Middle East Opinions - opinions about all aspects of the middle east region

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Checkpoints in Israel

I was speaking to my younger cousin last night about a talk she attended at school from some international delegates regarding the Middle East conflict. There were two factions of delegates:

  • Refuse-niks (Israeli soldiers that refused to go into Palestinian territories for ethical reasons
  • A group against Israeli checkpoints

  • For the sake of keeping posts short I'll address each separately starting with the checkpoints.

    Before I begin I would like to make clear that I am responding to a comment made by this group not stating all of my opinions in this regard. The checkpoints are a multi-faceted and complex issue with many considerations. The point made by this group was that:
    "checkpoints hinder Palestinian life especially in medical and economic regards, therefore they should be removed".

    There are two aspects to this comment, being the statement regarding Palestinians and the conclusion. In terms of the statement I would largely agree with this statement but two very important consideration have been left out:
  • The effect checkpoints have had on Israel (which speaks to the objective of checkpoints)
  • How Palestinians are hindered by checkpoints (which speaks to what checkpoints prevent Palestinians from doing)


  • With regard to Israel, the stated objective of checkpoints has always been to decrease the level of terrorism and therefore Israeli (mostly civilian) casualties. With this in mind we need to look at the success rate of checkpoints. Over the last few years checkpoints have radically reduced the number of successful attacks on Israeli targets by suicide bombers. This is not to say that checkpoints are a solution to terrorism but rather that they do appear to help. It is also important to bear in mind that with the implementation of checkpoints between Israeli and Palestinian areas there have also been checkpoints added at major travel routes within Israel and checkpoints do not only affect Palestinians but Israelis as well. On a recent visit to Israel I was forced to go through a checkpoint in Jerusalem whereby all of my possessions were inspected and I was searched. There was a long line of Israelis waiting to get through and all were subjected to the same search. Too often we assume (thanks to the media mostly) that checkpoints do not affect Israeli citizens. So we know that on paper checkpoints are one of the best symptomatic responses to terrorism from within Palestinian areas. Please note that I said symptomatic. No symptomatic response will solve the situation but some may serve to curb levels of violence. The actual problem is much deeper and will need to be aggressively addressed if there is hope for a true and lasting peace in the region. Once we understand this we can then look at the effect the checkpoints have had on Palestinians. We have seen in the media cases of Palestinians not being able to get to hospitals or work as a result of the checkpoints (bearing in mind that many have no problem in this regard), so it becomes a question of "Is the inconvenience to the Palestinians and Israelis caused by the checkpoints offset by the success they have had in reducing terror levels and casualties in Israel?" For me the answer is a resounding YES! I am not saying that there should be inconvenience but rather that as long as Palestinians choose violence as their channel for resolution then certain steps need to be taken to protect Israeli citizens. If the result of these steps (provided they have some success) is an increased level in inconvenience then it is a relatively small price to pay. In fact the necessity for checkpoints is as a result of Palestinian actions so these actions should be questioned before the reaction is questioned. (This ignores the argument that Palestinian terrorism is a response to initial Israeli aggression, which I would love to address here but will need its own post!)

    This brings us to our next consideration - how Palestinians are inconvenienced. According to mainstream objections the major inconvenience is in the areas of medical care and employment. So it is not a question of Palestinians not being able to get to their areas but being restricted in their access to Israeli medicine and employment. Now the argument is for a separate state with no intervention from Israel and that seems to be a reality on the short-term horizon. If this is the case then surely it should be a situation of addressing the lack of medical care and employment in Palestinian areas rather than complaining about limited access to Israeli resources. In other words the world is calling for a separate autonomous Palestine with unrestricted access to Israel and not vice versa. Clearly this is not the normative case for a border and makes one wonder about Palestinian motivation and commitment to development. I agree that this would be a great situation for a new Palestinian state but this would be the first precedent in this regard and not even close to realistic or fair. An analogy if you will. It is like Texas asking to be an entirely separate country from the Unites States with the US government having no control, say, or access to Texas but where Texans have free entry into the US and access to all government supplied facilities. Seriously, take a minute to think about it.

    All of the above points do not even address the validity of Palestinian claims or the manner in which they have gone about this situation to date. These simply speak to a more complete picture about checkpoints. So the comment issued by this group could perhaps better be qualified as "checkpoints hinder Palestinian access to Israel especially in medical and economic regards, but have had a positive effect on the reduction of civilian casualties. Therefore Palestinians should concentrate more on their own infrastructure development to prepare for the legal separation they have asked for, while Israel does everything reasonable in its power to mitigate inconvenience.".

    3 Comments:

    • Very interesting reading. I can also say here that I'm only too happy to submit to the various security checks (not checkpoints, but another consequence of the situation here) I have had since I got to Israel. Though the El-Al one was quite something. I only wish there was anything like this for the crime in SA! Congratulations of the new blog, I am off to read all the archives of your other one ;)

      By Blogger Katherine, at 10:37 AM  

    • Welcome Katrkief! Thanks for the support. Checkpoints can be an effective means of preventing terrorism but it can not be all encompassing. Looking forward to your thoughts on my other posts!

      By Blogger Marc K, at 2:26 PM  

    • Living in Palestine, I think I have the right to comment on your post. First off, Jerusalem seriously doesn't represent the west bank, the security in Jerusalem is crazy, surveillance camera's everywhere, everything and everyone is monitored... but when we talk about checkpoints within the west bank, we are talking about PALESTINIANS only, as yellow plates (israeli plates) can move around wihtout being stopped where as Palestinina plates need to be stopped at all checkpoints. So this is the problem, they do not hinder the Palestinians to just go to work and hospitals in Israel, anyway you need to ahve a written permission to even pass into israel. I am talking about the checkpoints that break up the west bank and hinder people to going to west bank cities.. For example going to Ramallah to Nablus is a disaster... THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT HINDERANCE... Its not all about Israeli hospitals, its also about people from the villages being able to get into Ramallah, Jenine, Nablus to go to the hospitals... Im not sure where you are from, but I guess you don't know much until you live here.

      By Blogger Palestinian Princess, at 3:12 AM  

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