The Association for Civil Rights in Israel charged the army on Tuesday with barring West Bank Palestinians from using beaches along the northern shore of the Dead Sea. A petition filed with the High Court of Justice against the IDF criticized the area's checkpoints as a means to keep Palestinians out so as not to discourage Israelis from swimming there and contributing to Jewish concessionaires.
"The illegality of the actions and orders of the army cries out to the heavens," wrote ACRI attorney Limor Yehuda. "This is a clear case of misusing security considerations as camouflage for achieving other goals which are unrelated to security matters and unacceptable."
The petition involves the Beit Ha'arava military checkpoint at the Jerusalem-Jericho highway junction, and Highway 90, from the Jordan Valley in the north to the Dead Sea and Eilat in the south.
The petition is based on complaints originally raised by two officers who were called up for reserve duty in May 2007. According to the officers, during a talk at the beginning of their service with Jordan Valley Brigade Commander, Col. Yigal Slovik, he told them the reason for the checkpoint where they were stationed was related to the loss of income to Jewish settlements on the shores of the Dead Sea when Palestinians came to swim there.
According to the complaint, the officers told the brigade commander that the checkpoint and the reason for it were illegal. Nevertheless, the order stood.
Yehuda said the army told him that the checkpoint was intended to prevent terrorist activity and arms smuggling. According to Yehuda, this was not congruent with the administration of the checkpoint, which was manned primarily on the weekends and stopped all Palestinians, including schoolchildren and families.
"We are dealing here with travel bans and entry prohibitions to public places in occupied territory which are tainted with discrimination and characteristic of colonial regimes," wrote Yehuda. "We have here prohibitions preventing the protected population of the occupied territory from using its own resources, while the very same resources are put at the disposal and enjoyment of the citizens of the occupying power."
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