Closure was imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories during most of this month - as it spanned Israel's Commemoration Day, Independence Day, the visit of American President Bush and so on and so forth: holidays and special days. Injustice at the checkpoints was meted out quite as usual.
Courtesy and good manners... An instruction has been posted ceremoniously at some of the (soldiers') posts: "No phoning for non-operational purposes, and that's an order!" In this spirit... the woman-soldier at checking post no. 7 was on the phone for no less than 35 minutes, and stopped only after the DCO representative agreed to ask her to stop. Shortly thereafter, he disappeared and the woman-soldier at post no. 1 got on the phone. We were not witness to the end of this conversation even as we left 30 minutes later. (Bethlehem, 20.5)
One checking post is closed of the three operating. The pedestrians crowd in two waiting lines. So far they have reported waiting for 30 minutes. From now on they'll have to wait longer. The MP women carry on their screeching and singing, and the male soldiers join with their roaring-signing, laugh their hearts out, and the Palestinians don't quite understand what this is all about. (Huwwara, 4.5)
Bethlehem Crossing - A friendly crossing - The children who needed to cross here were rejected on various pretexts following certain procedures which were concealed from us. One cannot win: holding a permit and an original birth certificate, one will be told the children are too old; if they are within the eligible age limits, and have a birth certificate first they were told this was for children under ten years of age, then they found out the limit was thirteen) they still will not be allowed through, as the adult accompanying them holds a 'work permit' only, or a 'trade permit', and after all, "they are not going to work with the children!" If the hold no original birth-certificate, merely a photocopy, nothing doing... The male and female soldiers manning both posts are very gruff, shout, disregard people. The woman soldier spends most of the time on the phone in spite of the sign hanging right above her head prohibiting use of the phone during "work" hours... A security guard runs around, shouting, forcing people into single file, refusing to let children in and not willing to listen to any Palestinian. Suddenly several tourist ladies arrive, wanting to go to Bethlehem. He stops the Palestinians in line waiting to get into Israel, and tells the tourists to cross. They wonder: "Why should we go first?" pointing to the Palestinians waiting on the other side. He replies: "Because you have passports and they don't". They cross, embarrassed, while the guard hisses: "We do them a favor and they complain!"
We request to speak with the checkpoint commander, who arrives and barks at us:
"You must not interfere, you are creating a disturbance. I don't want to talk to you, you violate procedures, I'll summon the police!"
- - "Perhaps you would explain to us what the procedures are regarding the children?"
- - "I mustn't disclose military information."
- - "Talking of procedures, no smoking is allowed in public places. Why are you smoking here?"
- - "That's my prerogative!"
(Bethlehem Checkpoint, 30.5)
A checkpoint has been removed, and lo! - there it is again -
A resident of Assira al Shamaliya village has called and reported that since this morning, a jeep with several soldiers has been standing about 200 meters away from Checkpoint 408. This checkpoint has been removed five days ago, supposedly "to relieve the Palestinians' life-fabric". Every car is stopped, passengers are required to disembark, men to lift their shirts and spin around, all car doors opened - all taking quite a while. Over 200 cars wait for about two hours. Our phone call to the DCO revealed they have not the slightest idea of the goings-on. They'll look into it. Half an hour later, a DCO soldier answers out call - surprised anew, and after an additional explanation, assures us: "We are still looking into it." 12:05: The DCO's answer: The checkpoint is there because PPs are expected to pass through (this is no spelling error, this is how the army calls Palestinian Policemen). We inquired why the passage of Palestinian policemen on a road connecting a Palestinian village and Nablus requires meticulous inspections. What harm are the Palestinians traveling to Nablus expected to inflict on them? DCO answer: Okay, we'll look into it again. At 13:08 - the checkpoint was dismantled and the soldiers left. (Huwwara, 3.5)
Water, water , what a joy! ... a water pipe-laying project is taking place in Beit Furik, financed by the European Union. One of the companies involved is "Shaham", a subsidiary of Mekorot, the Israeli National Water Co., based in Holon. The truck in question arrived from Holon with a Jerusalem blue ID-holding driver, collected the Palestinian engineer in Ramallah, (employee of the Palestinian office cooperating with Israeli organizations and the International Red Cross Committee). Obviously this is a wide-range humanitarian project. The truck had transferred wares worth about 170,000 NIS at the Awarta back-to-back goods checkpoint/terminal. On their way back the driver (apparently not aware of the national status of the road) suggested to go have a cup of coffee at Huwwara, for which they had to drive some 100 meters from Awarta to Huwwara CP on the road forbidden to Palestinians (not only Palestinian vehicle, any Palestinian - be it passenger, pedestrian, even to just cross it from one side to the other on foot. We have yet to see a winged case.). Let us not forget - the truck is Israeli, the driver holding an Israeli resident ID, and the engineer - alas - Palestinian.
Arriving at the roundabout by the Checkpoint, they were caught. Officer Paz: "The Palestinian stays. The truck can proceed."
It did not. The commander detained the Palestinian in the concrete cubicle, and at 17:00 also took the driver's ID - for parking his truck by the concrete ledges outside the checkpoint. The whole story with its international ramifications did not impress him one bit. The Palestinian was detained at 16:40...
At 18:15 the driver, the engineer and the truck were released. The shed emptied. We left. (Huwwara, 11.5)
Hebron Children - Last Saturday Jewish settlers complained about a Palestinian child who tried to stab a Jewish child near the "house of contention". Fifteen soldiers accompanied three Jewish settlers - two men and a woman - from door to door in the neighborhood, in an attempt to identify the suspect. In every house, they stood all children along the walls and searched them for knives! The settlers did not identify a single child, and after about six hours the search was terminated. (Hebron, 21.5.)
Little (Palestinian) children's school bags are inspected as they cross the checkpoint, some of them no older than seven, and they are required to remove belts and any other accessory that makes the metal-detectors bleep. (Hebron, 27-28.5)
**ATTENTION ARMY HUMANITARIAN HOTLINE:
Mohammad delivers milk to Nablus hospitals. On Maay 25th he applied to renew his entry permit into Nablus, about to expire on June 1st. Since then he has been reporting to the DCO in Qalqiliya daily, where he is always ordered to "come tomorrow". He has thus lost five work days and milk has not been delivered to the hospitals. The permit that Mohammad holds notes that he is assigned "to supply food within closure areas, on humanitarian and medical grounds". This has been confirmed by the Public Inquiries Officers at the Civil Administration. In the past, too, Mohammad has met bureaucratic obstacles whenever applying for renewing his permit and our intervention has been required for him to finally receive the necessary documents. Our appeals to DCO Qalqiliya have not solved the problem. Considering the urgency of the matter, on June 4th we requested the intervention of the Public Inquiries Officer at the Civil Administration. Complying with his request, we faxed him all the details of this case, and thus another day went by without milk for Nablus hospitals. Following this intervention, we were informed on Thursday June 5th that the permit will indeed be given to Mohammad, but only in five days' time, after the Shavuoth (Jewish) holiday, for "tomorrow is Friday, then Saturday, and then Sunday is holiday eve, and Monday is holiday". In the meantime Mohammad tried to get into Nablus on his delivery days through the various checkpoints surrounding the city - once at Huwwara, once in Beit Iba. When soldiers refused him passage, he called us, we called the DCO, and under directions from the Head of the DCO the milk was let through into town for the hospitals. On Tuesday, June 10th , after helping Mohammad yet again to get the milk through, he went back to DCO Qalqiliya (Eyal). There, he told us, he was informed that since he had complained and "been a trouble-maker", he must re-apply. Yet again we were called upon to intervene and demand of DCO Qalqiliya to do his duty. Finally Mohammad received the blessed permit, after hours of waiting. And for how long is this permit valid? Not a year, God forbid, not half a year: merely three months. And then, the wheels will presumably have to start rolling again. And this is called "relief for the Palestinians' fabric of life", and "making movement easier for the Palestinians". (Qalqiliya, 25.5)