The West Bank: 50 checkpoints down, 530 more to go

In The New York Times of March 31, 2008, Helene Cooper writes in “Israel Agrees to Ease Access for Palestinians” that Israel agreed to remove 50 checkpoints and roadblocks from the West Bank and Gaza.

This is a baby step in the right direction- a step that needs a major push by the US.
Israel has done very little and needs to do a lot more. A lot more is needed to increase the numbers of the moderates that believe that peace is possible after all.

My late father- in- law hailed from El Bireh in the West Bank. My wife, often and despite the Israeli- created inconveniences and obstacles, visits there. I have never been there. A few years ago she was there for her brother’s wedding. When she got back she told me how harsh Palestinians’ life is under the forty-year Israeli occupation.

The Israeli occupation visits many hardships on the almost defenseless, colonized, and occupied Palestinians. One of the major hardship is the checkpoints and roadblocks. There are so many of them. They create long lines and long waits in the open cold or open heat. Women deliver their babies and patients die while waiting to go through.

These checkpoints are usually manned by young Israeli soldiers, many of them recent immigrants. Communicating with these soldiers is difficult. The recent immigrants have difficulty speaking English, speak no Arabic at all, and speak little Hebrew. This causes frustration on both sides, frustration that is often expressed by verbal and physical abuse by the soldiers.

These soldiers are there serving their draft. They are often bored and hate their job. Many take it out on the defenseless occupied Palestinians by verbal or physical abuse or by shutting the road for reason or no reason, just to spite the Palestinians. The Palestinians, as an occupied people, have no recourse.

The Palestinians face daily indignities from the occupying, easily excitable, and bored teenagers with Uzis. Generations of Palestinians grew up experiencing the indignities visited on their parents by the occupiers. According to the CIA Factbook, 42.4% of the Palestinians of the West Bank are 14 and under. Almost half the population is being socialized in an environment that by design or by default humiliates them and their parents.

Israel has agreed to remove 50 roadblocks.

Ms Cooper writes that Israel also promised, after forty years of occupation, to “upgrade its checkpoints to reduce the waiting time for Palestinians who have been hampered in their efforts to go about their daily lives.”
Nice word. Hampered!
Ms Cooper writes that“[T]hese days, Israel has more than 580 checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and at Gaza crossings, including an additional 30 that have gone up since the peace conference in Annapolis, Md., late last year, when Israel promised to take steps toward a peace agreement, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which closely tracks movement and access in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Almost all these checkpoints are in the West Bank, an area the CIA Factbook describes as “slightly smaller than Delaware.”

That’s way too many checkpoints- it makes moving people and material a nightmare. It increases the cost of everything for the already impoverished Palestinians. It is a form of collective punishment.
It is an injustice that needs to end.


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