Qalquilya checkpoint

The other day there was an altercation in the street between the settlers now living in the former Ghawi house and one of the Ghawi men folk in the tent opposite. The police were called and Ghawi was banned from the area. On another day, following an incident in which two-year old Sarah Ghawi had shaken the settler gate, the settler lady had slapped her, the Ghawis had called the police and were promptly arrested along with Sarah. All spent four hours in custody You have to have the patience of Job to bear it here.

The rest of our work continues. The getting up at 4.30 am for Qalquilya checkpoint is getting me down. I am not a morning person. The checkpoint I prefer is Wadi Nar where we don’t have to be until 8 am, a luxury. It is a vehicle-only checkpoint on the main Palestinian artery from Hebron to Ramallah, a long detour now that Palestinians cannot cross Jerusalem. The road is narrow, steep and winding and there are often long tailbacks so we monitor movement for the UN. Unlike Qalquilya where the soldiers sit in reinforced steel boxes shouting through microphones, these soldiers stand outside checking passes. They usually come up and ask what we are doing. The other day I had an odd conversation with one. He asks what I think of the checkpoint (strange question). I say it’s OK, but why is the road so awful, why doesn’t Israel build a better one? ‘Why should we?’ he says, ‘this is Palestine.’ I’m astonished. It’s the first time I’ve heard a soldier say the P word. When I recover my cool, I think I’ll take it further. ‘But the map we get at the airport shows Israel stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley,’ I say. ‘No’ he says, ‘This is Palestine.’ Just then a car pulls up with an Israeli number plate. The soldier stops it, says it can’t pass. The driver has a Jerusalem ID and the passenger, his father who has a West Bank ID, is going to Hebron in the south of the Occupied Territory. The car turns back and the father hails the next passing collective taxi. I ask the soldier. ‘If we’re standing in Palestine, and the other side of the checkpoint is also Palestine, why can that car come to one side but can’t pass to the other?’ He looks nonplussed. I point to where the super settler-only road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. ‘What about that road?’ I ask, ‘Is that Palestine?’ ‘It’s complicated,’ he says. ‘Not really,’ I say. ‘I think this is bad because the people driving on it have no rights. That is a good road because the people on it have rights.’ He looks like he’s going to have a headache, and shrugs. I know it’s to do with zoning, but it does show the lunacy of occupation, this tiny patch of land crisscrossed with roads not facilitating but dividing. It’s in the maps, and the naming of things.

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