MachsomWatch – a Human Rights organization of Israeli women who oppose the occupation and are deeply involved with the infringement of freedom of movement of Palestinians within the occupied territories.
The checkpoint is only the tip of the iceberg
The checkpoint does not stand there alone. On all sides, behind, in front of, and in particular, supporting it from below, there is a giant bureaucratic network, an unseen web that ensures its tight grip on a daily basis. In the manner of bureaucratic networks, this is large and complex, riddled with contradictions, its rules are concealed and each person who is involved with it is familiar only with his or her part. In attempting to cope with this massive bureaucracy, countless hours are wasted and vast sums of money are lost by those poor people who are trapped in its web. The bodies involved in keeping this sophisticated network viable are, apart from the General Security Services, the Army and the Police almost every government office. The compartmentalization, the fact that each element knows only about his or her own section, deepens its hold and frustrates possibilities of solving problems, since each restriction or prohibition involves more than one department and is enforced by more than one operative. This month we bring several illustrative examples.
The Civil Administration
“About 50 men and women are crowding around the gate at Rihan (Barta'a) CP, most of them laborers who work in the industrial zone of Shahak in the seamzone (the area between the Green Line and the "Security Fence"), and also agricultural laborers and seamstresses who work in the sewing factory in East Barta'a. The Shahak laborers say that it would be easier for them if they were permitted to go through at the Shaked (Tura) CP which is near their place of work. The seamstresses, who live in Tura, would also prefer to go through from there.
People keep coming to the Palestinian parking lot. A little after 07:00 the pressure is gone. It turned out that there was a reason for the crowding in the terminal. The laborers who work at picking oranges near Hadera asked to go through at the Rihan CP, as they were allowed to do recently (that is the shortest way to their work place). Today, two went through and the rest were not allowed to go through. At the DCO they said that their passage at Rihan was a mistake and they had to go through either at Jalameh or at Irtach. About 20 laborers with sacks for picking fruit in their hands went back to the Palestinian parking lot to wait. At about 08:00 they left to go through at Jalameh and thus they will begin their day's work very late.
To Israeli cars who want to pass Shaked CP from Tura to the seamzone are sent back. No Israelis – whether in cars or on foot – are allowed to go through at this CP. Residents of Daher el-Malek and of Umm e-Rihan are allowed to go through the Shaked CP even if their permit says that they have to go through at Rihan. Others are allowed through only if the permit says: Gate 300.” (Rihan, Shaked, 22.01.07)
“06:55 – at this time the lot is packed with cars waiting for laborers, and with dozens of laborers waiting for their ride. They show us the magnetic cards that they were forced to replace with new ones even though the expiration date hasn't been reached. A laborer pays 130 NIS to replace the card because of the transition to identification by finger prints. But there's another problem: since these are manual workers, the skin on their fingers is gnarly, and this makes identification by the machine difficult, and then they are forced to replace the card again (and pay another 130 NIS). One man was forced to replace his card three times within a short period of time, even though its expiration date is a long way off.” (Irtach, 10.01.07)
The Population Administration/The Interior Ministry
“A man tells us of the catch he is embroiled in. He is from Umm e-Rihan (in the seamzone) and married for 17 years to a woman from Umm el-Fahm (inside Israel) and their children are at school there. The man has a Palestinian ID and a permit that allows him to stay in Israel. He has to renew it every 6 months. At the DCO he was told that he has to give up his permanent resident permit for the seamzone, which he holds as a resident of Umm e-Rihan. He teaches in the school at Umm e-Rihan and he is connected administratively to Jenin. If they take away his permit as a resident of the seamzone, he will not be able to go through at Tura, and will have to go through at Jalameh which is some distance away. Life is complicated.” (Shaked, 22.01.07)
“By the gate a woman with three children (5-15) was waiting. An Israeli citizen from Umm el-Fahm, married to a resident of A’anin in the Westbank and living there for 17 years, her children study there. She went to visit her mother and, yesterday afternoon, she tried to return home, but was prevented from doing so. Yesterday, she tried also at Rihan, but to no avail. Today, she came back to A’anin and hopes to cross this time. The husband and the two older children are permitted to pass from Israel to the Westbank because they are registered in both parents' IDs, but the little one and the mother cannot return home. All of them together returned to us, on the "blue" (Israeli) side of the gate. Before the closing of the gates, the husband tries again to return to the village and to persuade the soldiers to let his wife and children through to go home. After a consultation between ourselves, we took the mother and children and drove to Shaked, where they might perhaps cross. As expected, they couldn’t pass there either. The husband told us on the phone that after we left they had let him cross, but not his wife and children.” (A’anin,1.02.07)
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor
“Workers returning from agriculture jobs in Israel cross the gate carrying bags of fruits. They all rush home but a few stop to talk to us, - One tells us that he was employed in Israel by a manpower firm in Netanya. The contractor needs to pay taxes on their behalf. Since his contractor did not pay his share, this worker can not renew his permit to work in Israel and can't start working with another contractor either.” (Rihan, 08.02.07)
“7:00 - M' called and he said that since 6:00 they wouldn't let anyone pass at El Bidan checkpoint. There are already long lines. From the calls we made to the army we learned that they were looking for explosives that were supposed to pass through that checkpoint and that's why no one was allowed to pass.
8:30 - M' told us that they haven't opened the checkpoint and that the lines were only getting longer. We made a phone call to the regiment commander that said there was a strict inspection, but he denied the fact the checkpoint was completely closed. The brigade commander said that the checkpoint was closed. After 20 minutes the regiment commander phoned and explained that the checkpoint really was closed. We asked when it would open and he said "until the intelligence call off the warning notice". We asked how would the people there pass, at the beginning he suggested they use alternative paths but then he remembered that they weren't an option for the Palestinians, so he left the question unanswered. It's not the army's problem. Towards noon he announced that the checkpoint had opened and even promised that the inspection would be done quickly so that people won't have to wait too long. We were optimistic.
At 12:30 -S' arrived with his children at the checkpoint. At 18:30 he was still stuck at the checkpoint, there were about 70 cars standing in front of him. According to what M' said, two out of the three lanes were blocked by concrete cubes. At the remaining lane stood 4 soldiers, 3 guards and only one to let people pass, a car to Nablus and then a car heading out of Nablus, alternating, one car every half an hour. He said that hundreds of cars were waiting on both sides. High authorities at the army told us that it wasn't true and that the traffic was flowing. Afterwards, the head of the DCO at Nablus confirmed that there was a problem, he said he personally was taking care of it and that he might send a DCO officer over there. What kind of officer is willing to go to El Bidan checkpoint after dark? After all, the checkpoint is located inside Ascar refugee camp. According to M' no DCO officer arrived there.
18:45 - The Palestinians said that two more jeeps with soldiers showed up and that teargas grenades were thrown. Someone from B'tselem came there; she documented it and took photos of what was going on. In a conversation with the DCO at Nablus B'tselem was told that nothing was going on, the checkpoint was wide open… a real Champs Elysées. M' reported that there was no movement, H', who arrived at the checkpoint at 12:30, hadn't passed yet. He had been waiting for six hours!
We called EVERYONE again. The assistant brigade commander said we had false information, two lanes were active and the passage was quick. M' said that wasn't true- they were only inspecting in one lane, one time checking those heading into Nablus, and then checking those that were going out, barely two cars passed every half an hour… Only at 19:15 the checkpoint was finally completely opened and they let everyone pass without inspection.” (Nablus area, El Bidan, 22.1.07)
Palestinians have to present themselves to the Police Station at Ras Al Amud, which is in East Jerusalem, for the return of their confiscated documents, to arrange a hearing for cancelled licenses and other matters. As is known, Ras Al Amud is part of Jerusalem, on the Western side of the separation barrier – situated where entrance is forbidden to residents of the occupied territories. Some of the fines for the violation of traffic laws must be paid only at an Israeli post office, the branches of which are in Israel or in the settlements, where Palestinians are forbidden entrance.
A comment regarding the white line at the Checkpoints, which is forbidden for us to cross even by one small step
“Settlers defaced Palestinian graves under the protection of the army.
Hundreds of settlers entered a village close to Nablus with protection of the army in order to pray. They destroyed graves, scrawled “Death to Arabs” and did a great deal of damage to property.”
The following is a description of the event in the Yesha (settlers') site:
“Yesterday, about 600 Jews came and ascended into the village of Awarta, opposite Horon Camp in Samaria. This is the biblical “Pinchas' Hill” from the book of Joshua – the place of burial of Elazar, son of Aharon the Priest and Itamar son of Aharon the Priest, and the cave of the 70 elders, their merits may protect us.
It is good to report on the welcome cooperation between the Religious Council of Samaria and groups who work for the holy sites in Samaria, the Association of “One Portion” [cf. Genesis 48,22] and “the Committee of those who dwell in Samaria”, which together with the Army brigade of Samaria did all that could be demanded from the security and organizational point of view in order to hold the prayers, organize access and maintain cleanliness. On behalf of all the associations active here and on behalf of all those who came to the event, the Chairman of the Religious Council of Samaria, Mr Dov Shapiro, paid personal respects to the brigade commander of Samaria –Colonel Amir Baram, the assistant brigade commander lieutenant colonel Yaron Frankel, the new operations commander captain Carmi Grabovski and the officers and soldiers of the Regiment 931 of the Nahal, and emphasized how much we value and honor their welcome cooperation.
It was heartwarming to see the crowds that came from near and far, from the faithful followers in the national religious, the ultra orthodox, the chassidic and the traditional public, all united in a special prayer taken from the book “Names of the Righteous”, since by the rights of all those Righteous … may you have mercy on us in your great mercy ... and visit us with salvation and mercy, Amen.