“…Four million Palestinians are under a horrific rule of fences, without any right, except the right of fear.” (Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz, 8.8.2007)
Jerusalem – Bethlehem, Love and Peace
On our arrival, scores of people – on foot and by buses – were already on their way to work, while others waited near the CP for transportation. Within two hours some1600 – 1800 people passed. From the 12 checking posts, five were open. While we were watching, the checking posts were not crowded, because at the initial phase, the one we cannot observe, the soldiers allow only few people to pass each time.
What is it that makes the sight so hard? It is not a matter of the “efficiency” of the checking, it is the basic humiliation that is ingrained in the system. It is humiliating that people aged forty, fifty and sixty, that all they want is earning their bread, should line up each morning for half an hour or one or two hours, and wait at the mercy of the youngsters -male and female - the age of their children, whose authority derives from their uniform and weapons, and they are authorised to open the CP at five oclock or at 5:30 and work efficiently or slowly.
It is humiliating that between the several queues that they have to go through, between the physical examination and the checking of the papers, they have to belts their girdles again, in front of everyone, male or female.
It is humiliating to line up in a crowded mass, in front of a glass booth, wherin the soldier sits comfortably with his food and drinks.
It is humiliating that there is no physical contact with the checking soldier. One has to pass the biometric or magnetic card through a slot and glue the permit on the window so that it can be read on the other side.
Then there is yet another humiliation. The soldier sits behind a fortified glass. Even if the people bang their fists with all their anger on the window, nothing will happen to the soldier. Yet, they will not let more than one man come towards the window. They will not allow the lined up people, crammed and impatient at the long checking procedures, to raise their voices. The security force, immediately have an urgent drive to impose order on the natives. It starts with yellings: “Everybody quiet now!” “Go back!” “Out of my sight!”,etc. Then the BP soldier pushes the people back with the barrel of his rifle. It ends with an educational punishment: “No one passes till everyone is inorder.” “He who does not understand, let one translate it to him in Arabic”. Today, order was kept, relatively. Therefore the educational punishment lasted not more than a few minutes.
The stream of people who pass the CP can mislead. One sees the passing thousands but does not see the many thousands who are inhibited. Since the improvised CP has been turned into an opaque inspecting post, one cannot plead anymore with the soldier to let through. Only people who mistakenly think that their permit is valid come to the CP. One man sat for an hour on the floor and waited till the soldier would examine his papers, because “something is not right”. Finally the soldier gave him his ID back with the verdict: “Go back to Bethlehem”. The man gave up, and without any further argument, despaired and went away. Another one could not understand how he passed through everyday, and today they decided that he had a fake document. Another one came. He was summoned to the court, because he was caught in Israel as an illegal alien. He claimed that he was told at the DCO that the summons suffices and that he would not need a tasrich. Apparantly, it was not enough and he had to return to the DCO. To the court for his trial due in a couple of hours, he will not arrive. A man came over with his little boy who needs treatment in the Muqased Hospital in East Jerusalem. He carries a valid working permit in Israel. He is not allowed to pass. His permit allows him to sell his workpower in Israel but not to bring his little boy to the hospital in East Jerusalem.
And what about the Orwellian language that enfolds the Bethlehem CP? This is the only CP where a lot of tourists pass, mostly Christian. Image is important. Thus, the depressing truth is hidden behind a signpost, showing the sacred places in Jerusalem and written: “Jerusalem – Bethlehem - Love and Peace”. (Bethlehem, 10.7)
Nothing dramatic occurs in the CPs in the north of the West Bank. The masses do not arrive and do not wait. They have no permits. There is no reason for to rise early, and waste time and money. The new terminal at Reihan-Barta’a comprises of 8 inspecting posts and at Jalame of 16 posts. Only one or two are open. No more are needed. Even if it is crowded, it usually is at the entrance gate from the Palestinian side or in the inner rooms, hidden from us, but not at the inspecting posts. (Jalame, 16.7)
A young man of 21 is ordered to lift his shirt and mutters under his breath, which so enrages the commander, that he orders him to repeat it five times. The young man raises his voice. Now, the commander and another soldier order him up the stairs behind the empty “humanitarian shack”. Meanwhile all inspections stop. People shout, to no avail. A short period afterwards the lad is taken into the pen. They bring him water and he refreshes his face. A call to the Humanitarian Center, but they do not answer. After he was released, we talked with him. He is a student from A-Najah University, 21 years old. He says that he was beaten and kicked with a butt of a rifle. (Beit Iba, 4.7)
After a taxi was inspected for about 10 minutes, the driver refused to lift his shirt. So, the soldier decided that this act of subordination calls for some special humiliation and ordered the driver to lift a cigarette butt. As he refused, the taxi was detained, but after a 15 minutes argument, the driver was convinced to apologise before the soldier and he was released. (Jit junction, 30.7)
At first we are surprised by the emptiness at the waiting shed of the DCO - there are four men and a woman who are waiting for the next group of people coming in to be treated in the DCO. An agitated person comes out of the DCO. He has an appointment with the American Consul at 13:00. Yesterday he came to arrange a permit. He had a form from the DCO on the Palestinina side. They had demanded from him, in addition to the letter from the Consulate, the receipt for a hundred dollars, payment for the consulate. But when he returned with the receipt, he was told that he arrived too late, and should come back the next day (today). Today he returned to the DCO but they demanded a new letter from the Palestinian DCO, for today. When he got pissed off they sent him back with two guards, out of the passage line. The man is Proffesor Abu Hillal, former Head of the Department for Improvement of Jerusalem, when Teddy Kolek was Mayor of the city and Meiron Benbenisti his deputy. A phone call to Elisha, and we learn that the letter from the Palestinian DCO is a mere formality and asks Prof. Hillal to call him when he returns to the DCO, for he will take care of the matter. Upon Prof. Hillal’s request, we wait till he returns twenty minutes later. But the two guards, lords of the checkpoint and the entrance to the DCO, are not impressed and will not let him enter, either because he had spoken with us (we got a cold shoulder from them this morning "for us you are like a wall, you don't exist"), or for any other reason. We phone Elisha again. He promises to send the commander of the checkpoint to take Prof. Hillal to the DCO. In the meanwhile, two more groups of people enter the DCO, but when Prof. Hillal gets to the entrance, Ali and Phadi send him outside of the line, without any explanations. A few more phone calls and nothing has happenned. At last a female soldier/policewoman named Ilana arrives, with a cigarette that she does not bother to remove from her lips, she scolds Prof. Hillal for the "Mashakel" (problems) he has created in the DCO. She refuses to let him in until he apoligizes, and this dignified man - friend of the late King Hussain, high official in the municipality of united Jerusalem – apologizes, he says that he wants to forget all that happened. A of the head from Ilana towards the guards, the turnstile turns, and Prof. Hillal enters the DCO. This will happen to the man who gets annoyed by the blind and humiliating beaurocracy of the checkpoints and the DCO's. To aggravate is a demographic obligation but to get aggravated is strictly forbidden. (Olive CP, 16.7)
For the Attention of the Humanitarian Center
At the CP of Shaked-Toura, a man who lives in Dahr El Malk, on the seamline, was not allowed to bring a plastic ventilator for his daughter, a resident of Toura. Obviously, a ventilator is not a necessity Palestinians need in the hot summerdays. (Shaked, 30.7)
At the Reihan-Barta’a CP we saw a man, carrying an injured man in his arms. He was hurt at his work in Barta’a – East. At the turnstile, the man was forced to make his way, jumping on one leg. He was not allowed to pass the CP in a taxi. We could not see further because of the concrete wall. The injured man and his friend took, after passing the CP, a taxi towards the Jenin hospital. (Reihan – Barta’a, 30.7)
We got a call, some kms from the CP, that thousands are waiting at the Hawarra CP, and that crossing the CP has come to a halt. Jeeps and reinforcement have arrived and the atmosphere is tense. The soldiers claim that there is a terrorist in the area. They rush from one side to the other, and push the people back till the stairs leading to the parking lot. A family with a child of about 6 years, with cerebral paralysis, arrives. The child sits in a carriage, paralysed, his body and face distorted. The child feels unwell and from time to time falls forward. I turn towards the CP commander and plead that he should let the child and his parents enter Nablus, but he doesn't pay attention to my pleas and refuses even to look at them. Half an hour later the child loses consciousness and his pulse becomes very slow. A paramedic takes care of him devotedly, takes him into the shade, until the child recovers. The child caresses the paramedic's face lovingly and giggles. But they don't allow him to pass. (Huwwara, 10.7)
This year, the forthcoming Jewish and Islamic holidays fall at the same time. It is the obligation of the Government of Israel to allow worshippers of every religion the same freedom of worship, that it demands for its own citizens.