Deir Sharaf, Sun 10.5.09, Morning

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Esti T., Dvora Z., Rikki S.; Translator: Charles K.

fA police roadblock at Jubara - for customs purposes, they say.  The checkpoint, of course, has been privatized, and manned by employees of the contractor.  A car with Israeli plates is stopped, driven by a Palestinian man from Kafr Kana.  A search turns up a package about 30 cm. square, containing sealants.  The driver is sent to Irtach to fill out customs forms.  A second car is stopped, also driven by a Palestinian Israeli, who gave a ride to a Palestinian from the territories.  The Palestinian from the territories has to get out of the car.  The driver is detained for about 20 minutes, and released after a careful search of his car.  He complained to us about the workers at the checkpoint and the soldiers continually making problems.

At Anabta an additional lane is being widened for traffic.  3 cars wait to be inspected on the side of the road.

Deir Sharaf
Sporadic inspections of cars.  All in all, traffic flows.  The reserve soldier at the checkpoint says Israeli cars aren't permitted to go through in the direction of Beit Iba, except on Saturday.  On Saturday, Palestinian Israelis may go through.  Can we also go through on Saturday?, we ask, and the soldier laughs:  "If you disguise yourself as Palestinians."  We insist, What's different about Saturday?, and the soldier answers, because on Saturday there aren't any religious people so there isn't going to be any disorder.  Traffic flows, and then a taxi is stopped.  There's a British tourist inside.  She's asked what she's doing.  Her passport is checked.  And the taxi continues on its way.  The tourist turns to us, smiles, and makes a V sign at us through the window, and whispers "You are Watch," and we nod, of course and are glad she's heard of us.

More cars are randomly checked, and then a car with Israeli plates arrives.  The driver is Italian.  He shows his passport as requested, and explains that he goes through the checkpoint almost every day.  The soldiers at the checkpoint request his permit, which he doesn't have.  He explains that he works for an international organization, and the soldier sends him to bring a permit.  Lacking any alternative, the car turns around and leaves.  Another car with Israeli plates is stopped, and the driver is also an Italian from the NGO.  The soldier's response is the same, but this time the driver insists on calling the DCO.  He also explains to us that he goes through the checkpoint almost every day, with no problem.  After a discussion with the DCO, he's allowed to continue on his way.

We tried to find out why they didn't call the DCO in the first case, why make it had for the international employees.  The soldiers shrugged.  We talked to the checkpoint commander and asked why they don't post the phone number of the DCO on a large sign, so that tourists who face difficulties can use it.  He said that if he gets an order, "he has no problem."  After we talked to the deputy DCO commander a promise was made to take care of it and post the number at the checkpoint.  Follow up to see whether it's been done.

Meanwhile a car is stopped.  The license plate is made from cardboard, and right away they suspect it's been stolen.  The driver presents all the customs forms showing that the car's been imported from Germany, and all the customs duties have been paid, but the soldiers want to check whether the serial number of the chassis listed on the forms matches the number stamped on the car.  

But then the soldiers asked to see the papers again.  The driver hands them three documents.  They take them to be examined, and say they've called the police, just to make sure.

The people who've been detained wait patiently, even though the car's been held for over an hour.  Meanwhile, the bored soldier provokes the driver and his friend:  Where'd you steal it - and similarly humiliating questions.  Finally, after a long time, the police arrive.  From time to time the soldier asks them whether they want chocolate, and whether our presence doesn't bother them.  The driver says, "On the contrary.  These women deserve praise."

When the policemen - two of them - arrive the soldiers give them the papers they've kept in the booth, but suddenly one of the documents has disappeared.  The detainee says:  I gave you another document.  The soldier says, "No, that's all you gave me."  We intervene and confirm the driver's claim, that he submitted two white pieces of paper and a form on colored paper.  It turned out that the document which the soldiers "forgot" they'd received was finally located in their booth.  They didn't bother to apologize.

Finally, the car is released.  It turned out that the delay was unnecessary.  We asked the policeman why soldiers aren't instructed about exactly what they're supposed to check.  The thing is, the soldiers rotate, and the replacements aren't given appropriate instructions regarding these kinds of problems, and maybe also regarding employees of international organizations, and meanwhile they're harassed unnecessarily.  We asked the policeman why the soldiers have to do police work.  He explains that the soldiers are in fact required to stop the car in such a case and call the police immediately, and that's what they did.  So why did the police take so long to get there?  Because there are new regulations that the soldiers at the checkpoint can't call the police directly, but have to go through headquarters, and then a higher level, and a still higher level, and even if each person who gets a call, and whose only job is to pass the matter on, does so immediately, it takes time until it gets to the police.  Could the policeman explain the purpose of the new regulations, and who they help?  He's sorry, it's not in his hands.  Yes, he agrees it's inefficient, but what can you do?  That's what the policeman has to say.  And we can only look wearily at the "wonderful cooperation" and the growing understanding between the bureaucracy and the occupation.

On the way back we passed Khazun.  The pile of earth was removed a week ago but the army continues to appear suddenly in the village on patrol.  The army's in the village at the moment, says one of the residents whom we asked about the removal of the pile of earth at the entrance.  In other words, what does it matter - in any case the army runs our lives.