Photographing Israel’s checkpoints is rarely easy. On occasions soldiers have threatened to arrest me, take my camera or aimed their rifles in my direction. All but one of these photos were taken in January 2007 while I was accompanying Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor some of the 500-plus checkpoints and roadblocks that criss-cross the West Bank. They know Israeli domestic and military law, and argued with the soldiers who tried to stop me. It is important to remember that the checkpoints (“machsom” in Hebrew) shown here are deep inside Palestinian territory; they do not mark any kind of border with Israel…
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The checkpoints achieve two main goals, neither of which has anything to do with stopping suicide bombers. First, they create an apartheid road system: one for Jewish settlers living illegally on occupied land, and another for Palestinians. This ensures settlers have almost unlimited freedom of movement as they consolidate and extend their theft of Palestinian land. (The Palestinians you see driving here need special permits from the Israeli military authorities, which is why most of the vehicles are trucks or taxis, not private cars.)
Second, the checkpoints control Palestinian movement between Palestinian areas, usually in one direction only: those leaving rural areas are allowed freely to enter the cities; but the return journey, out of the cities, involves endless checks, queues and delays designed to cause harassment and humiliation.
Why would Israel do this? The answer is that it wants the Palestinians treated like sheep, using the checkpoints to herd the rural populations into the cities, where they can be penned up. The ultimate objective, doubtless, is to annex the vacated land to Israel.
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