'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), יום א' 25.5.08, אחה"צ
A rubber tire dangles on an electric cord, securely tied to a telephone pole at the checkpoint. But there are no takers to enjoy the swing. Life under Occupation is not fun… so the tire sways in the gentle breeze – alone. A line of 12-14 vehicles coming out of Qalqiliya, no end in sight, 8-10 line up to enter the city. Checking only of Israeli vehicles (those with yellow license plates). A pickup truck is pulled over to the side, coming out of Qalqiliya, the sergeant commander goes over to talk to the driver, leaving a soldier alone. The latter continues to wave vehicles through, occasionally asking to see the IDs of passengers in the large yellow taxis, at one time whistling in the direction of the primitive watchtower which we had always assumed was not manned. A soldier appears there for a moment, and then disappears from view, as the sergeant continues to talk to the driver on the other side of the roadway. We leave when the pickup truck goes on its way, and the sergeant returns to his mate at the checkpoint.
No line of vehicles in either direction, but one soon develops as the soldier, not the commander, at the checking position into Tulkarm, stops Israeli cars and asks, not for their blue IDs, but for their car’s ownership papers! One car is told to pull over, and the young couple in it, Palestinian Israelis, hunts for more and more papers to give the demanding soldier. “I want the papers showing transfer of ownership of the car, otherwise I will call the police,” threatens the soldier at the same time giving us orders not to talk to them.
15:40 -- another car with Israeli license plates is made to show papers by this same soldier-policeman as the line of vehicles to Tulkarm increases from zero to 16. A few moments later, it’s back to no checking at all, including Israeli vehicles, and the capricious nature of the Occupation is again displayed.
15:45 -- five minutes later, all the IDs of men in a pickup truck with Israeli plates are checked, but gradually the line gets shorter, and as we leave, the last in line, an Israeli car, is waved through.
Eight semitrailers and at least 35 cars are in the checking lane at Jubara. This checkpoint has become an “ultra apartheid” checkpoint, the unwritten norm being that all Palestinian Israeli vehicles are stopped, trunks checked, and that settler cars whizzing through the separate lane, and are not checked. This, we add shamefacedly, is the lane we choose, as we request of the soldier that the gate leading up to the village be opened.
At the closed and padlocked gate we are greeted by a poster, familiar to the women of MachsomWatch by now, both here and at Beit Iba. We manage to “rescue” it before the soldier bearing the key to unlock the gate comes over. “Thanks to ‘Watch’ checkpoint [!] for your assistance in the success of our struggle.” It is signed, “Activists in the terror movement.”
Nobody waiting, nothing going on, but there are now four soldiers on duty here. “Watch?” one demands.
Wonder of wonders, the Occupiers have found a new “technique” to baffle and bother Palestinians in transit. Instead of waiting to be called from way down the steep hill leading up to the checkpoint, drivers now have to perform a “slalom,” winding their way around large rocks placed across the roadway, in both directions, we should add. How some of the semitrailers manage this is amazing: not a rock is misplaced by the huge tires, the drivers obviously being very skilful.
Another amazing sight: there are three soldiers at the southern position in the middle of the road, no one as in the past at the head of the hill on the northern side, nearer to Tulkarm. Instead, the soldier in the crows nest waves, vaguely, to waiting motorists beyond the plastic barricade across the road, and beckons them forward, while, of course, having his weapon clearly pointed at them all the time. We ask the sergeant commander, first, why they are standing where they are. “We always stand here” is the laconic reply. Next, he tells us not to stand “in the middle of the checkpoint.” Finally, we ask about the meaning of the rocks across the road. “Against breakthroughs,” we’re told, meaning, we assume, that the Occupier thinks there may be vehicles that rush the checkpoint, having climbed up a hill which probably has a one in eight gradient! Not the first time that we have commented on the inventiveness of the Occupier in dreaming up more impediments to Palestinian life. (As an aside, maybe OCHA should count each of these new rocks strewn across the roadway at A-Ras: no doubt they add yet another burden to the lives of Palestinians in transit.)