Etzion DCO: Hundreds of serious problems drain here every month
10:30 – 12:30
A DCO is an office run by the military and serves Palestinians of various areas who need magnetic cards, work permits, permits for one time entry into Israel for health, family or religious reasons, various police permits, as well as those who are called into the General Security Service for investigation or who are prevented from entering Israel for criminal or anti-Israel activities. Those who are called in by the GSS are often treated to an invasion by the army in the early hours of the morning to attend such an investigation.
Thunderous knocks on the door which, if not opened quickly enough, is then broken down. It is a wonderful opportunity to assure the families and the small children of the attention that the most enlightened army in the world feels is due to them… Those who are luckier are phoned at some reasonable hour during the day. Many of those who are invited to these delightful meetings find that they have been called in with the kind invitation to act as collaborators and help to bring their more unfortunate neighbors to “justice”. Of course, this is not a threat. Just a gentle reminder that if they do not cooperate, they themselves will be “encouraged” by maybe having their work permits taken away or that some other genteel method of punishment will be employed.
We sit outside in the parking lot because of the Corona. There is a hall where people can wait and which is sometimes packed to capacity though lately people go through to the offices fairly quickly. Unless of course all the soldiers have taken their well- deserved lunch break. This of course is never announced but just happens.
One of the major problems which we come up against every time we are at the DCO is the fact that the policeman who is supposed to be on duty is rarely there and we have never been able to find out exactly at what time or what day he will be there. As many of the problems which the Palestinians face - often including turning to Sylvia for help - is the fact that if they are blacklisted by the Israeli police, they first have to show a document from the latter stating what the reason is for their not being able to receive a permit. This time also our messages to N. were not answered and there was no one we could turn to. As a result, people left in anger.
This was an exceedingly full day in which we encountered a micro view of the problems which the Palestinians encounter each day. No matter how long and for how many years we have been at the checkpoints, how much we have seen, how much we see daily on Facebook and in others’ reports, how terrible the attacks are on the farmers of the occupied areas, how more and more often lethal attempts are made on the lives of Palestinians as they sleep in their own homes. But today we left the DCO emptied and shattered about what we are doing to these people. I will allow myself to put in a personal note. A friend phoned me as we were leaving and said that on Friday there would be a very important walk in the Jerusalem hills to save forests from the builders who only have one thing in mind. I said to her that I was so disgusted at what “we” are doing that I really do not care about the harm we are doing to nature, that I do not feel that we have the right to a normal life. Both Shlomit and I feel that it is harder and harder to deal with ecological problems here in Israel when, every week, we encounter people who are living a life which is like being in a giant jail.
One man said to me, “You have no idea what sort of a life this is. You go from place to place without being stopped to be checked. You visit one another. You can go to the bus station with no problem. You can go overseas. You have the security which we no longer know in anything we do. We no longer remember what a normal life was like.”
A man who had a permit to enter Israel was turned back at the checkpoint because there is a member of his family who has Corona. His brother with whom for family reasons he has had no connections for three years has Corona. He has not seen or even spoken to him since. He himself was checked for Corona on the 8th March and found in good health. Today Shlomit wrote to N. on various occasions but he was not available.
In another case, a man who went to the checkpoint with a permit was turned back. He had a work accident and needs to get to the hospital for a checkup. He was waiting for his father but then his anger overpowered him and they simply drove off after despairing of getting a reply.
The situation of one of those who came to us with all the necessary papers…we have had this kind of case before……he has paid the fine but every time he goes to free the vehicle, he is told to come back the next day. We gave him the telephone of Amanda who has not been well apparently, but has now returned to work.
One man, simply speaking for a friend in Gaza, kept saying: “But we only need some medicine for him”. His friend had been working in Israel and was knocked down by a car. He spent three weeks in the emergency room and was then sent back to Gaza where he is also hospitalized and his legs may be amputated. Unfortunately, the man was in Israel illegally, so nothing can be done for him. He can only take a lawyer and try to sue the insurance firm of the driver who knocked him down. We do not know what his financial state is but, if he was so desperate that he came into Israel to work, we doubt he would be able to afford it… and probably would not really know how to go about it. I spoke to Hana Barag and she explained the situation to me. Then I found the same man talking to Shlomit and begging that we do something to help his friend. One cannot blame them going from one of us to the other.
In fact, we often come away feeling that we have given them hope which is a mere broken reed to grasp. We always advise them about going to lawyers but time and time again we are told of thousands of shekels being paid to charlatans who do nothing.
Coming through the tunnels to the DCO we see all the traffic, all Israeli, on the road. At 10 a.m. one wonders who these people are…. Are they settlers, and if so at that time of day should they not already be at work instead of clogging up the roads?
The owner of a house in Beit Safafa where his wife lives, told us that though he pays municipal taxes, he is a Palestinian citizen and is unable to get a permit visit her. Who else but Sylvia to turn to? Again he is one of those who come here day after day to get the necessary paper from the policeman, who is never present.
Shlomit spoke to Michal Zadik about a young man who was released from the Ramon jail, but his magnetic card and cell phone were among other belongings that were not returned to him, and naturally he cannot enter Jerusalem to fetch them. Surely the fact that his belongings are not returned to him by the police is a criminal act in itself? Michal will do this.
The father of a young man, evidently from a rich family as they have a fleet of very impressive cars, is suffering from cancer and has to report to the East Jerusalem hospital of Augusta Victoria. But for some reason the young man is being prevented from accompanying his father by the Israeli General Security Services… For clarity’s sake, let it be known that the police must provide a document explaining why someone is prevented. However, for reasons of “state security’ the GSS does not have to do so. His brothers are deaf and the mother is ill herself. He left without waiting for us to help him. But he also has a relation who is a lawyer.
A worker from Ramat Beit Shemesh is fortunate that his employers are very keen to have him back at work, but he too cannot deal with his problem until he is fortunate enough to encounter the phantom policeman.
Three Christian men again asked about the vaccination and were told that only the workers are being vaccinated by Israel… Surely this is also a war crime. They belong to the Syrian church but though we also spoke to two nuns and advised them to see if the church cannot help, they said the church claims nothing can be done. Hanna also said that there would be a general closure during Passover. So, while we celebrate the holiday of freedom, we are imprisoning the Palestinians in the throes of bureaucracy of the “enlightened” State of Israel. When they left they thanked us for trying to help. We felt as if someone had poured salt into impotence…
No, we did not encounter physical violence, just harassment and mental cruelty and the power which past-slaves have come to enjoy as their