By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank
Jaba checkpoint is a great example of the deep connection between the infliction of the checkpoint regime in the West Bank on the Palestinian population, and the effort to satisfy the settlers’ needs and caprices.
Jaba checkpoint lies on the road leading from Qalandiya to Ramallah, it merges with road number 60 which is the main road running along the length of the West Bank.
Unlike the tens of checkpoints that are scattered around the Bank, never has the existence of this checkpoint been ascribed an ideological reasoning. While the other checkpoints detain vehicles heading towards towns populated with Jewish communities, Jaba checkpoint is the opposite: the checkpoint faces settlements in the depth of Palestine, ignoring those driving from Qalandiya/Ramallah, and the inspections preformed are to identify the nationality of the passengers, so as to protect Jews by preventing them from heading on- the original reason was that some settlers which had arrived at the entrance of Qalandiya refugee camp were stoned.
In order to give this prohibition validity, a special decree (Zav Aluf) signed by the commander in charge of the Central Command, Yaeir Nave, had been issued in 2006. The procedure was called "regulatory selection" and as the commander of the checkpoint explained: "during the regulatory selection we stop the car, check whether it’s a Jew or and Arab, if it’s a Jew- check to see if he is disoriented and warn him from heading on to Ramallah". When I mentioned the bad historic connotation of the expression, he laconically replied: "the army has enough to deal with. It can’t be bothered with every single word…"
And so, in attempt to protect wondering settlers, the checkpoint is manned by six soldiers during all hours of the day and year.
But when a group of soldiers is forced to attend long and boring shifts, they naturally come up with their own initiatives, and from time to time the soldiers invade the nearby village of Jaba and execute what is known in the military lingo: "acts of harassment", one such occasion was documented by me in these passages:
"Sitting near the checkpoint was a man who was leaning against the wall, his eyes were covered with cloth and his hands pulled back, strapped tightly in plastic handcuffs.
An arbitrary victim taken from his own home that afternoon by the soldiers manning the checkpoint.
It was clear from the man’s position that he was in agony. He arched his back in an attempt to ease the pressure. The overly tight plastic handcuffs cut into his flesh, causing a swelling that made it difficult to release him. The soldiers tried inserting a knife between the cuffs and his flesh for over ten minutes, but not a crack was to be found, it was as if they had become part of his flesh.
The soldiers wanted the man to be quiet, and quiet he was. He just stomped his feet as the pain from the insertion of the knife became hard to bear. When he was finally released and sent off, he was told not to speak to us". (See photo above)
In the past weeks the level of service given to settlers by this checkpoint has improved, it no longer merely guarantees their safety but also decreases the traffic during morning hours on the congested road number 60 and at Hizme checkpoint, the exit gate from the West Bank.
In light of the many complaints made by settlers regarding the slow morning traffic, the authorities worked out a plan and decided to detain the mergence of Palestinians with the traffic to Jerusalem as much as possible. And so, every working day the Israeli police blocks the lane at Jaba checkpoint that leads from Ramallah, it then performs thorough inspections of the vehicles and drives’ licenses, as a result the amount of Palestinian vehicles heading towards road 60 becomes but a drizzle and the (Palestinian) traffic on road number 60 and pressure on Hizmee checkpoint is significantly decreased. Those to benefit from this are the settlers who enjoy a faster and easier drive, and the state treasury which is enriched by the large number of tickets given, does not find itself disadvantaged either.
The Palestinians rushing to work or school are once again the ones to lose the most, but who takes them under consideration?
(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. 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.