Saturday, January 20

Travel Restrictions for Palestinians - is it Justified?

Israel has faced many security problems because of Palestinian terrorist activity. The construction of the security fence on a very controversial route that encroaches into Palestinian farm lands has been a cause of disagreement for quite a while now. The security fence is a desperate measure to prevent Palestinian terrorist infiltration. It has proved its usefulness and there is no denying that suicide bombings in the main centers have decreased markedly. This does not mean that it will remain so indefinitely. The route of the security fence - following the green line - would have been more desirable and would not have created unnecessary hardships towards innocent Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the moment there is some form of solution to a serious security problem, other problems arise. In this case it is the problem of travel within the Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

Despite the break down of communication between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process in total ruins, it is essential that all forms of communication between Israelis and Palestinians remain open. This is important for humane and economic reasons. Palestinian people that are restricted in travel and communication will cause further hardships. This will strengthen the extremist non-compromising organizations such as Hamas whose survival depends on the extreme suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. Apart from that, and not less important, channels must remain open between Israelis and Palestinians to dialogue. This dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians to form peaceful relationships between each other, untainted by politicians, ought to be encouraged. Travel restrictions will make it more difficult for the two peoples to communicate.  

PM Olmert has paid lip service to easing various restrictions such as roadblocks within the Palestinian areas. In practice, nothing has been done and the incredible convoluted routes taken from one Palestinian town to another remains a tortuous ordeal that takes many hours even for a normal 15 minute journey. This has nothing to do with security. It has plenty to do with unnecessary humiliation of innocent Palestinian People, uninvolved in terror activity against Israel.

The justification for security measures can be stretched beyond all reasonable proportions. Nobody can argue against Israel protecting her citizens from terror. The methods that are employed are bordering on the unreasonable. When security rules are made and do not take basic human rights into consideration, it leaves a gray area open to Israel Army abuse. This can be at check points where some Israeli soldiers behave in a barbaric and impolite manner towards many innocent Palestinians.  Palestinians, in need if urgent medical treatment, are subjected to incredible humiliation and delays in getting that treatment. This is unacceptable!

“Security considerations” is an excellent excuse for carrying out abuse on innocent Palestinians at check points. The moment any self respecting human rights activist criticizes Israel Army behaviour for these activities, he is accused of being an anti-Semite or Israel-basher! How far can Israeli paranoia go in order to justify brutal behaviour! There is a hue and cry whenever parallels are used comparing the Israeli occupation to apartheid white South Africa of the past! While the situation is not comparable, the loutish and callous behaviour of the Israeli Security Forces is reminiscent of the behaviour of the white apartheid South African Police of old even though the reason may not be parallel.

Now with the addition of further travel restrictions against the Palestinians, it is becoming more difficult to avoid that odious comparison. When these practices of abuse occur in the territories, what claim can Israel make of being a true democracy? Is it a democracy Bush-style at Guantanamo Prison? The territories seem to be comparable to the US Guantanamo. The new travel restrictions against Palestinians further erodes Israel’s credibility. Even the Israel High Court has not come to any decision on that issue.

A question that should be asked is whether these travel restrictions on Palestinians is based on a de facto security consideration or is it a discriminatory measure. The line between the two aspects is very thin indeed.
Shulamit Aloni, a retired Knesset member and former Education Minister in the late PM Rabin’s Cabinet, stated in her article – “Indeed there is Apartheid in Israel” the following:
“Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what's right in front of our eyes. It's simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population”.

No comments: