Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 7.5.07, Afternoon
Nur B, Meirav A (reporting)
Perhaps it was the heat that suddenly descended in mid May, or an order from high up, but they tried to drive us away from every checkpoint that we visited.
13:30 - 14:10 Zaatra Checkpoint
Thin vehicular traffic in both directions. No restrictions on movement. One taxi detained from the north. The checkpoint commander says that "something about the driver’s documents raised suspicions," but was not willing to add more. One car is also detained from the west. The soldiers stopped him because there were no number plates. The owner argued that the car is new and that’s why there are no plates. The soldiers summoned the police.
At the checkpoint from the north, one passenger is removed and detained. At this stage the checkpoint commander is already not talking to us, so we have no details as to why he was detained. The soldiers lead him to the concrete partitions under the watchtower, and one soldier guards him. We film the happening and, in our honour, they bring him a chair. The soldier’s Hummer tries all the time to block our view of the detainee. When they don’t succeed, they move him into the inspection post. At least now he is sitting in the shade.
The checkpoint commander is busy all the time pushing us back from the checkpoint and preventing us from photographing. Suddenly a bunch of settler youths appear from the hitchhiking station and hit on us, trying to interfere with the photography and mouthing curses (Naziis, Arab lovers, terror supporters, ungrateful, etc...). The commander tells them that it’s not worth their while to be violent as they are likely to mess up, so they just cling to us, spewing their racist theories and trying to interfere with the photographs. Seems that only our presence interferes with the functioning of the soldiers, because the settlers circulate freely all over the checkpoint.
14:20 We enter Beita
The morning shift reported to us that there were again problems with the Border Police in the marketplace. The workers in the market tell us that at 06:00 soldiers appeared, closed the market, tipped over produce and did not let the market resume until 10:00. The vendors complain that in the heat of the day the produce remained in the sun and lost value, causing them severe losses.
14:25 – we stopped at a house where they had exercised the "grass widow" procedure in Huwarra. The flag is still there. The tenants tell us that the soldiers come almost every day, stay a few hours then leave.
14:55 Beit Furik
There is no electricity so all thechecks are done on the roadway. Everyone stands under the hot sun. There is a line of a few score people. When we arrive, the soldiers stop the check and inform us that we are interfering, and try to drive us out of the area of the checkpoint. They argue that since they have to protect us, they cannot work. There is a relatively large number of soldiers in addition to the ones on the checkpoint: there is a Hummer with soldiers who we will encounter later. We back off a little, and the checking resumes.
A Transit driver complains that while he was being checked at the exit from Nablus, a Hummer drove up and hit him. We photograph the damage to his vehicle. While we are talking, the Hummer that was at Beit Furiq appears. The driver says that it is the one that hit him, and he points out the marks on the Hummer that match the damage to the Transit. We take the number of the vehicle. The soldiers deny vehemently, and are very aggressive to the driver, his passenger and us. Finally they tell the driver that he can complain to the DCO.
15:30 - 18:00 Huwwara Checkpoint
Thin traffic both ways. Almost no pedestrians or vehicles. There is a DCO representative, a checking machine and a dog minder who from time to time checks vehicles in the line exiting Nablus. When we arrive there are three checking stations: at a certain point one closes. At one of the remaining two, the checker is a woman soldier.
Our camera bothers the dog minder even though we are nowhere near her. The inspection of outgoing vehicles stops because she is not prepared to check until we promise not to photograph her. We do promise and she goes back to checking.
Again they try to drive us away from the checkpoint. A Military Police officer tells us that it is forbidden to stand in the huts (where the checking stations once were), because it interferes with the soldiers. We don’t listen to him and he threatens to call the police, but ultimately they do not come. At a certain point I cross the white line to call the DCO representative, and one of the soldiers jumps in front of me and pushes me violently back behind the line. Nur says to him that he is lucky that he didn’t do it to her, and he responds: "Don’t worry, I won’t touch you – I don’t want to dirty my hands."
A twenty year old Palestinian is standing in the checkpoint documenting events. He tells us that it is a private initiative, but to the soldiers he says he belongs to MachsomWatch. At some stage the DCO representative is uncomfortable with him standing there. The soldiers confiscate his notebook, and the DCO rep phones his superiors, saying that it is "before war intelligence." We tried to show him how idiotic that is, since there are no military secrets here – every Palestinian knows how the checkpoints works. But it does not help. The youngster is taken to isolation and transferred to the brigade. His notebook is translated by one of the soldiers, and the DCO rep argues that there are political statements in it: among the writings, there do not need to be checkpoints, and this area should be under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and all this troubles the DCO to the depth of his soul and proves to him that he was right – this boy represents a security threat. He was still in isolation when we left.[L]