Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 22.3.09, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
We crossed into the West Bank at Sha'ar Shomron Checkpoint without as much as a gaze in our direction. We passed Za'tara/Tapuach Junction checkpoint which was empty of vehicles, as the red and white MP flags waved over the turnabout and checking posts.
A 'grey police' vehicle as some Border Patrolmen stood at the southern entrance of Huwwara village, on the driveway of one of the local garages, as consequently people stayed away.
15:05 Huwwara Checkpoint
"Gifts to the poor residents of Judea and Samaria" call out posters hanging on the military concrete slabs bordering the checkpoint. The flags here are purple and white, waving against the green-yellow spring-blooming scenery around.
Checkpoint commander - First Sergeant X, DCO representative - N.
Two detainees at the detention post, both rather young. According to the DCO, one of them - 15 years old - is 'bingo' (appears on the wanted list), and the other misbehaved in line (or as the DCO put it, 'he jeopardized the soldiers'...)
3 lines of Palestinian men waiting, about 35 in each line, in order to cross the 1st turnstile - then metal detector, then up to the checking post window, back to the metal detector, back to the window, bow to collect the ID, second turnstile on the wait. Sometimes a pirouette in front of the metal detector (to show exposed belly-back and prove the absence of some explosive belt or other), at others behind the metal detector. Yet at others times, no pirouette required. Waiting time average today - 30-40 minutes, depending on the whims of the Military Policewomen. From the bunker windows emerge barks/growls/ scoldings/threats nearly at each of the pedestrians approaching. "Get back!" "What don't you know?>?!" "Every metal object on the table!" "Back, I tell you!" "Come here!" "Get back already!" etc. etc. When the Palestinian approaches, he is scolded and sent back. If he stays in one place, he is scorned for not moving. One of the men whom the MPwoman thus hithered-thithered is finally not allowed to cross the checkpoint, and of course receives no explanation. "Go to the end of the line" says the person behind the checking window. The youngster gets back to the line and his friends let him pass them up and proceed to the head of the line. "It's you again?! Get out of here, why are you passing up the line? Next time you'll be sent to the detainee pen!" the woman soldier growls in the lowest voice she can muster, which to her ears probably sounds very threatening. The youngster doesn't budge. The DCO approaches him, he doesn't understand the prevention either, but does not confront the MPwoman. The commander approaches, asks her 'Why are you not letting him through?" and receives an answer only part of which we could hear ("he passed up others in line"). The commander gives up too. The youngster is allowed through on his third try.
Harassment? Brutishness? Plain routine.
In another case, a man arrives with a 14-year old boy. The MPolicewoman refuses to let the boy through although the man shows her a passport and documents and insists on them being let through together. After several minutes the MPwoman loses her patience and threatens to detain them if they don't do they're told - the man must proceed through the checkpoint and the boy return to Nablus. The man insists. He appeals to another MPolicewoman who stands at the entrance to the checking 'bunker'. She leafs through the documents, listens to the Palestinian, calls the boy over and lets both across the checkpoint.
Arbitrary force? Meanness? Plain routine.
The women cross more rapidly, the older men in line are slowed down occasionally - once to drill orderliness under the command of a MPolicewoman, at other times for other reasons. A soldier removes X-rays from a brown envelope of a young man limping, looks at them as if he is even entitled to establish the man's medical condition before deciding whether to let him use the special side line.
The vehicle waiting line stretches far and long. We counted over twenty cars. Two checking posts, active at all times. Waiting time - around 30-45 minutes. Sometimes the checking soldier smokes, or as a soft drink. Driver and passenger are detained inside their vehicle for 'having tried to pass up others'. The ritual is familiar: passengers get off and stand some meters away from the car, the driver approaches the soldiers, opens the doors, the trunk, answers some questions, the others approach when signaled by the soldier, raise their coat and sweater, pivot 360 degrees, receive their ID. No sniffer-dog. The table next to the X-ray truck lies in pieces on the ground and people must really hurry from one side of the truck to the other before their belongings just drop to the dusty ground after being x-rayed.
At the exit from the vehicle checking post, the telephone numbers of the DCO are written on the concrete slabs in Hebrew, and the address in Hebrew and Arabic.
A police vehicle arrives to pick up a young Palestinian, his hands shackled behind his back. He exchanges words with the policeman and DCO representative and Checkpoint commander, who finally decide to let him go. It takes them over ten minutes to finally manage to unshackle him - these plastic restraints can only be opened by cutting with a very sharp knife that first has to be found... Why was he shackled? The soldier says 'he went wild in the line, was a danger to the soldiers'. Since the man is a known mental patient, they decided to release him.
Stop! Stop! the MPolicewomen yell behind their windows, again and again. "Get back, I said!" "What are you smiling about?" "Go on, get back!" It is impossible to tell who the object of the scolding is, if one particular person, or the general public, or even which line. The Palestinians look at each other wondering or confused, pass to and fro in the metal detector, hand their IDs, take everything out of their bags, collect the ID falling into the slot common to both checking posts, checking which is whose, re-pack their things. Another day over.
17:45 We left. The pedestrian checkpoint is empty. About 15 vehicles are still waiting for inspection.
Beit Furik Checkpoint 14:20
Cars are let through freely.
The Border Patrolmen have left Huwwara by the time we drive back through it, at Za'tara Junction Checkpoint, the passengers of a Tamimi Co. bus are boarding it again after having had to disembark before we came.
18:15, crossing Shaar Shomron back into Israel, we barely got half a glance.