Al Nashshash, Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Mon 25.8.08, Morning
Nebi Yunis, Beit Omer.
A 60 year old Jerusalemite holding a plastic bag of food tries to get to work in Bethlehem. He is not allowed. One of the security company personnel tells him: “you're Israeli - go back to Jerusalem!” Argument doesn't help.
07:45 AM, Al Nashshash (entrance to el-Hader) : Two people waiting for us, to give 30 shekels for revenue stamps and photocopies of identity cards. They sign powers of attorney. With all that we will go to a police station in Jerusalem to get their data from the police computer, so they will know whether they have open files or not - and if so, then what are the file numbers. These files are for the most part for illegal stays in Israel: in other words, they were caught entering for work without permits. The simple information about file number and police station is supposed to be given them by a policeman at the DCL. It is already five years that we have been complaining and getting promises that the police will indeed give the information which tells a man why he is under Police Prohibition.
No change has taken place in this simple matter. Many people do not succeed in clarifying the reason for their prohibition and are therefore unable to deal with it. Of course the help that we give by extracting the information from a Jerusalem police station is a drop in the ocean, and only serves to indicate the size of the difficulty.
08:00 AM, Etzion DCL: This is the day in the week when residents of Bethlehem are supposed to get service at the DCL. Many people are crowded inside the DCL, and more outside.
An officer standing by the turnstile berates the waiting people for coming early, and says that the early birds will enter last, and the first in will be those who arrived at 08:00. He says that he doesn't care that they have made a list of the people in line.
Ashraf from Bethlehem has a list of 98 people, and he is number 23 on the list. In the half hour that we were there another 40 people arrived. We also talked to Mansour, who was number 96.
The centre of the room is almost bereft of benches. There are a few along the walls and at the front of the room. There are only 64 places to sit. We counted. We don't know why they took out the benches that filled the room. Some 20 women are waiting, and another ten arrived while we were there. They are accepted first. Scores of men are waiting, standing, inside and out.
08:30 AM, Beit Omer :Again we meet people who ask us to get print out from the police computer, and ask what can be done against their prohibition, named “prohibition under the Inspector General's criteria” which can be for a year, three, ten or all life. (I will send shortly details of police problems in a separate report.)
We are also asked about Shabak blacklisting, and we give Silvia's phone number.
09:15 AM, Nebi Yunis (southern entrance to Halhul): Here too men are asking for police printout and advice - including on Shabak blacklisting.
09:45 AM, Etzion DCL again : Asraf is still standing with list in hand. Meanwhile only women have entered, with perhaps a few others with health or police problems. There are still 12 women waiting in line. He hopes that when the line of women, elderly and sick is ended, people will enter according to his list...
All this considerable crowd (about 150 men) waits in line.
We phone Hana Barag and she comes to our aid, both by coming to the DCL herself and by speaking to higher authority. She is told that the new commander, only in the job from today, will come to see the situation. He does indeed, with two cars of respectable functionaries. They don't enter the crowded waiting room, but they talk to Hana and see the crowd waiting outside. They continue on their way into the DCL camp, vanishing from view. Meanwhile, they promise Hana to make an effort to accept everyone waiting today. They also promise to allocate another day for Bethlehem residents.
We wonder: if when they make an effort they can accept between 10:00 and 17:00 one hundred and fifty men or more, why can't they make this effort every day?
At 11:30 we returned to Jerusalem.
At 12:50 I phone Mansour - number 96 in line - he says that meanwhile people have only entered to the Shabak and for other matters they haven't yet started to enter according to the list.
At 15:30 I again phone Mansour. He says that at 13:30 they took in a group of 25 (Ashraf, number 23, is still there). Mansour says that their hope that the list will be considered is futile.
The officer takes people according to whether they are sitting quietly and displaying no impatience. He estimates that 60 are still waiting.
At 16:30 I phone Mansour. He is still there. So is Ashraf. No more people have been taken in.
At 17:10 I phone again. Mansour has given up and is on his way home. I phone Ashraf who is also going home empty handed.
From 13:30 no additional men were taken in. Ashraf promised to bring me the list next week, as a souvenir.
Next Monday is our shift day, and also Ashraf's (much more exhausting) shift. Next Monday will be the fifth time that he spends a full day at the DCL in order to get a magnetic card. We will also meet Mansour next Monday - this will be his fourth time...
Until 13:30 they took in women, perhaps also the elderly, health problems and people going to police or Shabak.
When they started with people waiting since morning, they took no notice of the list drawn up by the Palestinians in line.
According to Hana's report, the officers arranged the line according to the urgency of the requests: renewal of a magnetic card takes precedence over issuing a new one. They also told the remaining crowd that there was no point in their waiting. They should go and come back on another day.
Neither Ashraf nor Mansour heard that renewal of a card takes precedence, nor that they should not wait...
It is possible that the officers tell us in Hebrew different things from what they tell the public in Arabic.
It seems to be that we must demand:
That they recognize that people are entitled to come and take a place in line at any hour that they want, even early in the morning. And consideration must be given to the lists that they draw up themselves. If groups of women and elderly are taken in, and attention is given to matters that seem more urgent, it should be explained to the crowd, and the entry should be according to their lists.
The DCO personnel can estimate how many people they can deal with, and so they should announce at a reasonable hour how many of the people on the list they will see that day, so the others wont wait in vain. And another day or two should be allocated to Bethlehem which has a large population. There should be no use of an excuse that the pressure is temporary in order to tantalize people into coming for many days. And one more “little” thing. The waiting room should be filled with chairs - as it was before. People are there from morning to evening. They should at least be able to sit.