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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Palestine Monitor The Voice of Civil Society - Israeli Women's Group Monitors Soldiers at Checkpoints

Special section
Palestinian Child stopped at a checkpoint by Israeli soldiers
Closures and checkpoints
Israeli Women's Group Monitors Soldiers at Checkpoints
By Maia Ridberg
November 26, 2003

BEIT UMAR CHECKPOINT, West Bank, Nov 26 (Reuters) � A Palestinian taxi driver, his keys confiscated by Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint, looked with weary eyes for help from an Israeli woman observing the scene.

Neta Efroni, a retired television director, belongs to "Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch", a group of Israeli women who monitor soldiers at checkpoints and try to persuade them to smooth the way for Palestinians hoping to pass.

Trying to help the stranded taxi driver, described by the army as suspicious, Efroni turned to the soldier and told him: "The driver didn't understand you."

The soldier, speaking in even tones, replied:� "He understood me.�� We will give the keys back in two hours."

Unlike most human rights organisations helping Palestinians, Machsom Watch is an all-Israeli group of nearly 200 women, many of them in their 60s, who converse freely and comfortably with soldiers.

"It's a peculiar relationship between the soldiers and us, being Israeli women who can be friends of their mothers or their grandmothers.�� They can't just push us away," said Yehudit Elkana, who served in Israel's army in 1952.

Israel has kept Palestinians under tight travel restrictions during a three-year-old uprising in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and says checkpoints are necessary to prevent attacks on Jewish settlements and Israeli cities.

Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment on civilians not involved in militant activities.�� The taxi driver stopped at the Beit Umar checkpoint got his keys back as promised after what the army said was a security check.


Machsom Watch says its numbers are increasing, a reflection of growing public criticism in Israel over tough military measures against Palestinians.

Israel's biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, profiled the group a week after the tabloid featured an unprecedented joint interview with four former security chiefs who attacked the government's hard line in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The roadblocks spawn so much hate...(Palestinian life) is impossible, with the daily humiliation and arbitrariness faced at checkpoints," said Rachel Freudenthal, a college history lecturer who volunteers for Machsom Watch.

"What we are doing is horrible, not just for Palestinians...Misconduct (by soldiers) translates into misbehaviour in society, and it is ruining us," said Rina, who declined to give her family name, after watching a soldier order a Palestinian to lift his shirt in a search for weapons.

Machsom Watch began in Jerusalem with a few volunteers four months after the outset of the Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Two months ago, the group expanded to Tel Aviv with some 70 more women volunteering to monitor checkpoints in the central and northern West Bank.

Jewish settlers have called the women "traitors" who help "terrorists".�� But the women partly blame Israeli policies for Palestinian attacks.

"Our friend was killed in a terrorist attack at (Jerusalem's) Hebrew University," Freudenthal said.

"As long as there is occupation, there is a bad seed producing a rotten situation."


Most Machsom Watch volunteers grew up in socialist youth movements, entrenched in the Zionist ideals of the early days of Israel before it seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War.

Many served in the army before the Israeli occupation.

"We didn't really know (Palestinians) were there," said Freudenthal, who was raised on a kibbutz, or collective farm, in central Israel.

On daily Machsom Watch patrols � about once a week for each volunteer � women speak with Palestinians and document their hardships on videotapes and published reports distributed to the Israeli media.

At a roadblock near Bethlehem, Murad Karaja, a 28-year-old Palestinian doctor, was waiting for a ride to Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he was to start a new job.

"Who are you?" a surprised Karaja asked the women.

A smile crept across his face as they voiced their opposition to the barrier blocking his journey.

"Very good," he said.

January 2004

Israeli occupation soldiers guarding bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes.

A Palestinian man, perhaps who has lived in one of the homes, sits on the ground watching, his small daughters around him.

More Palestinian mothers are giving birth at home because they dare not risk ride to hospital.

September 2003

See the home blow up.

Blowing up more Palestinian homes as a collective punishment is a daily Israeli practice (paid for by US money) to control Palestinians under occupation.

The life and death of Kamala Sawalha

A student leaves her house every night, leaving her two young children at home, spends the next several hours traveling by taxi and on foot to get to the university in the neighboring town � just 15 minutes away.

Kamala wanted very badly to study � otherwise, it would be hard to understand the sacrifice she made for it.

To get up before dawn every morning, to leave the babies with their grandmother, to spend hours on the road in the heat and cold, even when pregnant, in order to get to the campus on time; to risk being shot or subjected to endless humiliations around every turn, and then to travel the whole way back � in a taxi where possible and on foot where necessary....

�Suddenly we were facing the soldiers,� he recounts. The jeep was parked on the left side of the road and its right door was open. Kamala let out a long scream. It was the last sound she would ever make.

At 11:30 A.M., they buried Kamala Sawalha in the town cemetery.

Punching an arab in the face.

The father went through it and now the son is going through it and no one talks about it around the dinner table.

Furer is certain that what happened to him is not at all unique.

Here he was � a creative, sensitive graduate of the Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, who became an animal at the checkpoint, a violent sadist who beat up Palestinians because they didn�t show him the proper courtesy, who shot out tires of cars because their owners were playing the radio too loud, who abused a retarded teenage boy lying handcuffed on the floor of the Jeep, just because he had to take his anger out somehow.

The celebration of Jerusalem day, the US missiles that rained onto children in Gaza,
and, a gathering of top articles over the past nine months

October 2003

Tom Hurndall, the peace activist who was shot by Israeli occupation forces while helping to shield some Palestinian children, is declared to be brain dead.

Two Palestinian children were among about 100 Palestinian civilians injured in the Israeli air raids on Gaza Strip, which also resulted in killing 10 civilians.

November 2003

A Palestinian family in Jenin, moments before the Israeli occupation forces blew up their home.

December 2003

Palestinian boys cry over the body of their father.

8 Palestinians were killed and 40 were injured,in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

Many homes were destroyed during a savage Israeli occupation raid on the refugee camp on Tuesday.

March 2004

A young Palestinian man hitting an Israeli teargas bomb with his shoes away from demonstrators.

Israeli occupation soldiers killed two demonstrators and injured more than a hundred of them during anti-Wall demonstrations in the West Bank.

February 2004

A Palestinian elderly woman screaming in despair, complaining to God, as an Israeli occupation army bulldozer started to prepare her land for the construction of the separation wall in the village of Dair Qidees, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

March 2004

A young Palestinian man hitting an Israeli teargas bomb with his shoes away from demonstrators.

Israeli occupation soldiers killed two demonstrators and injured more than a hundred of them during anti-Wall demonstrations in the West Bank.

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