Beit Iba, Sun 15.6.08, Afternoon
It's the eve of yet another holiday in Israel, "Shavuot," so that
means there's enforced closure in the OPT: no Palestinian can come to
work in Israel until the holiday is over. Much as we would like to
bring closure to the Occupation, we must report, once again, on a lack
of resolution, no closure, since there is no satisfactory conclusion.
There is no end in sight, neither order nor peace are around the
corner. The lambs and kids we see on the roadways grow apace, the
fields have been shorn of their grasses and grains, and the first,
early summer fruits, plums and apricots, remind us that nature still
runs its course in spite of the Occupation. But, at the same time, the
Occupation enforces "closure," checkpoints or barriers can be set up
at random, a soldier can bring closure to any order, no matter how
trifling (Shavei Shomron, Beit Iba), while gateways to the OPT can be
opened or closed at random (Jubara).
11:40 Shavei Shomron
The gate is closed, but a soldier emerges from under the camouflage
netting, strung beneath the military lookout tower telling us that we
are in a forbidden area. We take no notice as a Palestinian vehicle, a
small white truck, approaches the gate from the far side. The soldier
goes over to the driver, takes his ID, and one of us goes up to the
Palestinian to find out what's going on. The driver is from Jericho,
has lost his way and wants to get to Sebastia, which he has already
passed! As the soldier returns the ID, he tells us that he will call
the police as we're not allowed to be where we stand! We go on our way.
12:30 Beit Iba
There are about 40 men in the two turnstile lanes, but more older men
and women, in the "fast" lane. In the turnstile lanes, there's the
ignominy of having to take off shoes – in thick summer dust – and
belts. All bags and briefcases burrowed into, shoe boxes with new
shoes examined closely. Nothing like that in the "fast" lane, with
occasional exceptions. A man, who says he is 40, is ill, but has no
certificate, merely pointing to his need for an inhaler, which is at
home, and the soldier relents, letting him go, having told him first:
"You don't have a permit….you can pass this time". A mother with
loudly wailing child passes, as does a young woman who gets through,
but barely, as she more or less faints on the other side, sitting
palely against the wall of the shed. The soldiers look on, continue
what they're doing as a man asks for water, provided by MachsomWatch….
A few older people make their way "out" of Nablus through the "into"
Nablus lane. One, quite elderly woman, manages to do so by shouting
and just walking straight ahead, not bothered by the soldiers at all.
Summer is here, and the "going is not pleasant."
Not much vehicular traffic: the now familiar container trucks, Zim,
Kline, as well as semitrailers, and most of the few cars are not
checked until a taxi is thoroughly searched, inside as well as the trunk.
Five young men are in the detention compound, their fellow students,
who have already passed, wait for them and complain that they don't
understand why their three friends have been stopped. The commander,
second lieutenant Y., makes clear that it's of no interest to him
whether they are students who pass here every day or not. They have to
be checked. He makes no distinction between these three and the other
two, older men. Ten minutes after our arrival, one of the detainees
is taken by a soldier to the central checking booth, passes the
checkpoint but has to make his way back to Nablus. The students are
finally united with their waiting friends. But the two older men,
remain detained, and when the military shift changes, we see Y. hand
the two offending green IDs to the new commander, but only after he's
on the phone, at the same time berating us as to where we stand,
"you're disturbing my view" (when he has his back to people in any
case). A few moments later he bawls out one of his soldiers who is
slow getting into place, and furiously takes the list from the hands
of one soldier and sticks it on to the glass of the checking booth. .
13:00 -- checking of people, particularly those coming from the Deir
Sharaf side into Nablus, where the line is often eight to ten people.
It's back to hand held lists to check from, until the arrival of the
new shift a few minutes before 13:00, when everything stops; the new
commander spends his time moving everybody trying to enter Nablus,
"Back, back." (There's now an infamous red line, painted vertically on
the wall of the concrete wall lining the passage way to the checking
booth.) So the Palestinians wait while the two shifts of soldiers josh
with each other, or flirt with the military policewoman who hangs about.
13:30 -- at one point, the army triumphs: a young man, trying to get
into Nablus, is carrying a black Nike bag and inside it is a brand new
camouflage outfit, pants and shirt and army green sweater. Labels are
studiously studied, the newly arrived DCO representative is called,
and both he and the commander now make phone calls to check the young
man. The line lengthens, the young man waits, but five minutes later,
he passes. The DCO representative is of no help with the remaining two
detainees, "They know why they're there."
A lighter moment. A man, visiting family in the OPT hands a U.S.
passport to the soldier as he exits towards Deir Sharaf. It's
thoroughly examined and, on being greeted and asked for whom he'll
vote in November, he smiles broadly and states, "I'm voting for Obama."