Beit Iba, Sun 3.2.08, Afternoon
Neither rhyme nor reason could be found in today's monitoring of checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). There was neither order nor sense or logical reason for what we saw, and the
absence of common sense, as well as reasonableness reinforce the notion that this Occupation is all about humiliation and harassment.
13:45 Beit Iba
Not an auspicious beginning: a wild dog wandering around and two soldiers in a discussion with a porter and his donkey cart. The porter is made to remove everything from the top. We wonder whether the constant harassment of porters hasn't increased because of the paucity of vehicular traffic here and the plethora of soldiers, both at the vehicle checking area and at the pedestrian checking posts? Fifteen minutes later, another porter's plastic bags are placed on the ground, the soldier tears each one and has her huge black dog sniff its way over and through them all. Not many vehicles in either direction, the soldiers are not busy, so that when one car passes, having given permit and ID, a soldier runs his finger over the dusty back and writes letters on it (unreadable). At the pedestrian checking area, two soldiers have clambered above the turnstiles, which, of course, are not working; there are at least two other workers, Israeli civilians, messing about with the electricity, particularly with the intercom, but also with the linkage to the turnstiles, meaning that most of the time the latter are not working; most of the time the booth at the central area of this brand new and renovated checkpoint is empty of soldiers or military police. In sum, the confusion at a crucial time when Palestinians return from university or work and the throng of people is greater than ever, the chaos created is a typical Israeli "balagan," or mess, and it's horrific. It's not surprising that it takes two hours to get through for a young man today.The present shift of soldiers, under the commander, sergeant B., exerts the kind of insensitivity that is hard to watch or to describe. An old woman, hobbling with a stick makes her way, past the mass of people in the humanitarian line, and uses the lane that is for those coming from Deir Sharaf (the lane where we stand). The soldier sends her back to the humanitarian line which she has tried, unsuccessfully to bypass. B. shouts at people in the humanitarian line to move back, move back, why or wherefore cannot be questioned. He says so, that is enough. He tells us in no uncertain terms that he refuses to give us his name, and accuses us of taking photos of "his soldiers" (on checking, only backs of soldiers and the big black dog are visible). The usual threat of calling police is made. A baby screams in the ever growing humanitarian line, one man, under 45 years of age, returns again and again to the humanitarian line, trying to get through with passable and argumentative Hebrew, to no avail. Over and over again, men try to get through in this line, one with his wife, another with an old woman, etc. A peasant woman, with a large stack of something on her head and another big plastic bag also tries to go in the outside lane, is stopped, we pick up her load (and is it heavy) until she goes to the end of the line, and manages to come past us nearly ten minutes later. In the non-moving lanes behind the turnstiles, there is noise from the one hundred, or so, young men waiting, waiting in line: two hours
probably for most. B. continues to harangue people in line, another soldier comes over to look at IDs, smiles and smirks as he stands behind the checking table where there's little work as no body is getting through the turnstiles. When they do, the usual beltlessness is insisted on and the bags, large and small are thoroughly manhandled. Over and over again, B. tells people, always, of course, in Hebrew, "I don't care, I don't care," and he means it. He does not care, and it's almost a relief when we spy a change of shift.
14:30 -- Second Lieutenant Y. arrives with R., the DCO representative, and we see eight soldiers standing around, doing nothing, and then, a few minutes later, there are 12 men in uniform standing around in a circle, with Y. and R., for a "briefing," given by Y., but not before he has counted everybody, pointing his finger at each one. Now all the soldiers stationed at the checkpoint are in one huddle, and they remain like this, for at least ten minutes. Not one check post at the vehicle checking area is manned, there's not a soldier in sight at any point in the Beit Iba area, except gathered in the center, around Y. and R. What is said cannot be heard, but gradually, old people, particularly men, start going through the lane which is "open" as the other, younger men, behind the turnstiles, wait in stoic silence. It's a ghastly time, quiet, and nothing moves. The checkpoint is stilled. People wait. What for? Eventually, when the huddling has ceased, we ask Y., and he tells that "it's been found useful to have the commander and DCO representative meet like this." Indeed? What on earth for? To improve the way things work? Surely, just to demonstrate that there is yet something up the Occupier's sleeve to make life yet more miserable for Palestinians.
14:45 -- people have begun to move of their own accord, a soldier goes over from his huddle, shouts at them, is called back by Y. to the huddle. Eventually, both R. and Y. go to the waiting people, telling many they must go through the checkpoint, not the humanitarian line. There is no respite, but in the ensuing mess and mass, a number manage to sneak past and go on their non merry way. Over and over again, the soldiers ask waiting women with babies and small children, "Why from here?" meaning, why don't you get into the humanitarian line. There is no understanding the Occupier's language, and the Occupier makes no attempt to communicate in any other than in his abusive and ugly Hebrew ways.