MachsomWatch Alerts - October 2008 | Machsomwatch
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MachsomWatch Alerts - October 2008

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Wednesday, 19 November, 2008

On Missing Education and Re-Education... Education (chinuch in Hebrew) as defined in Abraham Even Shoshan's New Hebrew Dictionary of 1993: the learning of habits, ways of thinking and coduct; developing manners and personal traits, character and spiritual traits. On kids, lies and IDF spokesperson...

Upon our arrival, we are greeted by a very anxious, very articulate father, describing out for us the following bit of surreal reality: Four seven-eight year old kids are being detained in the detainee pen at the checkpoint, he is not allowed to approach them, they have been caught by soldiers in a jeep and brought to the checkpoint for detention, as they were helping their neighbors pick olives in their olive grove near Beit Furiq village across the road. They have been in the pen for an hour now, the head of the village council is in the picture, the whole world is informed but nothing is moving.

We call the army "humanitarian" hotline, they promise to look into it. After ten minutes, we try again, the person we spoke to before is gone. We explain the scene to the new person who promises to look into it. We also report to our friend Noa, at home, who promises to call the DCO. Who in the meantime, we find out, is being approached by phone by other people from the village.

Time passes. In the meantime - in or out of context with the above - over one-hundred pedestrians are already crowded on the other side of the checkpoint, and a long long line of vehicles, all waiting to be inspected in order to be allowed to proceed from town home to their nearby village. The air is thick with tension.

Nothing new on the junior front. We call Raya who contacts journalist Nir Yahav who calls us and hears all the above from us directly. We call the army hotline again. This time, instead of a person, we get recorded music. Of the Jolly kind.

From the crowd beyond the checkpoint, louder and louder cries of impatience begin to emerge. In response, a very shrill siren is activated from the watch-shoot tower on the hill. For a long while. A terrifying noise.

On the phone front: the hotline responds to our next call as follows: "The detention is for security reasons. Their identities are being checked now. I am aware of their age. Had I thought their detention was ungrounded, I would act to set them free."

The little detainee community grows as a young and very agitated man is sent to the pen to learn the proper behavior in a crowded waiting line with his impatient neighbors.

Developments on the junior front: Two hours after the kids were first brought in.

the father is allowed to enter the pen and sit with them. Noa tells us on the phone that the DCO is on his way to the checkpoint. As she speaks, our eyes see the blessed sight of the father walking away from the pen, followed by the four kids, like four ducklings, shivering with cold (the soldiers did not allow anyone to bring them warmer clothes) but mighty proud of themselves. Home free.

Epilogue: Nir Yahav, the journalist who spoke to us in "real time", called the IDF spokesperson and received the following response: "These were three youngsters who threw stones towards Israeli vehicles traveling on the road next to Beit Furiq. They were held at the checkpoint until the Israeli civilian police arrived, at which time they were turned over to police procedures."

I repeat what my own eyes saw at the Beit Furiq Checkpoint: four children, ages 7-8, were brought by soldiers to the checkpoint and were detained there for two hours, unaccompanied inside the pen. Not youngsters. Not police. No procedures.

Seven-eight years old. (from their looks, I'd even say they were six years old). (Beit Furik, 19.10)

A young Palestinian man did not understand a soldier. Simple lack of understanding - he did not stand at the right spot, or did not raise the right foot. So this soldier suddenly jumps at him with his pointed gun and shows him what it means not to understand what he's being told. The Palestinian, amazed at the intensity of the reaction, raises his hands, saying "Alright, alright." These were soldiers of the educating type. Palestinians know that when they arrive at the checkpoint, they are supposed to stop about twenty meters away from the soldier, at some existing or imaginary line, receive permission in the form of a slight hand or finger signal, and only then approach the soldier.

Palestinian citizens of Israel ('Israeli Arabs' in common Jewish Israeli terminology), who after all live in some sort of democracy, approached the soldier at he checkpoint without waiting at any line. "Have you no manners?" the soldier wonders. "Can't you wait until I signal you? Now get back and wait until I do." The Israeli has no choice but to retreat and wait for the signal. The soldier signals him, and he approaches again. "Say, are you bored?" the Israeli asks the soldier and does not realize he is now in a different planet than the one he is familiar with. "You don't really want to see me when I am bored" says the soldier, who cannot for the life of him understand how an Arab at his mercy dare speak to him like this. (Huwwara, 1.10)

50-100 men lined up for inspection. The soldiers keep yelling at them to "get back!!"

A young man in the line wears a white cap. The soldiers take it from him and play around with it, put it on their heads, then on their helmets. Laugh. Finally - hand it back to him. (Huwwara, 14.10)

At the top of the checkpoint watchtower, a soldier singing - blaring - "Death to the Arabs!" while waving his arms like a conductor. The checkpoint commander stands at the foot of the tower and says nothing to the singing soldier. (Huwwara, 2.10)

As our tasks were done, the evening breeze blew and the sun touched down upon the horizon, two girls walked with me and told me how hard it was to study when anxiety hits - suddenly they looked at the house that had been taken over by the army and said to me: "Look, there are soldiers dancing on the roof." Three figures were indeed busy making strange movements on the roof, and their loud voices were singing what I recognized as "The People of Israel". Unfortunately, by the time I got my video camerainfo-icon out, they were gone like a nightmare. (Husan, 26.10)

The taxi park was empty, very few pedestrians coming or going. Which did not keep the woman-soldier from practicing her loudest "Come on!" and "Get going!" Fortunately we were there to ask her how she would feel if she had been yelled at like that. She said she didn't realize she was shouting, and she only does them a favor by raising her voice, otherwise they wouldn't hear her. Then she called out to them more gently and did not fail to add "Please", immediately giving us a triumphant look as if saying - see? I do learn. (Huwwara, 1.10)

Many people crowd in the lines waiting to proceed from Nablus on to various destinations in the West Bank. The lines move slowly, not because inspection is meticulous, but because of the 'order' drills practiced upon the people waitingin line. Anytime anyone of the hundreds waiting disobeys the orderly conduct instructions - does not keep quiet, sits on the concrete ledge separating the lines, pushes, laughs... - the soldiers halt everything for minutes on end, sometimes even 10 whole minutes at a time.

Two soldiers stand beyond the turnstiles, in direct contact with the people waiting in lines, and physically push them away from the turnstiles, yelling "get back". Violent confrontation is constant, and once in a while Palestinians break out in protest shouts and yell "God is great!" (Huwwara, 23.10)