Tayasir, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 3.11.11, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
Violence, as well as sexual harassment, at the Hamra checkpoint, long lines at the Tapuach checkpoint, the Gochia checkpoint isn’t open.
11:50 – Za’tara checkpoint (Tapuach junction) – Border Police soldiers stop cars in both directions, don’t request documents, don’t inspect anything, only ask, “Everything OK?”, as if to check people’s accents. But at this hour, when there’s a great deal of traffic, that’s sufficient to create traffic jams everywhere, particularly in the direction of Ramallah. Dozens of cars crowd into the plaza and far beyond, the traffic jam stretching farther than we can see. The soldiers try to get rid of us; we stand quietly on the sidewalk but refuse to leave. When we finally want to go, two military jeeps block our car from behind. I maneuver around them. One soldier stands in front of the car, blocking our way. I ask the commander whether we’re being detained; he says no and tells the soldier to move aside. We left.
Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – 12:30
The checkpoint isn’t manned.
Hamra checkpoint – 12:45
Three soldiers swoop down on us as soon as we arrive, demanding we leave “their” checkpoint and stand at the junction, about 100 meters away. Before we reach our usual observation point we stop by the water wagon, about 20 meters from the checkpoint. The sergeant, very sure of himself and aggressive, yells to his soldiers to shut the checkpoint down. When we tell him that’s illegal, he yells at us, “I’m the law!! I do what the fuck I want,” and continues to repeat, “I’m the man – you better believe it!!”
All the checkpoint’s soldiers – about 10 – come over and surround us threateningly. The sergeant grabs my notebook and refuses to return it. He and his soldiers begin flipping through it and reading what’s written. I was very worried, because it contains telephone numbers and ID numbers of Palestinians, but Yif’at went into the midst of the bunch of soldiers and grabbed the notebook back. Both sides pulled until it was freed, but a Border Police soldier grabbed my camera and while holding it above his head pressed up against me. I asked him not to touch me but he continued, chest to chest, stomach to stomach, very unpleasantly. That allowed Yif’at to come up behind him and grab the camera from his hand. The soldier laughed and kept pressing up against me until, finally, a few minutes later, he pushed me away.
The entire incident lasted not more than ten minutes. I telephoned Zaharin, the DCO officer, while it was going on, and asked him to call the police immediately. The checkpoint was closed during the incident; because it was rush hour the lines lengthened in all directions – to the east, toward the Jiflik, to the northeast, toward the settlements of Beqa’ot and Ro’i, and west toward Nablus. Many laborers stood waiting on line along the road to cross to the West Bank.
An army jeep arrived with a lieutenant; I later learned he was the company commander whom Zaharan had called. The officer, as usual, immediately backed up his soldiers and ordered us to leave: “I have orders to close the checkpoint if you stay here.” We moved to the junction so that the checkpoint would open for people to go through. Before the checkpoint opened, one of the soldiers went over and said (in Arabic) to the waiting Palestinian laborers to tell us to leave. The Palestinians mumbled something (“You see? Look, they also want you to get out of here”). When the soldiers moved away one of the Palestinians approached and said they had no choice. But they’re very glad we’re here; we should come early in the morning.
The Palestinians crossing from Nablus later said to us that the soldiers at the checkpoint said they should tell us to leave. They asked who we were, and when we explained they said “Kul al ahtiram [Good for you],” and thanked us for coming.
The soldiers opened the checkpoint and then the police arrived.
The company commander went over to the policeman and told him we went into the soldiers’ booth and took photos of weapons and ammunition (a blatant lie!!). I asked the policeman (Shlomo Na’amani) to look at the photos on the camera, but he refused. I asked to file a complaint; at first the policeman, who was very hostile to me, told us to complain at the Ma’ale Efrayim police station. We told him that we’d complained there in the past, but that we wanted to identify the attackers to him (he refused to get their names). He sent me over to the patrol car where I submitted a complaint to another policeman, Nabil Tuba, who was businesslike and not hostile, although he too refused at first to write that the soldiers were violent or harassed me sexually, and said, “What’s the big deal – what did he do? That’s not violence…” Only after I insisted did he write what I told him. He also agreed to look at all the photos on my camera and saw for himself there were none of weapons and ammunition, nor of the booth, and not even of the soldiers I tried to photograph (because they were standing too close, pushed me and nothing was in focus).
By the way, from what we could see before they closed the checkpoint, the crossing went quickly and we didn’t see any other delays.
13:50 – Tayasir checkpoint
3-4 cars from each direction which were let through as soon as we arrived. We stood at a distance, but from talking to people waiting learned that recently there have been delays here of an hour and a half. Today also – crossing proceeds slowly, and documents of those coming west from the Jordan Valley to Area A are also inspected.
15:00 – Gochia checkpoint
It hadn’t opened as of 15:15, nor had any Palestinians arrived.
17:30 – Ma’aleh Efrayim