army towards the Palestinian population during Ramadan

Ramadan is the Muslim holy month, a variable date (this year, from October 27 to November 24) during which many obligations are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. The characteristic activities of Muslims during this period: fasting from sunrise to sundown, breaking the fast around 5:00 p.m., attending Friday prayers in the great mosques in Jerusalem and visiting family members. All these were significantly hindered or prevented altogether by the Israeli occupying forces.

 

There was a complete contradiction between official Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson announcements to the Palestinian population and the situation on the ground. On October 29, the following announcement was published: “due to recognition of the month of Ramadan, the IDF and the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories are implementing a policy of easing of restrictions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”. On November 2 further easing of restrictions in movement were announced and on November 3 the IDF spokesperson declared that the closureinfo-icon around all Palestinian cities, except Nablus and Jenin, had been lifted. On November 20 it was announced again that IDF and the Civil Administration were preparing to facilitate the passage of Palestinian civilians desiring to attend the “Lelat al-Kadir” prayers and the last Friday of the month of Ramadan prayers. These announcements produced an image inside Israel and abroad that the Israeli Government was sympathetic to the religious and traditional needs of the Palestinian population. At the same time, it was announced to the Palestinian population that only persons with special permits issued by the Civil Administration would be allowed to enter Jerusalem for prayers at the Temple Mount. The limited number of permits issued reveals the difficulty of obtaining them. During the whole month of Ramadan 5,000 permits for praying at the Temple Mount were issued (4,000 in the West Bank and 1,000 in the Gaza Strip) for a population of 3.5 million people. Our volunteers took field notes at the Civil Administration offices in Beit El (responsible for the Ramallah population) reported on November 23 (Morning) and at the Civil Administration offices in Gush Etzion (responsible for the Bethlehem population) reported on November 21 and 25 (Bethlehem, morning), all describing serious malfunction of these offices, where people spend long hours and often have to return again and again in order to receive the required permit. The absurd Catch 22 of people needing a permit in order to reach the Civil Administration office in order to get a permit is well documented in the report of November 19, Qalandiya afternoon. The Israeli Government’s pretence to recognize the Palestinian population's needs, including freedom of worship, while on the ground the opposite is true, and the Civil Administration in fact functions as an additional tool to persecute the civilian population, is fully disclosed in the extensive report “Systematic Abuse by Administrative Means: A Matter of Policy” prepared by our volunteer and published at our website.

 

MachsomWatch volunteers reported on the first Ramadan Friday October 31 morning at checkpoints A-Ram and Qalandiya that a large crowd of Palestinians, many of them old people, was prevented from going to Jerusalem to pray at the great mosques, in the most rude and aggressive manner. On Friday November 14 morning our observers reported from Abu Dis about the most appalling scene of abuse of a whole crowd of people festively dressed and headed for their Friday prayers (including many elderly and children) by Border Policemen driving their jeep through a crowd and “herding it like cattle down the muddy alley”. On November 17 at Tulkarm checkpoint it was reported that a group of teachers was prevented from going to their school to prepare the traditional feast for their students. On Thursday November 20 (Leilat al-Kadir) and Friday November 21 (the last Friday of Ramadan) no southbound passage whatsoever for Palestinians without special permits was allowed at Qalandiya and A-Ram checkpoints, as reported. The promised concessions during Ramadan were never implemented. On the contrary, it seems that hard line policy became even harder and the detention time, as a punishment for bypassing Qalandiya checkpoint, was increased from three hours to seven-eight hours (see November 11 and November 18 both afternoon Qalandiya). The difficulty in observing traditional family visits during the month of Ramadan was well described at Qalqiliya checkpoint on November 22 afternoon (see under others).

This complete disregard of the religious needs of the entire Muslim population in the Occupied Territories was in complete contrast to the attitude towards a large zealous Jewish group in 40 buses, (first week of November) who for three days celebrated with music and dancing at the traditional site of the Tomb of Rachel located at the entrance to Bethlehem city (see November 7 morning Bethlehem)

 

Punishments

During November there were two attacks on Israeli security forces and the policy of collective punishment of the whole Palestinian population was highly evident. On November 19afternoon (two days after the killing of two Israeli soldiers at the tunnel road checkpoint near Al-Khadr) our volunteers reported from Qalandiya the most rude and aggressive behavior towards Palestinians with disregard towards humanitarian cases and open justification of this behavior as a legitimate response to the above mentioned killings. Similarly, on November 23 morning (two days after the killing of two security guards at the site of construction of the Separation Wall in Abu Dis), people present at the construction site were sprayed in the eyes with tear gas and ambulances were prevented from entering Abu Dis.

 

The need to create friction so that the subsequent response (by security forces) can show “who is the boss “ is well documented by the report of November 18 morning where our volunteers witnessed stone throwing by students from Abu Dis University towards patrolling border police who had started to check ID documents at the university campus gate, and who responded to the stone throwing with rubber bullets causing injury to 10 persons.

Blue (civil) police join the Israeli army in the effort to abuse and persecute the civilian Palestinian population in the West Bank. Our volunteers reported absurd fines of NIS50 to NIS500 ($10 to $110 for a population where nearly 70% live below the poverty line – i.e. an income of less than $2 per day) imposed by the Israeli police, on November 6 in Huwwara,November 18 morning in Abu Dis, and November 30 morning in Wadi Nar near Abu Dis. On November 16 morning in the Bethlehem area, a Palestinian woman was fined NIS250 ($50) for crossing the main road illegally or imprudently (according to civil laws, i.e. not at a designated pedestrian walkway).

 

The Nablus area checkpoints

Our volunteers made extensive observations at Huwwara, Beit Furik, Sarra, Izhar and Tapuach junctions, checkpoints placed in the heart of the West Bank. The reports about those checkpoints can be found under 'Nablus and vicinity' section at our website. It is very clear that settlers and soldiers from settlements who very often serve at those checkpoints have a very negative impact on the attitude towards Palestinians (see report of November 4afternoon, the section on Izhar junction).

 

Each of those checkpoints has its own characteristics.
Huwwara: The largest number of people pass through Huwwara checkpoint and sometimes hundreds of people are checked by only a few soldiers. Soldiers are usually highly aggressive, putting a lot of energy into enforcing order instead of speeding up the passage (see reports of November 11 afternoon, November 15 morning, November 19 afternoon). The lack of any common sense in imposing order was observed on November 11 morning when an ambulance was denied passage, because of bypassing a waiting line of cars. At the slightest sign of 'disobedience' people are punished by long (3-5 hours) detention (see November 16 morning ) with the most extreme case of detaining a 14 year-old boy in handcuffs for six hours, see November 20 afternoon. Very often, people going for medical treatment are denied passage on the alleged grounds that their medical papers are forged and the absurd argument that “if you are ill, go by ambulance” could be heard (see November 22, morning).

At Beit Furik, our volunteers noticed the presence of particularly violent and rude soldiers who felt free to force people to wait on their knees with handcuffed hands behind their backs and to make joyful rides on “beach buggy-vehicles” in order to hunt Palestinians who try to bypass this checkpoint (see November 24 afternoon and November 29 morning reports).

Sarra checkpoint is an example of those checkpoints obviously intended as harassment, to prevent local Palestinian residents from using transportation to reach their homes. Instead, they are supposed to climb a very steep hill on foot and our observers reported old and young doing this with great physical effort (see November 19 afternoon, November 26 afternoon and November 29 morning).

 

Jubara -Tulkarm checkpoints

These checkpoints are near the Green Line with the notorious Separation Wall nearby, greatly disrupting the life of villages in this area. Jubara village is one of many along the Separation Wall where people live under constant closure, see November 3 morning andNovember 17 morning. Jubara is trapped between the Separation Wall and the checkpoint and its citizens are required to obtain special residency permits allowing them to move through Jubara checkpoint, see October 20 morning. However, very often those permits are not respected and people cannot leave this “ghetto” to seek medical help (see November 17morning). Jubara village totally depends on food aid distributed by the Red Cross and medical services provided once a week by Physicians for Human Rights. (The Red Cross announced in November that it is discontinuing its short-term food program [instituted at the time of Israel’s “Defensive Shield Operation”] to the West Bank because of the difficulties created by the Curfew-closure-checkpoint policy and the Israeli security forces there). School children need to pass through a special gate in the fence, which is opened for a few minutes by soldiers in spite of many promises that it would be open for at least half an hour, when children go and come back at the beginning and the end of their school day. Our observers reported serious disruptions in schoolchildren's and students' passage to their school in A-Ras and to their college in Tulkarm, respectively (see November 3 morning and afternoon, November 10 afternoon, November 17 morning and afternoon and November 20 afternoon).

 

Glossary

Abu Dis: A Palestinian suburb of East Jerusalem. The "Jerusalem Envelope" of the separation wall bisects this area cutting half of it off from the capital.
Ma’ale Adumim checkpoint: the checkpoint on the western side of the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim, near Abu Dis.

Sawahre: a Palestinian East Jerusalem suburb at the entrance to the Wadi Nar (Valley of Fire, Kidron Valley) road, which connects Abu Dis with Bethlehem.
Bethlehem checkpoint (checkpoint-300): for controlling the movement of Palestinian civilians between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Al-Khadr checkpoint: the checkpoint controls the western entrance to the town of Al-Khadr and Bethlehem.

Gush Etzion checkpoint: at the junction between Routes 60 and 367. Route 60 is the major road serving the settlements of the West Bank.
Qalandiya checkpoint: the checkpoint that controls the movement between Ramallah, North Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Jubara checkpoint: the checkpoint is located at the junction of Routes 574 and 557, south of Tulkarm; it separates five villages: Jubara, Ar Ras, Farun, Shufa and Irtah from their farm lands.

Tapuach junction checkpoint: at the junction of Route 60 and 505 near Za’atra village (at the northern sector of Route 60, again, mostly barred to Palestinians).

Huwwara checkpoint: the checkpoint that controls the movement between Nablus and the rural areas south of the city.

Beit Furik checkpoint: the checkpoint that controls the movement between Nablus and five villages (Beit Furik, Beit Dajan, Salim, Deir al Hatub and Azmut) to the east of the city.

Sarra checkpoint: the checkpoint controls the southern entrance to Sarra village, west of Nablus.

Qalqiliya checkpoint: the checkpoint controls the movement in and out of Qalqiliya city.