by ISM Nablus
The Israeli military blocked the road to three villages south-east of Nablus city for nine hours on Thursday. Iraq Burin – a breathtakingly beautiful village of 1,000 people situated on top of a cliff from where, on a clear day one can see all the way to the Mediterranean (or “the white sea” as the villagers call it), and its bigger neighbors Tel and Sara were all isolated from one o’clock until ten o’clock, supposedly because of information received about a alleged suicide bomber. Nearby Huwarra checkpoint was also completely closed from mid afternoon as soldiers held a crowd of people at gunpoint under the red hot sun, preventing them from even entering the shaded checkpoint. Throughout the day, an American made and supplied Apache helicopter circled overhead, and soldiers with M-16s patrolled the roads and overpasses on the way to and from Nablus.
Late afternoon, a long line of cars, buses and donkeys were backed up on the winding hill-road, waiting to be allowed to pass. The 10-15 soldiers manning the flying checkpoint consisting of two hummers and one jeep – were extremely slow in checking vehicles and also very aggressive, with one constantly pacing around on the bank of earth by the side of the road, proclaiming that he hates “all Arabs” and pointing his machine gun at people in the crowd. During the checkpoint procedure, all car passengers were made to exit their vehicles, and the men were forced to pull up their shirts to show their bellies and backs from a distance to prove that they were not carrying explosives. Bags, purses, and vehicles were searched with varying degrees of thoroughness.
Earlier in the day, a 12-year old boy was, for no apparent reason, shot in the back with live ammunition. He is now being treated at Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where they report that the bullet narrowly missed his kidney. An older man was also shot in the foot by a ricocheting bullet, right in front of the eyes of human rights workers. Upon returning from hospital with his foot bandaged and painful, he was only allowed to pass through the checkpoint after long negotiation.
Despite the apparent danger, young boys scuttled back and forth through the checkpoint fetching water from a nearby well for the people waiting in the Palestinian midday heat. One man was especially grateful, having been forced to sit beside the road in the sun for eight hours because he was recognized by one of the soldiers at the checkpoint as having disobeyed an order while working his land with a tractor last week. Any such resistance against the occupation is routinely met by harsh punishment. He was finally given his ID back and allowed to leave, when a senior officer arrived at the scene.
The security concerns offered by soldiers to justify the humiliating and oppressive practice of checkpoints are painfully transparent in their arbitrariness. As soon as it gets dark, they invariably pack up and leave and the thoroughness of checks relies on the mood of the commanding officer on that particular day. Furthermore, as a man waiting at the checkpoint put it, “Security is not created by forcing men to lift up their shirts in front of their neighbours, their students and their daughters. Security is not created by making the 10-minute journey from Nablus into a six-hour one. Security is not created by shooting children in the back. Security is created by justice and respect.”