The Minister for Tourism ordered the opening of a special colorful passage, intended for tourists only, at the "Rachel Passage", instead of the grey existing passage. (Kol Israel 8.11). The sight of hundreds of Palestinians, having to line up for hours and suffer humiliating inspections, on a daily basis, does not add to the touristy image of Israel in the world!
Although it is early in the afternoon, some 200 people are lining up in two lanes at the Rachel Passage (Bethlehem CP). Three of the twelve inspection posts in the hall are functioning. We ask to open the other posts and are answered that the computers are not responding and therefore it is impossible to open the other posts. More and more people crowd outside. Every few minutes some 20 people are let in. A wave of people push and are pushed back, as they press forward in their effort to get home after a day of hard labor. The two orderly lanes vanish completely, and the security personnel shut one of the doors, and call the police. The policemen press the people back, and are almost trampled down. People cannot exit from Bethlehem towards Jerusalem, neither entering. Total jam. The police called the computer center and warn that unless something is done, "measures will be taken in a quarter of an hour". They threaten the Palestinians that "no one will enter if they push. From our point, let the disaster occur outside. Inside - it is forbidden. Here it is the responsibility of the commander of the area". ... The police lets the security people open the door and 150 people enter. The pushing is enormous. People fall, loose cards. The entrance is closed again. There is less pressure, and the 150 people remain in the hall. The police are nervous and yell. They order the soldiers to inspect "as quickly as possible". They try to calm the situation without success. Finally, after an hour, the computers start to work, and the path to the hall is empty. Now 50 people are inside the hall and the soldiers order the people to arrange lines. The police orders to open four posts till 6 a.m. What will happen soon as winter approaches and people will stand outside in the cold and rain? (Bethlehem, 18.10)
The Minister of Defence declared that 24 CPs would be dismantled in the West Bank, and that further dismantling would be considered. The military gave OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) a list of 33 barriers that had been dismantled. We went on the 12th November to see for ourselves. Here are our findings: 9 of the barriers that the military claimed that had been dismantled, are still there; 10 barriers on the list have never existed; 8 barriers had been dismantled months ago; 2 of the list we were not able to check; 4 have been actually dismantled lately and 3 new ones have been added - a dirt mound near Huwwara school, CP408 (Shavei Shomron) north of Nablus, and the main exit from Sebastia.
Here are some of the orders that a soldier barked at a hapless student, who stood unfortunately in the first row after the "educational lesson". He had to perform appropriate passing through the CP: "Now come here. What do you have in your pocket? Everything out! Out! Don't play it innocent to me. Hands, feet, the other side. Good. Go back. Pass (through the magnometer). They understand perfectly Hebrew". All this the soldier barks, spits in short, measured orders. The student exits the turnstile, utterly humiliated, remarks to us: "What are we, animals?" (Huwwara, 29.10)
Thousand and One Nights
At 19:30 A. arrived at the Huwwara CP. He arrived with his pregnant wife and his baby daughter and handed over his car crossing permit to the soldier. He was denied entrance with his car, because he arrived too late and the entrance for cars was already closed, for half an hour. He explained to the soldier that he arrived late because he was delayed for a long period at the Zaatra CP. The car crossing permit he showed did not convince the soldier: "Here it does not hold". 4 more cars arrived and the passengers of the cars were also not allowed to pass. Two of the drivers tried to argue with the soldiers only to be pushed back to a nearby parking lot and hit with the butts of the rifles. They called the DCO for help and the CP commander responded: "It won't help you. You will not pass". "As far as I am concerned they can die" the soldier added, when we showed him that a pregnant woman and her baby are in the car.
We called scores of times the Military Humanitarian Centers and were promised to look into the problem. The soldiers on their part kept claiming that no one was waiting at the CP. From the DCO we got an answer that they cannot send an officer because they finished their shift at the CP around 5-6. All they could do was to ask the brigade to let them pass, not more. Also, in a short while everyone will pass, and anyway there is no one at the CP. Yes, he knows A., he is a regular troublemaker (namely, comes half an hour late after being delayed at another CP). We thought that A. might convince the DCO, but to no avail. "You came late and therefore you will have to wait till 02:00 a.m. which eventually happened. To us he said: "They have to be taught a lesson, otherwise they will do it again and again and we have enough work as it is".
All the phone calls we made to the commanders and their deputies remained unanswered. It was late and they were asleep in their homes.
At 24:25 we woke D.B. up; she promised to help being convinced that the soldiers lied about there being no one at the CP.
At 01:10 A.'s wife decided to take her baby girl and go on foot towards her home, hoping that some family member will pick her up on the other side of the CP. A. did not dare to leave his car at the parking lot, fearing that settlers might set it on fire or that it would be stolen. Other drivers did the same.
At 01:20 we talked again with the DCO. The soldier on duty, whose base is located 3 minutes far from the CP, repeated what the soldiers told him, that there is no one at the CP. We kept complaining for six and a half hours, phoning scores of times, and it did not occur to anyone to send someone to check.
At last at 01:40 the order came to release the people, not before they had their additional harassment game, of checking the cars meticulously, ordering the lorry driver to dismantle the cabin, looking under each chair and at last sending them on their way with a "fuck you" . (Huwwara, the night between 4 and 5 October).
At 20:44 M. called. He is sick and needs a liver transplant. He told the soldiers that he had to arrive urgently at the Nablus hospital for an injection. He has a humanitarian permit to enter Nablus with the taxi, which he owns. As the closest CP to his village, Beit Iba, closes at 20:00, he had to drive to the far away Huwwara CP. There the soldier told him that he could not enter Nablus because he arrived after 19:00, the closing hour of the CP. "You will stay here the whole night" said the soldier. All the medical documents that he showed the soldiers were to no avail. M. called the Nablus DCO directly, and half an hour later the order came to let him through. (Huwwara, 5.10)
These are a few incidents of the last month at the checkpoints in the occupied territories.