In 2006, we received a complaint from students from a-Najah University in Nablus, because they weren’t allowed to use the Bet Iba checkpoint, which had been open, I think it was open up until a few months before this, and then was just closed. I don’t remember why. I think it has something to do with the settlements there, because the checkpoint leads to them, among other things. The checkpoint was closed for almost every possible reason. The army, the brigade, they call it “segregation.” Segregation means that you only allow residents of certain ages to go through. Men above a certain age, say around thirty-five, forty. And women from a younger age. They didn’t allow the students to enter. They live in the villages near Nablus. It’s as if you were a resident of Ness Tziona, and you want to go to Rehovot, and they won’t let you. I remember this case specifically because it was the first complaint I received. A nice English-speaking student called, I was glad I could communicate with him, and it’s very disappointing to give him this answer, tell him there’s segregation, do a makeup.
Did they give you the reason for the segregation?
I did. I explained to him what it was, and that he couldn’t enter because of his age. I don’t remember the exact age, but if he’d been a different age, he could have entered. Another time, four women, some of them sick and some of them accompanying the sick ones, were detained at the Bet Iba checkpoint. They were sick and needed medical attention. This was two months after the thing with the students.
Was it still the same segregation?
I can’t say for sure, but there was still segregation.
You don’t know the ages?
Now I don’t know, back then I certainly did. We applied tremendous pressure, both myself and ——, who was a coordinator in Civil Administration. We made it so that at least the sick women could cross the checkpoint. The others had to take a long detour to the checkpoint in Ein Bidan, and then they apparently met up.
Who gave the segregation order, and when was it repealed so people could cross again?
There are segregations which can last for months. I remember a segregation that stretched from all of Samaria to Jericho, the whole eastern side. A Palestinian from Ramallah who wants to get to Jericho only has one route available, via Jenin. A resident of Jerusalem who wants to get to the Dead Sea? Go via Afula.
Which checkpoints can you pass through?
I don’t remember the names. I think via Beqaot, Tiasir.
Did you know exactly which checkpoints people could use?
Yes, the Palestinians also knew.
What was the reason?
Terrorist attack warnings. It was explained to me that it’s in order to prevent terrorist attacks.
How long did it last?
I don’t remember. There are certain segregations on certain days and at certain hours, and sometimes it lasts for weeks.
Who ends the segregations?
Someone on the major general level if it’s more than a few days, and the decision can go up to the brigade commander.
Are there segregations which don’t have a set time limit?
I think there’s a set limit. There is a military orders group—there’s no reason to get into that—but when there’s segregation, they say for how long it’ll be, and they extend it for a certain amount of time.
And you know when it ends?
Yes, and I tell the Palestinians. The Palestinians know because there are rumors, and the village leaders and the Palestinian police also announce it.
So you’re not so involved in the announcement?
I don’t announce it at all. I have no connection to the village heads. But if a Palestinian calls me and asks if he can transfer goods via Efraim, which is a “back-to-back” checkpoint in the area of Tul Karem, even though today is Memorial Day for the fallen IDF soldiers, then I tell him yes, he can do it until twelve noon. We’re also like a kind of information service, which leads to a few undocumented conversations during the day.
That’s a whole other story, moving from checkpoint to checkpoint...
The real story is that this lousy checkpoint is only there to protect the settlements.
Yes. Another interesting story is about a taxi driver who took a sick person to the hospital in Nablus, and he wanted to return to his house in Bet Furik, so he had to cross the checkpoint there. The checkpoint closes at eight. Israelis move to daylight saving time in April, the Palestinians change the clock two weeks later. He and the sick person are waiting at the checkpoint, but the checkpoint is closed. The soldiers that were there didn’t open it for them, and they only let them cross in the morning. They stayed the night in Nablus.
No one did anything?
No. Here’s another example: a sixty-year-old Palestinian with cancer. He got permission to receive treatment at the Asuta hospital. A volunteer waited for him at the Reihan checkpoint, who would then take him to his appointment at the hospital at ten in the morning. The soldiers wouldn’t let him cross. It was seven in the morning, and it takes three hours [to get there], and he doesn’t want to miss his appointment. It seems that this man had a permit for the Gilboa checkpoint, and not for Reihan, so they made clear to him that he had to go to the Gilboa checkpoint, which is an hour’s ride for Palestinians, and from there he could cross the checkpoint to [enter] Israel. I have only one thing to say: Why? He’s a sixty-year-old guy with cancer, what difference does it make if he accidentally went to a different checkpoint—which I’m not sure even helps in terms of transportation time. If he’d been traveling from the beginning with the permit that he had, then maybe he would have arrived faster, disregarding the fact that they didn’t let him cross. But what’s with you? All of a sudden you’ll start following procedure. It goes without saying that he missed his appointment, and I think he just went back. Another example: a twenty-day-old baby sick with jaundice. This happened. They didn’t let the ambulance with the baby cross the a-Zaim checkpoint, a Jerusalem checkpoint. They let it pass only after forty-five minutes. A twenty-day-old baby doesn’t carry out terrorist attacks, as far as I know. Another incident was in Jenin at the Reihan checkpoint— today it’s a more established checkpoint, but back then there were four border policemen who just sat there and said, “Come on, go ahead.” They didn’t allow humanitarian equipment, for example, to be transferred to Barta’a and Reihan. A truck driver who was transporting fruits or vegetables called me and said: “I’m coming from Jenin, I want to enter the village because the people there don’t have anything to eat.” Only at the end of the day, after he’d spoken with us at nine in the morning, only at a quarter to five did they allow him to cross.
A truck or a van?
He sat there for eight hours and waited, and afterward they let him cross. There were a few trucks there.
Did they inspect it?
They checked it, but that’s not their function. They just didn’t let him cross, because it was on someone else’s orders, and that guy was stuck somewhere else. There were very basic complaints that the agricultural gates weren’t opened. I didn’t see it as intentional that soldiers were one, two, three hours late. Meaning that a Palestinian would wait for three hours to get to or leave his land and get back home, and it happened more than a few times. It happens because of the soldiers’ negligence, or the operations room, or an operation which presumably prevents soldiers from opening it. Because who opens the agricultural gates? Soldiers.