MachsomWatch Alerts - December 2011 | Machsomwatch
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MachsomWatch Alerts - December 2011

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Sunday, 25 December, 2011

Everyday life in the Occupied Territories

A ten-year old boy crosses the bustling crowded checkpoint at Qalandiya all by himself day by day, on his way to school. He’s a bit scared but has no choice, there is no other way to get to school. Today’s a special day. He has received a new pair of jeans. Suddenly, as he gets to the checking post, all hell breaks loose. All the red lights turn on and everything bleeps. The soldiers are on “terrorist alert” procedure, leaping at the child with their weapons pointed. The child weeps, terrified. Don’t Palestinian parents know they mustn’t buy their child a pair of pants decorated with metal buttons?

We have been warning about the banality of evil for years now, the “negligible” events that make everyday life impossible for the Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation. Most Israelis are blind to the goings-on in the Occupied Territories, nor do they wish to know. The authorities are conscious of the goings-on in the West Bank but are not interested in changing their policy and instating any relief – they are indifferent to the suffering of the other although their official duty is indeed to enable proper life for the population living under occupation.

Who cares?

Workers begin their workday at 7 a.m. Tardiness is recorded, wages are consequently reduced according to the number of hours missed. Uncertain of the amount of time needed for passage, the workers reach the checkpoints very early in the morning. The pressure reaches its highest around 5-7 a.m. but the changing of the guards disrupts procedures and has been set at 6 a.m. – why?? Because the army does not know how to divide up shifts other than into units of 4 or 8 hours?!

When we arrived at 6 a.m. from the parking lot we could already hear angry voices rising from the waiting area. There was tension in the air, people were climbing up over turnstiles, a crowd was waiting by the humanitarian gate. Our colleagues, the Ecumenical Accompaniers, present at the site since 4:30 a.m., told us that tension mounted before the changing of the guards at 6 a.m. The woman soldier responsible for opening the turnstiles was asleep most of the time, and when she woke up occasionally to open them, she let only a small number of people through. Only 3 out of the 5 “sleeves” (checking passages) were opened at 6 a.m. The rest opened only towards 6:30 a.m. Even after the shift change, a small number of people waiting (around 25-30) were allowed to cross at a time, and waiting for every opening lasted no less than 10 minutes.  When the humanitarian gate was opened at 6:20, many men were pushed towards the gate in an attempt to force their way in. We realized that, unlike the usual routine, the officers allowed everyone through today, regardless of age.  Later they got back to their usual procedures and checked the age of passers, taking away permits from men who were not eligible to use the humanitarian gate.
(Confiscating IDs, even for a short while, is against the law, says a regional general’s edict !)  (Qalandiya, December 13th, 2011)

Ambulance passage
An ambulance waits on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint, at the edge of the north roundabout. In the ambulance sits a Gazan woman, a cancer patient. She has been hospitalized at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, taken to Ramallah for radiation treatment, and is on her way back to Jerusalem. The driver reported he has been waiting for an hour and a half at the roundabout, because the soldiers claim his passage has not been coordinated with the Israeli authorities. The driver insists that it has been coordinated and that he would not have made the journey without it. In the meantime, another ambulance arrives and continues through into the checkpoint. We thought he would be turned back as we;, no, he was not. After a brief check he was allowed to proceed south. We called the war-room for the third time, asking to let the ambulance through with the Gazan patient. A very polite soldier said he was trying his best to help, and did not mention any difficulty with coordination. We called the ‘terminals’ unit. A woman soldier answered that she was just taking care of this issue and would affirm passage for the ambulance shortly. At 4:15 the ambulance was called to proceed to the checkpoint at long last. After a 10-minute inspection it was allowed through to the parking lot on the Israeli side, where the woman was transferred to a Jerusalem ambulance. ] (Qalandiya, December 12th, 2011)

Checkpoint innovation
6:25 – After months of our protesting the lack of shelter from the rain and sun for people waiting in line, a huge tent has been stretched above the checking posts. But only there… while nothing protects the area where the Palestinian have to stand waiting. The line is long and drivers say they wait for an hour for the workers they are to transport. Reserves soldiers and an officer are present, but they do nothing to shorten the waiting period by adding another soldier to the manual registration. They claim it’s no big deal for the workers to wait in line, they have to wait for their transport later anyway… (Azzun Atma, )December 8th, 2011

Merrily walking to school
Today the registration of names is meticulous and the waiting line grows and grows. 25 people have been checked including children, and procedures are very slow for a small checkpoint where a limited number of people need to cross, all familiar to the checkpoint shifts. Children are inspected as well. We notice a little child wiping his tears. He has been turned back, with his school bag. He is 10-years old, from Sheikh Sa’ed, has a printed certificate from the Jabl Mukabar school, but he forgot his birth certificate at home. In the meantime, another three children return who had been turned back: a 12-year old girl with a school card and birth certificate, same for a 13-year old boy, and a friend of his, 12-years old, whose two parents are Jerusalemites living in Armon Hanatziv. He has slept over at his grandmother’s in Sheikh Sa’ed and has no birth certificate on him nor school card. They all are prevented from getting to school today. Time passes, and in spite of our pleas, the soldiers do not relent and do not let the children through to avoid being late to school. In the meantime, the Jabl Mukabar high school principal has arrived at the checkpoint and asks the soldiers to let him take with him the child who had slept over at his grandmother’s: he is the child’s uncle and testifies that the parents live in Jerusalem and the child studies at Jabl Mukabar. A heated dispute ensues, and the soldiers are adamant: “How can a child be allowed through without papers? Anyone can come along and say he’s his uncle or grandfather…” (Sheikh Sa’ed, December 13th, 2001)

Law Enforcement
It’s a glorious winter day. The rain has already come and the fields are green. The ground is ripe and only waits for the plough, the seeds and the planters. But not in Wadi al Rasha. The court has ruled to move the Wall, and now “the situation has to be reversed”, but this is perceived differently by different people. We expected to see ploughed fields and happy farmers tending them. What did we find? The Wall has indeed been taken down and the road destroyed. And all this rubble was ground to dust and spread over the farmland. The court ruling was respected, but as is wont with the Occupation authorities, enforced in a way that makes the farming plots unfarmable. All rubble.  
Interesting what the honored judges would say about the interpretation of their ruling.
(Wadi Al-Rasha, December 13th, 2001)

It has been twelve years now, since we began to monitor these sights regularly: we are not indifferent, now shall we cease to sound the alarm.