W. Bank auto shops raided in search of Israeli cars

In an effort to enforce a law forbidding Israelis to patronize auto repair shops in the West Bank, the Israel Police's Etgar Unit started raiding repair shops and confiscating the cars there last week. The law, which forbids any repair of Israeli cars in auto facilities in the West Bank, came into effect on March 31. Violators face three years in prison and confiscation of their cars from anywhere between seven and 30 days. As part of the operation, Etgar forces raided the shop of Hassam Kallish, a mechanic whose business is located in Atariya, near Ma'aleh Adumim, on Sunday morning. Kallish, who has an Israeli identification card, said that he was not notified of the raid beforehand and felt it was unjust, especially because he is an Israeli and Atariya is supposed to be in Area C, which defines any West Bank territory under full Israeli control. "They didn't warn us or anything," said Kallish, who has operated his shop for 15 years. "They broke in. What kind of law is that? What kind of peace is that?" The police, however, said they had made an effort before the operation to explain the violation to mechanics. "Wide explanatory measures preceded this operation, using all modes of communication," said a spokesperson for the Etgar Unit. Orli Abu, a resident of Kedar who has been a client of Kallish's for as long as the shop has been operating, had her car confiscated by the police on Sunday and was questioned in the Lod police station on Tuesday. While she says she was treated well by the police, she believes the law is unfair, as well as bad for Israel's security interests. "In this way, they're just isolating [the Palestinians] more and ruining their livelihoods. Everyone needs to live and work," she said. Abu complained that the raids would hurt customers because Jewish mechanics charge more for the same services. The police argued that the lower prices set by Palestinian auto mechanics present another concern, claiming that they're stealing car parts from Israeli cars and profiting from them. In addition to constituting theft, police said this makes the roads more dangerous for drivers. "The repair industry in the West Bank denies a legitimate livelihood to law-abiding, taxpaying business owners who act according to the law in Israel," said Etgar head Yehuda Atar. But Kallish, who says he has "never broken the law," plans to go to court with several of his customers to oppose the law and the manner in which the raid was conducted. "We obey the law, and we want what we deserve," he said.