Beit Iba, Mon 5.5.08, Afternoon
Beit Iba . Reserve soldiers are manning the checkpoint. They seem to be new. They behave properly, do not purposely harass, and even speak politely. But they "play by the rules", or in the way that they interpret the rules. During a battle, perhaps this is desirable. But when dealing with a civilian population, trying desperately to survive, it prevents any possibility of leading a normal life.
15:30 – At the entrance to Nablus, on the pedestrian checkpoint there is a windshield wiper leaning on two cement barriers completely blocking the checkpoint. A very original checkpoint. Gives a sort of homey feeling, almost. The line of those going out is not particularly long. They are already used to the whole process, the turning around, taking off the belt, etc. While we were there, 2 detainees were put in the cell. Their names came up on the list of "wanted" people. Their IDs were checked with the GSS, the first was sent on his way after 30 minutes. The DCO rep told us that they were delayed every day that they got to the checkpoint, and that he sent a letter in which he complained about the daily delay, but the process continues and repeats itself every time they go through.
15:40 – A man is waiting for his 12 year old son who can't leave Nablus without an ID, but he himself doesn't have an ID, so his father has to come with his ID. Three men are standing in the line before the booth at the entrance. The soldier sends the last two backwards about 4 meters. At the vehicle checkpoint from the direction of Nablus there are almost no cars. Within Nablus there is a lot of movement of large trucks.
15:45 – A taxi is pulled over to the side for inspection. The dog trainer arrives with her dog. The dog receives instructions to jump on the hood. It tries a number of times unsuccessfully, and is awarded with a pat. Two soldiers who were guarding the dog trainer fish around in the bags of the driver. In one of the bags there are mainly papers. The soldiers look at every page. The inspection is over in about 10 minutes ending with a hand slap with the driver.
15:55 – A wagon pulled by a donkey arrives from Nablus. There is a large TV on the wagon and a bundle of shelves. Three soldiers and a female soldier have a discussion with the wagon driver and another youth; in the end, they are both made to return on their tracks. A few minutes later, the TV appears on the small wagon of one of the porters. The soldier recognizes it, and also this porter is made to go back. The soldier says to his friend: "An idiot was switched with an idiot." At this point we still don't understand what the security risk was in transferring a TV from Nablus to the village.
16:10 – Two small wagons, pulled by donkeys, are entering Nablus. The wagons are full of old clothes, pillows, mattresses, blankets, and old computer screens. The soldiers crowd around the wagon. Another long discussion. One woman claims that the things belong to her. The soldiers are not convinced. At this point Yonah, who had watched the whole event, went up to the DCO rep and asked for a reason why their passage was forbidden. The checkpoint commander answered that the merchandise did not belong to the woman, and that she didn't even live in Nablus. To the question of why the movers were prevented from bringing the wagon to Nablus, why harm their livelihood, the answer was: "It is forbidden to bring merchandise through the Beit Iba checkpoint. For that purpose there is a checkpoint a Awarta. Only personal belongings are allowed. Even at the airpot (!) porters cannot move merchandise." Just like that! The entrance of old clothes, which is his miserable daily livelihood, from the village into Nablus, is equal to going through the airport. "This is also the reason why previously the TV was not allowed to pass. It was new. So it is considered merchandise, and merchandise does not go through the Beit Iba checkpoint."
So, get this straight: our presence at the checkpoint is for security. Therefore, a new TV is more dangerous than an old TV. Old clothes for sale are more dangerous than personal old clothes. In the end, even the checkpoint commander admitted that there is no security risk in bringing these things through, but: there must be order. And we ask ourselves: if there is not a security risk in not bringing these things through, which makes the population embittered and disturbed, which is naturally a potential security risk. And meanwhile the old clothes will lead the donkey with his wagon of rags for many kilometers from here, in order to enter Nablus through Awarta. If he wanted to sell them, he might as well forget about it. At least he isn't wasting any gas. Luckily, he only has a donkey. Halil the porter told us that the owner of the TV will go back and not have to travel very far, only 40 minutes by bus, to Asira ar Shamaliyah, and from there, another 40 minutes to his village. Don't worry, the man will get home by dark. And maybe, as we said, also the security risk.