Israel: Yet More Road Blocks on the Road to Peace

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On a recent visit to Israel I learnt a lot about the movements of solidarity by many Israelis for the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

There are around 24 of these organisations, dedicated to ending the occupation. I went on one of these activities, called 'Checkpoint Watch (Women for Human Rights)', which brings together 400 Israeli women who, each morning and evening, monitor human rights abuses at Israeli military and border-police checkpoints.

Here is one recent instance: a Palestinian waiting in the line was sent back because of an expired permit - it had finished the day before. He explains that he goes to dialysis three times a week at a private Christian hospital near Bet Shemesh. He has to renew his permit to enter every week and it involves waiting for hours. The women gave him the phone numbers of 'Physicians for Human Rights' and the 'Centre for the Defence of the Individual'. They hope with their help he will be able to get at least three-month permits. He is chronically ill and they don't understand why he has to go every week to receive his permit. This time, with the women there, the soldiers let him through, but he was afraid to go with the invalid permit.

We came across a Palestinian taxi which had shifted the stones sufficiently to get onto the road. It wanted to drive a mere 20 metres along the Jerusalem Road before turning off onto a permitted road, but was unfortunately caught by an Israeli army patrol. The soldiers took the four occupants' IDs and the car keys, told them to replace the stones (with their bare hands), and left them stranded. Our women rang up the army headquarters to resolve the situation. The reply: 'We're busy. We'll deal with it in two to three hours time.' We left, promising to be back. When we did return the men were still there waiting. Again we rang headquarters, again the same reply: 'We'll deal with it in two to three hours.' The whole purpose of the army at the checkpoints seems to be humiliate.

On the way back I noticed that every pole along the Jerusalem Road in the West Bank had an Israeli flag flying - the final insult! It makes one realise why the Palestinian youth throw stones at the Israeli police and army. And it makes one admire that small minority of Israelis who are courageous enough to break out of the suffocating consensus that exists in Israel to understand and try to overcome the oppression of the Palestinians.