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Organization: MachsomWatch
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
Posted: April 22 2010,08:25 If you wrote this report, you will find a button here that you may click
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Postal address of organization/institution

43 Beit Pelet
P.O. Box 41148
Tel Avi-Jaffa
61410, Israel

E-mail address of organization/institution


Website address of organization/institution


Telephone of organization/institution

+ 972 3 657 3044

PRIORITIES: All of the organization's domains of culture of peace activity


TOP PRIORITY: The organization's most important culture of peace activity


PARTNERSHIPS AND NETWORKS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Nothing formal, relationships with other Israeli peace groups as well as with groups abroad.

ACTIONS: What activities have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the ten years of the Decade? If you already made a report in 2005, your information from 2005 will be included in the 2010 report.

From a small group of women in Jerusalem who started standing at military checkpoints in January 2001, MachsomWatch has grown to over 200 active volunteers. The members, all women, all Israeli, come from a broad section of society, and give of their time and physical and emotional energy to protect the “other’s” human rights. The women share one strong sentiment: they are against the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and thus against the existence of the onerous checkpoints which hamper the movement of Palestinians within the Palestinian Authority.

The checkpoints:

There are over 30 internal military checkpoints between the towns and villages in the Palestinian Authority (not border controls on the green line between Israel and Palestine). They are a source of resentment to the Palestinians whose movement to and from home, place of work, study or health care is thereby regulated and impeded. Checkpoints inside the West Bank -- around Jerusalem, in the Southern (Hebron) region and in the Northern zone near Jenin and Barta’a – are monitored by teams of two to five women who drive there in their own private cars or are ferried by Palestinian Israeli taxi drivers.  

What MachsomWatch women do:

At the checkpoints, the women observe the soldiers (and the soldiers see them). MachsomWatch’s presence reduces the overtly aggressive behaviour of soldiers, reminds them that those who pass through the checkpoints are human too, and that universal principles of human rights have to be observed. The inherent dignity of all human beings is always first and foremost in the minds and actions of the women, in the way they approach the soldiers as in the way they approach the Palestinians. Long-term beneficial effects on both Palestinian and Israeli society seem clear. Being at the checkpoints lets Palestinians see that their humanity is shared with a group of Israeli women, and Israeli society is made to deal with the impact of the occupation day in, day out.

Whenever the MachsomWatch women notice problems with the passage of pedestrians or vehicles at the checkpoints, they try to facilitate and help. They usually start by asking why something is, or is not, done. They seek to clarify, may sometimes entreat. Examples include obtaining free passage for ambulances, speeding up checks of identity cards of the Palestinians detained in the compounds that exist at each checkpoint; helping expedite humanitarian cases (pregnant women, old persons, children, sick people) who wait, often for hours, in the long lines at the checkpoints.  The women also may be called at home, by those needing help to solve problems of passage and abuse (for example - missing identity cards confiscated by soldiers). The distinctive idea behind MachsomWatch is that the women “bear witness” – they observe, document their observations and report to a broad public, nationally and internationally. The soldiers’ behaviour is thus scrutinised by the outside world.

The women of MachsomWatch record their observations, which are then published each day on the organisation’s website. Reports are summarised monthly, broadly circulated, including to the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), Knesset members, Supreme Court judges, the State Comptroller, journalists, etc.

In the nine plus years of its existence, MachsomWatch  has widened the scope of its work– not only at the “machsomim” (“machsom” =  barrier in Hebrew) but also at other places where movement of Palestinians is obstructed. For instance, MachsomWatch now focuses on on the Seam Zone areas where the Separation Barrier being built all over the West Bank  results in loss of livelihood and denial of access to health, educational and social services.

The Jordan Valley area is another part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories where MachsomWatch women monitor the violations of Bedouin human rights -- rights to water, to a place to live, etc. MachsomWatch women meet with local people, to learn about hardship and abuse relating to the Occupation, to the Separation Barrier and problems associated with the olive harvest and concomitant settler violence.

Access to and from villages and towns within the Occupied Territories is hampered not only by the checkpoints and barriers of earth and rock that deny vehicular access between villages and roads, but also by unpredictable army orders which declare certain areas out of bounds. This means that farmers may not be able to cultivate their fields, or pick fruit and olives at harvest time. Normal life between outlying villages and central towns, like Nablus – a regional center for higher education, legal and medical matters is difficult in the extreme. New rules, producing new hardships, are constantly being made and enforced. Such human rights abuses need documentation and dissemination. The activities carried out by MachsomWatch, a completely grass roots organisation with no hierarchy, are practical, have an impact on the daily lives of the Palestinians and demonstrate our shared humanity, and may also help to build the basis for the future: Palestine and Israel at peace with each other-

 Basically, the act of“witnessing” continued to send a crucial message to Palestinians that their plight is not invisible to the Israeli public and to the rest of the world. We are constantly aware of the Palestinian recognition of our presence and influence, as the following change in our shift monitoring exemplifies early in 2009 when complaints received from Palestinians, with permits to enter and work in Israel, about treatment and delays at the new so-called "terminal" buildings at Qalqndia, Tulkarm and Qalqilya  and the fact that other access points along the Separation Barrier had been closed, brought about a change in MachsomWatch checkpoint policy (3,500-4,000 people pass through these terminals on a daily basis, in a process that takes hours).

Two to three “dawn shifts” a week began to be carried out by Tel Aviv area women to reach “terminal” buildings by 4:00 a.m. when workers are “allowed” to enter Israel through Eyal and Sharei Efraim/Irtah, Qalqiliya and Tulkarm respectively. The women observed what they could near the entry or exit turnstiles, although entry to the buildings is forbidden, calculated the time a worker took to pass through; listened to Palestinians voicing complaints about horrendous crowding and pressures in line, the firing of stun grenades and tear gas, people getting hurt, the need to arrive hours before opening time at the terminals, non functioning computers or palm readers, lack of open checking booths, indiscriminate checking in inspection rooms, prohibition about taking food and water through, etc.

Reports of monitoring at these terminals are written, as well as numerous letters of complaint to the authorities responsible for violations of Palestinian human rights and destruction of the Palestinian fabric of life. From the perspective of MachsomWatch, it appeared that the early morning lines moved faster (according to the Palestinians, when the MachsomWatch women were present), shooting of stun grenades and tear gas at the waiting crowds to go through the terminal ceased; and there seemed to be a drop in the level of tension as well as of confusion (since the Palestinians organised themselves), at both terminals. On the other hand, responses from both the army and the civil administration were either non existent or unsatisfactory.
This new activity modified the original idea of monitoring checkpoints but continued our commitment to the Palestinian target group and highlights a new horror: the privatisation of the Occupation, which until now has been the purview of the military and other security forces

Whatever we monitor, whatever we observe and bear witness to is disseminated in as broad a way as is possible with today’s most up to date means of communication. Although the dismantling of checkpoints, by the Israeli authorities, in the summer of 2009, eased access to and from Qalquliya and Nablus, the Occupation continued unabated, often in more malevolent ways, frequently underestimated by the media and, of course, by the Israeli authorities. The maintenance and entrenchment of the mechanism of control over Palestinian movement continued. In fact, the harshness of life along the Seam Zone and Separation Barrier for the inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority became worse, and it goes without question that MachsomWatch will continue to have much to do. The dominance of the “overlordship” of the Occupied Palestinian Territories was further exacerbated by the complexity of unpredictable, ever changing army orders, the bureaucratic structure of the army’s District Coordinating Offices, the continuing construction of the Separation Barrier between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the intensified violence of Israeli settlers.

PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the second half of the Decade?

When MachsomWatch learns from Palestinians of new problems, the women try  something different, the one overall objective being to bring to an end to the occupation and, in the mean time, to have violations of human rights, of harassment and humiliation of the Palestinian people, cease at checkpoints and terminals within the OPT and along the Separation Barrier, or to facilitate passage of Palestinians and their receipt of the necessary permits to deal with the bureaucracy of Occupation. While the Occupation continues, it is hard to say that we have seen progress toward a culture of peace and non violence, but that does not mean we can stop trying!

OBSTACLES: Has your organization faced any obstacles to implementing the culture of peace and nonviolence? If so, what were they?

If daily life for Palestinians became ever more problematic, for the MachsomWatch women there were also problems in the OPT.  Our human rights lawyers were called on to help with issues individual women encountered at the checkpoints or en route in the West Bank. We were more and more questioned about standing at checkpoints or told where we were not allowed to stand (even when such on the spot rulings, made by a soldier, may be against the law).
Clearly, the organisation’s own rights have to be protected. MachsomWatch needs legal advice and legal protection of the women who go to the checkpoints in the OPT.  Our lawyers provide advice, counsel and defense of rights when needed as well as legal counsel regarding human rights violations of Palestinians at checkpoints. Lawyers on retainer responded to requests when MachsomWatch women were in the field and if, and when, women were detained, questioned or arrested by police; they facilitated, legally, MachsomWatch activities, dealing with traffic and police problems, at checkpoints; and offered advice and counsel to MachsomWatch activists, on matters pertaining to the Palestinian population, with regard to permits, gates, law enforcement on roads, and human rights violations. The lawyers also liaised with military authorities.

Complaints were lodged regarding harassment of activists by border police and regular police. The military legal counsel for the West Bank was addressed regarding a number of issues including new regulations preventing activists from monitoring effectively checkpoints around Nablus; illegal practice of military to shoot tear gas at Palestinians waiting in line at Eyal terminal, outside Qalqilya; abuse of soldiers' right to detain Palestinians at checkpoints, illegal detention conditions at checkpoints and preventing activists from communicating with detainees

The President of the military courts and the State Attorney were addressed regarding the illegal practice of excluding observers on behalf of MachsomWatch from hearings in military courts when defendants were barred from meeting with their counsel. Finally, the right of observers to attend hearings was confirmed.

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization in the short, medium and long term to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence?

GLOBAL MOVEMENT: How do you think the culture of peace and nonviolence could be strengthened and supported at the world level??

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Organization: MachsomWatch

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