Mercenary-run checkpoints stop Palestinians carrying "too much food"

Don't celebrate Israel's minor relaxation of some checkpoints. This is the daily reality of some Palestinians:

A West Bank checkpoint managed by a private security company is not allowing Palestinians to pass through with large water bottles and some food items, Haaretz has learned.

MachsomWatch discovered the policy, which Palestinian workers confirmed to Haaretz.

The Defense Ministry stated in response that non-commercial quantities of food were not being limited. It made no reference to the issue of water.
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The checkpoint, Sha'ar Efraim, is south of Tul Karm, and is managed for the Defense Ministry by the private security company Modi'in Ezrahi. The company stops Palestinian workers from passing through the checkpoint with the following items: Large bottles of frozen water, large bottles of soft drinks, home-cooked food, coffee, tea and the spice zaatar. The security company also dictates the quantity of items allowed: Five pitas, one container of hummus and canned tuna, one small bottle or can of beverage, one or two slices of cheese, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and 5 to 10 olives. Workers are also not allowed to carry cooking utensils and work tools.

MachsomWatch told Haaretz that Sunday, a 32-year-old construction worker from Tul Karm, who is employed in Hadera, was not allowed to carry his lunch bag through the checkpoint. The bag contained six pitas, 2 cans of cream cheese, one kilogram of sugar in a plastic bag, and a salad, also in a plastic bag.

The typical Palestinian laborer in Israel has a 12-hour workday, including travel time and checkpoint delays. Many leave home as early as 2 A.M. in order to wait in line at the checkpoint; tardiness to work often results in immediate dismissal. Workers return home around 5 P.M. The wait at the checkpoint can take one to two hours in each direction, if not longer.

The food quantities allowed by Modi'in Ezrahi do not meet the daily dietary needs of the workers, and they prefer not to buy food at the considerably more expensive Israeli stores.


Israel's occupation of Palestine is getting - got a long time ago - so sordid that they are now subcontracting it to for-profit enterprises. In other words, creating an occupation industry that would be a natural lobby against disengagement from the occupied territories. Probably, that's the whole idea.

Amira Hass relied on the Israeli NGO Machsom Watch (aka Women Against the Occupation and for Human Rights) for the info, they have a lot more on their site.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.