Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 25.5.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
At Za'tara Tapuach Junction Checkpoint - 20 vehicles awaiting passage southbound.
CP commander - 1st Lieutenant N., DCO representative - Lieutenant T.
The less Palestinians exit and enter Nablus, the more numerous vendors are seen desperately trying to eke out a living here. The veteran coffee vendor tells us that he barely manages to sell a 1.5 NIS coffee cup. Despair is evident all around.
15:30 - "Come on, come on, come on already!!" the MPwoman inside the inspection booth keeps shrieking. Few pedestrians stand at the lines behind the turnstiles. The CP commander wants to know if we know the rules.
On the vehicle check shack, a notice hangs posted, proving how aware the Israeli government is of what has been going on everyday for eight whole years at the checkpoints inside the West Bank and at the crossings into Israel:
Between the dates of May 16th and June 4th various high-ranking business persons will be traveling throughout the West Bank and the State of Israel, due to an investors' conference held in the city of Bethlehem (inside the Palestinian Authority). This conference will take place on May 21-23. The Government of Israel has ruled that such businessmen will enter Israel and the West Bank without undergoing inspection (whether personal, vehicular or luggage) and shall receive VIP treatment.
In order to identify the businessmen and visitors of the conference, they have been issued a special entry permit into Israel for all crossings (violet colored). The permit has been stamped with a unique round red-colored stamp. Following, a photocopy of a permit sample."
In hopes that if they cross swiftly, they will neither experience first-hand the humiliation involved in going through the checkpoint, nor have ample opportunity to witness the fate of Palestinians who are not considered VIP.
15:51 - "Life-freeze" procedure in order to practice charging terrorists at the checkpoint. The Palestinians are sent back outside of the checkpoint compound. The soldiers prostrate, roll, "shoot" and charge. Exits and entries to the checkpoint are blocked off. After 'conquering the hill' for about ten minutes, the soldiers assume their positions again and the inspections are resumed. An elderly Palestinian walking out of Nablus along the vehicle lane, recites in loud, angry English how in the Second World War he fought alongside General Montgomery and saved Jews from the danger of the Germans. "I risked my life" he says, fuming, waving his hands in the air, "I hid Jews..." The soldiers stare at him indifferently until he leaves the Checkpoint.
Another elderly man can barely limp, leaning on his son, asks to walk along the paved lane as well. The son is ordered to raise his shirt and undershirt and pirouette.
A man carrying a fainted child about ten years old in his arms also requests similar passage and is granted it. Holders of bags and packages in all waiting lines are sent to the X-ray truck on the other side of the compound.
At the vehicle checking line, inspections are slow. The male and female soldiers in charge are having fun playing with their binoculars through which they stare at Nablus, and chat. A bus is required to turn around after being checked, because the soldier assumed it had dared travel the forbidden "Madison" Road, a violation that must by no means go unnoticed. Another car and ambulance are forced to make way for it, two soldiers lead it to the parking lot, and 15 minutes alter some mistake in identification is cleared up and the bus enters Nablus.
16:20 - 2 taxi drivers from the Nablus side are led to the detention cubicle. The driver says he approached the CP to let an old lady disembark who cannot walk. The commander tells the DCO rep. that they had been unruly and are therefore punished.
Complaining to the army hotline, we were told that the commander may detain anyone for 3 hours in order to conduct security checks, not for punishment. We insist and receive the wise-guy reply that "because they were unruly they are now being security-checked which may take up to 3 hours". Besides, the company commander approved the detention. So now its AOK.
An empty pickup truck presents an entry permit into Nablus, and the soldier sends it to the Awarta goods checkpoint. An argument breaks out between the driver and the driver, during which the soldier says "Uskut" (shut up!) and points to his mouth, as the man claims that everyday he is allowed to go through Huwwara. The commander and DCO rep. join the argument and after all three direct him to Awarta, he gets irritated and leaves. Later the DCO representative explains later that smaller commercial vehicles are sent off to Awarta even when empty so that "we won't have too much pressure here, to distribute them evenly". Even empty pickups, even if there are no more than two vehicles awaiting entry here (whoever receives permits except for various VIPs?), even when Awarta Checkpoint is already closed. Just so that "We mustn't have too much pressure here" !!
16:45 - The DCO representatives leaves the checkpoint. During this shift of ours, his presence and his absence have meant precisely the same.
17:10 - the checkpoint is nearly empty. A Palestinian couple who bought toys for their children are sent to the X-ray truck, and return highly agitated, demanding to speak to the person in charge of the CP. We direct them to the commander, and they explain that having filled all the instructions, procedures and demands, passed their belongings through the X-ray machine and walked back to the checking post to pick up their IDs, a soldier approached them and thrust his gun barrel into their bags. "It's not against you" the commander answers them, explaining that "it's for the soldiers' sake, to get some practice". The woman further claimed this was very frightening and dangerous, it is a loaded weapon, she said, and this action was really out of line, because they had done everything they were told to do. Again she received the same answer, that this was not done against them personally but because the soldiers must practice...
Then the commander chases away Muhammad who is no longer a child but has practically spent his whole childhood at the checkpoint and it is more or less his home, and now he has a regular job cleaning up the taxi park (the drivers pay his fee). "You have 30 seconds to get out of my checkpoint or I throw you into the pen", says the commander. He looks at his watch and repeats "Now you have 20 seconds... Don't get smart with me and split out of here..." Muhammad, who is not quite normal, has no fear of the soldiers, he has learned to joke with them and provoke them and they usually see him as part of the human landscape that comes with this cursed place, until such a CP commander gets on duty.
18:10 - we leave.
17:30 - one of the taxi drivers - detainees - is released (the commander sticks to a careful schedule), about 15 minutes later the second one is released as well.
Since the waiting area is nearly empty, (students are on exam time now), soldiers instruct anyone arriving at the CP even before entering the shed, to raise his shirt, pirouette and lift his trouser legs.
Another empty pickup truck is sent off to Awarta. An elderly man is required to remove his shoes at the metal-detector and cross barefoot, at the soldier's orders.
Beit Furik Checkpoint
Observers: Judit B., Galit G. (reporting)
Few pedestrians, vehicles crossing without delay.
A man from Beit Furiq, over 50 years of age, tells us that a month and a half ago his magnetic card was taken from him at the Tul Karem Checkpoint without any explanation. For the past 14 years he has been employed by an Israeli firm that is very much interested in his continuing to work for them. His permit was valid until April 2008, but without the magnetic card (proof of a clean slate police-wise) he cannot do anything about renewing his permit and thus remains unemployed. We directed him to apply for Sylvia's help.