Hamra, Tayasir, Thu 5.3.09, Afternoon
12:36 Hamra Checkpoint
Passengers in the cars coming from the direction of Nablus alight from the vehicles before they reach the checkpoint. They are compelled to pass between two concrete cubes 70 centimetres apart into a corridor covered in iron wires to an electromagnetic machine. In order to pass through it they have to remove some of their clothes and then a soldier, behind thick glass, checks their Ids. On the other side the covered pedestrian walk way is not in use (for some time) but it seems that they are now preparing the passage for a total block by coiled barbed wire, and have added another Israeli flag to be on the safe side.
The soldiers who are checking are in an entertained mood, eating, singing and joking. But when they talk to the Palestinians, their expressions change and become severe, or crude, or disparaging and they shout orders in bad Arabic. The travellers wanting to get into Nablus this time pass without checks, but they don’t know that today there is no check – so they wait anyway. The last time that people tried to pass, the soldier shouted that they were trying to sneak by without a check.
There is a new metal notice at the entrance to the checkpoint, in Hebrew, "Welcome to Riflemen Eshed," with a commando knife blended into the word "Eshed." "Who is welcomed? When we drive away from there at 13:05, 20 cars are waiting to enter Nablus.
On the way to Tiyasir we stop to talk to the head of the Bedouin Council while he is distributing cattle feed donated by England. He talks about two items that we had already heard.
Jamal Abdul Nasser Fuqa, 16, was killed last week, and two cousins aged 14 and 16 were seriously injured, when they went after school to collect something for sale and found a fallen IDF shell. We have already written that the valley serves as a giant training area for the army of Israel. Here they achieve two objectives: maintenance of military capability, and slowly getting rid of the valley residents who do not understand (despite the land confiscations and endless persecution) that they are not wanted. Seven months ago Mohand Kadari was injured the same way. A few months ago, some kids were caught and accused of collecting used rifle cartridges (which they sell to copper merchants for pennies) to sell to organisations against the refilling of the rounds. There are more and more examples.. There have always been problems with settlers, but a month ago the problems got worse.
A new group of young settlers (20 year olds) arrived a month ago. They circulate among the Bedouin tents and create uproar. Again and again people stopped us to tell about the new hardship. Two days ago the youngsters succeeded in stealing fifteen camels. The owner went ton the police who found the camels and forced the youngsters to return them. A month ago they stole cows and a young calf. Those weren’t returned. And sheep from another encampment. The settlers go through between the tents cursing women and children, behaving as though everything belongs to them. Men are scared to leave women and children alone. Only an hour ago, a few of them came through here on donkeys, so E. Says, and he reported them to the DCO. Close to him, an army jeep is parked watching the hills. The soldiers claim that they are on a regular patrol.
14:04 Tayasir Checkpoint
We park the car in the only permissible place, outside the area of the checkpoint, but one of the soldiers decides that he wants us to leave because "maybe Muhammad sent you to make a terror strike here." The soldiers decide to close the checkpoint in protest against our presence. Perhaps 20 people waiting, mostly children. The behaviour of the soldiers to the Palestinians is racist. Some of the children are confused and pass (three 7 year olds and two of 13), and the soldier says "okay, they have already passed, what can I do, shoot them?" He shouts to the youngest child "take off your belt." And he seizes the bag of a 12 year old girl, "show me what you’ve got in the bag." After 10 minutes of refusing to pass the adults, their commander arrives and orders them to let people through.
In our presence they try to pretend that they are polite and only doing their jobs, but every so often they are shouting. Their commander tells us that ordered continuation of the checks, "even though there is a specific order from the brigade commander to close the checkpoint when you come..." This despite the fact that he sees we are not interfering. He also informs us that Hamra checkpoint is about to undergo massive rehabilitation "for the welfare of the Palestinians." He calls this "good news." A policeman arrives, summoned because of us (second meeting today), and he doesn’t see any reason to arrest us.
We meet the uncle of the youngster who was killed, and he tells us about his contacts with a lawyer and intention of submitting a court case.
At 15:52 we watch from a distance the passengers of a Palestinian taxi being checked at Ephraim Checkpoint, while Jewish taxis drive straight past. The check takes five minutes and when we approach, their IDs are returned.