Beit Iba, Wed 25.6.08, Morning

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Rina Z., Inbal R . (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

No changes in the checkpoint procedures.  The lines aren't particularly long, but still – one more morning, one more checkpoint, and two stories.

How a martyr is created – An interview with a young Palestinian
Muhammad, a resident of Beni Naim in the Hebron Hills, speaks softly in Hebrew.  He's thin and very short, perhaps was malnourished, 18 years old but looks like he's 12.  He went through the checkpoint with a carton of toys, orange dogs whose heads wobble up and down on a spring.  He had a friendly conversation with two soldiers, one them an MP and the other the DCO representative.  He told them that he'll be coming back to the checkpoint with a knife, and showed them a release form from having been imprisoned by the army.  The DCO representative, who's in the regular army, nodded his head.  Nothing Muhammad said would be viewed as strange by anyone who is very familiar with the checkpoints.  When he left the checkpoing we invited him for a cup of coffee in Amjad's luncheonette, and asked him to begin at the beginning.  The parenthetical comments are mine (Inbal R.).

"Me, I had a fake ID card, I worked in Israel, I'd work 15 hours a day, make 300 shekels.  They caught me, put me in Muscovya (the jail in the Russian Compound) for five days, gave me a suspended sentence of three months to two years on condition that I don't re-enter Israel.  As soon as I got out I went home.  Me, I've got seven sisters and a little brother.  My father used to work for a bakery in Tel Aviv, now he isn't working.  My brother Iy'ad is 13, he works in Beersheva (illegally) for the Bedouin, makes 30-40 shekels a day.  I want to make 200-300 shekels a day, like I did in Israel.  I came here (the standard of living is higher in Nablus than in Hebron), started to sell housewares.  I'd come to the checkpoint every time, go through, make money, sell knives, towels, toys, all kinds of things.  Kobi, an officer, caught me, said to me:  You can't go through with knives.  I told him: OK, this is the last time, but know I want to go through.  He said to me, You're not going through.  He put me in the jorra (the holding pen), beat me up, slapped me, kicked.  I wanted to cry.  He left, I fled the jorra.  My friends told me to go back, get your ID card.  Friday (13.6.08) I came to the checkpoint with a friend (to get the ID card).  Took me to the jorra, handcuffed me tightly, and blindfolded me.  Told me, now you go to jail for four days.  Took me to Huwwara.  I gave them my phone number, they notified my family I'm in jail.
"My father, he doesn't care.  He wasn't home, he didn't know, he's not interested, so what, the main thing that I bring him money.  My mother took 1700 shekels, gave them to a lawyer, he got me out after 5 days.  They gave me release papers, no trial, no nothing.
"Now I want to return to jail.  In jail they told me that if I stay there a month my mother will get 1000 shekels.  They said, What would you do for that?  Bring a (big) knife to the checkpoint.
Question:  Do you know that the soldiers at the checkpoint could get frightened if they saw a knife, and kill you?
Muhammad shrugs and says: "I want money, food for my mother's home."  He finishes his coffee and asks whether he may go.

Who's story is mine?
There's always a conflict at the Beit Iba checkpoint between the taxi drivers, who are busy looking for passengers, and the soldiers, who move them away from the area of the checkpoint.  About twice a day the soldiers arrest a few drivers for a few hours.  Usually it works out alright, but not for Hitam.  Here's what he said happened to him two months ago:
A soldier came to chase two drivers away, and hit them.  Hitam intervened and said to the soldier: Why don't you just talk to them, not with your hands?  The soldiers put Hitam in the jorra and beat him severely.  Hitam lay there from 10 in the morning until 9 at night.  At nine they brought him to the base in Shavei Shomron, and at midnight took him to the hospital in an ambulance.  He was diagnosed with a fractured skull, a broken shoulder and an injury to his finger.  When he was released from the hospital he filed a complaint with the help of Machsom Watch, and the military police opened an investigation.
That's Hitam's story, and it can be assumed that the soldiers have a different story.  You can learn something about the attitude of those who control the checkpoint from a little handwritten note that a soldier gave Hitam instead of the ID card that was confiscated from him.  It's copied verbatim, except for a few words we couldn't decipher (Nov. 05 is the name of the company in the Haruv battalion, not the date).

"Hitam I'm a taxi driver who went wild at the Beit Iba checkpoint two days ago (with the taxis) Eyal MP  Shlomi squad leader Haruv.
I was arrested received medical treatment and my ID card at the battalion treatment location 93.  Please transfer to DCO Awarta for a new ID card.  In the event of any problem, contact Eyal "Bongi" at the checkpoint via MIRS."   -----  ------ (two unclear words) Nov. 05"

What interested us was the use of the first person, as the soldier takes it upon himself to speak in Hitam's name, but describes the situation from the army's point of view.  This note is a wonderful example not only of the inarticulate language of the army, but also of colonialism. 
Also of interest is the unexplained gap in the plot between two verbs: "I was arrested received medical treatment…"