Huwara Checkpoint, Saturday afternoon, 29.9.2007, the Ramadan month
of fasting. The checkpoint is as it always is, cruel and mean. The
soldiers, as all soldiers are. Young, cruel and racist. Their minds
poisoned in the name of their parents and country and needs of the herd,
to check and curb people's movement.
Huwara checkpoint checks. Movement. That is what it does. That is its
essence. All the rest is variation. Whoever desires security does not
impose closure upon Nablus and prevents people from entering and exiting
it. These are the objectives of whoever wishes to strangle, starve and
I shall tell especially one thing of this ugly and depressing afternoon,
so similar and different and yet similar to everything that typifies
occupation and oppression and incarceration and abuse as a method and a
goal in itself.
In the denial of life, enclosing people in enclaves amongst which there
are checkpoints and roads for Jews only, there are these junctions,
checkpoints, 'passages' which attract various venders to try and sell
things. Mostly these are people with different vocations who have been
prevented from practicing their trade by the ever-worsening rules of
separation and oppression. People who are trying to provide for their
families, usually large ones, and earn a pittance. For the terrible
economic situation does not enable them to charge much. No one can
afford much. Still, in spite of everything, people sometimes do need a
cup of coffee or some humus or diapers. And at the exit points from the
checkpoints, before they board taxis on their way anywhere, they
sometimes buy something. It's good for the venders, of course, and good
for the taxi drivers who usually have to wait around for hours, and good
for the passers-by who have also been waiting for hours to be allowed
through. What is wrong with this? Precisely for this reason, namely that
this is a last meager resort to earn and provide some relief for the
passers-by, and the possibility for drivers to relax over a cup of
coffee once in a while – this is just the reason to inflict harm
precisely upon this miserable population.
After all, if any of them were suspect in the eyes of the Occupation,
they would long since be arrested and investigated. But they are not.
They must not earn a living. This is the rule of Occupation. And the
means – sending the young executors to take out their wrath on these
poor. At all the checkpoints, by all the army units, for years now. It
has become routine. It is not a whim, not a single incident perpetrated
by some cruel individual soldier. It is policy. To prevent the venders
from making a living.
Why? Because they are needy. That is the reason.
At points of need, the Jewish imagination is mobilized for prevention.
Thus, too, the DCO (district coordination office), the very place that
is supposed to provide answers to people under occupation, that
acknowledges its duty to maintain the lives of occupied civilians, be
driven by "relatively humane" and humanitarian motives, even in a state
of war. It is the very center and brain of the prevention system. Of its
sinister nature and terrifying stranglehold. And it is the very center
for recruitment of collaborators.
Through the cynical use of sweeping, targeted prevention, and the fact
that it is the only venue where Palestinians are allowed to appeal to
for their everyday needs, the DCO has turned into the perfect place to
demand of people to betray their own, in order to obtain even the
slightest minimum. The greater the need, the greater the possibility to
pressure them. The DCO offices are synonymous with the GSS – General
Security Service. That is where it sits. These are the inquisitors in a
"humane" guise. Humaneness is only the non-essential language. What
could be more sophisticated? If a person wants to apply for a permit to
build a house, he must turn to the DCO, and of course not receive such a
permit because he is Palestinian.
That is the root of it all. But then his address is already known so his
house can be demolished as soon as it goes up. And if someone is ill
with cancer and wants to go to another town where he is not allowed to
go by the laws of separation, all the better.
Ample reason to ask of him one thing or the other. And then he will
pass. For prevention is methodical control and pressure which has not a
thing to do with security. It is the distilled embodiment of evil. The
army's "humanitarian" hotline is the DCO. The place that constitutes one
of the centers of oppression, or organizing apartheid, of administering
the destruction of Palestinian society – is the one and only place to
which they are to turn. It is so cynical and sophisticated and so very
And thus the juncture of need of the venders is the juncture of abuse.
This is an especially poor family, everyone say sit. (Judith Levin of
Machsomwatch, too, knows them well. She is a good friend to them and can
tell more about their situation and what they have been through). And in
Huwara, where people are certainly not wealthy, they were given a shack
without having to pay. There they spread their mattresses. According to
Judith, that is all they have. They live in dire poverty. However
impoverished everyone is, there are the poorer poor, and such is this
family. Seven children. Originally from the Jenin area. The main
bread-earners are the eldest son, 16-year old Nizar, and 12-year old
Mu'atassem. The livelihood of the entire family rests on the shoulders
of these two children. They earn no more than 50 shekel a day, usually
less than 20. If the two children earn nothing, then there is nothing to
buy food with. It is extremely simple.
This – of course – is an excellent reason to hurt them.
Little terror squads of one-two-three soldiers venture out to hunt down
These children usually sell tea and coffee. That's it. They have already
been beaten before. Soldiers have spilt their sugar and water and coffee
on the ground. Every soldier and his own special fancy…
In recent weeks, usually soldier Israel and soldier Alex have been
starring in this program, but not only they. They are but the prominent
ones. Israel sometimes comes around in a Hummer, and not just from the
checkpoint itself. An especially industrious fellow, it seems.
There are those who beat, and those who keep silent, and those who are
detained in the concrete cell for hours or placed in the sun on purpose
or just yelled at that if they don't get the hell out their wares will
end up on the ground, and those who listen to their i-pod as though
there is no world around them.
I don't usually harbor feelings of vengeance. It is not my nature. Not
even against the bad guys. But I do admit that at times I need for all
of them, down to the last one, everyone partaking in this sinister
regime, all these young executioners, "our soldiers", to be denied entry
when they will be boarding the plane on their way to the standard
post-army treks in India and South America. And that no university will
ever admit whoever took part in this sinister war against another people
only because it is another people. At least this.
Saturday was such a day. We did not see anyone get shot, nor beaten, nor
shackled. There were only young men with helmets and guns who prevented
people from moving in their land and home for their everyday needs, from
going to school or the doctor or the garage to visiting their elderly
sister. Only if they fit today's passage criteria. And even so, not
What criteria can be worthy to not allow someone to breathe, to live, to
raise children, to eat? Why can a person who dwells elsewhere not be
allowed to visit his father who lives here? Why?
Very simply, for hurt is the purpose and not the symptom. And so that at
the juncture points of permit applications needed for the most trivial,
minimal thing, it will be possible to recruit collaborators. The first
and foremost method of destroying life texture, is to poison people's
ability to trust each other. Under such dreadful conditions of pressure,
the likelihood that a neighbor or friend has been pushed into acting
against his people is enormous. It is also human. And thus, you can no
longer let go with one another, for who knows, perhaps the other has
already received his permit and more than anything that arouses
suspicion… And he, the one who receives his permit, is sometimes more
suspect than everyone else, for how did he do it? What did he tell the
'captain'? Who knows… And so even receiving permits is problematic, and
without them nothing is possible…
A few days ago the brothers sold diapers, for during the Ramadan fast
there is no demand for coffee. Again, Nizar and Mu'atassem. Soldier
Israel took the bag of diapers and hit 16-year old, epileptic Nizar on
the head. Then soldier Alex took skinny little Mu'atassem and said, I'll
cut off your head and tongue. He has a voice creeping with worms, say
the others of Alex. They say he also speaks Arabic. And that he said all
of this to the frightened boy in Arabic. They spent four and a half
hours in the holding cell, standing for there is no room to sit. Then
they were allowed to leave.
Another time, recently, can't say exactly when for it happens all the
time, they were selling in the taxi park. Soldiers came along and took
them, stood them in the sun behind what they call the "Humanitarian
Point". Behind the shack. So they would not be seen. Some time. Hours.
And their mother came. People told her they were there. And she began to
cry and said that they are the family's bread-winners. Then a jeep came
along, listened, and released them.
"Two days ago," says N., the taxi coordinator, "soldiers threw down the
water and diapers they were selling. So I came and gathered the stuff,
and the soldier who threw it came to me, he knows my face, and he looked
at me, hard. That's how he remembers me, I think. Today on my way from
Nablus, while waiting in line, I sat down on a concrete slab, and that
same soldier came up to me, he must have remembered me, and he said 'I
think today you're not going to be allowed through'. Why? I ask. I'm no
terrorist. It's because you're getting back at me for helping the
children. So the soldier said, 'you'll get to the line, but you won't be
allowed to pass.' So I told him, you want a fight? I'm strong. But I did
nothing. We both know it's because I helped those children. That's why
you want to give me a hard time.
He spoke no more. Then I got to the head of the line, and he came and
said 'go home!'
I said, check me. I'm clean. I know the law. It didn't help. They told
me to go back. I yelled, and then they said, 'come and bring your ID.
You're not getting in.' I yelled at them that this is unlawful, and I
know it. Then the officer came along and I told him we're not fighting.
You are responsible for this order of the soldiers. That's what an
officer is here for, to be smarter. If I get to the DCO you'll have a
problem here. So he said, 'take your ID back. You're not crossing before
12 o'clock." I said, why? I lose money like this. And he said, 'you're
not crossing." Some officer.
So I crossed in a cab. The officer caught me. I told him again that I'm
right by the law. He said, 'you yelled!" I did not, I said. I said the
soldier had tried to get me into an argument. That it was all in order
to get back at me. Because I helped the children. I told him they're
behaving as if we he and I are at war. And that I want to go to work.
"Give me your ID" he said and I did. HE gave it back to me and said,
'just don't yell.'
And I got through.
All because I helped the children. They're getting back at me.
Today the mother was on her way back from Nablus and happened to be
there just as her sons' cart was being kicked over. Soldier Israel and
another. Three cartons, each containing 72 glasses made of glass. It's
Ramadan so they're not selling food or beverages. Everything fell and
broke. All the money was gone. She came running, crying, gripped the
soldier, and one of the soldiers threatened her face with his M-16, the
other pushed her from the side with his rifle butt, and she said to him:
Death's better", and they continued pushing her with their rifle butts,
and she took the children and went off.
And they did not shoot her.
Some of us, friends, thought we'd try to do something for them, says N.
the taxi dispatcher. They're not from around here, I told you. They're
from the Jenin area. No work. Nothing. Not even bread and oil and thyme.
I'm ashamed of the money I earn, you see? What is 20 shekels a day, do
you get it?
Later the mother took her sick son, Muntasser, to Nablus for a medical
examination and walked on the paved lane and not through the turnstile.
The soldiers yelled at her, and she told them 'my child is ill'. God
take you, said the soldier. And she passed.
These children are not the only children venders at Huwara checkpoint
whom the Israeli army brutes harass. There are also adults. We have
written about them again and again. For as I said, this is what the
soldiers were sent here to do. And do with zest. Some have dashed the
venders' bread on the ground into the dirt. Poured out cooled drinks.
Not all soldiers beat them. Some only say, "Git! Split! Get out of
here!" Some draw a line in the dirt and say, 'Don't cross this line!"
Some kick. And some do it with their rifle butts. On that day at the
checkpoint some people were detained in the concrete cell because their
name bingo-ed on the computer list. Some tried to bypass and some were
"cheeky", meaning they did not look submissively at the ground while
being checked. Some were caught leaning "too long" on the concrete side
ledge. And there was a taxi carrying an ailing, invalid father whose son
was driving, on their way home to Nablus. And the soldier said no. You
don't drive in. Because the taxi is registered under the father's name
and not the son's. Because.
But the father is here, by me, says the son. And he is now crippled. And
they're on their way home. And he's not feeling well. And after
residents of Nablus are "allowed" by "law" to come and go. But alas, the
son is driving his father's taxi who, true, is sitting right there
beside him and is, true, a cripple now, but he's not driving so git! Go
away! So the man turned back. And came back alone and said again, but I
should be allowed in, and him too, and the cab, I'm not on my way to Tel
The soldier gestured him to go away, split! The man said one more thing,
pleaded, and the soldier gestured shackled, as if saying I'll shackle
you if you don't get out of here, and said "to the concrete cell!" And
the man, angry and frustrated and worried, rushing off to his father,
raised his hands skywards as if saying, this is my fate, our fate… And
the soldier told him "come here!" and he'll probably shackle him now
because he is a soldier with a gun, and because this young man is only a
And this is no metaphor.
Our summary of this Saturday shift, as any other day, is that the
soldiers of the Israeli army stood there according to their nature and
the instructions of the day and abused the Palestinian people because it
is Palestinian. That is more or less all.
Report by Aya Kaniuk.
Translation by Tal Haran. Children's photographs by Vivi Suri.