(Ramallah, Occupied Palestine) -- On 19 January 2007, the
Palestinians in the West Bank will have more suffering added
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 built
the separation Wall, prohibited Palestinian vehicles on certain roads in the
West Bank, and forbade 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 and transports Palestinians from
Ramallah to the Qalandya checkpoint every 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 losing 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 shekels [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 an Israeli
identity card shares Ahmed's 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, is a researcher known to
international institutions concerned with internal Palestinian issues. He used
to travel with foreign diplomats and 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 the magnetic card given by the Israeli Intelligence Service (Shin Bet), thus
preventing the person from obtaining various permits from the Israeli
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 7 January, opposing 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
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, maintaining family ties and social ties,
engaging in political activity, and the right to work and earn a livelihood.
The IOF ignores the discriminatory nature of the order and justifies it as a
military necessity, for example, by restricting the number of Palestinians
entering Israel in Israeli vehicles without a permit.
Mar'i is a journalist based in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine . He can be reached