MachsomWatch Alerts - March 2008 | Machsomwatch
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MachsomWatch Alerts - March 2008

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Thursday, 17 April, 2008

 

This alert is dedicated to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who while addressing a brigade commanders' meeting last week, asked them to "think about the Palestinians having to strip at the checkpoints. This might become a bubbling cauldron that will suddenly explode and inflict terrible burns, and t can be something else - depending entirely upon your own judgment and your ability to act wisely and with determination." Come, Mr. Prime Minister, take a look at what really goes on at the checkpoints.

"Madison Road" - who knows what that is?

"Madison Road" ? I know where that is...

 

16:00 On the roadside just outside the checkpoint compound, 7 vehicles are parked, their drivers and passengers standing by them in a stalled stance that speaks volumes.

There are 2 refrigerated trucks, one truck carrying oxygen tanks, another empty truck, a van carrying medication with the Red Crescent emblem, a private vehicle whose owner is a physician from Huwwara village. DCO Captain A. (of the Civil Administration) arrives within 10 minutes, and before we even begin to ask questions, announces that he knows all the cases! They all traveled "Madison road", breaking the law. We ask, if there is a law forbidding Palestinians to travel this road, why is there no road sign explicitly stating this for all to see?? "That's right", he answers. And why do the soldiers who catch them not prevent them from getting on that road? "You go and stand over there!" he answers us. The drivers get on the road, are detected by the army but caught only at the end of the forbidden road. Then he informs us (repeatedly) that they (the Palestinian drivers) are all 'fucking our minds' (maybe he means us too) and releases the truck carrying the oxygen tanks. "There's the law that the brigade commander has set, he's the one who decides and they know it. Let's go and ask them, one by one"...Then he releases the doctor. "Just for your sake. If he's a doctor he is intelligent and he is still living in Huwwara so he should know where he is permitted to drive and where he isn't".

We said that sometimes people are in a hurry, or tired, and the alternative road for Palestinians is long winding and potholed and it is only human to choose the shorter, smoother road since "the law" is not legal, thus the violation is no violation. And what about the medication carrier? "He is a conniving liar, I know him." After a while he too is released. All the others are kept waiting until 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 'do their time' of punishment. The soldiers kept their eyes on the watch and stuck to the letter of every second... (Huwwara, 2.3)

We noticed hands waving to us from a concrete cubicle at the side of the checkpoint. We approached and discovered a doorless concrete hold  containing 14 (!) youngsters, all students who were detained 3 hours earlier while trying to cross the "Madison Route on foot en route to Awarta (probably in the attempt to spare themselves the Huwwara checkpoint). The camaraderie of 14 youngsters might have relieved the waiting, but because of the crowded conditions a few of them "leaked" out over the concrete ledge between them and freedom. The checkpoint commander kept warning them to get back into the hold. Suddenly he ran up to us and demanded we give him a ride to chase 6 Palestinians that were observed by him crossing the same road. We were stunned and, of course, refused: "We should take you in our car to catch Palestinians??" He was cross with us, for they - as he put it - are walking straight from "Madison Route" (connecting Nablus and Awarta) to Tel Aviv...

The commander came to release the youngsters, but keeps the four who were outside the cubicle detained. However, he does not remember which these were. He tries to pressure the Palestinians into turning the culprits in, but all are united in solidarity and ready to remain in detention and not turning the "violators". Finally he chooses whom he'll detain further, and releases all the rest after lecturing them in English (first he asked us to translate into Arabic, but we instantly forgot the little Arabic we know). The youngsters first refused to leave without their mate, but when they realized the commander couldn't care less if they stay, they turned to go. Our pleas were of no help. The commander refused to release the single detainee. He said the fellow would suffer on our account, and we thought that perhaps our presence makes him hold this detainee longer (this proved to be wrong, he kept him there for another hour and a quarter after we left). They were all directed back to Nablus, let them now proceed through the checkpoint, meaning another hour's delay at least. (Awarta, 6.4)

Leaving Awarta at the "Madison" junction, soldiers are putting up a spike road barrier to catch the 'violators' that will be driving from Beit Furiq and Beit Dajam on this hallowed colonist road.

We reached the Awarta Checkpoint, now closed down, at 18:45. The soldiers stay cozy in the watchtower, and a single car with four Palestinian men stands waiting idly to be released. They tell us they were detained at 4:30 p.m. As we arrive, a blinding spotlight is switched on in our eyes, and then the soldiers approach us. The commander says the men are detained since 5:10 p.m. There is no meaning to these discrepancies - they were caught near Huwwara at 4:30 p.m. and brought to Awarta at 5:10 p.m., everyone's right... But from the moment the CP commander receives the 'goods' he may hold on to them for three hours by the clock and that's exactly what he intends to do. These passengers, too, are from Ramallah and unfamiliar with the 'rules' and bans in the Nablus area. We called the DCO about them, and asked the soldiers why no one puts up a road sign so Palestinians would know they are forbidden to travel this road, and thus spare the trouble to punish them for something they do not know. This idea produced an outraged response from the CP commander: "That would be such a racist road-sign!!" He also claimed that "the Palestinians spin you like a corkscrew. They're not from Ramallah, they're from here, this village, I know him." And to show us how good he is, he said about the passengers, indeed from Ramallah, that "They were okay, they didn't make trouble for me so I let them sit in their car and not in the detention cubicle". Any one of those four detaineesinfo-icon could easily have been father to these soldiers, age-wise. (Awarta, 15.3)

"Madison Route" - in Israeli army jargon - is road no. 557 that branches off road no. 60 south of Nablus and leads eastwards to the Jewish colony of Itamar, the Palestinian villages Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan, and ends in the Jewish colony of Alon More.

No Palestinian traffic is permitted along this road, neither vehicular nor pedestrian - neither on it nor alongside it, for the supposed "security" of the Jewish colonists.

The Palestinian villagers here wishing to travel south to Ramallah, Bethlehem or Hebron, for example, must go north through Beit Furiq Checkpoint into Nablus, cross the city westwards, and exit southbound through the Huwwara Checkpoint. This entails three hours of traveling on the average (including the waiting in two checkpoints), instead of a several-minute drive.

Among the barriers mentioned as "removed" by the defense authorities lately, appears one that is located on "Madison Route" itself. We have been driving along this route for years daily, and have never witnessed this "mysterious" barrier. Where was it? From where has it been removed?? Anyone?