Huwwara, Sun 14.12.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Note that this Sunday is the first normal workday since this installation was opened, a regular weekday with the usual mass of students and people trying to go about their daily business moving between the regional urban center of Nablus and the numerous localities around far and near. Hundreds of Palestinians need to cross this barrier at any given point in time at these hours.
All checking posts active all the time. X-ray truck active next to the vehicle checking post.
Two lanes for inspected vehicles exiting Nabhlus (not only one as before).
DCO representative: Adam, Checkpoint Commander : Second Lieutenant X.
As has already been reported, Huwwara Checkpoint in its renovated version is indeed an "upgrading" of visual space. Please see photographs sent earlier under the heading 'pictures of state-of-the-art Huwwara checkpoint'. The basic idea of the structure has remained unchanged: Palestinians arrive from inside Nablus to the checkpoint compound, form waiting lines to have their persons, belongings and IDs inspected. Three waiting lines for young men (age limits frequently changed) and one special side line for women-children-elderly-and physically disabled.
Instead of the former single-file lines kept strictly at gun point by the securing soldiers who would roam around and close-by and impose 'educational' penalties about which we have written unendingly here, the situation now is different: the lines become tightly squeezed human masses. People are crushed together for an hour, or two, or more, and the occasional joint roar arises and mixes with the equally deafening PA system loudspeakers through which the female voice repeats ad inifinitum "Move back!". Only they have nowhere to move back to, other than to alternately shift the tremendous crushing pressure amongst them backward, then forward again then backward.
The voices are those, as usual, of the military policewomen who now sit comfortably, safe, warm and hermetically separated from the inspected population - inside concrete cells with nuclear bomb-shelter doors, well sealed, no harm can now befall them. The male soldiers - numbering less than before - walk to and fro close to the cells, to the head of the lines, to the turnstiles, and most of the action takes place acoustically with the loudspoken "move back" and at times other words pronounced in such poor Arabic and so shrill that they are hardly comprehensible, say the Palestinians.
What else can we report? Nothing. Are there detainees? How many? Who knows? Who sees? Who hears? Everyone Palestinian is detained. Not allowed to move on in and out of their day. Stuck in the strangle-hold of khaki procedures.
What we do see both near and far is the huge human mass compressed as it used to be in those far days which we had hoped were bygones. And we see the tiny children coming out of the special side line where, too, people wait for at least half an hour in this terrifying pressure and suffocation.
Since the X-ray truck is now far from these lines - and serves only the vehicle inspections - all the contents of every plastic bag carried by a Palestinian must undergo some careful rummaging, which makes the waiting in the pedestrian lines three times longer than before. People exit bitter/furious/desperate to such an extent that even those who used to always greet us with a smile and exchange words - now pass us by in silence, averting their eyes.
We have demonstrably become a part of the orderly, self-evident, crushing entity that is the checkpoint.
Ah yes, a wondrous tradition has been restored: Israeli women (military policewomen) inspect Palestinian men, Israeli men (soldiers) inspect Palestinian women. A finishing touch: even a young stray dog now inhabits the narrow exit path again. Why narrow? After all millions were poured into this engineering upgrade? Well - indeed the exit from the compound is generously wide, but it has been blocked by a concrete slab so that in the flesh people can only - again - squeeze through two narrow openings at its sides. Please see photos recently sent.
A parting look: a man limps along with cane and plaster leg cast, after standing at least half an hour in the crushing special side line. Around him, toddlers continue to be crushed and learn what their lives are worth for the sake of Israeli peace of mind.
Our vendor friend in the taxi park who always but always greeted us warmly showed us a grim face this time and did not even wait for our question before he blurted in perfect Hebrew, three times: The situation sucks. This morning I had to wait over two hours just to get over to my stand here in the taxi park.