Saturday, January 13, 2007

FEATURE: Israel bans Israelis and tourists from giving Palestinian rides in territories By Mohammed Mar'i

Separation among Israelis and Palestinians even in vehicles
By Mohammed Mar'i
(Distributed by Arab American Media Services. Permission granted to republish)

(Ramallah, Occupied Palestine) -- On 19 January 2007 the Palestinians in the West Bank will add another suffering to their lives by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Beside the Separation Wall that shatters the West Bank and more than 400 roadblocks, the (IOF) will implement the discriminatory Israeli order which prohibits Israelis and tourists from using their vehicles to transport Palestinians in the West Bank without an army permit.

Violating human rights and international law, Israel build the separation Wall, prohibited Palestinian vehicles on certain roads in the West Bank, and forbidden Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian controlled areas to separate the Palestinians from Israelis. The new (IOF) order penetrates into the private space of the vehicle to separate its passengers.

Despite the fact that the order does not apply to Palestinians who hold a permit to enter Israel or the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to Israeli bus drivers, Israel residents carrying Palestinians who are first-degree relatives , such as a cousin or nephew, and soldiers and police officers on duty, most Palestinians will suffer. Ahmed is a taxi driver transports Palestinians from Ramallah to Qalandya checkpoint ever day. He will not be able to transport Palestinian passengers who do not meet the Israeli criteria in his taxi that bears Israeli license plates. He fears to loose his job. "If they apply the order I will not be able to meet the raising needs of my family", Ahmed said. "I hardly manage to gain some Sheqels ( Israel's currency), so how I will do when they oblige me not to transport Palestinians in my tax", he added. Qais, a resident from Qalandya and holder of Israeli identity card shares Ahmed his fears. Although he will not have problems transporting his first degree relatives, he has with others. "How I will be able to join with my friends in the West Bank? I used to travel with them to different places using my car. If the Israelis implement their order I will loose them" he said. Dr. Awad, a Palestinian citizen. He is a researcher known to international institutions concerned with internal Palestinian issues. He used to travel with foreign diplomats, foreign journalists in the West Bank using a vehicle bearing Israeli license plates. "From that date, I will not be able to travel with them. I will loose most of my monthly income" he said.

The order further aggravates the already harsh restrictions on the freedom of movement of West Bank Palestinians. For some time, Israel has restricted, completely or partially, Palestinian travel on major roads in the West Bank, which have been set aside for use of Israelis, primarily settlers. Despite these restrictions, Palestinians have been able to travel along these roads by taxi or other vehicles bearing Israeli license plates. The new order will close this "loophole" and increase the discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians on certain roads.

The order also impedes the activity of humanitarian organizations, human rights organizations, and organizations providing assistance to the local population, whose work entails transporting Palestinians inside the West Bank.

The Palestinian passenger and the Israeli driver are subject to punishment since the violation of the order is a criminal offense. The penalties prescribed in the order are also discriminatory. Whereas an Israeli who violates the order is tried in a civilian Israeli court, where he will not expect a hard punishment, the Palestinian violator is tried in an Israeli military court, where he might be sentenced up to five years in jail and loss of magnetic card given by the Israeli Intelligence Service (Shin Bet), thus preventing the person from obtaining various permits from the Israeli authorities.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a press release that eight Israeli human rights groups petitioned the High Court of Justice on January 7 th, 2007 against the military order which was issued by, the commander of (IOF) in the West Bank, Major-General Yair Naveh On 19 November 2006. Besides ACRI, the petitioners are: Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights, Gisha, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, HaMoked-Center for Defense of the Individual, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights and Bimkom-Planners for Planning rights.

Attorney Michael Sfard who represents the petitioners said the order will "lead to a rift between Israelis and Palestinians who have legitimate social, political and commercial ties."

The groups considered the order reminiscent of apartheid, as it "implements an ideology of separation by creating criminal sanctions on different peoples."

Under international law, Israel must respect the human rights of all persons under its authority. These rights include the right to equality, freedom of movement, maintain family ties and social ties, engage in political activity, and the right to work and earn a livelihood. The (IOF) ignore the discriminatory nature of the order and justify it as a military necessity, for example, by restricting the number of Palestinians entering Israel in Israeli vehicles without a permit.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a journalist based in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine . He can be reached at