Beit Iba, Shave Shomron, Sun 18.5.08, Afternoon
Caprice in action could well be the title of what goes on in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Sudden, unpredictable actions and changes, or sudden impulsive and seemingly unmotivated notions or actions. In sum, a disposition, on the part of the Occupier, to do things impulsively. Of course, the whole system is full of absurdity and arbitrariness, but it’s also capricious.
14:40 Beit Iba
It’s immediately noticeable that the so called “fast lane” is long and slow. We count five young men in the detention compound, but our activities are sharply curtailed in the first three minutes as the commander, reservist Second Lieutenant M. starts all over where he left off during last week’s shift. He tells us that we are bothering the soldiers, that we are bothering him. We cannot stand here, or there, and we are made to stand where he wants. This means we have to talk to the young women coming from the “fast” lane as they emerge: “Half an hour,” says one student, and it’s impossible to see those in the detention compound, let alone talk to them. “No, you can’t talk to them, no, I won’t tell you why they are there, and no, I won’t tell you how long they will remain…. but you can ask them when they come out.” And when is that, we ask? No response. Presumably at the whim of the commander.
14:50 -- he and the DCO representative, Sergeant A., go over to the young men, talk to them but soon return to us, again telling us where to stand.
Vehicle checking area. It’s immediately noticeable that there are only two soldiers on duty there, both checking vehicles coming out of Nablus.
But in the central area of the checkpoint, besides those in the checking booths, there are three soldiers, including M. They all stand around, or another interpretation is that they are more concerned with the activities of the MachsomWatch women than protecting the security of the state of Israel. M. bothers the young men waiting for their friends to get through the turnstiles, tells them to move on. One of his soldiers barks at Palestinians coming from the Deir Sharaf area, waiting to be checked. Besides calling out “one by one,” he approaches those who don’t know the new rule of standing way back, waiting for ID checking on the way into Nablus, by emerging from his checking booth and shouting at them to go back, further back still to wait. No rhyme or reason. Caprice!
In the checking booth, the list of names “wanted” for this day is now pinned on the glass, not held in hand, as in the past.
At the vehicle checking area, a line going towards Nablus, grows -- at its head an ambulance. One of our team goes over to observe in the vehicle checking area. M., suddenly aware of this, leaps to his feet, hurries over to talk to one of the two soldiers there. Still nothing moves, still only two soldiers, plus their commander. The ambulance waits some more. Meanwhile, another MachsomWatcher goes over to the ambulance driver to ask how long he’s been waiting, and calls the Humanitarian Center to complain that an ambulance has been waiting for 30 minutes. We are promised that this will be looked into: emshallah!
15:20 -- M. has, in the mean time, told MachsomWatch, that no vehicle will go through the checkpoint if we stand where we do. In turn, MachsomWatch points out that only two soldiers at the vehicles checking area is not enough, is not what it should be. In spite of this, vehicles, including a P&O container, private cars, trucks, one bearing the happy name, “Lucky Baby,” another ambulance and a long line of vehicles finally begins to move. Only after this, is the Nablus entry checking area manned, only now is the porter who’s been patiently waiting with laden donkey cart allowed to move towards Deir Sharaf. A young man complains to us about his goods not moving from the checkpoint, but just at that moment, one of the usual porters pulls his cart through.
15:30 -- the arrival of a blue police jeep (we know, without having heard a word from M. that he has called the police),spells trouble. The jeep parks in the middle of the checkpoint, one of the policemen chats with M. in the center, then strides over to where two of us stand. “You are causing problems for the soldiers.” On the contrary, we tell him, M. is provoking us. M. joins us, and we wonder, to his face, what is going on at the checkpoint under his command, whether it is secured….. Surely, he has things to do, rather than be part of a conversation with the police? “They are my friends” he tells us (gratuitously). The policeman (R. 1054907) demands to see all three IDs, commands one of us to refrain from talking on the phone, as his colleague, the other more senior policeman who has been honking on the horn of his jeep, emerges and comes over to us, yelling that “You should be in Gaza.” This kind of language continues, the phrase is repeated again, and our IDs are checked against the computer in the jeep as we are told, by the police, that they can see no reason why we should be where we are, that “this is a military area,” that we are of the “third age,” and should know we can’t stand at checkpoints, etc. The IDs are returned, M. is no longer around, and by the time we walk through Deir Sharaf to the car, many of the “usuals” know what’s been going on!
16:00 Shavei Shomron
Tony Blair told the world last week that this is one of the checkpoints to be done away with: it’s still there, in living color. Stay tuned.