Beit Iba, Jit, Wed 23.4.08, Morning
Beit Iba. Summary: A surprise roadblock from the direction of Huwara at J'it Junction. Buses with students on a trip were sent back to Beit Iba because of bureaucratic problems with their permits. Since this is the season for school trips, the problems might repeat themselves; perhaps it is possible to come to some sort of agreement with the IDF. We continue our struggle concerning our right to go to any area at the checkpoint in order to observe what is going on there.
Shvut Ami – We didn't see anyone outside of the building. That doesn't necessarily mean there is no one there.
07:45 –08:00, J'it Junction. A surprise roadblock from the direction of Huwara. 4 reserve soldiers and a "hammer". They take all the passengers from every taxi and inspect their documents by telephone. This takes 5-10 minutes. Trucks are not inspected. Luckily, there is hardly any traffic from this direction, so there no line is formed. One of the soldiers identifies with us and admires us "from his whole heart". But we have the usual argument with the checkpoint commander about where we can stand. ("I am responsible for your safety"). We move slightly away. He sends the passengers from one of the taxis in our direction and we talk with them. They left Hebron at 5:00, now it is almost 8:00. This is their fourth checkpoint and they have another one awaiting them at ‘Anabta and perhaps another one – they are going to Jenin. Our guests wonder why there is a surprise roadblock. Hannah tells them about the research which has been done with students which concludes that giving incentives and punishments in a random way brings about submissive behavior.
08:05-10:30, Beit Iba . Cars in line at the entrance to Nablus. No one at the exit. This is more or less the picture during our whole shift at the checkpoint. The policy of not giving permits to cars for Nablus continues.
The soldiers are still reserve units. The commander, H., asks us to stand behind the barrier which borders the checkpoint. We agree, since this doesn't affect our vision at all. Whenever it was necessary, we went over to the other side of the fence (recently there has been a hidden struggle, or sometimes obvious, between us and the checkpoint commanders about the area of the checkpoint where we are allowed. It seems this is the policy of their officer, and this is dictated to the commanders from above). Someone decided (maybe the same officer?) that the main objective at the checkpoint is to keep the area between the huts "sterile", so the checkpoint commander stands most of the time in this area and his main activity is to keep all the Palestinians away from it, as they leave their inspection by the magnometer and their belts are in their hands (because the buckles beep). All the men are sent with their belts in their hands to the end of the shed. A man dressed up in a suit is about to take off his belt. The commander hurries over and asks him to stop and to go away. He smiles in embarassment and tries to explain the problem. "What is funny here?" the commander insists and sends him off quickly. Doesn't anyone realize that a Palestinian might also feel embarassment in getting dressed in public?
09:25. When we arrived they didn't check documents of those entering Nablus. After about an hour, they began to check those as well. Rational. A lot of buses went through today, most of them student trips. Buses with children came from Tulkarm on their way to Ain Bidan. Two of them had bureaucratic problems with their permits: for one of them the name of the driver didn't appear on the permit; for the other the permit had expired. While they were in line, someone came from the DCO, who said the offices were closed. We made phone calls to try to help. At the Humanitarian Hotline, they justified this policy. Naomi L. said that it had been agreed that childrens' trips were a humanitarian issue (but who can you speak to?). The DCO representative went out to eat. In the end, we tried appealing to the checkpoint commander. He said that it wasn't within his authority, he was only responsible for the safety of the checkpoint, but perhaps if it had been an urgent humanitarian issue… In the end, all the buses went through, after a long delay for one of them. At 10:15 another 2 buses arrived with students, from the village of Kafr a-Dik, south of highway #5. They also had problems: the name of the driver was not consistent with the permit, and the other one didn't have a "red permit" (perhaps for entering Nablus?). They already tried to go through the Huwara checkpoint and were rejected. This time, we knew that there was nothing to do except hope for the mercy of the soldiers. We tried nevertheless to call the Hotline, but it was busy. The 2 buses were sent back. They needed to make a detour to the west, to the Einav checkpoint, and then, by complicated manouvers, to turn east again (Ain Bidan is NE of Nablus), altogether, about 20 km. Nadim said that, beyond the problems of the permits, the bus companies are also at fault, since they know how to take payments but don't bother getting the correct permits, and maybe this is part of the competition between the bus companies. The victims of all this, of course, are the children who will spend most of the day of the school trip at the checkpoints. 09:45. A woman leaving Nablus forgot her ID. After an argument with the commander and the DCO rep, she was left on the side for a long time. She said that she had left her small children who needed her at home. The commander explained that they decided to carry out a body search on her but there was no female soldier at the checkpoint. After 20 minutes a Military Policewoman arrived; after the search, she went on her way. A cleaning worker at the checkpoint was complaining about discrimination. He is employed by a contractor from Jericho and earns 1800 NIS/month. I have no idea if, or how, we could help him.