Last Wednesday, Nadia Shehadeh was having a baby. She is 32, a resident of the village of Salam, east of Nablus. Dirt rampart blockades and sewage channels prevent any way out of the village, but somehow she made her way to the Beit Furik checkpoint, accompanied by her mother-in-law. Her husband knew there was no chance the soldiers would let him through the checkpoint.
Shehadeh wanted to reach Raffidiyeh Hospital in Nablus, which is the most blockaded city in the West Bank nowadays. The soldiers made her wait at the Beit Furik checkpoint. She says she had to wait two hours until she was allowed to go through on foot - without her mother-in-law. The checkpoint is between a Palestinian village and a city, at a time when another effort is underway to open a new chapter in relations with the Palestinians. But that didn't matter to the soldiers at the checkpoint. For them, the brutal routine continues.
The next day, when Shehadeh returned with the baby in her arms, the soldiers delayed her for a longer period of time - three hours, she reckons - until they allowed her through on foot to go back to her village with the day-old baby.
Fortunately, this story did not end as badly as many others. While Shehadeh was pleading with the soldiers to be allowed to go home, another resident of her village, Munir Awad, 24, wanted to return in his car after visiting the nearby Balata refugee camp. He had no alternative but to circumvent the Beit Furik checkpoint by going through the fields. An army jeep caught him and the soldiers made him get out of the car. According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, they beat Awad until he bled. Much later, he was seen still at the Beit Furik checkpoint, and even later at the Hawara checkpoint, bleeding and shackled.
A day earlier, on Wednesday, Saher Basharat, a paramedic, reported to the Physicians Association for Human Rights that he, too, had been beaten senseless by soldiers at the Shavei Shomron checkpoint, after he was taken off his ambulance and refused to sit on the road, as the soldiers had ordered.
An army spokesman said "a preliminary examination did not uncover the incidents as described ... But if they turn out to be true, the matter will be dealt with in the most severe manner." The spokesman added that anyone trying to circumvent a checkpoint is immediately suspected of involvement in terror activity and, on the day in question, cars that tried to bypass the checkpoint were stopped for examination. But, the spokesman added, the army wants "anyone who feels they were mistreated to file a formal complaint."
That same Thursday, Tarik Ouda wanted to go from his home town of Jenin to his bride's home in Tul Karm to collect her, as is customary, to take her to their wedding in Jenin. The two cities are next-door neighbors, but the trip took three hours, in which Ouda had to take dirt roads and roundabout ways, as well as being held up at checkpoints. On the way, he learned that a curfew was imposed on Tul Karm and he thought his wedding that day would be called off. Somehow, he managed to finally reach the city and get his bride. A story with a happy ending.
A few days earlier, another story ended much less happily. A baby girl was born to the Milhems, from the village of A'anin, on Saturday at the Jenin hospital. The baby had severe respiratory problems that the Jenin doctors did not know how to handle. The doctors recommended that the baby be urgently moved to an Israeli hospital. Helpless, the family tried arranging to move the dying baby to an Israeli hospital an hour's drive from their home. At the Israeli district coordination and liaison office, they say they were told that they had to first get approval from an Israeli hospital to accept the baby before they could be allowed through the checkpoints. They tried to use some contacts they had, but before the bureaucracy began to move, the baby died, 24 hours after she was born.
During all this, last Wednesday, a massive traffic jam was created in the Sharon area because of a terror alert. "Where's the hudna?" complained the Israeli drivers, who have never been forced to wait for hours with a very pregnant woman or a dying baby. "Where's the hudna?" ask millions of Palestinians whose difficult lives haven't changed. The chain of events described in this article is routine for them, their living conditions for the past 36 years.
Palestinian leaders can promise the earth and infuse hopes in the Prime Minister's Bureau, but as long as mothers are giving birth and infants cannot get to hospital on time and return home in a humane way, as long as a groom cannot get to his wedding - there will be no quiet here.
Now, with Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon declaring victory over the Palestinians, perhaps he will deign to order the army to start treating them as human beings. After all, victory has been achieved, the Palestinian consciousness has been appropriately seared.
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