Human rights group attacks gov't for policy in West Bank, Gaza

One of Israel's leading human rights groups on Sunday harshly criticized the government for widespread violations in the West Bank and Gaza which it said harmed Palestinians economically and socially. The annual report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) also faulted the nation for increasing racism in its treatment of minorities, especially Arabs. "For the past seven years or so, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank have made daily life practically impossible," the report charged, referring to roadblocks, checkpoints and travel restrictions imposed after the second Intifada erupted in 2000, when Palestinians began targeting Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. The ACRI report charged, "Most of the human rights violations in the occupied territories are byproducts of the establishment of (Jewish) settlements and outposts," designed to allow the 270,000 settlers "free and secure movement." Because of the limits, the report determined, the West Bank has been virtually split into six separate pieces.