Beit Furik, Huwwara, Sun 29.6.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
15:00 Tapuach-Za'atara Junction Checkpoint
A Palestinian bus on its way to Ramallah is detained. Next to it stands a woman holding an expired Jordanian passport with an ID number that does not appear in the army's database. There are tens-of-thousands of such cases, people who officially do not exist and are living in their homes in the West Bank, we explain to the reserves soldiers who are perplexed at this case and make a genuine effort at humane conduct (they gave the bus passengers their own cold water before we even got there). At some point the bus driver brings out the woman's give children (including her baby whom he carries in his arms), and takes out their luggage from the bus baggage-hold. The soldiers prevent him from leaving her stuck at the checkpoint until the matter is sorted out. The bus with all its passengers have to wait with her. We tried to explain to the soldiers that there is nothing special about this case, but they waited for 'instructions'. We called the army hotline which responded quickly this time and after about 10 minutes, the woman got her Jordanian passport back and she and her children proceeded on their way to Ramallah with the bus. One of the soldiers said he would not let his daughter do what he is does in the army. But he still does it.
15:30 Huwwara Checkpoint
A shift without "anything special to report". A new checkpoint building is being built on the lot north of the taxi-park. A concrete floor painted red has been poured on the stony ground and from it one can see rows of aluminum rods protruding, designating the lines and lanes that will sprout there.
The checkpoint commander gruffly yells at young men re-belting their pants and fixing their apparel in the empty exit shed "Go on, get out! Don't get dressed here!" and the soldier in the adjacent vehicle checking post copies this manner, as well as the dismissive gestures. And where should they get dressed, then? "I don't care. Not here." He then points to the old detainees' pen.
Gun barrels are pointed at the inspectees most of the time. Young men exiting report a half an hour's waiting time.
Again, the shouts "Get out of here, you mustn't be here!" as if they have come here of their free will... The special side line of women, children and the elderly reaches the end of the shed, passage is swift. A Military Policewoman makes sure to return forgotten items to their owners. Women and children are forced to wait in the hot sun for men still in line. Many babies with chicken-pox are on their way back from the doctor's.
16:30 a youngster is required to lift his shirt and undershirt near the detention cubicle after having already been inspected, eight gun barrels pointed at him.
The reason for this repeated, meticulous inspection: his hunch-back. The DCO representative is present at this bared moment in front of the gun barrels. One can easily imagine how humiliating and offensive this tactless, violent insensitivity can be.
Again, the Israeli army is back to fighting its battle against the men readjusting their clothing after the checks: "Go on, split! You mustn't be here!" The commander briefs the other soldiers how to enforce this.
Very few vehicles entering and exiting the big city.
16:55 - a detainee is sent to the cubicle. 20-year old from Beita, his brother says their father passed away three days ago, they went to Nablus to get a death certificate. According to the DCO rep., (A.), "he is bingo", "needed for interrogation".
An army water tanker fills the black water containers at the CP compound and the soldiers' latrine, losing half of the water due to the many holes in its pipes. A large puddle forms rapidly and has to be hopped over on the steps descending to the taxi park.
17:15 - in spite of a steady stream of pedestrians, the checkpoint looks nearly empty. The DCO rep. leaves.
17:25 - a 'life freeze' for maneuver purposes. All pedestrians at the turnstiles are halted. Eventually, vehicles as well. The line begins to crowd. As we find out later, this phase is vital for the maneuver: as many Palestinians as possible must be accumulated at the shed in order to be able to chase them away including those standing in the special "humanitarian" side line. The women are let through until the last moment, and then - with wild shouts and pushes at gunpoint, while running, the soldiers urge the waiting crowd back all the way to the entry path and fence. There they stand facing the Palestinians with pointed guns and block their movement back to the checkpoint. The commander asks us to move too, "we're having an explosive-charge maneuver here". Within 10 minutes, there are already over 50 people (including women and children) facing the MP women and soldiers with pointed guns. At the vehicle checking lane too there are 10 cars waiting for this maneuver to end. A soldier kneels, pointing his gun directly at them.
Some of the Palestinians look on angrily, others are laughing out loud.
17:35 - orders resound to get back to the checking routine. The Palestinians start running towards the turnstiles. The soldiers take their time. 5 minutes later the special side line is opened. At the turnstiles, the MPwomen have not yet resumed their posts. Now the soldiers are busy enforcing proper order in the waiting lines.
17:45 - A Palestinian says: "Did you see that? They do this to us every day, twice, thrice". The soldiers yell at the waiting people. Something about the way they lined up does not agree with them. The men are ordered to lift their shirts and pirouette. The commander yells "Full inspection!" as if so far checks had been partial.
At the side line, the soldier leans his gun on the gate pointing its barrel directly at the women and children. Tiny day-old babies facing armed Israeli soldiers, guns pointed at their heads - this is their first formative childhood experience. Even when the CP commander enters the "humanitarian" line to hurry up procedures, he still points his gun at them.
The "bingo" "required for interrogation" is released.
So are the buses and the cars holding permits issued by the Israeli military regime -
and the passengers, having waited and disembarked, and had their papers and belongings rummaged through, and no one came to beg for his own sake, waiting time did not exceed half an hour. "Everything alright?" the commander asks us towards the end of our shift: between the Palestinian city of Nablus and the Palestinian villages of Huwwara and Beita, on the road connecting them to Palestinian city Ramallah, inside the narrow bit of land where the Palestinians are still allowed to live and drive nothing is alright.
Having monitored the Beit Furik Checkpoint, Noa and Tal reported: There were hardly any people nor cars (after the Palestinian police raided the village and confiscated most cars intended for junking, and people remained without any means of transportation). Taxi drivers said the past week has been okay and the soldiers have been fine. The garden at the coffee stand flourishes and the owner intends to keep it up, hoping the military rulers will not come along and ruin everything claiming the plants have no permits to grow.