Beit Iba, Thu 12.6.08, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
09:15 We arrive at Beit Iba and, as usual, stop at the kiosk for our morning tea and coffee. It seems, from the vehicle traffic, that we can expect an ordinary day in the Occupation. But, as you know, you can never tell what's going to happen. From a distance we can already see a long line of people waiting to enter Nablus. When we come closer, it turned out that today every person is being checked (the women, who get priority, a little less), and every so often the soldier doing the checking calls to the checkpoint commander, gives him an ID card, and its owner is placed in the detention pen.
They don't restrict us at the checkpoint, but the commander barely responds to our questions. From a distance we count five detainees in the pen, and see that in the line of people leaving Nablus there's also someone who's placed in detention - according to the commander, "to be checked" (its impossible to get any explanation other than a promise to release them "in a few minutes"). Soon more people are added to the pen, "to be checked," and the pile of ID cards held by the commander grows. The DCO representative who's at the checkpoint stays out of it, and it's hard to get him to intervene.
At one point Biria asks the commander to speed up checking the people, and only then does he go over to the guard tower and give them all the ID's to check. They are returned at 09:40 (in other words, the people were detained in the pen for more than half an hour), but one of the detainees, who looks like a child, is checked very strictly (raising his shirt, patting down his pants legs), and then transferred to a soldier who brings him over to the tower. Our attempt to find out what's going on is met with a wall of silence. But the previous story is repeated: young men are randomly taken out of line, sent over to the pen and their ID's taken to be examined. When 7 or 8 ID's have been collected they're given over to be "checked." At one point a child/youth is taken from among the detainees and sent up to the tower. He has a cardboard box with cheap toys, and looks afraid, and implores the soldiers. It's clear to us that this is a standard procedure. Tami, whom I talk to, calls it "mobilization day."
One of the detained children came with his mother to a wedding and she begins pleading for him to be released, and a Palestinian (a relative?) tries to help her, angry at the unexplained delay. Now the DCO representative is willing to get involved, and goes up into the tower to find out what's the story with the child, who is also released after an annoying half hour. The most I can get out of the commander is that he "did his job," and is carrying out orders that came down from above. At 10:30 all the detainees are released from the pen, except for one youth who's sent again to the tower.
We leave at 11, our stomachs churning. Everything is done quietly, without a fuss, with bureaucratic efficiency and in a physical setting that separates us from what's going on. It's impossible to get close to the pen, much less to the tower, even though they are very near by. The Palestinians are moved through the "pipeline" of lanes, and the soldiers keep to their booths.