'Anabta, Ar-Ras, Jubara (Kafriat), Qalqiliya, Sun 23.11.08, Afternoon
"And Quiet Flows the Don" came to mind today. Just how much ruthlessness and humiliation can be practised (and endured) in order to establish Israeli power and control in the Occupied Palestinian Territories? The Occupation continues to "flow" quietly without seeming end. Maybe it's time to write "And Quiet flows the Occupation" which continues to flow without seeming end.
There's a new flag flying at the checkpoint and new razor wire in place. Yet it's peaceful. ...and quietly flows the traffic," not being checked, the reservists relaxed.
12:55 -- suddenly, the checkpoint is closed. Wire spikes are put in place, hand signals bring the traffic to a full stop and pedestrians are told to move back. We stay in place, nobody asking us to do anything different. The soldiers are willing to talk. They have had a warning over the phone. Not only this checkpoint but others in the area are all closed.
13:00 - a Hummer arrives, calling to pedestrians, "it's all closed," and parks by the checkpoint. There are loudspeaker noises emanating from the camp next to the checkpoint. The Hummer commander receives instructions over a loudspeaker phone. Two minutes later a jeep, shortly thereafter another jeep followed by a Hummer, speed off in the direction of the city of Qalqiliya, polluting the peaceful autumn day with their noisy acceleration. Another jeep, then another Hummer follows. Everything else is still, everybody and everything waits. In the midst of this emergency, there's a shift change of one group of reservists to another.
13:05 -- another Hummer to Qalqiliya, and each time an army vehicle goes through the checkpoint the spikes are taken up, a moment later replaced. Meanwhile, a group of resourceful Palestinians walks across the sandy open lot next to the checkpoint, from Qalqiliya. We see, the soldiers (we assume) also see, but no one takes any notice. Eventually, other Palestinians catch on to this idea - in the other direction - to Qalqiliya also. Other people and all the vehicles, in both directions, wait.
13:10 -- the lieutenant in the Hummer gets out, returns to take a phone call. Another Hummer and another jeep arrive, then drive on, one with unit flag flying in the breeze.
13:15 -- at the checkpoint, the commander gets a phone call, things begin to move again...."and quiet flow the Occupation." There's no checking of any vehicles, the lieutenant has removed his helmet. Traffic is again held up as a convoy, or a parade, of Hummers and jeeps comes back from Qalqiliya. An ambulance follows cars, trucks and pick ups bearing young nursery plants. Normality returns as an Israeli truck (yellow license plates) has to back up and traffic is again stalled as it turns back (no permit to enter Qalqiliya).
Taxi drivers at Beit Iba tell us how bad the hold ups have been at Anabta, first, this morning between 5:00 and 7:00 as well as earlier in the afternoon. It's true that when we arrive, the line of vehicles waiting from the Tulkarm direction is endless, but that's nothing new here. One cannot see beyond eighteen.... There is very little traffic into Tulkarm. Once again, a group of reservists, shortly joined by another group, emerging from a jeep. They stand about together, eight of them, and those not in the middle of the road checking vehicles, are relaxed enough to engage in conversation, first about the sad state of the Stock Market, and, then, begrudgingly, about the "situation."
The soldiers are willing to let us through the gate, but now the new arm/barricade must first be lifted from the central checking area even before the gate is unlocked. While doing this, the soldier asks to see our ID, meaning not the personal one, but the organization's ID! On our return to Jubara, the traffic light is finally, changed from red to green at the gate, as a soldier, finally, wanders over with the key to the gate.
Again, a huddle of soldiers, some from a Hummer parked on the security road. As we ask questions about the man sitting on the ground, one of them takes photos of us, as the others banter unpleasantly, making jibes at what we do, who we are, but on our return from A-Ras, the Palestinian who "has no permit to enter Israel" (it seems the soldiers don't know that we are not exactly on the border with Israel) walks across the security road and on towards A-Ras.
There's a group of white plastic chairs, no soldier in the crow's nest, very little traffic in either direction. What there is, is waved on, pleasantly, as the soldiers, all four of them, settle down to drink coffee and offer us some too!