'Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Tue 9.12.08, Afternoon
We heard of the wonderful new innovations at Nablus and were not able to control us and drove there to see for ourselves. A holiday. The holiday of the sacrifice. Cold and rainy.
The new checkpoint is working. The paucity of people passing is noticeable maybe because of the holiday and the rain. The parking lot is almost empty. In spite of the fact that the best of the engineering brains of the army built the new developed checkpoint there is still a large puddle waiting inside the checkpoint for those coming out.
Three checking areas are working. Two for the young men and the third for the rest. The young men in the line are activated from afar by a woman soldier sitting safe and warm inside an armoured area behind armoured glass and she communicates with them through the intercom. First she shouts at them not to come near the turnstile and they have to stay a safe distance behind an imaginary line. When they are given the order to come near they have to take off their coats and shoes, belts and goods which they have to put through the x-ray device hoping it will not squeak. Then they come to the checking area and through the intercom the soldier tells them to put their ID in the hold. Which she then sends back to them after checking it and they are free to go on their way. The wonders of technology.
The commander is not happy at our presence and tells us to go back and not to photograph. When this does not help im he pulls out the best of his weapons...the cell phone. First he calls the police and when they are not interested he photographs us again and again. As we said the wonders of technology.We noticed that though they had not yet managed to remove all the nylon from the new checkpoint the glass windows of the checking areas look as if they have been violently abuse.
This checkpoint is also undergoing changes. The part of the road between the circle of Huwwara and the entrance to Awarta is no longer an apartheid road and Palestinians cars can travel on it. The checkpoint is not next to the parking lot which was once the "back to back." The goods which have to be passed over are now close to the apartheid road opposite the entrance to the village of Awarta. There is already one car which is detained. It is the car of a medical company. The driver has a permit for a humanitarian passage during closure which should allow him to go through this checkpoint but the soldier who is checking insists that he cannot do so and he must go back to Nablus and go out through Huwwara. The man says he goes through this checkpoint each day. As we saw at Huwwara there is a long line awaits him and he insists that he be allowed through. The soldier says that only doctors, business men and VIPs can do so. Not anyone who brings through medicines or anyone else. In the end the driver despairs and want to go back but now the soldier says that he is detained because he argued with him. We protest and within a minute a sergeant arrives, evidently the commander of the checkpoint and tells the soldier to free the man.
16.50 Beit Furik.
The checkpoint is really not working and the iron bar stands in its place, open. There is no longer a taxi stand and no coffee vendor but what there are are detainees in the cell of the checkpoint. Six of them, families from Nablus who are wearing their holiday best who had come to visit family in Beit Furik. This is the first time in 7 years that they can go through to visit people of Beit Furik. Of course they do not know about the changes on the roads and the laws and by mistake had kept on going in the direction of Yitamar instead of turning into Beit Furik. They did not see the sign saying that Palestinians are not allowed on this road...EVIDENTLY BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH SIGN. The wide awake soldiers in the pillbox above the deserted checkpoint caught them and now they are being punished for their mistake. "One soldier says. "There is no checkpoint here but they must not think that they can do whatever they want.' They will be kept for three hours and not a minute less. It does not matter that it is already dark, raining and freezing cold nor that it is a holiday. It does not help that there was no sign that told him that it was forbidden and they do not know the road. Nothing helps . They have to take their punishment. The two soldiers guarding them try to stop us talking to them. But when we insist they give in. We speak to the humanitarian centre and the DCO who know about this case and say that they are dealing with the case but we see no progress.
About 15 minutes after we arrive they free 3 out of the 6 as their time of detention is up. Some minutes later sergeant I. appears and says that he is the commander. He does not care that it is forbidden to detain people as punishment or education. "This is the only way they will learn." He says this about 3 men whose ages go between the age of his father and the age of his grandfather. We ask him how they were supposed to know that they are not allowed on the road if there is no sigh. "They know" he says again and again as a mantra. "They know and they do it on purpose." As if "they" are small children and only corporal punishment will put the lesson into their heads. Nothing would help. They would have to finish their punishment. Because if they free them after 2 hours and 40 minutes they will not have learned anything.