Lives in waiting
Queuing at Qalandiya checkpoint, photo from blog, spending3monthsinthewestbank
By Tamar Fleishman, Palestine Chronicle
June 22 2014
Twenty people, who had been released from hospitals all around the West Bank, gathered at Qalandiya checkpoint in order to receive permits from the DCO* and head home to the Gaza strip.
Since the morning hours they had been standing and waiting, sitting and waiting, pacing and waiting, but not getting their passage permits.
Twenty exhausted people who were in need of rest and recuperation. An elderly woman after heart surgery waited there, a baby being carried by her mother, a five year old child that kept crying and pulling the plastic cover that protected the eye that underwent surgery, a woman who still had wet blood on her arm from the intravenous, a woman that was blind in both her eyes. Many others. They were all waiting.
The people who had arrived on their own or in pairs, teamed up as the hours passed.
They sat next to each other, the bundles of one person got mixed with the ones placed just beside them, and on the filthy concrete floor were suitcases that had known better days and had annexed the eternal dust of this wretched place.
It looked like a transit refugee camp, and it was a transit refugee camp.
But the refugees weren’t allowed to transit.
After seven hours of nerve-racking waiting it was time for excuses to be made.
At first the computers were blamed but since no one found this convincing the DCO people at Gaza were next to take the blame.
One of the patients released from hospital and waiting and waiting for a permit to get home to Gaza.
As though the ones over there, the soldiers at the Gaza DCO, were from the foreign legion or mercenaries, and not soldiers in the same army and the same unit as the soldiers who man the DCO at Qalandiya, whose duty it is to act as a coordination unit and respond to the needs of the occupied population:
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (or COGAT) is a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the Government of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority.
Translation from the Hebrew Wikipedia site of the COGAT:
he unit was founded in 1967, following the Six Day War, in order to implement the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Convention, which deals with the laws of military occupation, determines that the occupying state must protect the citizens living on the conquered territories, in order not to harm the innocent and those who are not combatants… the army is the force that had conquered the territories, and is therefore responsible for the residents’ wellbeing.
But there was no one to take responsibility for the wellbeing of those in need.
A group of VIPs came out from the offices, patrolled and stood in front of these people, but behaved as though they were blind and couldn’t see what was before them.
They couldn’t avoid hearing when it was demanded of them to look into these people’s eyes, to look into the eyes of the children, to see them, the patients in their distress. They heard it being said that they would not be able to claim to have clean hands if one of those twenty people didn’t survive, that they would be accountable. But they didn’t listen; they were busy checking the signs and counting the open lanes. They were too busy to see the human beings.
Only when the offices were about to be closed were the documents they had been waiting for since the morning issued.
When the last of them was about to cross the checkpoint, she looked around with longing eyes and mumbled: “I am so very very tired…”
During the night, over twelve hours after they headed on their way, they arrived at their homes.
These people – the old woman, the blind woman, the baby, the child, the man with the patch on his left eye and the woman with wet blood on her arm, they and the others sitting on the metal benches and waiting with a photo of a murdered teenager, a Shahid, hanging above them- they are the mirror in which we are reflected, you and I.
(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.
*DCO – District Co-ordination Office
There are nine DCOs which operate as the arms of the Israeli Civil Administration, established by the Israeli government in 1981 in order to carry out bureaucratic functions in the oPt. The Civil Administration is a part of a larger entity known as Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is a unit in the Defence Ministry of Israel. Under the Oslo Accords a the Civil Administration transferred some of its governance capacities to the Palestinian National Authority in 1994. Since 1994, the Civil Administration has largely focused on issuing of movement permits.
The nature of this body was defined in Military Order No. 947, by the 1981 military government of the West Bank and Gaza:
“We hereby establish a Civil Administration in the region [West Bank and Gaza]. The Civil Administration shall run all regional civil matters, correspondingly to this [Military] decree, for the wellbeing and for the sake of [local] population, and with the purpose of providing and operating the public services, considering the need to maintain a proper governance and public order”.
The IDF description of the mandate of the Civil Administration purports that “the unit acts as a source of information integrating human quality and technological progress which coordinates activities of government bureaus, the IDF, and security establishments opposite the Palestinians through the application of government policies in factors pertaining to civilians. Additionally, the “MATPASH” Unit promotes humanitarian issues, infrastructure projects, and economical projects.”