'Azzun 'Atma, Sat 14.3.09, Afternoon
Azzun-Atme 14:30 - 19:30
We were at the new southern checkpoint of Azzun-Atme, on Route 505. As a reminder: The village of Azzun-Atme, with its 3000 inhabitants, is completely locked in within a fence, which bars it in the direction of the West Bank from the north. In the last two/three weeks this imprisonment has been completed with the erection of a southern gate/ checkpoint in the direction of Route 505. The village is blocked on all sides between the settlements: Elkana, Sha'arei Tikva and Oranit. This blockade was meant to create a free access to the settlements from the direction of the Israeli roads, and for the purpose of annexing areas in the West Bank to the Israeli side of the Separation Fence.
The village of Azzun-Atme, by all reports, has deteriorated both economically and socially in the past few years as a result of the flourishing of the settlements and the erection of the fence. Now one can expect further deterioration due to the hermetic blockade of the village.
The new southern checkpoint is a gate in the fence through which Palestinians leave the village, residents of Azzun-Atme and workmen with work permits to work in the settlements, and a few with permits to work in Israel. The workmen have to go through two checkpoints within two kilometers from one another, in order to get to Route 505, and the village residents are blocked at the entrance and exit to and from the village on both sides.
The gates/checkpoints are shut at night.
About 100 people from seven families live across the road opposite the new checkpoint. They have to go through a checkpoint every time they have to go into the village for food shopping, for school, or to the West Bank through the Western Checkpoint and back to their homes.
At the checkpoint the border police are checking every paper and only those with the address Azzun-Atme registered in their identity card can go through. At the moment every resident can exit and enter after his address is checked. But soon, so we were told, the passage in and out of the village will be according to a list , vetted by the police and the Shaba'k, in order to stop those prohibited from going through. They will also be noting the number of times a person will be going through the checkpoint.
The import of food and goods through the checkpoint is limited to small quantities. This is particularly difficult when it comes to food - you can only bring such and such a number of eggs , Pitta breads or tomatoes, quantities smaller than the needs of an average Palestinian family.
While we were there from 14:30 - 19:30 a female soldier controlled the checkpoint. She tormented and abused everyone as much as possible. We were not allowed to go through this gate. From previous reports we understood that Israelis could in principle go through. We sat there with Ali from the marble workshop opposite the checkpoint, and then we approached the checkpoint. When the female soldier saw us photographing she said that it was not allowed because of the Shabbat. We said we did not keep the Shabbat rules, but still we withdrew without arguing back to the other side of the road. It was not enough for her. She took our papers and delayed us for about three hours, first T. from East Jerusalem and then us. We sat in the car observing the checkpoint, and the same pattern of abuse repeated itself the whole time. She let people through shouting at them, asking the children for ID when going to the grocers and returning home after a few moments, not allowing the transport of goods and food at the same time, only in small quantities which forced a man to go through again and again with the allowed amount, and each time he had to face her inspection. She made a man with a cardboard box of vegetables wait in the pouring rain until he, the box and the vegetables were soaking wet. She pushed another to approach her under the nylon awning where she was standing hiding from the rain. She let people through completely at whim according to her mood. Every two people had to stand in a polite line.
The same picture the whole time: A Palestinian empties a plastic bag bent over the earth and she stands over him pointing her gun at him.
It was painful to watch especially when it got dark and it started to rain. All the men were bent with the hood over their heads, coming and going through the gate like shadows of themselves.
Our detaining was over after 3 hours, after the Blue Police got there and made us sign the detaining form. The name of the female soldier was Shiran Sa'ad, and the policeman's name was Ofer. We did not get a copy of the form we signed.
We sat with Ali who owns the land where the marble workshop is located, opposite the checkpoint. His life is threaded with all the troubles of a typical Palestinian of his age. A childhood in the village Azzun-Atme under the Jordanian regime. The '67 war. Prison at a young age, during the 1st Intifada. Years in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of work and studies. Loss of his agricultural land to an army camp. One son in prison accused of belonging to Hamas. The demolition of his house which had been built without building permit. Four of his children married and do not live in Azzun-Atme and therefore cannot ever visit him. Travelling to see them costs a fortune. One son who studies in Nablus has to go through a series of checkpoints every day. And now the abuse and humiliation and the lost time at the new checkpoint. Today they have an engagement party in the family, and the only guests allowed are village people with the right address.
From what we heard and what transpires from other reports, Sundays from 05:30 am and Thursdays around 15:00 there is a busy passage of workers, and I do not know how to put it but maybe when there is more activity at the checkpoint the observation yields different information. But personally I believe that the the routine of the village people going through the checkpoint, as we observed it today is no less significant.