Another Wednesday at Kalandia checkpoint

At Kalandia checkpoint near Ramallah, Israel is constructing a permanent border crossing on occupied territory. (M. El Fassed-Vermeer)

Kalandia. Few vendors. Remains of the lupin beans the soldiers left behind at the scene yesterday during their daily brutality campaign.

As has been reported, every few hours they go over to the peddlers, and either they beat them or they turn over their carts with all their merchandise, or they both beat them and turn over their carts. Its seems that the favorite sport among soldiers at Kalandia during the last three years, hunting down and shooting at children from the Kalandia refugee camp, has been replaced with the abuse of vendors.

Bulldozers, with their protruding teeth, are overturning the earth in the area that is now known as “the Quarry,” and is about to become a veritable Apartheid terminal. A few security guards with their black clothes and guns stand around, long lines of cars, long lines of people towards the south, a women with two bags and a baby, a boy carrying wooden beams, a youth with crutches, an old woman with a heavy bag on her head, a man with a bandaged face, all without exception, without distinction, in the most democratic and equal fashion, stand in the same endless trudging march. No one is left out, not one gets preferential treatment, all equal before the law, all equal before the racist noise that turns them into equals in the well-known universal leveling.

A man with crutches, severely disabled, all of his body contorted, his face contorted, his muscles almost do not function. He weaves his way slowly, swinging his body from side to side using his arms that are huge compared to the rest of his skinny, swinging body, moving alongside the line of cars moving toward the soldiers. He clearly can not go through the turnstile, and so he walks like this, toward the north…in the north, as of now in Kalandia, is open and people are not checked, that is to say that if he passed through there he would not be checked at all. But because of his disability he can not go that way. Tami takes his picture, because he wants her to, he talks, and an excited soldier runs over and says, “Don’t take pictures, come with me,” and he pulls her along with him, and sends the disabled man back, not letting him pass. The disabled man does not move. He clearly can not walk the whole way back. He barely made it in one direction. When the soldier is not looking, one of the drivers waiting in line opens his door and lets him in. He gets in. And passes through the roadblock.

A young man, originally from Jenin, who lives today in Ramallah and works in A-Ram in a lab where dentures are made, is not allowed to pass because he is from Jenin. From today onward, no one from Jenin or Tul-carm is allowed to pass. “Why?” he asks the soldier. “Why, what will I do?” This is his work, what can he do? “If I see you in A-Ram, “ says the soldier, who is protecting us from terror attacks and is upholding the law, in his words, “I will shoot two bullets into your leg.”

“I just wanted to tell you,” said the young man to us.

This was when we were already gone. In the later hours of the afternoon, after the evening shift left, a little after 5:30 PM, once again the soldiers went on the well-known campaign to release some tension, and this time chose one of the vendors as their punching bag of the day. A 23 year old man that sells masks for children and brushes to clean toilets, standing on the other side of the square, close to the wall. They came, turned over his cart. All the merchandise fell over, and he began to flee in the direction of the Jaba road, with the soldiers trailing after him. Then, at that moment, border patrol soldiers passing by in truck or big car saw the man running away. They stopped immediately, and all the soldiers, according to eye witnesses who were there (there were about 30 soldiers, or “many”) began to run after him until they caught him. They pushed him to the wall and began to beat him with their hands, feet and the end of their guns. Blood dripped from his head, from his ear. He escaped covered in blood, from head to toe. His father, also a vendor, came over and tried to intervene and he too was beaten. The soldiers then began to shoot close to the legs of the young man in order to scare him.

“A” was one of the shocked drivers who witnessed the scene. “A” apparently said something, or asked why they were doing this, and one of the soldiers who was not taking part in the beating at that moment ran over to him and used the base of his gun to beat him on the side of his head near his ear. He fell to the ground and some more soldiers came over and started beating him also.

In the meanwhile, the soldiers removed the bleeding vendor from the side of the road and moved him into the street and left, after shooting a few more rounds into the air..

We asked “A” what, in his opinion, was the young man’s condition at this time and he said that since he too was hurt, it was hard for him to say. He could only confirm that they had beaten the vendor insanely, out of control, and that he looked like a mound of blood. “A”, a Jerusalemite, went to the hospital in Jerusalem. His back was hurting him and his head from the beating and he could barely stand on his feet. They took x-rays, luckily nothing was broken. His external wounds were treated on the spot and he was sent home with pain killers.

The father of the vendor, who was also beaten, recounted that after the soldiers left, he took his son to the hospital in A-Ram, and from there he was rushed to the hospital in Ramallah, via the Kalandia checkpoint, in the northern direction. His head was bleeding, his situation was bad. A soldier who had apparently participated in the incident recognized him and said, “so you want more?” But he did not prevent him from crossing.

In the hospital it became clear that he had broken two arms and had a head wound. He received stitches on his head, and on the rest of his body he has scratches and external wounds. He was told that he would have to have a cast on for three months. Three months without work.

Tami Goldshmidt and Aya Kanyuk are monitors of MachsomWatch.

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