MachsomWatch Alerts - September 2008 | Machsomwatch
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MachsomWatch Alerts - September 2008

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Wednesday, 22 October, 2008


Huwwara Checkpoint
"Instead of potatoes, they pile mountains on us..."

This Ramadan month was especially mean - it has been a long while since we've witnessed such hostile, aggressive conduct of soldiers towards Palestinians, clearly inspired by the checkpoint commander.

An elderly, elegant man tells us that he habitually cross the checkpoint through the special side line as befits his age. Today, however, the inspecting soldiers found a business card of... Machsomwatch in the cover of his ID. So they sent him to wait among the younger men in line! The commander, and soldiers like him keep chasing away any Palestinian daring to wait in the shade of the former detainee shed, shooing away loudly in a voice that resembles a dog's bark more than a human order. (Huwwara, 7.9)

Another day of Ramadan fasting in the suffocating heat. The Palestinians never stop arriving at the checkpoint. They are checked, held up, blocked, pushed back, humiliated. Three pedestrian checking posts - active. X-ray truck - active. Long, long waiting lines, very slow inspections, very stressed. The soldiers are tense, and their reactions keep fluctuating from fury to snide laughter. The special side line for women, children and the elderly stretches far beyond the shed, and moves extremely slowly. (Huwwara, 16.9)

A child leads an obviously blind woman along the vehicle checking lane. The soldiers brace themselves as they notice her. After making her wait for 10 minutes, the DCO representative lets them through. A man wielding a blind man's cane, arriving with his escort to the same vehicle checking lane, is made to go back to the side line and exits half an hour later. A man carrying a little girl whose legs are splayed wide in a plaster cast, crying and exhausted, have to wait by the concrete ledge until the mother returns from x-raying their luggage. Unbearably long negotiations with the soldiers, we are too far away to note details. There is a lot of 'action' during our shift: occasionally soldiers see someone 'leaking' out of the checkpoint and they chase him vigorously.

The first object of their chase was a retarded boy, and one of the soldiers (perhaps a MP) even fired a shot in the air. Immediately, 'life freeze' is declared in the checkpoint. Later, to officers and another MP arrive, apparently to look into what happened. In the next 'leaking' chases, no shots are fired. A MPwoman wonders: "Why life freeze? Because of a leaker? Come on, give me a break..."

A mother, speaking Arabic only, waits for her son. The MPwoman offers to call him from the line, but the commander prevents this: "Stand aside until he comes out", he tells her in perfect Hebrew.

Hours go by and the line does not end. More and more people arrive, wait, are blocked, evening comes, the fast is supposed to be broken but no - they are still stuck there. The soldiers laugh scornfully when we complain that a young man, limping on one leg, is sent with a dismissing gesture to go around and around to the turnstiles. (Huwwara, 14.9)

A vehicle is detained at the side of the road. In it are three elderly men who drove the road going to colonies Itamar and Elon More, an apartheid road for Jews only. They have already been detained for an hour and a half. In their car is food for the festive meal breaking the Ramadan fast. They are from Ramallah, did not know that this road is forbidden to them. They are familiar with the apartheid roads in their own area. But there is no sign here, so how could they tell? I call the army hotline. 40 minutes of calling again and again. Among other things, I was told that there I no such vehicle at the checkpoint. I give them the exact license plate number of the car and describe its exact location: on the lane of vehicles exiting Nablus, below the quarry. After a lengthy discussion and five phone calls I am told that in Ramadan, punitive detention has been shortened to one hour rather than three, and that they will be released soon. All this after a detention of over two hours! (Huwwara, 15.9)

At the taxi park we are approached by Suleiman from Jama'in who needs our help to locate a relative of his. The man had worked (without a permit) in Ganei Tiqva settlement, and was arrested by the police probably on Sunday. They do not know where he is held or what his fate is to be. Attempting to help him, we called the police. The officer said they provide such information only to family, at the Mesubim station (they are to get there from Jama'in! with no entry permits to Israel!)

Our attempt to contact the Nablus area DCO was fruitless as well. We were told that "this is not in our jurisdiction" and to try the army humanitarian hotline. The hotline person told us she has no way to help here: "We do not work with the Israeli civilian police, it's a case of illegal alien". We got back to Suleiman who said; 'Instead of giving us potatoes, they put mountains over our heads!" (Huwwara, 17.9)

An old blind man escorted by two six-year olds tries to get through the checkpoint on the paved vehicle lane. The soldier sends him back to stand at the end of the special side line. He begs, to no avail. ("Ordnung muss sein!") (Huwwara, 14.9)

The father of a detainee arrives, holding some dates in one hand, a water bottle in the other. He asks permission to give them to his son who has not yet broken his fast. The checkpoint commander refuses, and yells at the father to clear the checkpoint. He turns his back on the elderly man and struts off, showing who's boss. The father stands chided, waiting, holding the dates and water. He waits another 15 minutes, until the commander comes back, flashing a victory smile and announcing: "can't help you." An hour and a half, the young man will be released. (Huwwara, 18.9)

The checkpoint commander - for some reason - did not allow an elderly blind man to use the special side line. A young Palestinian trying to intervene on his behalf get pushed and hit by the commander. He is thrown, handcuffed, into the cubicle hold, with signs of beating on his face and above his hip. He says his bag has disappeared in the mayhem, a bag that contained a dowry, 11,000 NIS. To our request, the MPman inquired and announced that the bag is held by family members. But the young man came to the checkpoint alone! Actually, no one knows the bag's whereabouts.

The commander goes to speak to the detainee. He commands him to sit in the corner. The detainee tries to explain something to him - we couldn't hear clearly - and then the officer yelled at him: "Sit down. You're not listening to me! I'll fuck your mother if you don't listen!" Some minutes later the boy's wrists were released and he was led to the other side of the checkpoint, apparently to continue looking for the disappeared bag. Then he was returned to the hold and cuffed again. He was released three hours later, without the bag. (Huwwara, 22.9)

First day of the 3-day Eid al Fitr (grand holiday). It is a day traditionally devoted to visiting family. But the Nablus checkpoints are empty. Last year we saw families in their holiday best, children holding presents, on their way to visit. Checkpoints were crowded, women and children passing in the fast lanes and waiting for the men. But today they were empty. We asked a young man about this, who passed the checkpoint by himself, unaccompanied by his family. "It's because of the situation", he answered.

Just as we arrived, a young man was required to lean against the central checking post, facing the concrete ledge. A soldier kicks his legs apart. He paws his body 0- legs, crotch, belly. The soldiers laugh: "Look at him tremble..." The whole affair lasted a half a minute. The youngster's ID is returned to him and he gets on his way. (Huwwara, 30.9)