Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 20.4.08, Afternoon
Holiday in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the usual checkpoint routine. With no Jewish colonists (settlers) on the roads on this holy day, one could easily imagine how it could all be so different.
At Tapuach Za'atara Junction CP, a waiting line of over forty cars southbound. We called the DCO who promised us to take care of the problem. On our way back the same place had a 25-vehicle waiting line, and the problem had not been solved: although both checking posts were manned by soldiers, checking was conducted on in one.
Commander – Eran, DCO representative – Assem.
15:00 – a soldier securing the inspections seizes a Palestinian and sends him to push the men waiting in line backward, we do not know why. All the men are standing in straight lines and from our observation spot no problem is obvious. The young man refuses, saying they're all standing in line anyway, why should I order them?
The men stand in three perfectly straight single files, all the way back to the end of the shed and beyond it. A man with plastic bags opens them and says to the MPwoman and the securing soldier "Look, look", taking out every flat-bread separately, together with other foodstuffs that scatter on the floor. Many woman pass through the special side line. Occasionally some soldier remembers his duty to chase away people rebuckling their belts and straightening out after the checks in the shade of the compound. At the turnstiles, Palestinians wait for the soldier's order to proceed to the checking post, unbuckle their belts, sometimes take off their shoes, occasionally be sent to the other side of the checkpoint to x-ray even the smallest plastic bags with belongings in the X-ray truck.
In the concrete hold cubicle, two detainees have been locked up (literally under chains with locks) for an hour.
16:23 – we call the DCO where a woman soldier promises the matter is being looked into. About ten minutes later the DCO rep. present at the CP approaches us to explain: One of the detainees "swore" at the soldier, the other "double-crossed' him. For these two severe crimes, the men will now be penalized with three hours detention. Thus spake the commander and he, the DCO representative, is entitled only to advise, not to interfere. We went to speak with the detainees in order to get a better picture of the situation. The young man studies health system management at Al-Najah University in Nablus, and is an active volunteer of the Red Crescent ("that is just like our Magen David Adom – the red Star of David" a MPman explains to him, coming to question him after we complain.) He wears a Red Crescent vest and says he passes through the special side line at this checkpoint every day. Today he was sent to the normal waiting line at the turnstiles, and when he tried to explain, the soldier called him a 'son of a bitch'. In response, he huffed, and the swearing soldier understood this as an aggressive exchange and sent him to the hold. Two weeks ago on his way to school he stopped on the road and extended first aid to Israelis in a traffic accident until an Israeli ambulance arrived. "As a member of the health system I am committed to help everyone, even an Israeli soldier" he explains, feeling extremely offended. I have no problem going to stand at the waiting lines behind the turnstiles, but I'm used to going through the side line every day, and should the soldier call me a 'son of a bitch' and lock me up here? I asked to speak to the officer and he would not even listen."
There was no point in our trying to approach the CP commander.
We spoke again with the DCOand asked to remind the battalion commander that the soldiers are not there to educate Palestinians even when these do swear, the Palestinians are not obliged to address Israeli soldiers politely, and without any 'security' grounds no detention is either legal or moral… We see this happening in countless vigils.
About 15 minutes later the detainees were released, having nearly sat out their 'time'.
18:08 – at our return from Beit Furik Checkpoint, we discovered four teenagers (15-17 years old) locked up in the concrete hold, looking rather jolly, all they wanted from us were cigarettes. The facts we managed to obtain were that they were caught near Awarta without IDs and brought to the Checkpoint because of trying to bypass it. The DCO representative promised to see to it that after their particulars are checked, they will be released.
A checkpoint-construction contractor present told us about the large-scale fancy construction project planned for this checkpoint which will be as an extension of the present outbound taxi park. We do notice parts of the area already flattened by bulldozers where once olive groves covered the area between Huwwara checkpoint and Awarta.
Beit Furik Checkpoint
17:00 – vehicles in- and out-going are checked intermittently on a single lane in spite of the present of numerous soldiers at the checkpoint. A detainee is sent to the pen after being ordered to empty his bag. After about 15 minutes his ID is returned and he is free to go.
A trickle of pedestrians, vehicles wait about 15 minutes to be checked, and still the turnstile awaiting pedestrians entering Nablus is locked and they need to wait, sometimes for quite a while, until the soldier notices their presence, presses a button and releases the turnstile, so their ID can be checked while entering the city of Nablus. One by one.