Anger and Despair at Qalandiya
Once again we note that the Qalandiya checkpoint is not built or equipped to handle the number of people who pass through it on a standard weekday morning on their day to work, school, hospitals, etc. Therefore traversing it, whether on foot or by vehicle, becomes a daily punishment.
The situation at the Qalandiya checkpoint has been deteriorating from week to week, and on 12.4.16 it reached a new nadir.
When we arrived at the checkpoint at 5:30 a.m., all five checking stations were open but the pace of progress was slow and the three lines leading into the “cages” already extended into the parking lot. We intended to follow one or two people at the end of lines to see how long it would take them to reach a checking station.
At 5:40 the lines collapsed into a mass of angry and impatient men divided into two camps: those who took out their frustration on one another by pushing and shouting at the entrance to the three “cages,” and those who distanced themselves from the melee (mostly older and/or wiser men) for fear of being physically harmed. Later on it also began to rain, which hardly encouraged the formation of lines, which would inevitably extend beyond the shed. Hence the situation within the shed continued to be one of crowding and anger until about 7:30, when the pressure began to lift and the rain let up, at least enabling the formation of lines again.
The Humanitarian Gate was opened at 6:30, after we had twice called the DCO, by the Civil Administration soldier who has acquired the nickname “Sleeping Beauty” among some of the locals, due to her penchant for turning up late. And this time, after sauntering in, she stood talking for another few minutes on her cell phone, in full view of the people who had been waiting for her arrival (in many cases, since 6:00 a.m.), as if to flaunt her contempt for them.
It must be said to her credit, however, that once she began working, she operated the gate with precision – and that under difficult conditions, because many men who were not entitled to go through it mixed into the crowd of women, children, professionals, and elderly men who are eligible to use it, in the hope of being allowed through so as to escape the mess in the rest of the shed.
At about 7:30, the soldier left. And when people lined up by the gate asked when she would return and whether or not the gate would be opened again, the security guard refused to speak with them. We called the DCO twice with the same questions, and the second time we were told that the gate would not be opened again. Asked what to do with the 62-year-old man on crutches who was standing by it, we were told that the DCO had no manpower available to open the gate and that he should go home. When we asked whether the policewoman on the spot could open the gate for him, we were told that that was against procedures.
Finally we requested that a standing order be issued to the DCO soldiers who operate the Humanitarian Gate that when they intend to close it for good, they should tell the people standing before it, and those who come after – as a common courtesy – that the gate is closed and there is no point in waiting any longer in front of it. We were told that our request would be passed on.
At 8:15, when the lines no longer extended beyond the “cages” themselves, we joined one of them, passed through the checking station, and left the checkpoint at 8:35.