MachsomWatch Alert - July 2008 | Machsomwatch
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MachsomWatch Alert - July 2008

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Tuesday, 16 September, 2008


The state of Israel has privatized the management of the checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel and handed it over to private security companies. One of these terminals is that of the Bethlehem checkpoint (Rachel's Terminal). As of late we have been witnessing a severe worsening of the passage conditions for the Palestinians at this checkpoint. For weeks we have been receiving complaints every morning as to the terrible crushing, created there and the fact that people are losing their jobs because of daily tardiness. The pressure is such that Palestinians have been transferred to hospitals with broken ribs and breathing difficulties.  


According to the publications of the Ministry of Defense, the checkpoint is open 24 hours a day, but that is not so for the Palestinians. For them it opens at 5 am. 3000 people pass there every morning, most of them laborers on their way to work. The entrance to the building is through a narrow passage between the Separation Wall and the metal fence.  Lately a wavy tin cover has been added to the passage in order to prevent circumvention of the queue by jumping over the fence. The pressure has caused an opening in the fence and now there a new problem - people get hurt by the cracked fence.


All those entering the installation actually go through two phases: phase 1, which is not visable to the eyes of our watchers, takes about an hour and a half. Phase 2, which we are able to observe, takes approximately 20 minutes. There are 12 checking posts on the Israeli side. Only 6 are equipped with computers. 2 of those also have a biometric identification device. The private security guards, who are in charge of organizing the lines, try to squeeze into these posts as many people as they can, thus causing additional delay. Is the biometric identification really necessary?

The palm imprint of manual laborers fades from time to time. It is not to possible to renew the imprints at the checkpoints so they are referred to the DCL. Such a simple operation can deny the laborers days of work. Is it likely that in the 21st century there is no way to solve the problem at the checkpoint itself?

Various organs operate at the Bethlehem checkpoint: the Israeli Police, the Military Police, the Border Police and "Ari", the private security company winning the bid to manage the place. Ever so often, the behavior is rude, harsh, and violent alongside screaming. The male and female soldiers converse on the phone during their shifts, and "Ari" employees smoke in the installation contrary to explicit prohibitions. Pace of work is poor accordingly.

Halting passage as "punishment" is forbidden by military procedures. However, when the people in the queue are not standing quietly in a straight line, when a Palestinian complains or smokes - passage is on hold as part of collective punishment.


Technical mishaps are frequent: "the computer is down", "the file checking machine is out of order", "one of the metal detectors doesn't work". There are no alternative solutions for these incidents even though it is the livelihood of hard working people that is at stake. (Bethlehem, 13.7).



"The most difficult part of a day's work consisting of eight hours in the heat, is the delay in the queue at the checkpoint"... (Bethlehem, 10.7).



Etzion DCL



Two years ago, when the renovations of the DCL were over, magnetic cards were distributed and all at once the validity of all of them has now expired. The consequence is that as of late there is an unbearable pressure at the DCL, culminating at times in brawls outside the turnstiles at the entrance to the office. Furthermore, it turns out that concessions are made even for magnetic cards seekers who are refused for security reasons, the result being more people in line. However, these magnetic cards are of little value since magnetic cards do not automatically insure gaining  work permits. (Bethlehem, 6.7).



People wait in line for a whole day, only to be told at its end that they have to come back.  According to a new Civil Administration's order, residents of certain towns and villages are assigned a specific day every week. Whoever has not been able to enter the office on the certain day will be able to return only a week from then so as to stand in line again.



Several people were waiting for the opening of the DCL. Someone turns to us angrily: This is the fourth morning in a row that he comes here and is not able to go in. The commander of the DCL adamantly refuses to take notice of the list of names the Palestinians prepare so as to distribute numbers, as was the custom, and the result is that the moment the DCL is opened, everyone pushes forward and only the strongest manage to go in. In answer to our question, the commander explains that those are his orders. Otherwise, he says, he goes out in the middle of the night again and again to send away the Palestinians waiting in the parking lot for the DCL to open at 8 am. That's the way they will learn, he says, not to come too early. One more effort of the army to educate the Palestinians a little (Bethlehem, 22.7).



Kharbata checkpoint (Maccabim-Reut)



Hundreds of Palestinian laborers are risking their lives when they need to cross the heavy traffic 443  road on the way to Maccbim-Reut checkpoint, a road there is no other way to cross. At this point, on the other side of the street, traffic policemen await them, giving them tickets for hazardous crossing of the road



The spokesman of the police traffic department, Superintendent Doron Ben-Amo, explains that "Only in the state of Israel prevails the culture of unlawful crossing of highways. These days, when a third f the people killed in motor accidents are pedestrians, traffic policemen are instructed to enforce the law more vigorously. As for the specific location, admittedly there is a problem for the Palestinian workers on their daily way to work. The state or the army have to find an appropriate infrastructure solution to the problem. We, the enforcers of traffic laws, bear the responsibility of seeing to it that people will not risk their lives crossing the street".