Maintaining a physical presence at the site of potential abuse to monitor and prevent human rights violations

Machsom Watch monitors several Israeli checkpoints every morning and afternoon during the periods of highest traffic to protest the checkpoints and to protect the rights of individual Palestinians who must pass through them. All of the volunteers for Machsom Watch (machsom means checkpoint in Hebrew) are Israeli women. The organization began in January 2001 with three women and has since grown to 300 volunteers.

Monitors view the checkpoints as a violations of human rights, restricting the Palestinians’ right to free movement and hence the right to education, medical treatment and work.

The monitors perform three primary functions at the checkpoints: they prevent abuses, they document abuses that they witness and they show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The very presence of the Israeli women discourages some soldiers from abusing the people passing through the checkpoints, according to both monitors and Palestinians. When soldiers try to keep people from crossing or to confiscate ID cards, monitors quietly but assertively intervene if they think it could make a difference. When they witness serious violations, monitors often complain to higher-ranking army officials and encourage Palestinians to do the same.

Monitors who witness abuses make detailed reports and publish them on their website. They invite journalists, politicians and others to join them at the checkpoints. And they wear tags that read in Arabic “No to the check-points!” This show of support is heartening to many Palestinians, who may not have a positive image of Israelis.
 

 

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Throughout the West Bank, Machsom Watch uses the presence of Israeli women to protect Palestinians passing through Israeli checkpoints and ensures that their rights are respected.

Machsom Watch has faced several challenges in its work. There are many checkpoints and not enough monitors to cover them all. Volunteers admit that the army does not feel committed to report to the monitors, or necessarily acknowledge them. This is exacerbated by the fact that Israeli soldiers are rotated into and out of their positions fairly frequently, so the monitors are not able to develop a relationship with them, and some of the work begins anew with each new rotation of soldiers. So far, Machsom Watch has not succeeded in its broader goal of ending the occupation and the removal of checkpoints. However, it has helped to make the Israeli public and people all over the world more aware of the abuses occurring at the checkpoints.

The physical presence of an individual is often more effective when it is backed by an influential network that can move information quickly to a large number of people or to the right people in key positions of influence. Machsom Watch uses the Internet to share its monitoring experiences more widely and to raise awareness among Israelis and the international community.