Sunday, July 02, 2006


Let's discuss checkpoints.

Israel maintains several hundred checkpoints, most of them within the West Bank rather than along the Green Line, though the latter are staffed most continuously. According to the IDF, their purpose is to impair the freedom of movement of terrorists. I take this at face value, though some on Israel's far right might see them as part of a more extreme agenda of trying to crush Palestinians and force them to emigrate. The BBC profiles them here.

In order to see them from the Palestinian perspective, however, let's take just the single issue of medical emergencies. As described by the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, provisions for medical emergencies are more theory than practice. As a result, Palestinians are sometimes unable to get emergency medical care because of delayed or refused passage at these checkpoints. Palestine Monitor has some statistics. 52 women have been forced to give birth at checkpoints, resulting in 36 stillbirths. These are among the 116 total deaths due to denied medical treatment thanks to the checkpoints, or about 20 a year. That's less than the number of Israeli civilians killed in Israel a year during the most violent period of the al-Aqsa Intifada, but more than the total during the past few years.

This is just one statistic, and we could also examine civilians killed in Israeli raids and air strikes or people who have died due to ruined infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In this light, the logic of Palestinian hostility to Israel becomes understandable. This is why even those who do not condone terrorism see the Israeli occupation as the key issue in the conflict rather than the suicide bombings which make for CNN Breaking News coverage. This is also why I can't muster much outrage about the current Gaza military incursion, which seems like just another step in the violence which has been escalating in Gaza, and one far preferable to both a reoccupation of the Strip by Israel and to aerial bombardment that would almost certainly kill innocent bystanders, as opposed to the zero Palestinians whose deaths had been reported when I woke up this morning. (It's also worth pointing out that this is allowing Abbas and Haniyeh to put up high-profile a show of unity much like Olmert and Peretz are putting on a show of strength. Who knows where that might lead?)

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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