At this Laborers’ Checkpoint a Person is Just a Number

At the checkpoint at the outskirts of the village Al-Jib, the West Bank. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman)

By Tamar Fleishman

“Ana Wahad Wa Talatin…” – I am number thirty one –  the man answered the question as to his identity, which came from inside of the post.

At the checkpoint at the outskirts of the village Al-Jib a person’s identity and name are erased. Over here he is no more than a serial number, one of many that are written in long columns inside a blue folder. Only those who had been examined by the authorities of occupation and found to be “clean”, those who aren’t suspects, those who had passed the minimum age limit and have received a number which appears in the blue folder- are permitted to pass to the other side of the checkpoint.

The checkpoint is defined to be a laborers’ checkpoint and isn’t a gateway into and out of Israel, it was designed and built to serve the residents of the two settlement on the other side of the separation wall: “Givat Ze’ev” and “Givon Hahadasha”, the name of the latter is derived from the effort to Judaize the names of Palestinian towns, and its residents see themselves as the followers of people of the biblical Givon.

“This checkpoint is only for the settlements”, replied the person answering the phone at the civil administration hot line, when asked why a resident of Al Jib returning from treatment in East Jerusalem or laborers coming back from a job which isn’t located in one of the mentioned settlements, is ordered by the soldiers to head back, drive to Qalandiya checkpoint which many kilometers away, pass through it and pay a substantial sum for their long ride on the constantly jammed and winding road leading to their village.

For hundreds of years the residents of Al Jib village provided for themselves by working their fertile lands. They were separated from their lands by the arbitrary laws of occupation. Most of the fertile village lands were expropriated and on them settlements were built. Only 1,900 dunams (469.5 acres) out of 9,000 dunams (2224 acres) of fertile agricultural land remain in their possession.

The residents of the village also talk about the thousands of dunams of olive orchards that had been expropriated for the building of the separation wall.

Today, in order to make a living the residents of the village are forced to work in construction, renovation, maintenance and cleaning at the homes of the new land lord of their stolen property.

Men and women, young and old people, all arrive at the entrance of the checkpoint early in the morning, because you can never know how long the inspection will take: “it all depends on the soldier”, an experienced man explained this harsh daily reality. Another person said: “By 5:00 each morning I am already hear, and I never pass before seven”, and “Those who don’t pass by eight lose a day of work”, because the employers waiting on the other side of the checkpoint won’t be there afterwards.

And so each morning they stand cramped together, an hour passes and then another, hoping to make it on time and pass and not have to turn back and lose that day’s paycheck. Often they have to forbear, to sustain the soldiers’ insults, to be patient and swallow their pride: “I should go to the doctor for the pain I have in my back from standing here every day for two hours until passing”, a young man said.

A construction contractor who lives in the village explained about the terms of the laborers employment: about the daily wages, 120 to 150 Shekels a person, and about the work permits for the settlements, which unlike work permits for Israel (that are given only to those over 35 who are married and father three children), can be obtained at the age of 25 while the marital status of the person is of no consequence. But naturally, it all depends on the GSS authorizations. The permit must be renewed every three months, as no one leaves or enters Palestine without the consent and knowledge of the secret services that constantly hover above like a black cloud, ominous, supervising, inspecting and worst of all- fracturing the social fabric, dividing and creating feuds among individuals.

The method of divide and conquer is wide spread and fruit bearing: in many incidents a permit is given to those who cooperate. Everybody knows this, everyone suspects and everyone is a suspect in the eyes of everyone else.

To the torment that the Palestinians have to go through in order to receive permits, to the ever elongating morning lines that can reach hundreds of meters, to the confining conditions, to the time that vanishes while standing in line, to the meticulous inspections that the individual has to go through each day: “Even though they (the soldiers) already know everyone, it’s because they have no respect for human beings…”, a feeling of humiliation is added which results from the height differences between the inspector and the inspected, it would seem that even the architecture at the sight has been recruited to the effort for the belittling and erasing of the human being: the Palestinian arriving at inspection post is forced to stretch his body towards the shielded window and raise his document bearing arm.

The height difference which is of several tens of centimeters between the soldiers and the Palestinians, serves as another way to affirm the hierarchy of the superior and the inferior, of the master and the subordinate.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. The majority of the Spotlights (an opinion page) that are published on the site had been written by her. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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1 Comment

  1. This is the way prisons operate, where inmates have numbers that they must give to enter and exit. And the U.S., the UK and others continue to support it, making us enablers and accessories after the fact of crimes committed by Israel. This is shameful, and must be stopped.

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