The Palestinians’ Lost Time | Machsomwatch
אורנית, מהצד הזה של הגדר

The Palestinians’ Lost Time

Time is a matter of awareness more than a product of the chronological order that exists in nature or in society. 

(Dr. Amal Jamal, Head of the Faculty of Political Science, Tel Aviv University)

Time is a resource that Man has created, tamed, and mastered.  People divide time into segments and direct and define their world according to time.  The hands of time are in constant motion and cannot be moved backwards.  Stolen time cannot be returned, and punishment or finesinfo-icon will not return lost time. 

Can children be compensated for having to grow up without a father who was taken from their home? 

Can a person be given back his or her lost childhood?

Is there any compensation for arbitrarily being delayed for hours on the way to an important exam at the university?

Can a person be brought back to life who died in an ambulance that was held up for hours because of suspicion regarding the validity of a piece of paper?

The occupation has created a sophisticated and complex system of stealing time -that belongs to individual Palestinians and to Palestinian society as a whole.  When the day comes when the separation wall will be taken down and the agricultural gatesinfo-icon are opened, when the settlers will be returned to the area within the borders of Israel proper and Palestinian land will be returned to its owners: the lost resource of time will be returned to its owners as well.

The bits of information revealed in Machsom Watch reports are evidence of the time that Palestinians lose each day when they leave their homes for any destination and return again.

Bethlehem Checkpoint (The Palestinian Side) 10.11.08
We parked the car and walked through the food market that has sprung up next to the crossing point that leads to the opening in the separation wall.  Workers on their way to stand in line stop and buy their lunch of canned goods, yogurt, and pita.  Men are waiting along the way for the gate to open, some sitting and some standing.  The first ones have been there since 02:30 AM.  One of the ecumenical volunteers informs us that the gate was opened at 05:07.  (Click here for the full report)

The confiscation of Palestinians' time at checkpoints as a form of collective punishment is more than merely an infringement upon their freedom.  It is also a declaration of who controls their fate.  The fact that the occupier is both controlling them and usurping their time is being engraved into the Palestinians' awareness.

Huwwara Checkpoint, 14.12.08

A soldier sends another Palestinian to be detained, and he protests angrily.  He claims that every day he is detained for 3-4 hours and has done nothing wrong.  It was impossible to approach him but his brother gave us his personal details.  We asked T. from the Liaison & Coordination Administration to clarify the matter. He went up to him, came back, and claimed that the detainee was being questioned, and would wait a half hour, an hour, but no more.  T. related to the matter as if this were completely reasonable.  What's the problem?  Let him sped all that time in a detention cell.  (Click here for the full report)

 Beit Iba Checkpoint, 14.12.08 

7:00 - ..The Beit Iba checkpoint is almost completely empty of pedestrians.  A., a representative of the Liaison & Coordination Administration, tells us that the checkpoint was closed for two hours from 14:00-16:00, causing a delay for 1,500 people - most of whom were students returning home from their studies for the weekend.  Two volunteers from the umbrella organizations of the churches that we meet confirm this.  They add that people were not permitted to sit on the ground and had to remain standing for the entire two hours. (Click here for the full report)

Huwwara Checkpoint 13.1.09

Yesterday, as has usually been the case during the past two weeks, a convoy of policemen from the Border Patrol arrived to declare a curfew.  Mazen did not manage to close his shop on time and was arrested by their commander (who had three bars on his shoulders). He was handcuffed, his eyes were bound, and he was placed in a detention cell at Huwwara for four hours.  It is freezing cold at Huwwara, and he was shivering.  From there he was taken to the Liaison & Coordination Administration for interrogation - another three hours.  He was forced to stand facing the wall, and a soldier kicked his legs apart.  The commander who arrested him arrived and offered suggestions for doing things better: "Kick him harder, like this!"  and suggested that he be arrested him for four months.  After several telephone calls he was released.  It was then midnight.  Click here for the full report.

 In the occupied territories the regulation states that soldiers can detain a person for three hours.  In special cases detention can be extended for three additional hours.  This regulation is implemented at checkpoints at predetermined intervals and often extends many hours beyond the designated regulations.

Huwwara Checkpoint 3.12.08 
14:40: ...A detainee - an older man who speaks Hebrew who was wanted for more than a year, but not now.  Since then each time he passes through the checkpoint he is detained for a long time.  He is now being held for more than an hour.  The soldiers behave towards him rudely: "You were told to be quiet, no?!  Put out that cigarette..."   (Click here for the full report)

We don't know exactly how many hours are confiscated each day from each of the detaineesinfo-icon at all the checkpoints.  We can estimate the accumulated loss in terms of both the life and livelihood of the individual, as well as the loss to the lives and economy of Palestinian society as a whole.

 Beit Furik Checkpoint, 30.11.08
...Those coming out tell us that there are dozens of people waiting to be checked on their way out, and have to wait an average of half an hour.
The bureaucracy at the Liaison & Coordination Administration of the civilian administration who are supposed to help the Palestinians (who are waiting for them from morning till night) to provide them with the desired permits) treat them and their time with contempt.  They are told "leave-come back" again and again and despite the sophisticated computerization, permits are not given today, or the next.

Israeli time is fast and rhythmic: it is economic time that is measured in absolute values, while Palestinians are stuck on the margins of rapid Jewish time just as they are stuck on the margins of Israeli economics, society, politics, and culture.