Ma'ale Efrayim, Tayasir, Sun 23.1.11, Afternoon

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Yifat D., Tal H., Dafna B. (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Translator:  Charles K.

The photograph:  Here in Tayasir checkpoint cars are inspected on the right, down on the road.  Pedestrians are inspected on the left of the road on which we are standing.  We’re not in the way and aren’t in the inspection area, unlike what the military spokesman claims.

An emergency shift at the Tayasir checkpoint in the wake of reports during the past three weeks of difficulties here, and harassment of the 18.1.11 shift. 
We met in the morning with Taufiq Jabarin, an attorney representing Jordan Valley residents in suits dealing with home demolitions, denial of access to water, etc.  We’d put him in contact with representatives of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which is considering a legal attack on the closureinfo-icon imposed on the Jordan Valley, and perhaps also the problem of water.

14:00  Bezeq checkpoint
Two female and one male soldier dance in the entry lane to Israel.  There’s a soldier standing in the booth at the entrance to the Jordan Valley, doing who-knows-what.  He doesn’t even glance at us.

14:15  Tayasir checkpoint
Three cars were waiting to the east and two more to the west when we arrived.  No one was inspecting them.  When the inspection began we saw that cars from the Jordan Valley entering the West Bank also are inspected rigorously.  Then we saw that all the passengers on a bus carrying laborers, with whom we’d spoken while they were waiting to cross, had to get off (on their way to Palestinian territory, Area A).  It’s a long and harassing procedure when 30 people are involved.  We haven’t seen anything like that for at least a year.

As soon as we arrived, and were still a long way from the checkpoint, the commander ran toward us and told us to park at the junction, about 100 meters from the checkpoint.  We explain politely that we’ve been standing next to the checkpoint for five years, we don’t talk to the soldiers and have no intention of interfering with them.  We continued on our way and stopped on the side where we always do, outside of the inspection station and the canopy in front of it (which provides shade for the soldiers’ food and equipment).

Lt. Shmulik, the checkpoint commander, orders the soldiers to close the checkpoint and stop Palestinians from crossing.  The soldiers don’t give the order a second thought and close the checkpoint.  In ten minutes long lines of cars have formed, particularly from the direction of the Jordan Valley toward the West Bank.  We call the checkpoint non-com and the deputy director of the DCO, but no one answers.  We call the lawyer and ask her to fax an urgent complaint to the legal advisor.  We also contact Raya, the spokesperson, who notifies the media.  As the line gets longer we retreat, and the checkpoint opens a few minutes later.  After the lines have disappeared we return to our usual location and the story repeats itself.  The commander orders the soldiers to close the checkpoint, and so on and so forth.  Capt. Uri Ron arrives, and afterwards a major, both of whom authorize the commander to close the checkpoint.

The Palestinians suffer greatly from all this.  Some are laborers who left home at 4 AM to work in the settlements, some are students returning from class, others are people hurrying to do their errands.  The Tayasir checkpoint is the only connection, however limited, between residents of the northern West Bank and civilization.  The checkpoint is stuck like a bone in their throats and makes it hard for them to lead a normal life.  During the last three weeks, when the Jordan Valley commanders were rotated as well as the unit manning the checkpoint, delays and closings multiplied under various pretexts.  People can’t get home, or arrive very late.  Two weeks ago, for example, dozens of Palestinians, including women and children, were held in the rain, without shelter, for two hours.  Not a day passes that Palestinians don’t call me complaining about lengthy delays (over an hour), about the checkpoint being closed down, on people not being able to get home or to work.  Some of the Palestinians were angry that they were suffering because of us, or so they thought.  Others told us that in the morning, before we arrived, there were also long delays, and asked us to keep coming.  They said what was clear in any case, what was so obvious:  “The soldiers don’t want you to see what they’re doing, so they’ll be free to injure us, which is why they chase you away from the checkpoint.”

At 16:15 Sergeant Nissim Vaknin, a policeman, arrived.  He heard what the soldiers had to say, and asked us to show him where we were standing (we were far away from the checkpoint when he arrived in order to avoid providing an excuse for harassing the Palestinians).  When we went to show him, the commanders again ordered the soldiers to close the checkpoint.  We asked the policeman to intervene, since had asked us to show him – but he ignored us.  He was nice, but helpless.  He asked us politely to stand where we couldn’t be heard or seen; he didn’t know what to do.  “What do you care?,” he said.  All he wanted to do was to end the incident quietly and go home.  Finally I told him to go to where he wanted us to stand, and if he can see and hear what I do and say at the checkpoint, we’ll stand there also.  He shrugged.

While the policeman was there a car dropped off five laborers near the checkpoint (perhaps the driver got frightened by the police presence).  They ran to cross on foot toward Tayasir, on the West Bank.  Initially, the soldiers were uncertain whether to allow them through – to go home, to Area A (!), but finally did so (perhaps because we were there).  One of the IDs was worn out; the photo wasn’t firmly attached.  All the laborers were delayed for ten minutes while it was examined.  While they stood waiting the major told the captain that they should be standing so close together, “it’s bad enough if they stand one-by-one.”  They were at least 50 meters from the soldiers, but here’s how another prohibition develops – not only aren’t they allowed to arrive at the same time, they’re not allowed to stand together far from the soldiers.

The checkpoint commander finally filed a complaint against us and we filed one in response.  Kal’am fadi – empty words.
17:15 – We left.

17:40  Hamra checkpoint – No lines
18:00  Ma’aleh Efrayim – Two soldiers and a civilian settler in shorts and a long tzitzit (fringed garment) stand at the checkpoint behind the concrete barriers.  After what just happened at the Tayasir checkpoint, we could only raise an eyebrow.  But maybe not.