Israeli Checkpoints and Their Impact on Daily Life
Israel has constructed hundreds of checkpoints and other roadblocks on Palestinian land, which restrict Palestinian travel between, and sometimes, within, their cities and towns.
Many checkpoints are manned by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and sometimes guarded with tanks. Others are made up of gates, which are locked when soldiers are not on duty. In addition there are hundreds of dirt or concrete roadblocks, which prevent the passage of all vehicles – family cars and ambulances alike.
Due in large part to the checkpoints and roadblocks, Palestinian movement is severely restricted. Journeys of short distances can stretch into hours when Palestinians are detained at checkpoints or forced to circumnavigate roadblocks or closed checkpoints.
Harassment, Humiliation, and Death
Extensive evidence indicates that whether or not a Palestinian is allowed to pass through a checkpoint is often arbitrary. Journalists and other eyewitnesses report that Palestinians have been denied access because they are smiling, or are deemed ugly, or simply because the soldiers don’t feel like letting them pass.
Human Rights workers have documented cases where Palestinian men and boys are detained at checkpoints without food, water, or protection from the elements for hours. In some cases, they are held in metal cages or required to strip to their underwear, in many cases, they are blindfolded and their hands are tied with plastic ties that cut deeply into their wrists.
There is a great deal of documentary evidence showing that ambulances carrying sick or injured Palestinians frequently are prevented from traveling through checkpoints, sometimes leading to deaths. In addition numerous pregnant women have not been allowed to pass through checkpoints – in many cases the mother or baby has died as a result. Between June 2003 and February 2004, 46 women delivered their babies at checkpoints – 24 of the women and 27 newborns died as a result.
According to the Palestine Monitor, “[m]ore than 991 incidents of denial of access to Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees’ (UPMRC) ambulances have been reported,” and at least 83 deaths have resulted from the prevention of access to medical services.
According to the World Bank, the combination of checkpoints, the separation barrier through the West Bank, and other closures – all of which greatly limit the movement of workers and goods – has caused the Palestinian people to suffer “one of the worst recessions in modern history,” with approximately 50% of the Palestinian population now living in poverty. Illness and malnutrition have risen with this economic devastation.
“Without major changes in this closure regime, [...] the Palestinian economy will not revive, [and] poverty and alienation will deepen.” says a June 2004 World Bank press release.
Just as their parents have trouble getting to their workplaces, children and young adults are frequently denied their right to education. They are forced to take dangerous routes to their schools and universities. Hundreds of students have been detained, shot or injured on their way to school. In addition, Israeli forces sometimes order schools to be temporarily closed – occasionally these closures have lasted for a year or longer.
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IF AMERICANS KNEW