October 29, 2008
At 11.00, around 30 residents of Al Mazra’a ash Sharqiya accompanied by 10 international and Israeli activists marched towards two roadblocks aiming to remove them. Waiting for the demonstrators when they arrived, were 4 Israeli military jeeps: 2 troops of border police and 2 troops of Israeli soldiers. The demonstrators expressed their desire to remove the blockades, but were stopped by the soldiers. The army threatened to arrest the Israeli activists, using an illegal, unsigned military order as the reason. Despite their admittance to the activists they threatened to arrest that they could only illegally detain them as the military order was invalid, they expressed their determination to force the group to leave. Several members of the popular committee in Al Mazra’a argued their right to free the road, but the presence of at least 20 soldiers deterred physical action to remove the piles of rocks. As the demonstrators were beginning to walk away, the Israeli soldiers began to push the group.
An under-publicized repression against Palestinians, roadblocks affect freedom of movement as much as checkpoints and the Apartheid Wall. The system of Israeli-only roads, roadblocks and gates determines a severely limited network of routes Palestinians can use in the Occupied Territories. Most major roads in the West Bank are either illegal for Palestinians (14 roads), require difficult to acquire permission from the Israeli government (10 roads), or can become illegal for Palestinians at any Israeli commanders’ discretion. In addition to confiscating Palestinian roads and renovating them for Israeli-only use, the Israeli government orders the construction of gates and the creation of roadblocks. The significance of reclaiming the left-over roads has inspired several villages to organize actions around roadblocks. In the West Bank village of Al Mazra’a ash Sharqiya, the Israeli government has enforced several barriers on an access road from the village to Route 60. The residents of Al Mazra’a and several villages nearby will continue their work to reclaim this road, in an effort to continue their resistance to the occupation.
Road 60 is a clear example of the difficulty Palestinians have negotiating roads within the West Bank that have become essentially Israeli-only. In total Israel has imposed on Road 60; 87 earth-mounds placed along the road, with 19 military gates, 15 checkpoints, another 6 partial checkpoints, 13 roadblocks, 15 watchtowers and 11 tunnels. What has been a traditional route through the entire West Bank is now one where Palestinians freedom of movement is extremely limited, denying Palestinians freedom of movement and inherently imposing a situation of segregation where the road is prioritised for Israelis.
Many villages are in the same position so Al-Mazra’a al Sharqiyya and blocked from accessing the road completely.
Palestinians with West Bank IDs are then not permitted to access16.9km of the road is in fact as it runs through the Jerusalem municipality, with Palestinians also prevented from accessing the Road West of the Green Line.
Even the World Bank have been driven to comment on the issue of lack of freedom of movement and the impact that this has on the Palestinian economy and livelihoods.