B'tselem protests W. Bank checkpoints

Group publishes report calling movement restrictions on Palestinians illegal.

checkpoint nablus 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolomski)
checkpoint nablus 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolomski)
Even if at the beginning of the intifada there were genuine security reasons for restricting Palestinian movement on many West Bank roads, that is not true almost seven years later and the policy has become illegal, the human rights group B'Tselem charged Monday in an 82-page report. The report is called "I-Tenuah" (no movement) a play on Hebrew words which also mean a "traffic island." According to the report, since movement restrictions on Palestinians were first imposed following the outbreak of the second intifada in September, 2000, they have come to serve extraneous purposes such as to control and channel Palestinian movement in order to separate them from Israelis. The restriction of movement allows Israelis to move uninterruptedly, speedily, safely and with a minimum of disturbance to all the destinations that are important to them in daily life, such as movement from one settlement to another through a system of internal roads. Among the roads that have been barred to most Palestinian motorists are Highway 90 in the Jordan rift, Highway 443, linking Jerusalem to Modi'in, and Highway 557 leading to the settlements of Elon Moreh and Itamar. Movement restrictions are carried out according to an interrelated system of barriers. These barriers have fragmented the Palestinian territory into six noncontiguous subdistricts - the North, the Center, the South, the Jordan rift and the northern Dead Sea, the enclaves created by the barrier and east Jerusalem. These subdistricts are separated from one another by a system of checkpoints which Palestinian motorists and pedestrians must pass through in order to get from one to the next. The roadblocks and obstacles also fragment the subdistricts themselves. For example, Nablus is effectively cut off from its immediate hinterland by a system of roadblocks and checkpoints. This system has caused the Palestinians serious problems in conducting their daily lives, and the restrictions cause severe problems for the economy of the West Bank. B'Tselem called on the government to lift the restrictions of movement against the Palestinians immediately and dismantle the settlements. On Monday, the Justice Ministry's Department for International Agreements and International Litigation issued a response to the B'Tselem report, challenging its basic assumption that the road restrictions were being used for illegal purposes. "This far-reaching assertion is absolutely baseless," wrote attorney Hila Tene. "Regretfully, the terrorist threat which has cost the lives of more than 1,000 Israeli citizens makes it imperative, in certain circumstances, to restrict movement in such areas. This need stems from the fact that Palestinian terrorism operates from within the Palestinian civilian population and under its cover, thereby grossly and severely violating international law." Tene wrote that as a result of the checkpoints and roadblocks, thousands of terrorist activists were arrested at the different barriers erected in Judea and Samaria, some of whom were potential suicide bombers, senior officials in terrorist organizations or collaborators. Tene added that the absolute majority of West Bank roads were open to the Palestinians without the need for a special permit. There were only a few roads closed to Palestinians and only when there was a "clear security need for it," she wrote.