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Home arrow Resources arrow CanPalNet Publications arrow Huwarra Checkpoint
Huwarra Checkpoint PDF Print E-mail
Mar 03, 2003 at 12:00 AM
Report from Pat Katagiri
currently in the West Bank with
the International Women's Peace Service - Palestine
March 3, 2003

His name is Ya'il. He's maybe 20 years old, of medium height, build. He wears glasses. He's an Israeli soldier working a shift at Huwarra checkpoint, just outside of Nablus in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. It's Saturday, a work day for Palestinians. Many of them want to get to Nablus, for work, school, doctor's appointments. They can't pass until Ya'il says so.

"Irjalawarra, irjalawarra" – move back, move back, he screams. He stands in front of 300 Palestinians who have been corralled into a narrow space, waiting for their turn to show their identification cards, explain why they want to go to Nablus. There's an iron bar over the orange plastic barrier that they have to wait behind. There are too many of them, the crowd moves as one person as they try the impossible – somehow to move back a little. Many are almost pushed down, or fall against the wire fence that holds them in on one side as they are pushed from behind or from the people in front of them. There's barbed wire behind them. Ya'il screams at them to move, but knows they can't. That's part of the game. He screams again, doesn't let anyone through, won't let anyone pass through until there is 'order'. But his job today is to create disorder, panic. There are children crying with fear. Some of the old and the very sick have crept down the embankment beside the waiting area, unable to stand, looking for an opportunity to get just a little bit further to the front so they can end the misery of waiting. One of them is a woman who is bleeding heavily and needs immediate medical attention. Ya'il ignores her and those pleading on her behalf and screams at the people who are pressing forward.

Ya'il likes to scream. Earlier, he screamed to his heart's content as he lifted the iron rod in front of the barrier and charged into the crowd, kicking women, children and the elderly. He took some of the bags people were carrying and threw them away. He took his machine gun and pointed it at people saying he was going to kill them.

Cat and mouse. Follow my orders and you'll get through, although you'll also be crushed or thrown to the ground trying to stand where it's impossible to stand. And even if you manage that, and you're good, I still won't let you through.

Instead of the usual 3-4 soldiers at the southern side of the checkpoint today – one to check the cars, trucks, ambulances, one to get the I.D., two as backup, there are at first 8, then 10. Most of them are standing, watching, doing nothing to speed things up or help screen people through the checkpoint. It doesn't make sense if 'order' is what's wanted. But it's not. They want a riot and it's seconds away. When it happens Palestinians will be shot, arrested, beaten, or hurt as the soldiers restore 'order'.

The rest of the soldiers snicker at something Ya'il says. They're around the same age as he, young - 19, 20, 21. They laugh a lot here. Ridicule is a favourite pastime. They seem to find what's going on especially funny today because of the desperation of the crowd. But these aren't soldiers, doing a soldier's job. Reducing a nine year old child to hysterical tears when she's separated from her mother in the crush of people, is not a soldier's job. Inflicting mental and physical torment as Ya'il does, day in and day out is not a soldier's job. He thinks he has the freedom to do what he wants; the rest of the world certainly doesn't seem to care, but one day there will be retribution for the crimes committed here. One day these soldiers and the state that put them here will be called to account.

An IOF commander finally comes to assess the situation. He speaks to a soldier and gets others to help interrogate people and 'organize' the crowd. There is now a steady stream of people getting through the checkpoint so it becomes quiet. Two human rights observers tell the commander about Ya'il, as Ya'il stands listening nearby. The commander hears about the kicking, threats, screaming, abuse, and cruel arbitrariness. He nods his head, turns away, and leaves Ya'il at his post.

Ya'il tells a young woman with a doctor's certificate that she can't go through to Nablus. When he's asked why he refuses her entry, he says that he doesn't believe that the doctor's certificate is real, and anyway, he doesn't make his decision based on what people show him, he makes his decision by looking into faces. Many of the students at the checkpoint who have doctor's certificates are lying, he says, because they want to get to school. If they go to school they'll learn how to make bombs. Ruthless logic for a ruthless man.

Pat Katagiri is a BC Lower Mainland resident currently in the West Bank for three months with IWPS. She is a Canpalnet member. To reach her email: pkatagiri@hotmail.com. For other reports from IWPS go to http://members.freespeech.org/womenspeacepalestine/IWPSreports.htm

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