'Azzun 'Atma, Mon 28.10.13, Morning
A long line at 'Azzun 'Atma “south.” Although the checkpoint commander is an officer, the checkpoint operates poorly, opens late and he’s trying to “educate” the laborers – and as a result there’s still a huge line of more than 60 laborers at 07:30, who should have been at work long ago.
06:15 'Azzun 'Atma, south – the gate to the seam zone for Palestinian laborers who’ve gone through the checkpoint. They don’t have entry permits to Israel! The line is very long for this hour – about 100 people; a few have already crossed. It turned out that the checkpoint opened only a little before 06:00 (according to Palestinians who’d gone through), and now there’s congestion and an uproar. The checkpoint commander, a lieutenant (they’re usually sergeants), manages even more poorly than the sergeants. He seems to feel his job is to educate, so he’s constantly trying to create an orderly line while the laborers waiting to cross are angry, noisy and shoving. From time to time he decides that someone butted into line (of course they did, because everyone’s in a hurry – but why should he care?), pulls him out of line and sends him, humiliated, to the rear. Imagine how annoying and frustrating that is. But it doesn’t make the line any more orderly; the arguments and shoving continue because everyone’s hurrying to work since the checkpoint opened late. Our phone calls to the DCO may have helped slightly because after a while people seemed to be crossing more quickly, but there are repeated delays and the crossing shuts down occasionally for many minutes. And when it does open people cross in a trickle rather than being permitted to flow through.
That officer tried to chase us away from where we were standing but I said I’d show him the Attorney General’s letter stating that it’s a civilian area and we’re allowed to be here, and he backed down.
The Palestinians report that the northern 'Azzun 'Atma gate is manned but only Azzun Atma residents, holders of special permits (such as merchants coming to the village) and people with entry permits to Israel may cross. Apparently that how they’re trying to minimize the possibility that people without permits will go through holes in the fence, in addition, of course, to imposing a collective punishment in response to last month’s murder.
An armored military vehicle like a Hummer drives from the road to Elkana through the gate to 'Azzun 'Atma. The girls walking in their school uniforms, every hair in place, are permitted to cross.
Two employers arrive, try to convince the soldiers to let their workers through out of turn; there’s an argument and the line stops moving. The employers told us that when the relocation of the fence has been completed and more of the village lands will be on the village side of the fence, the gate will be closed and all the laborers will have to cross through Eyal. In addition to making it harder for them because they’ll have much farther to travel, most of them will no longer be able to work for Israelis - they’ll now have to obtain permits to work in Israel because they’ll have to go through Israel to reach their jobs, and most won’t be able to receive permits. And so, hundreds more people will be out work!
07:20 At this hour there’s usually no one on line, and whoever arrives crosses immediately - but today the line is still very long, about 60 people waiting, stressed both physically and emotionally.
08:15 'Azzun 'Atma," north" – we drove via the Barkan industrial zone, Bidya, Siniriya and Beit Amin.
People going to work already went through, of course; the only people arriving now are residents of Azzun Atma returning from whatever business they had or bringing in merchandise. A pickup truck arrives with chickens and eggs but isn’t allowed to cross – the driver needs an additional permit from the DCO, which he doesn’t have. For some reason it’s not possible to obtain the permit ahead of time; you have to wait on site for the DCO’s approval. In the past we saw a similar situation at Falamya where people arriving with equipment aren’t allowed through to the fields and must obtain permission from the DCO representative on site. The crossing here is to Palestine, not to the seam zone, but why make things easy if it’s possible to make them difficult.
Our attempts to ask the soldiers who, exactly, is allowed to cross here are met with hostility; in fact, they tried to chase us away. The gate is manned 24 hours a day.
Cars exiting went through pretty quickly; those entering are inspected efficiently.