Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 24.9.08, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
14:10 Marda: The checkpoint is open, and there's no military traffic in the area.
14:20 Za'tara 11 vehicles on line from the north.
14:30 Huwwara checkpoint:
The checkpoint is full, crowded and tense.
3 lanes open. The "humanitarian" lane is long and crowded - it takes two hours to go through! Shouts of "Nu, yallah," "ta'al," instead of the usual yelling. People complain about the crowding and how long it takes to go through the humanitarian lane.
Suddenly a thunderous shout is heard from one of the soldiers toward the humanitarian lane packed with women: "Get back...:" "Yallah, get back..." You can hear the hubbub of the angry women.
At 15:00 a bus with right-wing settlers arrives; some are photographed with the soldiers. They're carrying orange flags, with the slogan "The land of Israel for the people of Israel," and begin singing "Am Yisrael Chai...," and shout encouragement to the soldiers, promising them that the people of Israel support them.
One madwoman with a megaphone calls out to us: "MachsomWatch women, go to Saudi Arabia..."; a female settler with a huge camera approaches us behind the fence and takes our picture. And more insults directed against the women in the humanitarian lane. After a while they return to the bus and disappear from the area.
15:10 A loud explosion is heard. A stun grenade was thrown in the checkpoint and all the men were moved back amid terrible shouting by them and by the soldiers, who immediately cocked their weapons. There's chaos at the checkpoint. After a short time it looks as if the humanitarian line is moving very quickly. The women stream out en masse. Some of them appear shocked, some are exhausted and their faces pained.
An elderly man carrying a boy goes through yelling that they waited 4 hours and curses - the soldiers? The state? All of us? You know what he means.
Then it seems someone tried to sneak through the lane to Nablus, and the soldiers walk in his direction with guns drawn.
Racheli talks to Z. from the DCO, who says there's an officer at the checkpoint who doesn't follow the DCO's orders, and now orders have come down from above...So that officer was so good as to release the women and the humanitarian lane opened up.
15:22 Many women and elderly men continue to flow out from the humanitarian lane.
15:30 A colonel arrives, Racheli asks him why a stun grenade was thrown, the officer said that a crowd had formed...Racheli yelled at him that it wasn't a demonstration, but that they, the army, were the ones who created that "crowd," and then they throw a stun grenade at women and children, and then everyone is released and that makes it all right?...
I saw the officer turn away from her indifferently and ask the checkpoint commanders who we are and why we're standing there...Another guy who thinks he can tell us all what to do.
With the release of the humanitarian lane, the checkpoint crowding was slightly reduced.
15:40 About 10 vehicles waiting to enter Nablus. A bus leaving Nablus waits a long time for the inspection to be completed, the passengers already waiting next to the bus, they finally get back on and the bus continues on its way.
15:45 A man arrives and tells us that earlier the line stretched to the crossroads and everyone stood in the sun, while the soldiers dropped everything and went to pal around with the settlers.
He also said that there's no water in the faucets. An elderly woman, ill, held up by another woman, obviously suffering and in difficulty, crying. The soldier said she arrived at the checkpoint on foot and wants to go to the hospital in Nablus. A vehicle that was stopped to be checked gave her a ride.
16:00 We split up: Sharon and Tom ride with Hamdan to Beit Furik and Racheli stays at Huwwara, because Z. from the DCO said that senior officers from the Civil Administration and from the Liason Office are supposed to show up, and they want to find out what happened today at the checkpoint and hear what we have to say.
16:10 Beit Furik checkpoint
More than 5 vehicles waiting to leave Nablus, and relatively brisk pedestrian traffic. The line of cars from Nablus is still waiting, and one vehicle waits at the entrance to Nablus. A man goes by and says that about 50 vehicles are waiting to leave Nablus. They're being let through very slowly. When I ask the checkpoint commander why the line is moving so slowly he says that there's not enough manpower to move them through faster, "I have no desire to move them through slowly...," he says, something that we've heard at checkpoints in one version or another very frequently, but he can't move people through any faster because two soldiers are checking, and two MP's, and he's covering all of them... And he also added that there are alerts that he can't tell me about...
A man passing through the checkpoint complains loudly that he's tired of the checkpoint, and a soldier replies that he's also tired of it, and he's been here two years...
People leave their vehicles, come together and complain, and suddenly the checkpoint commander also begins inspecting vehicles and another soldier is found to stand next to him. So the vehicle line moves more quickly, but at the expense of the pedestrians. I called the soldier's attention to the people who were waiting and he, of course, grumbled, but let them through.
At 17:00 we left Beit Furik, hoping the two lanes would move more quickly, and a military vehicle showed up. We all hope that they'll add manpower and everyone will go through quickly.
We made our way to Racheli at the Huwwara checkpoint.
Racheli tells us that at 16:40 there was a lot of yelling and a small boy stood with his hands up and 8 soldiers faced him with guns pointing at him. He held a knife, and later told the DCO representative that he wanted to stab a soldier. Then his brother showed up and said that the child is mentally disturbed, causes problems and is beaten by his father, and seems to have looked for "salvation" from the soldiers. Everything came to a standstill for ten minutes. When Tom and I returned to the Huwwara checkpoint we ran into three soldiers who weren't from the checkpoint who came to get the boy and showed us the knife - a kitchen knife. They said he'd tried to stab them, and one of them asked me, "Have you ever seen a knife like this in Israel?..." "No, of course not! A kitchen knife, in Israel, that's full of chefs?! Isn't that one of the tools men use in Israel to murder their wives??? And how do youths get stabbed in Israeli nightclubs??? The soldiers apparently think that there's no violence in Israel...
The DCO officers examine the humanitarian lane; the waiting time is 40 minutes. The DCO representative tried to reduce the crowding but the soldiers brushed him off, according to Z.. He says the soldiers don't follow the DCO representatives instructions.
The checkpoint is very tense even though traffic flows and four lanes are operating. We hear someone say, "You can't believe how irritable people are after they go through the checkpoint." There are now more soldiers than usual, and one of them turns to the Palestinians standing near us and asks in a rude, harsh voice: "What are you all doing, get outta here..."
At 17:30 we left a jumpy checkpoint, as stressful as it had been earlier.
18:00 Za'tara junction: about 10 vehicles at the exit from Nablus, and about five from the direction of Route 5.