Makkabim (Beit Sira), Thu 14.2.08, Morning

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Anat S, Eilat B, Tamar B (reporting)


A hundred Palestinians waiting for the checkpoint to open. Raining all the time, with only short breaks. We are a bigger group than usual: three women from Jerusalem come to make a film, and three students in communications from the Business Administration College and Sapir College, who are working on projects connected to MachsomWatch, and have come to see what happens.
The film made at the checkpoint can be seen here.
Unlike previous occasions, the workers are waiting under the roof where the magnometer is installed, protected from the rain. A female soldier checks permits and four male soldiers are guarding her. The line moves slowly. Each Palestinian passes through a humiliating route that includes:
1. Forty minutes waiting in line.
2. Transit through magnometer.
3. Document check by the woman soldier.
4. In addition to the magnometer, manual check by one of the soldiers – as he sees fit.

In our innocence, we thought that the IDF had indeed decided to use the roofed over passage for the purpose for which it was built: to give cover on rainy and cold days for people standing in line. Our mistake very quickly became clear. The checkpoint commander, a young Military Police second lieutenant obviously under pressure demands of the Palestinians that they come out from under the roof and wait outside, in the rain, until called to pass the magnometer. The Palestinians refuse and, in response, the checkpoint is closed.

This is the present picture: fifty people refuse to wait in the rain, and adamantly stay, crowded, under the roof. Behind them, a growing line of workers standing in the rain. Four or five soldiers are standing at the end of the roof. Six observers from our shift and three students are standing outside, filming from every angle and are trying to appeal to the officer to open the checkpoint.

Click here to see a video of the event.

Phone calls begin in every direction. We phone the DCO and the Civil Administration – and whoever. Apparently the commander is also phoning all over the place. Perhaps the size of the crowd watching this (bigger than usual) encourages the Palestinians to stand up for their rights and maybe this whole situation is causing the company to be pressured.

Anyway, after 5-10 minutes during which nothing happens, reinforcements arrive – four soldiers from a recon unit. With them an officer (captain?) In crumpled dress uniform. We try to talk to him but for him we are thin air to be ignored.

Meanwhile, two civilian police vehicles arrive. The policemen try to move us, and threaten us with an unjustified parking ticket for which they have no reason. Four soldiers move into the roofed over area and push people, with the help of their weapons, outside the cover. Out into the rain. The military operation is maintained successfully! The workers are in the rain and the checkpoint reopens!

Two women soldiers check documents, five men guard them. Two soldiers stand by the magnometer and another three are on guard from outside. The line moves slowly, each worker waiting 40 minutes in the rain in order to pass to work. If two more soldiers, from among those already there, would also check documents, the line would flow.
All our attempts to talk to the soldiers are met with turned backs, as if by an order from above not to talk to MachsomWatch.
The checkpoint at Makkabim, compared to Tarqumiya Checkpoint, works inefficiently and with inhuman indifference, which shames the IDF and all of us. At Tarqumiya the soldiers have more convenient and secure conditions and are less humiliating for the Palestinians. And when they work in as full shift, even with 150 workers waiting in line, transit takes at most 20 minutes.

We intend to update the Makkabim brigade commander about the situation in order to improve it.