Beit Iba, Wed 19.11.08, Afternoon

Sarah F., Dalia G. reporting. Chana S. translating

The ‘interesting’ bit is that about the checkpoint commander.

14.30 On the way to Beit Iba we passed Qalqiliya.  The place was deserted, no cars.
14.35 Azzun was open.
14.50 The ‘camp’ opposite the abandoned house ‘Shvut Ami’ was abandoned.
14.55 Jit – A Hummer opposite the entrance.  A bored soldier leans against it with gun on  his shoulder.

15.00 Beit Iba. 
No lines of cars, either entering Nablus or exiting.
A friend of Sarah’s, Kanaan, tells us that in Ashirah Shamaliya they are checking cars and there are huge queues.  He waited there two hours. [Have they once again put a checkpoint north of Nablus?]  The shed is empty. One detainee.
In the ‘humanitarian’line exiting Nablus and also in the pedestrians’ entrance, checking of IDs.
We were accompanied by journalists from Barcelona, with cameras.  The commander – Nati – tells us that photographing is forbidden. He asks Sarah to explain to them and they submit.
When we asked about the detainee, the commander answered ‘ He is a truck driver who transported 15 people but he doesn’t have a permit to exit Nablus.  The people who travelled with him were returned to Nablus.’  When we asked when he would be released, the answer was:  in 3 hours’ time, in accordance with the time permitted (let him learn!)
A DCO man is at the checkpoint.  He is passive.

15.30 A full bus arrives.  All the men have to descend, the women remain inside.
A soldier enters the bus and checks their IDs.
Another soldier orders the men to stand in a straight line and not to lean on the fence!
He passes along the line and as he passes one after the other, each man lifts his shirt, turns around, loosens his trouser about his shoes, and returns to upright position.  Anyone with a parcel opens it for inspection.  One of the men refuses to stand to attention.  Immediately there is an argument with the officer. The Palestinian complains that he is not treated with respect; the soldier says he must obey. They almost come to blows, when the commander intervenes.
After an ‘explanation’ by the commander who does not tend to listen to the Palestinian, the latter at last returns to the line, the  bus that has waited 10 minutes continues on its way.(I have a feeling that if we had not been there, the incident would not have ended like this.)

15.45 Another bus arrives, with the same procedure.
It is a pity that our photographers are too passive and do not try from another angle (from outside the checkpoint).  The picture is horrifying.

Some words about the commander:  First, who does IDF put in charge of the fate of thousands of people a day?  What is the commander’s outlook?  What does he know about the ‘area’ over which he is appointed? What is his attitude to the population, to people?
In our case, the answer is as follows:

‘I am prepared to talk to you only when you are without the tag ‘Machsomwatch.’ I immediately agreed to meet him the next day in Tel Aviv and even got his telephone number. But there was no need, because he continued to talk and talk to me- and not to listen.
According to him, there is no occupation!  This is not occupation.  The checkpoints are here so that ‘they’ won’t blow us up, as they do in Gaza.  To quote:
‘I am from Sderot.  What they do in Sderot I know. For 8 years we have been under rockets.  If I were a girl I would cry.  I speak from pain, from my heart. You are far from there. And you – your organization – is against us.  You can come here to see us and then lie, to report lies and interfere with our work.  You look for us, check that we shouldn’t hit Palestinians – you don’t care about us, just about the Palestinians.’
I try to tell him that I think the soldiers are victims of the occupation, but no response.
I go away from the checkpoint to the junction of the road from Qusin with the road to the checkpoint.  There I speak to a taxi-driver who is waiting for the signal for permission to enter Nablus.  The commander approaches and shouts ‘you’re forbidden to stand there.  You aren’t allowed to stand there and talk to a Palestinian driver.  You are disturbing me in my work.’  I answer that I am outside the checkpoint that he should rather not disturb himself, but return to the checkpoint.  He insists that I return to my former position.  To Sarah, who is trying to calm him, ‘Only because of you I don’t call the police.’  Sarah asks why they make problems for people entering and exiting Nablus, when this is right inside Palestine.  He answers:  ‘There is no Palestine.  This is all Israel.  This is our place.’  And once again proudly points out that he has been in Sderot 8 years – and see what they did to us.

Logic is not an organic part of his argument, of his demands, of his conception.  He hates Arabs, and hates members of Machsomwatch.  These are the things that drive him, in addition to the intoxicating feeling of power.

16.40  We leave.  It is hard to continue.  But why, in fact?  After all, nothing terrible happened there…