'Azzun 'Atma, Thu 24.7.08, Afternoon
This checkpoint is a "passage" checkpoint to Israel. The fact is that it leaves the Palestinian village of Azzun Atme on the "Israeli" side in order to include the settlement of Shaare Tikva in the territories annexed to Israel. The foreseeable result is that the residents live in some kind of an enclosure. The highway, which is an Israeli territory, is on one side and a checkpoint which the village residents have to cross to get to other places in the West Bank is on the other. People that are no registered as the village residents in the part annexed to Israel (since part of the village has remained in the Palestinian territory) cannot enter this fenced area. A noteworthy fact is that Palestinians who are considered security risk are, in other cases, allowed to live in places from which there is a free access to the territory of Israel when there is an interest in leaving the surrounding areas on the Israeli side of the fence.
Needless to say, the army prevents the natural expansion of the village violently. What strikes the eye is the grayness of the demolished houses at the foot of the grand, red-roofed houses of the settlement.
On Thursdays many workers who are forced to sneak into Israel to earn money to provide for their families get to this checkpoint. The army have no interest in preventing the entry of the workers to Israel (the entering ways are known to every Palestinian and to the army, as well). Just the same, the army is reluctant to issue for them work permits (that many times serve as a means to blackmail the Palestinians into collaborating). Nevertheless, the army try to demonstrate some semblance of law and order. This is why the workers – coming back after an excruciating work week during which they are forced to hide from the police and the Border Police, work many hours for a very low wage and without a legal protection of their rights, far away from their families – return through the checkpoint where they are bound to be punished and humiliated. Obviously, it is possible to make this dangerous journey more than once a week.
As a matter of fact, there is no way of knowing how the soldiers will behave. In most cases the Palestinians are detained for a few hours and then allowed to go on (to the next checkpoint), but many times they get, in addition, humiliations and violence, verbal and physical.
14:10 – One of the soldiers wishes to drive us out of the checkpoint and prevents us from getting to the other side; he is one fine example of the ignorance of those who are sent to be the Palestinians' policemen. He argues that the other side is what is called territory A, our territory, the seam-line zone which is limited to owners of Israeli ID cards. Three young men come closer to see what the commotion is about are screamed at by the woman soldier, "Why did you stand up? What happened?"
A woman, about 60 years old, is sitting in the shed dressed in a festive outfit. She is from a nearby village and wishes to go to her relatives' wedding in Azzun Atme. She has been waiting for about an hour when we arrive. The soldier refuses to let her pass, but she has decided not to leave until she gets permission. The soldiers are checking the documents of a 10-year-old pupil earnestly.
People tell us that the soldiers wouldn't allow the transport of eggs to the village and it causes problems. Since 15:30 the traffic of cars and people at the checkpoint has been increasing.
An old woman who came from the direction of Azzun Atme joins the woman in the shed. They are friends and she came to help her pass. They approach the soldier together but he still refuses. They go back to the shed, not giving up yet.
Even owners of work permits are cross-examined by the checkpoint commander. He wants to know where exactly they work, where they have come from, and what the name of their boss is. Those without permits are detained for a while and then released.
The commander stands in front of the detainees - some 30 men aged 20–60 - and starts a speech. "Stand up", he tells them. Some of them do without understanding who he means. "Come closer, I don't intend to say it twice," ha says in a self-important way. "None of you is allowed to pass here or to enter. Why are you doing it?" He doesn't wait for an answer and goes on. "Look, if you are a good worker, your boss calls and asks for a permit for you. It depends how good a worker you are. I have had enough of you. Next time it is not going to be pleasant." He stalls for a while and then explains, "We will call the police, none of you wants to sit in Ofer prison, right?" He turns to us smiling smugly. "Why aren't you taking pictures now when I do a good thing?"
The women had been waiting in the shed for three and a half hours hoping to enter the village and take part in the wedding, but then they left.
The soldiers detain a youth and say, "you know full well why we have detained you. It's not the first time you have stolen a car". The youth has been detained there for 2 hours when his father arrives and talks to the soldier. They let the father take the car and the youth. People say it is their car.
The same checkpoint commander decides that M., who has arrived at the checkpoint by bicycle after work is lying to him about his place of work. "Had you not lied to me, I would have let you pass. Now, stay here and wait." The guy is detained for an hour.
At 19:00 we leave. The village residents say that when we come they speed up the inspection considerably.