Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 01.08.2017:
Toine van Teeffelen
1 August 2017
This Sunday I took the Palestinian bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem over the bridge and through the tunnels, along the new road 60. This is a road mainly used by Israelis from the settlements in the southern West Bank who commute to Jerusalem. The Palestinian bus takes passengers from Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Most of them are Jerusalem ID holders, as the checkpoint system is so fine-grained in its restrictions that Palestinians from the southern West Bank in the possession of a permit are only allowed to use the other checkpoint (300) between the Bethlehem area and Jerusalem.
The checkpoint leading to the bridge and tunnels is – how shall we call it – a more ‘flowing’ checkpoint to suit cars from the settlements. They should not be too much hindered in their movements. Note that Israeli cars rarely stop in front of the checkpoint; they usually just keep driving slowly. Israeli drivers do not need their IDs to show, their cars are waved through. Palestinians have to stop and are checked.
Anyway, at the terminal bus station in Bethlehem the driver warned the passengers that those without a valid Jerusalem ID should not join because soldiers were strict these days. When caught, people would have to walk from the checkpoint back to Beit Jala for quite some distance and uphill. I suppose he himself and the bus company also did not want to get into trouble.
When arriving at the checkpoint 6 or 7 passengers, mostly middle-aged or older, did not have a valid Jerusalem ID. They were taken out. The moment the bus left we saw them remain sitting at the checkpoint, humiliated. Passengers in the bus clicked with their tongue. What a way to treat people.
Now it happened that the traffic in the tunnels and on the bridges was thoroughly stuck because of a car accident. After waiting 20 minutes, whom did we see walking to the bus? The seven passengers. They simply re-entered, with their luggage. The soldiers let them go back.
The checkpoint system exerts great power over people. Soldiers can do what they want. If they want to play with people – take them out of the bus, let them wait a little, then let them go – they can do so. At the same time, I was struck by the determination of the passengers who did not want to go back but were prepared to just remain sitting at the checkpoint. Under daily occupation they achieved a small success. Or, success, is that the right word?
It lately transpired that those Palestinians with a permit, but not a work permit, are allowed to go only 20 times per 3 months to Jerusalem or Israel. This seems to be a measure to prevent people working on daily base in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Palestinians passing the checkpoint are electronically registered.
The control system expands, the occupational network tightens. However, people will never be completely ‘disciplined’.