Palestinian Women Smuggled into Israel Again

18 September 2010

For the second time in the past several months, a group of about 25 Israeli women successfully smuggled 23 Palestinian women and 7 children from the West Bank into Israel in defiance of Israeli law. The Israeli women met the Palestinian women at their homes in the West Bank, and drove them through the checkpoints into Israel, evading Israeli security. They gathered in Jaffa for a day of swimming, shopping, dining, and general merriment before returning to their homes in the West Bank. Organizers explained that the trip was an act of civil disobedience intended to spark debate about Israel’s system of segregation, which denies Palestinians in the West Bank access to most of historic Palestine.

Palestinians over 16 years of age living in the West Bank are not allowed into Israel without a permit. Permits are not typically issued to anyone below the age of 45, and can be extremely difficult to attain even for the older generation. Many of the women in the group had never seen the sea despite living less than 70 kilometers from its shores. “It was wonderful to see the sea, but it was bittersweet because I know that I could not see it freely while other people can,“ one of the women explained.

The project began in May when an Israeli journalist published an article in Haaretz about a similar trip she had taken with just a few Palestinian women. After the article was published the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed a complaint demanding that the attorney general prosecute the woman for smuggling illegal residents into Israel. After the complaint was filed a group of peace activists approached the woman and told her they wanted to organize another trip, this time with more people. In August a group of about 30 women successfully completed their first trip.

“We don’t recognize the legality of the entry law into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely throughout most of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and denies this right to the Palestinians, to whom this land also belongs” the Israeli women wrote in an ad published in Haaretz in August. The action was also intended to illustrate the absurdity and blatant racism of checkpoint system. “The wall and checkpoints don’t keep terrorists out of Israel” a woman from the project explained. “They are simply a system of racial discrimination. If there are white people in the front seat the soldiers don’t look twice.”

A particularly interesting element of this action is that the Israelis involved face more severe punishment if caught then the Palestinians. If convicted of smuggling illegal aliens the Israeli women could face up to 2 years in jail, while the Palestinians will most likely not face jail time. The Israeli women’s willingness to take this risk in order to defy the racist policies of their government is a model for all Israelis, who have a moral responsibility to defy the unjust laws of their government.