Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Wed 17.10.07, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
An unintended lunchtime shift.
A visit to Huwwara which was meant to be short, just to demonstrate this face of Israeli democracy, took much longer and became a kind of shift. We had nothing to write on; therefore, the report keeps strictly to the time.
We left Ramat HaSharon at 10:00 a.m.
At Za'atra Junction there are few cars. In contrast, at Yitzhar there are loads of cars from Huwwara and Yitzhar. It is very crowded at Beit Furiq too. We did not stop, it was meant to be a tour for tourists.
We got to Huwwara at about 11:00 a.m. Straight away we were ordered, in no uncertain fashion, by the commander not to dare to cross the distant white line. In the detention cubbyhole we discovered a young man who speaks neither Hebrew nor English. With the help of a taxi driver who was sitting in the shed and who agreed to talk to him by shouting across the concrete (he was afraid that the soldiers would get back at him if he were to dare to stand face to face, and rightly so) we heard his story. The young man had come from Ramallah, when he got out of the taxi and went to the turnstile leading to Nablus he noticed that he had left his I.D. card in the taxi. When he tried to retrace his steps and find the taxi he was arrested and accused of ‘leakage'. The DCO man had just left; the commander refused to co-operate; an obstinate military policewoman, arrogant and full of herself, patrolling arrogantly up and down, did not permit any communication with the young man - we could not find out his name or I.D. number in order to contact the Centre to find out what had happened: "If he is in there it obviously means that he should be there". We started to make desperate telephone calls to the Humanitarian Centre...
Observing from the second white line is like watching a football match from the neighbours' balcony across the road. It is impossible to see what is in fact happening at the crossings, we can only ‘feel' the tension, the frustration and the humiliation. We have no idea how many people are in the queues, who is being hassled today, who is making trouble today (who is not making trouble today), who is being turned back and why. A young man, a fluent English speaker, comes through the turnstile. He stops to talk to us and complains that the queue is unusually long. We phoned the Humanitarian Centre again and, perhaps because we did or perhaps not, another lane was opened.
Three hours passed trying to get the process of dealing with the detainee going: the female soldier at the Centre dealing with him went out for a lunch break; her replacement, who promised he would ‘continue to work on it' was engaged, only after a long time and much nagging, to get the DCO to deal with the matter. Meanwhile, back at the farm (as they say in comics) the young man who we will in future refer to as the ‘leak' is still cooped up in the cage, "because if he is in there, there is obviously a sound reason for it". Each attempt to communicate with him roused the holy wrath of the military policewoman. "Believe me, we don't arrest people for no reason", this from another military policeman, much more pleasant, who replaced the obstinate/rude one. While the soldiers' shift changed we were informed by the Centre that a message had been received from the Brigade - they are to release the young man. Hooray!! But just a minute, now there is a new group at the roadblock, a new broom. A more polite broom, but still a broom: "I'll release him in a moment", promises the polite commander. It turns out that his I.D. card has been found, it has even been returned to the ‘leaker who did not leak" and... the commander will let him go immediately. We wait for the roadblock ‘immediately'. Another half an hour passes, perhaps more. The next stage is that soldiers are sent to look through the underwear of the ‘leaker who did not leak' before he is released. This is the sign for us to leave. While we are in the car park we hear an announcement over the tannoy system that ‘life is stopped'.
Back at Yitzhar: many, many, many cars in the direction of Za'atra, from Yitzhar and Huwwara.
The same goes for Za'atra where only one lane functions. "Perhaps you should open another lane?" we ask the soldiers politely. "Yes, why not?" they answer amiably. Vera says: even if they think that they are protecting life in Tel Aviv this way, it is possible to do it while two inspection lanes are functioning and not to make the residents' lives a misery. She's just an anti-Semite.
At the Shomron roadblock on Road 5 there is a long queue, into the West Bank actually.
4:00 p.m. in Ramat HaSharon: I try to find out from the Humanitarian Centre what happened to the ‘leak'. Were explosives found in his underwear? No, the ‘life stopping' that was announced was nothing to do with him. Was he released? Apparently, it's not clear. Perhaps I'll get an answer soon.
Conclusion: children, be careful not to forget your I.D. cards in taxis!!! If you do it will cost you at least three hours in a small room, without a chair, food or drink. And, obviously, you will deserve it.