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Virginia S., Ina F. (reporting); Translator: Hanna Kahana

Arbitrariness in the activation of the humanitarian gate


Only four checking posts were open when we arrived at the Qalandiya CP at 5:00, but people entered freely through the left enclosure until the soldier shut the turnstile at 5:20 and queues began forming until they reached the roofed zone. The fifth post was opened more or less at that time.


At 5:40 the policeman on duty (our acquaintance M.) confiscated the ID card and the authorization of a young man who stood near the turnstile in one of the enclosures. We didn't see what had happened there, but it seemed the young man continued pushing the turnstile after it was shut. In any case the young man was rather miserable, especially as he didn't know for how long the policeman would hold his authorization. We considered whether we should interfered and arrived at the conclusion that because of that policeman's temperament, we would only aggravate the young man's situation, and this is what we explained to him. The irritated young man said that in any case he won't go to work today, but when he got his authorization back  after half an hour, he joined the queue and the people in it enabled him to go directly to the entrance of the enclosure.


At 6:10 a soldier from the DCO arrived to open the humanitarian gate, but for some reason he gave in to the policeman M. who enjoyed the function of selector at that gate and could forbid people to use it. This time he decided that whoever came to the gate without authorization (as they were beyond the age that necessitates an authorization to enter Israel, as per the new regulations), would have to wait until 8:00. For instance an elderly couple (both over 55) arrived at 6:30 with a letter from the American Consulate showing they had an appointment at 8:15. The couple knew that owing to their age they didn't need an authorization. But the policeman (and the DCO soldier with him) declared that they wouldn't be able to pass until 8:00.  Then one of the security men announced to the congregation of listeners that the law was: "old people only after 8:00". The old couple was in veritable distress. He told us that he arrived at the CP a few days prior to this one before 8:00 and passed by the humanitarian gate without any problem. One of us wrote down her name, the word Machsom Watch and the number of the cellular phone and said that is they would encounter problems at the consulate because of the delay, we would be glad to explain to the clerk the situation at the CP which caused them to be late. Then we led them to the coffee stand at the entrance to the CP and invited them for coffee, but they refused to let us pay for them.


The same thing happened to a number of old women who joined the first couple on the benches (they were told that they wouldn't be able to pass until 8:00 o'clock). But the most infuriating thing was that at 6:45 a young mother and her little two year old girl with whose broken arm was put in a cast (and it seemed also her father who accompanied her) was not allowed to pass by the humanitarian gate as on the mother's note to the hospital the hour given was 8:00. The grandfather lost his calm and was very nervous. We asked him to wait a few minutes until the queues through the enclosures would become shorter, and then we would intervene on their behalf with the DCO soldier. And thus it happened, and they passed a bit after 7:00 as a one time and very special favour for Machsom Watch and the Palestinian people who should know how to appreciate this gesture (the policeman was of course not present).


It should however be pointed out here that after waiting on the benches, the couple on the way to the consulate and also the elderly women who sat next to them, joined quietly the queues that passed by the enclosures. And until we left at 7:20 we didn't see that the examiners at the sleeves snt them back. One hand act this way and the other just the opposite – and the clever old people very quickly caught on to that.


This is not the first time we describe  and protest against the arbitrariness by which the humanitarian gate is activated. One day everybody passes, and another there are new regulations nobody has heard of before and there is no signpost at the CP which informs people about the new policy – and it may be that this is the fruit of the whim of one person who likes to display his tyranny at every occasion. Even more difficult it is to understand the punishing of old people and babies, whose only crime was to come to the CP in the morning, just when the humanitarian gate is activate in order to assist people like them. And instead of letting them pass they are sent to sit and hour, an hour and a half or two hours in this dirty, place, reeking of urine because… in fact one cannot find any reason, just an evil instinct.


The checking station 5 was closed at 6:55 without any explanation and remained closed until we left at 7:20.


The broken lights were not fixed, so that only 5 out of 12 lights function in the darkness.