Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 22.6.08, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Tapuach Junction Checkpoint 15:00 -
We had been asked to check whether a man is still detained here, having reached the checkpoint at 12 noon with a Jordanian passport, whom the soldiers were not allowing passage. This person must have been released before we arrived.
At the car park blue (Israeli civilian) police is holding 3 young Palestinian men, their hands shackled in front of their bodies, and ordering them into the police van. From there the police van moves over to the other side of the checkpoint (near the hitchhikers' post bound for Huwwara) and parks next to a vehicle marked TV. This vehicle stands empty at the side of the road, and the three Palestinians are taken away.
At the checking post for vehicles arriving from the west, another police van stands, dealing with two Palestinians on a truck, apparently giving them a traffic ticket.
Palestinian vehicles coming from Nablus are inspected at two checking posts and passage is swift. No lengthy waiting lines.
Throughout the checkpoint, soldiers and Jewish settlers (i.e. colonists) mix casually - reserves soldiers with civilians and Military Policemen and women mingling with skull-capped civilians, while from the local "refreshment corner" serving colonists inside the checkpoint compound, resonate recorded Torah texts, and the army's command-jeep bears the inscription "One for all and all for one".
Huwwara Checkpoint - 15:30-
At the tops of their voices, MPwomen exchange ID numbers of inspected Palestinians [printed lists may not be replicated for security reasons, we have been told time and again, so the list is held at one checking post and other posts must be informed by simply-screeched questions and answers].
The university students are back, and so is the crowding at the men's waiting lines. "What a hassle" remarks a student going through, "needless to say anything. You see it. Trouble speaks for itself..." and leaves angrily.
From the special sideline for women and elderly, package holders are sent to the x-ray truck across the road return to pick up their IDs. In the turnstile line, women soldiers rummage though bags and purses. All men exit holding their pant-belts in their hands and report about half an hour waiting time, asking bitterly "When will this checkpoint finally be removed?" A man offended by a MPwoman's conduct does not keep still, and when the MP commander on the spot (Sergeant A.) intervenes, the Palestinian says: "Tell them to behave like human beings". The commander's reply: "Don't raise your voice. If you have as problem, come speak to me." After a brief exchange in which he attempts to convey the humiliation he feels during the inspection, he leaves angrily. Later the same MP-woman is also rude to the sergeant. While rummaging in people's bags she takes out personal items such as deodorants and after-shave lotion bottles.
16:30 - a rickety old Opel arrives at the vehicle checking post. It is not allowed through. The two soldiers on hand - the CP commander and another soldier - are discussing matters with the driver for over 10 minutes. Meanwhile other vehicles are forced to await their turn. This driver, an elderly man - toothless, white beard - who could easily be the soldiers' grandfather - is sent to the concrete detention cubicle for "rude behavior". This is also the explanation we receive from the army hotline. This morning he entered Nablus to repair his car. There are entries into town without inspection and anyone can enter. Now he wishes to return to his home in Qaddum village by the shortest, most reasonable route.
At Huwwara checkpoint he is told he has no permit and is being sent back into Nablus. At 18:41 a surprised woman-soldier asks, "Why is that guy still in there?" Only after another appeal to the DCO (Z.), the instruction is given to release him, having 'done his time' anyway. On his way out of the hold, he is pushed gruffly by the checkpoint commander towards the car. The man enters it and speeds off at a pace that an experienced racing driver would be proud of, away from the checkpoint. At least he has been spared returning to Nablus.
16:45 - vehicle-checking is resumed. Meanwhile, two sniffer-dog trainers arrive with their dogs. The checking soldier orders drivers to switch off their engines and have passengers disembark, standing away from the car in the sun until the inspection is over. Not easy, Palestinians' fate.
A commercial VW is inspected by the dog in full view of the frustrated passengers. Afterwards they will be forced to clean the car seats and steering wheel from the dog's drooling and pawing.
16:55 - all present at the checkpoint waiting shed are pushed and shouted out towards the entry trail, literally man-handled - women, children, old and young. The Palestinians yell irritatedly, soldiers face them huddling with pointed guns on the trail, bodily blocking them from moving on. The people wishing to enter Nablus are also being blocked in the taxi-park and on the road entering town, shouts "Get back!" resonate everywhere. An officer announces a 'life-freeze' maneuver throughout the checkpoint compound. It is not clear whether this is intended for the soldiers or Palestinians. After 10 minutes entry is resumed, soldiers return to their checking posts, and the Palestinians return to their places, everything to its usual place: the woman-soldier resumes her screeches, pockets are emptied again, belts removed, some shoes too, and the waiting lines full to bursting.
17:55 - The DCO who had stood checking the women's line all the while leaves.
A taxi driver whose entry permit into Nablus has expired and lives in Rujeib asks to be allowed in just this once until he renews his permit at the DCO. The soldier at the entering vehicle checking post first sends his car away, then him personally. Our calls to the DCO fail to help him. The man must have proceeded around through Assira and Anabta where he is permitted to pass as of now.
18:41 - we leave.
The Beita village entrance is road-blocked by Border Patrol men.