The goal is to encourage the public to put an end to the occupation.
Our organization was founded in order to monitor the areas where an army rules civilians, and document the infringement of the Palestinians’ right to move freely in their land among Palestinian villages, between village and town, accessing their fields and groves. We believe that the occupation is harmful both to Palestinians living under its unbearable yoke and to Israelis who have grown accustomed to dominating another people unhampered. There is no such thing as an enlightened occupation, and any people living under occupation desires to liberate itself from such rule.
We do not propose ways to end the occupation but clearly understand that a just and equal negotiation must be held between us and the Palestinians.
MachsomWatch organization was founded in 2002 by several women, living in Jerusalem, were shocked by reports of incidents at checkpoints inside the occupied territories.
The media reports of women in labor who have been delayed at checkpoints, people who have undergone heart attacks and who have been detained, wounded who were not allowed to reach the hospital, etc.
Most of these cases ended tragically. Those women (about us) decided to go to the checkpoints, equipped with stationery and documented what they saw.
As time went by, the women began to go to the checkpoints at the entrance into Israel, where tens of thousands of workers and farmers pass through. When the single women became an organization, they decided to remain in a women's organization, thinking that women, most of us not young, were not perceived as a threat.
Permanent checkpoints: these include internal checkpoints (59) deep inside the West Bank area and far from the Green Line (1949 armistice lines and internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel despite the 1967 war and its resulting occupation), and entry-to-Israel checkpoints (39) through which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians get through on a daily basis to work inside Israel. In the Gaza Strip there are two checkpoints – one for pedestrians and the other for the transport of goods and fuel into Gaza City (these data are valid for January 2017, from the B’Tselem website). Some of the permanent checkpoints are operated by civilian security firms, subordinate to the Ministry of Defense Crossings Authority.
Flying checkpoints: hundreds of checkpoints (military and Border Police vehicles) are posted on main and side roads throughout the West Bank at junctions and in the vicinity of settler-colonies at changing or relatively permanent locations and at random times. At this checkpoints, Palestinian vehicles are stopped, their passengers detained, interrogated, fined or have their IDs and other documents confiscated, as well as their vehicles at times.
Permanent barriers: hundreds of physical barriers, both permanent and temporary, are placed at main entrances or side access roads into Palestinian villages deep in the West Bank area, at access points to main roads and in the middle of nowhere as well. These barriers are metal bars, locked metal gates, large concrete slabs, earth dykes and ditches. At times these barriers are observed by soldiers in military vehicles, but mostly they are unmanned. At times of emergency these barriers are immovable, and in their everyday lives the villagers being blocked – the elderly, children, the disabled and ill patients – are forced to bypass them on foot with great difficulties. Women about to deliver or ill patients who must get to hospital urgently arrive at the barrier in a private vehicle and have to be carried over rocks and other obstacles on stretchers or in others’ arms, to the vehicle summoned at the other side.
Agricultural checkpoints: About 70 of these are erected along the Separation Fence and enable limited passage of a limited number of Palestinian farmers to their lands, locked west of the Separation Fence, in an enclave ;named “The Seamline Zone”. Few of these checkpoints are opened every day, others only twice or three times a week, and most of them merely during farming seasons such as the olive harvest time. Hours in which they opened are also limited and shorten the farmers’ workday, impacting the tending and cultivation of their main source of income.
“Fabric of life” checkpoints: About 7500 Palestinians live on the western side of the Separation Fence, in enclaves lying between the fence and the Green Line (“the Seamline Zone”). Passage from the West Bank into the Seamline Zone requires a special permit which is not easily obtained. The whitewashed title “fabric of life” embodies the fact that the Separation Barrier does impact and injure many aspects of Palestinian life. The answer given by the occupier who has created the problem is, of course, far from satisfactory.
International law, to which Israel is subject, sets very clear rules regarding the control of occupied territories. It forbids, among other things, the settlement of occupied territory by citizens of the occupying state, the usurpation of natural resources from the occupied territory, the harassment of inhabitants of occupied territories, the restriction of free movement inside the occupied territory, etc.
In actual fact the State of Israel ignores the law.
It settles its Jewish Israeli citizens inside the Occupied Territories,
Usurps the natural resources there,
Restricts free movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories,
Places Palestinians under administrative detention for unlimited periods of time,
Confiscates finances and property,
Limits access to centers of health and education institutions,
Restricts or prevents travel abroad from the West Bank,
Fines drivers who are West Bank residents for imaginary traffic violations, and so on and so forth.
Likewise, the State of Israel confiscate Palestinian property under various strange and false excuses, and forces them to receive it only after paying a steep fine on grounds of “storage costs”. Usually, the fines amount to greater expenses than the value of the confiscated property.
A typical example is a recurrent incidence in the Palestinian Jordan Valley where as a matter of routine cattle, sheep and goats are confiscated from Palestinian shepherds as well as tractors and water tankers, whose owners then are forced to pay exorbitant sums of money to have them returned.
The construction of the Separation Barrier doubly impacted the lives of the Palestinians living nearby.
First: The State of Israel confiscated large swathes of agricultural land from the Palestinians in order to build the barrier itself. (The width of the area required for constructing the barrier, together with the security road alongside it, is 40-50 meters).
Second: The Security Barrier has cut off landowners from their agricultural land and their sources of livelihood. Today not every farmer can obtain permission to access his lands due to the particularly strict permit regime regarding agricultural checkpoints.
With the construction of the Separation Barrier, the State of Israel intended to give landowners whose property was trapped behind the barrier access to their lands in the area between the barrier and the Green Line (the so-called Seam Zone). For that purpose, some 70 agricultural checkpoints were built into the barrier.
In practice, only a few of these checkpoints operate daily (for periods of 15-30 minutes or one hour). Others are operated only two or three times a week, and the majority are opened only once or twice a year during agricultural seasons such as the olive harvest.
There are seven different types of permits that the State of Israel issues to Palestinian landowners, each one depending on the status of its holder determined by the state. Each permit is also limited to a specified period (e.g., three months, half a year) at the end of which it must be renewed by repeating the bureaucratic process.
Only a Palestinian who can present an ownership document (land registration) for his land beyond the fence is allowed to apply for such a permit for himself and at times for first-degree family members.
The bureaucracy for obtaining ownership documentation is mostly complicated to impossible.
It is no simple matter, presenting documents recording a family’s ownership of land over generations; in other cases, sons have trouble proving that they are the legal heirs of their fathers’ land.
Permits may be obtained by hired workers employed by a landowner (who is unable to cultivate it for age or health reasons).
Most family members who were used to working or at least helping with the farming tasks in season are not issued permits and in any case, every such permit issued has to be approved by the Shabak (GSS – the Israeli Security Services).
Between three months and two years. The permit must be reissued every time a new, undergoing the same bureaucratic process.
Confiscation of Palestinian lands is defined by security needs, the paving of roads and other needs vital to the Israeli military. The construction of Jewish settler-colonies/outposts is included in these security definitions.
Sometimes the Palestinians are offered a sum of money in return for their confiscated land, for example when the confiscation serves the pavement of a new road.
However, they are not willing to take money for their land and they do not agree to sell their family land to Jews. Therefore all monetary offers in return for confiscation (including Amona) are not serious.
Any soldier, policeman, DCO representative or Shabak agent may confiscate at any moment a permit of entry into the enclaves between the Green Line and the Separation Barrier, where the Palestinian farm lands are enclosed.
No explanation is given to a Palestinian as to the reason why the permit is confiscated, if and when it would be returned.
He is dispatched to the DCO where he tries to have his permit back. At times he has to undergo the whole lengthy procedure to have it reissued, and may not even receive an entry permit again into the Seamline Zone or into Israel proper.
Our extensive experience over the years has taught us that often confiscations take place “by mistake” or for reasons that cannot be justified, and after the Palestinian officially applies to the Civil Administration or turns to the courts – the confiscation is canceled and the permits are handed back.
In many cases confiscation is intentional in order to force the farmer to collaborate with the Israeli security services, to inform on and pass information from the Palestinian side to the Israelis. Generally, Palestinians have an extremely hard time giving up their source of livelihood, needing to feed numerous mouths. On the other hand, a Palestinian who collaborates with the Shabak is likely to warrant a death sentence by Palestinian society.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon planned the route of the Separation Fence following three principles:
- The fence would surround the greatest number of settler-colonies;
- The fence would surround the maximum Palestinian area;
- The fence would surround the least number of Palestinian inhabitants;
These principles resulted in the fact that 86% of the planned fence ran to the east of the Green Line.
Regardless of the question whether the erection of the barrier was crucial at the outbreak of the early 2000s Intifada, today it seems that the fence and the checkpoint apparatus do not prevent infiltration into Israel and are not necessary for such prevention. In fact, to this day the fence has not yet been completed along its entire prescribed route, and in certain regions (Maale Adumim, Gush Etzyon, the South Hebron Hills) it has not been erected at all. Moreover, in numerous places, the fence has breaches that make it quite easy to cross over from the Palestinian to the Israeli side – not through the checkpoints.
It is widely known that on any given day about 40,000 Palestinians are actually inside Israel, defined as ‘illegal aliens’ and working there on a permanent basis. Still, since the Intifada, there have not been waves of mega-terrorist attacks. Security experts give this reasons for this: the Palestinians’ understanding that terrorist attacks result in great damage to their (collective) self; the ability of the Israeli security forces to undo nearly any organizing planned to harm Israel; collaboration between the Israeli and the Palestinian security forces operating since the Oslo accords.
Most of the attacks carried out during the “individuals’ Intifada” in 2016 were by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem neighborhoods who possess blue (Israeli resident) IDs. Their problems are different than those of West Bank inhabitants. The Jerusalem Separation Wall has its own different aspects.
In actual fact only a few of these checkpoints are open from morning until the afternoon hours;
Some are opened three times a day;
Others are opened only once, twice or three times a week;
Many are opened only twice a year (!) for a few days in the autumn and spring.
The opening times of the agricultural checkpoints change occasionally.
As not all the agricultural checkpoints are open regularly, the farmers need to use those which are distant from the village, and after crossing them, the farmers still have a long way to reach their fields.
This makes regular cultivation of trees and crops difficult and causes their neglect.
Also, the opening hours do not leave the farmers ample time to tend their land; in addition, in some of these checkpoints they may not get their farming equipment across.
By definition of international law, the occupying army is responsible for the welfare of the occupied population and is required to defend it against any elements seeking to harm it.
Often Israeli soldiers stand by as settler-colonists harass Palestinians and harm their property, while they harvest their olive trees or graze their livestock. Even schoolchildren on their way to school are attacked as they take the shorter track passing by a settler-colony.
Complaints lodged by Palestinians do not usually receive any police attention.
The Israel Police holds a blacklist of Occupied Territories Palestinian residents who are denied entry into Israel (or passage from the West Bank into East Jerusalem) on account of previous convictions, either in the recent or not so recent past: illegal sojourn in Israel (“illegal aliens”), non-payment of traffic fines, wage conflicts with employers, and others.
The police defines these people as “denied entry into Israel”, or “police-blacklisted”.
We believe that our presence at the checkpoints, since 2001, is significant and effective. Our documentation is posted on a credible and continuous website and has tens of thousands of readers locally and abroad (www.machsomwatch.org). Even in the army, there are those who read our reports, soldiers – some of whom who tell us about it. We sometimes meet with senior military officials or call them from the ground to solve local or principle problems that arise. We have a team that helps Shabak-blacklisted Palestinians fill out the official forms of the Civil Administration and apply for work permits in Israel. Thousands of Palestinians have managed to have their names taken off the Shabak black lists, and can now feed their families s they work in Israel. We have managed to help solve local problems involving water supply to Palestinian villages, access to hospitals or courts, and various private matters.
In 2009 US President Barack Obama instructed the State of Israel to remove a large number of checkpoints inside the Occupied Territories. Hundreds of checkpoints were removed overnight without Israel’s security being infringed in the least. We believe that our public and long-standing opposition to their presence played a role in this removal.
We find that our most important effect is upon the relations between Israelis and Palestinians. By our very presence at the checkpoints and our warm personal relations with many Palestinians we represent the part of the Israeli public who sees Palestinians as equal human beings, entitled to fair treatment. The Palestinians realize that certain Israelis care and ready to fight for their rights, who do not fear them and visit their homes and villages without fearing the occupation authorities.