Beit Iba, Shave Shomron, 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.
14:45 Shavei Shomron
At the end of last week, we had heard that the checkpoint was open,
and our colleagues were able to drive straight on, not a soldier in
sight. Not so today. In fact, there is, once again, a position, at
ground level below the military lookout tower, and two soldiers rest
`neath army camouflage netting, a giant Israeli flag on the wall
behind them. They immediately tell us that we are "not allowed to be
here." We ask about the opening of the checkpoint. "It's not a
checkpoint, it's a gate." We note that it's loosely closed, and can be
swung open at any time: stay tuned for the next Jewish festival when,
no doubt, the settlers will walk up the hill, beautifully decorated at
this time of year with stately white Queen Ann's lace, on their way,
via an open gate, to Homesh!
15:30 – 16:15 Beit Iba
It's quiet, very quiet: no students, yet the army is ever creative in
constructing makeshift new barricades in this newly renovated
checkpoint. The one lane that was open, leading up to the checking
booth on the Deir Sharaf side, is now barred with a plastic barricade
(the type used on roadways) plus a metal wire gate, which is not large
enough for the width of the lane and so is closed off with some other
metal rope. Bizarre, but effective in keeping us from going to where
we used to stand!
An officious soldier, at the Deir Sharaf side of the checking post,
tells us we can't be where we are. He's put in his place by the
commander, a sergeant, and we note that the former is ever so slow in
checking IDs. First, he looks at each ID, as if it's the first time
he's ever perused one, then he studies the face of the person in front
of him, and only then does he scan the list pinned up for the day. And
this is for every man, every woman, no matter what their age. So, the
elderly, traditionally dressed women, who usually go straight through,
have to put down their packages, rummage around for their IDs before
this soldier goes through his very slow paces.
A strange sight greets us at the turnstiles. They are empty, but the
"fast lane" is full of elderly men and women. At the fast lane, the
soldier is also punctilious about checking the young women, but the
commander comes over, takes a cursory look at the IDs proffered him,
and people are on their way. T., the DCO representative, is called
upon often to handle an ID. The commander continues to tell us that we
cannot move about the checkpoint but have to stand where he permits us
to stand. We insist that we have to look also at the vehicular lanes,
and he doesn't persist. He mumbles something about a "white line,"
when we persist and ask him to repeat what he just said, he uses
different, more moderate language!
At the vehicle checking lanes, five soldiers. Once again, numerous
container trucks, the kind that were not seen a few months ago. Even
more bizarre, at least two long trailer trucks, bearing yellow Israeli
license plates, and these, too, are allowed to enter Nablus from Deir
Sharaf. Some passengers are made to get out of cars and walk through
the checkpoint, trunks of cars are checked, and at one point, three
soldiers look at boxes which have to be taken out of a private car, as
the line from Deir Sharaf grows to five or six vehicles. The porters'
wagons have to be unpacked, usually two soldiers looking on, but no
dogs around. As we leave the checkpoint, a beautiful grey horse with a
young rider trots past and disappears behind the kiosk, having
negotiated permission to proceed from Nablus.
Strangely enough, a
flock of sheep is spied behind the large taxi parking lot, making its
way to better pasture.