Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not in front of the citizens!


Machsom Watch monitors
army treatment of Palestinians, as here at Abu Dis, near Jerusalem.

Palestinians living under Israeli occupation face daily obstruction and harassment at Israeli military checkpoints. It can add hours to a journey to the neighbouring town. and stop people getting to work, or college, or fetching medicines and food. Women prevented from reaching a maternity hospital have been forced to give birth by the road.

Children travelling with their families see a venerable grandparent insulted and humiliated by some grinning teenage shmok in khaki with a gun. Then the world wonders why these children grow up with other ideas than love for their Israeli neighbour.

Machsom Watch is a group of Israeli women, from grandmothers to young students, who make it their business to visit the military checkpoints and see how Palestinians are being treated. Their monitoring activity doesn't get rid of the checkpoints, but it lets the soldiers know their behaviour is being watched, and tells Palestinian sisters they are not forgotten or alone.

Machsom Watch also publicises what's happening, so nobody in Israel or among its friends overseas can claim afterwards that "We didn't know". But those in authority evidently would prefer that people didn't know.
Fellow blogger Mark Elf (
has drawn attention to this item from the daily "Ha'aretz":

High Court upholds ban on Machsom Watch exhibit in Be'er Sheva

By Itim

The High Court of Justice has decided not to interfere with Be'er Sheva Mayor Ya'akov Turner's decision last week to ban a Machsom Watch photo exhibit at the Teacher's Center in the city. Machsom Watch is a women's group that monitors the behavior of soldiers toward Palestinians at checkpoints.
The pictures in question depict interactions at the Qalandiyah and Hawara checkpoints in the West Bank.

Turner announced the ban last Thursday, claiming that the contents of the exhibit are harmful to the sensitivities of the public. Justices Edna Arbel, Miriam Naor and Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that Turner acted in accordance with his authority, which gives him the right to ban a public exhibit in a municipal building. However, the court ruling also stated that the municipality should allow activities of this sort in public locations.

Attorney Gabi Lasky submitted a petition to the court on behalf of Machsom Watch, after the Be'er Sheva District Court rejected an appeal by the group. Lasky noted that just two weeks ago, the Teacher's Center held an exhibit on human rights abuses in China. The ten-day exhibit was to be launched on Sunday, after completing a month-long run in Tel Aviv. It was coordinated in advance with a city council representative and with the mayor's bureau. The exhibit's organizers protested what they called, "The mayor's assault on freedom of expression and the use of his authority to prevent political activity that is not compatible with his own world view."

The organizers added that they are appalled by the notion that a mayor in a democratic state can prevent residents from seeing pictures of what goes on in the Palestinian territories.

To find out more about Machsom Watch and see some of the photos they are showing, visit their website:

There's also a book out by Yehudit Keshet, one of the founders of Machsom Watch, it's called Checkpoint Watch, and published by Zed books, and you can find out more at

A launch for the book, together with Arthur Neslen's "Occupied Minds" (Pluto), had to be transferred at short notice last month after West London Synagogue executives discovered they didn't like the Jewish organisers' politics, and cancelled their hall booking.
So it isn't only in Israel.



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