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October 2004 Postcard

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DEAR SENATOR:

We learned from Israel about torture and collective punishment. Now we have apparently learned about setting up checkpoints and roadblocks. In early August, U.S. Capitol police began inspecting every vehicle that passes near the White House and Capitol Hill. Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams has complained that the checkpoints are causing major repercussions for the city in terms of tourism and commerce.

While these checkpoints are causing major inconveniences for tourists, government employees, street vendors, and delivery personnel, they do not compare to the abuse suffered by Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints.

While ambulances in our nation’s capital experience slight delays at the newly installed checkpoints, dozens of Palestinians have died at checkpoints as a result of barred access to medical treatment. Since September 2000, at least 39 children have been born at checkpoints after their mothers were refused passage, and at least 5 were stillbirths.

As I consider my vote in the upcoming elections, I shudder to think my representatives do not condemn Israeli military checkpoints, which at the very least suffocate Palestinian society. 


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Normal life has gotten very difficult for Palestinians. A girl helps her mother and sister over a checkpoint’s barrier (Photo Michael Keating).
   

Today, more than 160 Israeli military checkpoints block the roads between Palestinian cities. Stopping at checkpoints has become part of the daily routine for Palestinians going to work, school, visiting family, running errands or seeing a doctor.

These checkpoints, which cause major restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, are a form of collective punishment that contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

They are also notorious sites of threats, violence, and severe harassment by Israeli soldiers, including detention, shackling, blindfolding, and stripping of Palestinian citizens.

Until all the checkpoints are dismantled, the chances for a viable Palestinian state, not to mention a thriving economy and resumption of normal daily life, will remain severely debilitated.