'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jit, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 1.6.08, Afternoon
We should perhaps sometimes reflect on the common usage of words that crop up over and again during our shifts at the checkpoints in the OPT. “Permit” and “License”: time and again, we refer to documents allowing a Palestinian to do something, or not to carry out something else – to go through a checkpoint, enter or exit a community, be able to work, etc. Again and gain, we observe soldiers allowing or not allowing a person to continue on his or her way, to complete the task for which he or she set out from home, etc. Frequently, too, we refer to license plates, those rectangular, usually metal plates that bear a sequence of numbers, letters or both, to identify a registered vehicle, as either Israeli or Palestinian. Lastly, we often refer to the license the Occupier takes upon himself in disregarding the precepts of proper behavior. True, it’s not necessarily a “license to kill,” although that license is, in fact, granted to this army of occupation. In any case, “permits” and “licenses” govern the lives of Palestinians day in day out, and often their animals too.
There’s a soft summer breeze blowing, and the tire still swings from a drunkenly leaning pole by the checkpoint. One of the usual small Bedouin boys, who hang around the parking lot, crosses the checkpoint, but unlike most small boys his age, he has no eyes for the temptation of time out for a swing. This is Occupation, and here there is no chance to lead a carefree childhood. The line of vehicles from Qalqiliya is endless, the line to the city practically non existent.
The sergeant commander orders, “No photos,” but doesn’t insist when filming takes place, not of soldiers. One of the soldiers from the far checking post wanders over to chat to the two standing close by us. Checking of the long line of vehicles from Qalqiliya stops. When it does start again, on the return of the soldier to his original post, it is thorough, all passengers are stared at through their darkened windows by the two soldiers, and the line continues to be long. IDs are checked only randomly.
To Qalqiliya, a yellow taxi advances, ready to be checked, but no, the soldier has not beckoned it, and it has to beat a backwards retreat, only to be called, given permission, to come towards him all over again. Trunks of cars or taxis are sometimes, but not always, examined.
13:50 -- five minutes later, traffic flows, and there’s no checking in either direction. A white car, with yellow Israeli plates, has to back up, no permit, and the young couple, no doubt, make their way into the city in one of the many yellow taxis. Next, a white minivan is stopped, again, Israeli plates, and Palestinian vehicles are also all now halted. Permission comes, permission goes, and the Occupation goes on forever.
Making our way eastwards, on the way to Jit Junction, we stop outside Fonduk at the “flea” market which has appeared in the past few weeks near the junction leading south, towards Immanuel and Ariel. Two of the owner’s 12 children clean some of the many fridges standing there, together with push carts, fax machines and all manner of articles thrown out. The owner laments, in good Hebrew, the loss of his contractor’s position, working in Israel. There is no work, there is no money, his olives groves have been confiscated by the nearby settlement of Karnei Shomron, and the rumor is that a wall is about to be built in the vicinity to hook up with Qedumim which is east of here. Everyone is desperate. As he talks, we look at a picture perfect, Biblical scene: hay cutting. Besides the women, in traditional dress, are small children, who, the man tells us would not be allowed to work in “places like America.”
A welcome scene in this now stark and harsh looking landscape: a couple of men beneath a sun umbrella selling fruit. We remember them from former years and wonder how long they will be permitted to do so.
There are about 12 vehicles lining up to go to Tulkarm, cars with yellow Israeli license plates pass freely, one soldier, alone at the position on this side, and, miracle of miracles, no line at all coming from Tulkarm. At the position on the Tulkarm side of the checkpoint, the three soldiers are seemingly having a good time, and call out to the lone soldier at the other checkpost, “Hey, want some cookies?” We’re relieved to see that they are commercially wrapped and not bounty from a certain group of women in blue and white.
Our “license” to enter from the checkpoint is given, and we don’t have to wait long for the key to be brought over to unlock the gate. A lot of children hanging around the cars, maybe trying to peddle stuff to sell? Not clear. Either school is already out, or it’s out in another two days. We got conflicting reports about this.
The soldiers, all four of them, stand beneath the shade of the crows nest, and the stony blockade that demarcated new obstacles across the roadway last week are no more. Nor is there any traffic. One of the local “taxis” from Jubara is waved on.
17: 20 Gate 753
Once again, there’s a hold up. A young boy on a beautiful white horse waits in the center of the security barrier road for permission to enter the village. Permit denied, and boy and horse trot off towards A-Ras. A few minutes later, a car, laden with stuff in its open trunk, coming along the separation barrier security road (from the few houses built alongside) is denied entry to the village. A man, coming out of the village, waits as his papers are checked, at least five minutes and, as he gets them back from the soldiers, is given a swig of water from the bottle standing on the boulder.