MachsomWatch Shift Report
The curfew in Ramallah was lifted for a few hours but is back since 14:00. The line at the southern end of the checkpoint is short and the few people go through relatively fast. Beside this line there is a water container in which it is written in Hebrew "drinking water only" and we check whether it has water but it is empty.
A few minutes after we arrive we see a soldier who is inside the check cube run towards the street, jump over the barbed wire and the cement blocks very athletically and run towards a taxi that has stopped to unload a woman and her 3 small children. The soldier runs toward the taxi driver with his gun pointed directly at him and then he lowers the gun and points in the direction of the wheels. We run after the soldier and see everything from a very short distance. When the soldier sees us he takes from the driver the ID and goes back laughing .
The woman (a young mother of about 25) and the children are very scared. The driver parks his car and now has to wait until his punishment is over and the soldiers return his papers. We ask the soldiers what was the problem and they explain that the cars cannot park in front of the checkpoint even to unload people because it is very dangerous for the soldiers and, "as we can see from the burnt remains of a car far away, there has already been a suicide car explosion here, and they have to teach the drivers not to stop here". Since we know this checkpoint for a long time and we know the history of this car, we can explain to the soldiers that this car actually was smashed by a tank during the time of the first incursion (March- April 2002). At this point the soldiers decide not to talk to us anymore. Throughout the two hours that we are there, the athletic soldier continues to try to catch drivers who stop at the "forbidden" place. However, since there is no consistency in the orders, sometimes the drivers are allowed to park there and other times not, some drivers continue to try to unload particularly people with difficulties or large parcels there.
After about 20 minutes we ask Eran, the officer, how long the punishment of the taxi driver is going to take and a few minutes later the papers are returned and the taxi driver is allowed to go. The soldier who is doing this "educational campaign" regarding the parking of cars approaches us and says it is a disgrace that Jews come to defend Arabs. We explain that we are defending our own society and the values we want for our society but it makes little impression on him.
We had a very interesting lesson in how the power of the soldiers over the Palestinians corrupts them. We meet Kenny, the "humanitarian' soldier (his accent sounds Australian) who told us that he has been here for 2 days and that before we came he was interviewed (we think by Gil Sadan). He says the work is very hard and he cannot do much, cannot criticize the soldiers all the time and cannot tell them what to do. As well, he says the shifts change and then he has to deal with new soldiers again. He tells us some very surprising things. He says that the Palestinians who come to the checkpoint by foot or by car are "all the time watching us and gathering information about us and they bring all the time better and better cars (Mercedes, BMW) to test us and to see how close they can park their cars" (obviously for the purpose of exploding the cars). This perception of the "humanitarian" is worth analyzing. In reality, the soldiers have absolute power over the time and destiny of the Palestinians who want to go through the checkpoint. They decide whether they will be let through, whether their car keys or ID's will be confiscated, whether the checkpoint will be closed at whim just before they have their chance to go through, whether the soldiers will throw tear gas or not. The Palestinians are continuosly trying to decipher and understand what is the logic or the rules of the day. As all Palestinians who approach checkpoints know, the rules are arbitrary and change from shift to shift of the soldiers. Last week soldiers even told us that "special permits for ambulances are not valid today". This enormous power of the soldiers corrupts them and thus they project their fear on the people they are oppressing and say that "the Palestinians are wathching us all the time and gathering information on us in order to find our weak points and attack us". The soldiers have thus managed to become the victims and therefore all their brutalizing of the civilian population who wants to go through (and we must remember that eveyone who goes through this checkpoint has an Israeli ID), is justified.
In order to protect themselves from this "Palestinian threat" they have forbidden taxis to unload people and don't allow people to walk or stand at the hill opposite the checkpoint. In reality, it is the soldiers who are watching the Palestinians all the time from every possible hill. Anyone who knows Kalandia knows that the soldiers are standing far from the road and behind cement obstacles and in case of a suicide bomb the ones who would be killed are the Palestinians waiting in the lines. As well, there is no place where the people can unload from the cars in order to stand in the line.
In only two days Kenny has adopted these fears of the soldiers.
We see Kenny approaching a disabled man walking towards his post so that he will not have to walk an extra meter. He does this again as another disabled person approaches. This is really the enlightened occupation. He is also worried that the checkpoint has no asphalt but stones and it is difficult for women with high heels to walk there. In the past the checkpoint had been already asphalted once but was destroyed by the tanks as well.
A man who was in a van since we came at 4:00p.m. calls us and asks whether we can help him get his license back. We ask the soldiers what is the problem and they declare that he seems suspicious and maybe the car is stolen. We ask whether they can check with the police whether the car is stolen and they say they have called the police but they have no time to deal with this issue so it will have to wait. We call the army spokesman (Noga) and she calls back and says that the police is on its way. The man has been at the checkpoint since 2:30 and by the time we leave at 6:05 the police has not arrived yet and we cannot help him. We don't know what happened to him later.