Deir Sharaf, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Jubara (Kafriat), Mon 27.12.10, Afternoon
Any shift or tour reports to the OPT today cannot avoid using a certain terminology: “prevention,” “separation,” “fabric of life,” and “law enforcement.” Those are concepts we, as Israelis, are made aware of by the authorities -- words used to describe various aspects of Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Only through our reports can we translate and illustrate the reality of what we monitor, of what goes on in the OPT. The words themselves have a defensive connotation. Instead of maintaining a so called status quo in the OPT, awaiting a “peace” that does not progress and providing for the security interests of those who live within the Green Line, we can only present to those who join us on shifts or tours of the OPT that Israel is working to change that status quo. More and more Palestinians are dispossessed of their land, more and more of Israel’s military superiority, cunningly disguised through the bureaucratic impositions of “permits” through the Civil Administration serves to control more and more aspects of everyday Palestinian life.
There are 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank, barred from entering Jerusalem or Israel proper unless they have special permits, which they can receive only in exceptional cases from the military authority known as the Civil Administration. The freedom of movement of almost all Palestinians in the West Bank is limited -- to inside the West Bank only.
And then there’s the question of Palestinians getting from their homes to or from school or work in the Seam Zone, that area of enclaves caught between the Wall/Separation Barrier/ Fence – whatever euphemism is given -- on the East, and Israel and the Green Line on the West. In reality, 80% of the Wall is built on West Bank land: Palestinian owners were not compensated for the destruction/confiscation of their lands, and further severe restrictions were placed on freedom of Palestinian movement after 2002 when the Israeli government decided to build a Separation Barrier/Wall with the stated goal of “providing security” to Israeli citizens. The barrier created successfully encircles and/or isolates numerous Palestinian population centers. The Wall itself is a combination of an eight meter high concrete wall (mainly around Palestinian population centers like Jerusalem or Qalqiliya), trenches, fences, razor wire and military-only roads. There is also a 30-100 m. wide “buffer zone” east of the Wall with electrified fences, trenches, sensors and military patrol roads and some sections have armed sniper towers. Approximately 50,000 Palestinians now live in the Seam Zone, and since 2003, all Palestinians living there or wanting to enter are required to obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities, in effect requiring permits for people to live and work on their own land.
Gate 1393: Habla
14:00-15:00 is the official opening time of the gate, or gates. They are opened, a few minutes late, by five reservist soldiers all of whom, except one, seem relaxed about their task. The usual donkey and horse carts, and the usual people, wait on our side of the Separation Barrier, including the one woman, with permit, who works on the other side of the Green Line, lives in Ras Atiya and who is somebody we know from the “good old days” maybe 18 months ago when the Separation Barrier still went by her village, and she could cross there. Today, she is far from that village, has to cross here, at Gate 1393, twice a day, and take a taxi from the other side to her own home, now inaccessible to us – a ten minute ride, which, again she must do twice daily.
The Bedouin youngsters must also do this trip twice daily, to and from school, and the two buses, one with boys, the other with girls, now wait for at least ten minutes that we saw on the far side of the Barrier. As usual, two soldiers get into the bus and, as usual in the morning too, they go right through it when the children return from school.
Eliahu Gate is manned by police who relax and refresh themselves on this abnormally hot December afternoon.
Route 55: nothing much to report, except that the settlement of Zufim seems to be expanding at a very rapid rate, the newly built houses getting larger and larger.
We drive to Deir Sharaf via the now non existent and notorious checkpoint of Beit Iba and so admire, one again, the beauty of the countryside as well as the newly built road sloping down to it, a “gift of the American People to the Palestinian People.”
At Deir Sharaf, there is much activity and a lot of vehicular traffic, to Jenin as well as to Nablus.
At Jubarra, the soldiers don’t bother to examine the trunk of the car unlike at Eliahu Gate, through which we had returned to Habla after an excellent lunch at Nabil Elias.
on to the terminal at Irtah where hundreds of workers are returning to their homes at this hour. A huge, ugly altercation ensues as one of the visitors has taken a photo of two of the other visitors engaged in conversation with an armed guard – civilian -- of course at this terminal, but outside the terminal gates. All’s well that ends well, but, once again, a lesson, as if we needed it, in terms of control, complete control.
At the turnstiles, there is no line, the men pass quickly, again complaining that we, MachsomWatchers, should be there at 4:00 in the morning. One man stops to tell us that although he lives in Tulkarm, quite near the terminal, he was there, today, at 4:30, but it was 6:45 before he got out. And, he laments, “Even if you were to come, would you be able to change things? I fear not.”
To complete this shift/tour, another man tells the visitors, “Who does not see the facts, (meaning the reality on the ground) does not understand.” Indeed!