Beit Iba, Shave Shomron, Sun 15.3.09, Afternoon
Today is a sad day since it proves again that "left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not." Those were words spoken, not recently, but in 2006, by the Obama administration's choice for a major intelligence post. He was right then, but recently withdrew his name from consideration because of pro-Israel lobbying groups. So, it's up to us to proclaim from the hilltops, to let it out in any which way we can that Israeli policy, that of the IDF, is high handed and negates everything to do with International Humanitarian Law and the right to freedom of movement. It would be irresponsible of us not to question Israeli policy and not to vent our outrage about the so-called "ending" of the checkpoint at Beit Iba at the entrance of Nablus. We cannot and must not be taken in by the self satisfied, smug and deceitful words of the army. We must not take at face value what is laid before us. We must dig deeper and find out for ourselves that land confiscation and encroachment by the colonies of Shavei Shomron and Qedumim are all part of the grand design.
12:00 New Checkpoint at Deir Sharaf (just after the turn up to Shavei Shomron).
When we arrive, we see for ourselves that, contrary to what we've been told, Beit Iba is no longer a checkpoint, and that this place, in the middle of nowhere, set between olive groves on one side and a hillside beneath a quarry on the other, is actually just below the colony of Shavei Shomron on one side (well hidden) and just below the industrial area of Qedumim (equally well hidden) on the other.
Hordes of soldiers standing about, a vast amount of their motorized vehicles at the side and a one lane thoroughfafare going past the inevitable plastic barricades, a metal lookout tower (like something from an old train set) set forlornly in a field at the side. That's it. A checkpoint in the making. Or, "The Birth of a Checkpoint" (D.W. Griffiths where art thou?) As is usual in places like this, there is no noisy honking of horns, trucks give way to private cars and vice versa: no policing required.
We stop on the side to talk to journalists: Palestinian journalists, not an Israeli amongst them, and they tell, in either Hebrew (the older ones) or English (the younger ones) that Beit Iba opened, or closed, depending on your viewpoint, already a while ago.
12:20 Beit Iba
We park, as usual, at the busy Hawwash Brothers who, finally, have a lot of work and seem to be saying fond farewells to us. At the checkpoint area ahead, a mass of taxis, as usual, lots of men congregating. The porters without their donkeys are there, bemoan the lack of work in the future, so they will "stay at home." The kiosk owner grins and says he's off to Sweden, his dream. We soon note that there are hardly any pedestrians, certainly no female students and no men students for that matter either. Instead, the checkpoint's wire gate is closed, and there's a small crowd standing in the middle of the vehicle checking area, which is no more. Everything is closed up. There are a lot of officers around, seemingly glad to talk, immensely proud that at the new checkpoint there will be hardly any checking at all, and the DCO representative, well known to us, for years, is hatless and happily taking photos. There are a few journalists but all await Fares, the DCO top brass lieutenant colonel who arrives with yet more officers and a representative of the IDF Spokesman's Office. Fares seems to slap everybody on the back, metaphorically speaking, as he wanders happily around the checkpoint, his entourage in tow, asking over and over again, "It's better? It's better?" The very repetition is enough to raise one's suspicions, and some of the naive journalists, in fact, buy into what they're being told: no checking at Beit Iba, none at all, the end of a checkpoint which will be dismantled (we wonder about that) and an "easy" checkpoint at Deir Sharaf. But nobody stops to ask why a new one a kilometer down the road. No, this is occupation. Accept what you're being told by the "establishment." Accept that a brand new checkpoint was built a year ago, here, at Beit Iba, and filled with electric arms, turnstiles and blinking lights. Accept next that it's deserted by the same "establishment" that assembled it. Why? Other schemes are being wickedly cooked up by that same "establishment" somewhere off stage. The question is, what is being cooked up?
The DCO, Fares, we've just seen at Beit Iba, has obviously been busy these last days, and not dealing with freedom of movement. He phoned the Village Council of Deir Sharaf a couple of days ago, telling them that 85 dunams would be taken, i.e., confiscated, for the new checkpoint AND that a new road - a bridge was the term we heard - from Shavei Shomron to Qedumim would be built. No compensation. No IHL in force here. But then there was no compensation for the hundreds of olive trees taken down to create the security road around Shavei Shomron three years ago either. Based on the topography of the land, the road down in the valley, the two settlements on either side, it must be a bridge or a viaduct, or, maybe imitating the roads around Gush Etzion, a tunnel?! So, now it becomes clear. The country is again being jerked around by the settlers. What's new? What must be new is that we must stop this NOW. We must get into action; tell our friends in whatever part of the world we still have friends, of the ongoing rape of a country.
Freedom of movement is a human right which we've been accustomed to deal with during years of monitoring Beit Iba. There was the obnoxious ruling which prevented youngsters from moving south, say, from Jenin. And now there's a new twist on the freedom of movement. With the ending of the Beit Iba checkpoint and the construction of a new checkpoint, numerous problems and new cases of suffering will be produced. Family members will no longer be able to enter Nablus, as Palestinian Israelis have been allowed to do for the past few weeks. Other family members cannot get to Deir Sharaf from behind the Green Line or from Ramallah. The cantonization of the West Bank continues apace, but in a new guise.
13:50 Shavei Shomron
Just checking. All is "in order" here, vehicles passing back and forth as two soldiers check each one. They demand to know what we want, and tell that the checkpoint is open from 5:00 until 12:00 (not in the middle of the night). The same for the new checkpoint at Deir Sharaf. As for continuing along Route 60 in the direction of Jenin and Homesh (disengaged settlement), no way, since the latter is a "closed military area" we're told.
14:00 New Checkpoint at Deir Sharaf
About a kilometer from the new checkpoint, now functioning, there's an inevitable long line of vehicles, the queue similar to the one we know at Anabta. Some of the vehicles go off to the side, and later, we see that there is, still, a way to avoid the checkpoint, over a dirt road. Heaven knows how long that will exist. We, however, stand in line, for nearly twenty minutes, give our version of what is going on to a Palestinian TV station, while the two others walk to the head of the queue to the checkpoint proper. The commander approaches and begins to tell us that: "This checkpoint will be worse than at Beit Iba, because they will not be checking the Palestinians, and they will be able pass with weapons, because that is the way Palestinians are." He goes on, "The orders are to check every twentieth vehicle, but I will check every one." When asked how can he when those are military orders, "I don't care, every second Palestinian carries a grenade, I don't care what the order is, I'm going to check every Palestinian."