Dealing with cranky police officers
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is having its annual retreat this week and the volunteers asked us to cover the Qurtuba School patrol for them.¬† So I took the end nearest the entrance from H-2 (Israeli controlled) into H-1 (nominally Palestinian controlled.)¬† It was actually a fairly laid back situation.¬† The soldiers at the checkpoint weren't stopping students or teachers, didn't care if the women walked around instead of going through the metal detector and when they did stop young and middle-aged men, one soldier read aloud each man's ID # to a soldier in the cabin, presumably to enter into a computer, and then handed the IDs back immediately.
In fact, the only event of note before the police arrived was middle aged man who said I shouldn't be sitting on "the ground," i.e. a step up the staircase to Tel Rumeida, because it was cold.
When the police jeep pulled up beside me, I wished them a cheery good morning.¬† The officer driving said (I'm approximating the dialogue), "You must go.¬† TIPH has a mandate to work here.¬† You do not, so go."¬† I said, "EAPPI is here every morning," and he said,¬† "They are not here anymore.¬† If you do not go, I will take you up to the police station at Kiryat Arba."¬† I said, "But EAPPI is coming back."¬† He said, "If they come back we will arrest them too."¬† I got up and said, "Let me make a phone call and then I'll go."
Exasperated, he began to get out of the jeep, and I scurried past the confused-looking soldiers into H-1.¬† Paulette was monitoring the Mosque checkpoint this morning and she said a police officer began saying, "Nazi, Nazi, Nazi," to her.¬† She wagged her finger at him and said, "That is not right.¬† We are Christian.¬† It is not right to call us that."
What's weird about all this is that of all the armed groups in Hebron, the police are generally the most approachable.¬† They get spit on and attacked by the Hebron settlers regularly when they try to impose Israeli law on them.¬†¬† I've met some very decent police officers who truly wanted to protect the Palestinian families from settler attacks.¬† They don't usually last very long in Hebron.
So I've been yelled at by police before, but I've never heard of a police officer calling internationals Nazis.¬† That's settler lingo.¬† But I guess if the Israeli military is slowly filling up with settlers, perhaps they've made inroads into the police force as well.
A teammate from Tuwani who is here for a rest said that when police are nasty there, it's usually because they are preparing for settler violence related to Farenheit -451¬† (the approximate temperature at which Israeli settlements actually freeze.) Being mean to internationals is supposed to assuage settler feelings, I guess.
What I went through this morning isn't at all comparable to the crap Palestinians have to put up with, but it did rattle me a bit.