Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement - Part 2

Today is Day 14,271 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Pursuing Injustice – Restricting Movement Part 2

Rabbi Akiva - “ ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) - this is the major principle of the Torah.”

What else can we add to the last post on the World Bank report about the harmful effect the restrictions on movement have on not only the economy, the main focus of the report, but also so many other aspects of the daily lives of the Palestinians of the West Bank?

We can refer to B’Tselem which goes into more detail about the staffed checkpoints and the physical roadblocks on its website.

Israel enforces severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank through a system of 40 permanently and 15 intermittently staffed checkpoints ( all within the West Bank, not along the Green Line) as well as (in 2006) 470 physical obstacles blocking road such as dirt piles, concrete blocks, iron gates, and trenches. These obstacles and checkpoints are what divide the West Bank into five areas with movement from one to another difficult to impossible. In addition to searches of Palestinian vehicles and belongings at checkpoints, sometimes permits are required which are only given only to commercial vehicles, at other times no vehicles are permitted to cross and on other occasions all Palestinians are prohibited from crossing even on foot.

Some roads are designated for exclusive use by Israelis so that Palestinians have to cross by foot and find transportation on the other side. The long humiliating delays often keep Palestinians from even using these roads.

“Israel 's policy greatly affects all areas of life for Palestinians in the West Bank and makes it impossible for them to live normal lives. Simple actions such as shopping, visiting relatives, and attending university classes have become complicated and, at times, impossible. This policy also impedes Palestinians' access to medical care.”

One example of how the checkpoints make life so unnecessarily difficult for Palestinians comes from the testimony taken by B’Tselem of Laila Shqeirat. She is an inspector who works on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the schools in East Jerusalem under its responsibility who “attempts to conduct normal life routine while living in the besieged village of a-Sheikh Sa’ed June 2006”. She says “It is almost impossible to enter Jerusalem . Even if I get through the checkpoint, it takes more time and I arrive hours late to my destination. Although I have a permit to enter Jerusalem , I get to work at ten o'clock rather than seven thirty. In general, the police do not let me enter. They say that I have to go via the a-Zaitun checkpoint, which is in al-'Eizariya. It is almost impossible to get to that checkpoint. I have to go via a long dirt path and then, full of dust, I have to find public transportation, which is not always available in a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiyah, to get to the a-Zaitun crossing. And when I cross at that point, there is no public transportation, and I have to take a taxi, which costs twenty-five shekels. I can't pay that sum day after day. If I go this way, it would cost me sixty shekels a day, and if I go via the a-Sheikh Sa'ed checkpoint, it costs me fourteen shekels.” For her full testimony go to

An example of how the delay in getting through checkpoints and obstacles can have a devastating effect on healthcare appears in the testimony taken by B’Tselem of Adnan-a-Shtiyeh, a taxi driver. Outside of Nablus he found the road blocked by Israeli military vehicles. Another taxi driver came up with a passenger who had collapsed whom he was taking to the hospital 5-7 minutes past the checkpoint. The soldiers would not let him go through even though they knew that the passenger may have been be in distress. The taxi eventually took a by-pass road that was an hour out of the way. Later that day Adnan-a-Shtiyeh was told by another taxi driver that the passenger had died. For the full testimony go to

Here is another account about healthcare crises caused by the checkpoints:Rabbis for Human Rights reports “A baby had been born at home in the village of Zarwiah with life threatening defects in his head and back. His mother had no permission to go to a hospital to give birth and the Red Crescent told the frantic family that there was no way an ambulance could get past IDF roadblocks to take the baby to a hospital. In passing he told me that another desperately ill one and a half year old baby girl from Salfit had just died. We knew that this baby would also die in a few hours if he did not receive treatment. … Without justifying Palestinian violence for a minute, we must realize that ongoing Israeli land confiscations, tree uprootings, home demolitions, unfair water allocation, etc. caused average Palestinians to cease believing in the peace process.” Through their efforts the baby arrived safely at the hospital.”

Since the restrictions on movement are not in any official writing they can be set by the whim and discretion of 19 year old IDF soldiers. As noted in the World Bank Report an important justification for this vast network of restrictions and the suffering and hardships it causes is to protect the Jewish Israelis who we refer to as illegal squatters and to maintain the squatterments.

If the GOI is assuming “that every single Palestinian is a security threat, thereby justifying restrictions on his or her freedom of movement. this assumption is racist and leads to the sweeping violation of the human rights of an entire population on the basis of national origin.”

In the cover letter B’Tselem sent with its August 2004 Report “FORBIDDEN ROADS – ISRAEL’S DISCRIMINATORY ROAD REGIME IN THE WEST BANK” AUGUST 2004 it claims that “The separation through discrimination that underlies Israel’s roads regime in the West Bank bears clear similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa until 1994. This report represents the first time that B’Tselem has drawn this parallel between Israeli policies and apartheid. Yet when an individual’s national origin determines his or her right to use such roads, such a comparison is unavoidable. ” Articles 13 and 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibit the occupying state from discriminating against civilians in the occupied territory.”

Again, the checkpoints and the obstacles within the West Bank which cause such hardship and misery for the Palestinians exist not for the security of Israel but for the benefit of the Jewish Israeli squatters who are an illegal and immoral presence in the West Bank. Justice in Judaism and Justice in International Law demands that the squatterments be dismantled and the occupation be ended.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

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