HEBRON: Checkpoints and Gates
3 July 2007
HEBRON: Checkpoints and Gates
by Jan Benvie
"Currently, freedom of movement and access for Palestinians within the West
Bank is the exception rather than the norm contrary to the commitments
undertaken in a number of Agreements between the GOI [government of Israel]
and the PA [Palestinian Authority]," World Bank Report, May 2007
Working here in Hebron, in the Israeli controlled H2 area, I see daily
examples of the Israeli military restricting "freedom of movement and
access." The Israeli military arbitrarily stops and detains Palestinians at
checkpoints. A visit to a friend across the street can involve a twenty to
thirty minute walk because of the gates and fences erected by the Israeli
military around Palestinian areas.
Access to East Jerusalem (illegally annexed to Israel in 1967) is severely
restricted for Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Palestinians must apply to the Israeli authorities for a special permit to
travel to Jerusalem, and they rarely grant this permission.
An Apartheid-type road system is another way that Israel restricts 'freedom
of movement and access." Israeli-registered vehicles have yellow number
plates; Palestinian vehicles have green or white. The Israeli authorities
prevent Palestinian-registered vehicles from using many roads, forcing them
to use poorly maintained and circuitous routes. The system of registration
also enables the Israeli military to stop Palestinian vehicles at the
numerous checkpoints throughout the Palestinian Territories, while allowing
Israeli vehicles to pass freely.
My home city of Dundee (Scotland) has been twinned with Nablus since 1980,
so a few weeks ago I traveled from Hebron to Nablus. Traveling by the most
direct route, the journey is about fifty-six miles. At home, a journey of a
little over an hour. Traveling by Palestinian transport took me three hours
to reach Nablus.
I was lucky. Of the eight Israeli military checkpoints that we passed, four
were not in use that day. The Israeli military stopped the bus at one
checkpoint for ten minutes and made it slow down at two others. Since 2002,
people may only enter or exit Nablus on foot, passing through one of six
Israeli military checkpoints, so, along with my fellow travelers, I exited
the bus, walked through the Huwara checkpoint and rode a taxi into the
center of Nablus.
At the end of my visit, I was able, with my UK passport, to leave easily.
The worst I had to endure was a five-minute delay at the hands of a
sarcastic young Israeli soldier. Palestinian men between sixteen and
forty-five (the age range varies from day to day) may only exit their city
with a special permit that they can obtain only outside Nablus.
Throughout my journey, I was within the West Bank. At no time did I travel
across the Green Line, the internationally recognized border between Israel
and the Palestinian territories.
I do not often agree with the World Bank. But the institution is quite
correct in its assessment, "Currently, freedom of movement and access for
Palestinians within the West Bank is the exception rather than the norm."