A West Bank checkpoint managed by a private security company is not allowing Palestinians to pass through with large water bottles and some food items, Haaretz has learned.
MachsomWatch discovered the policy, which Palestinian workers confirmed to Haaretz.
The Defense Ministry stated in response that non-commercial quantities of food were not being limited. It made no reference to the issue of water.
The checkpoint, Sha’ar Efraim, is south of Tul Karm, and is managed for the Defense Ministry by the private security company Modi’in Ezrahi. The company stops Palestinian workers from passing through the checkpoint with the following items: Large bottles of frozen water, large bottles of soft drinks, home-cooked food, coffee, tea and the spice zaatar. The security company also dictates the quantity of items allowed: Five pitas, one container of hummus and canned tuna, one small bottle or can of beverage, one or two slices of cheese, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and 5 to 10 olives. Workers are also not allowed to carry cooking utensils and work tools.
MachsomWatch told Haaretz that Sunday, a 32-year-old construction worker from Tul Karm, who is employed in Hadera, was not allowed to carry his lunch bag through the checkpoint. The bag contained six pitas, 2 cans of cream cheese, one kilogram of sugar in a plastic bag, and a salad, also in a plastic bag.
The typical Palestinian laborer in Israel has a 12-hour workday, including travel time and checkpoint delays. Many leave home as early as 2 A.M. in order to wait in line at the checkpoint; tardiness to work often results in immediate dismissal. Workers return home around 5 P.M. The wait at the checkpoint can take one to two hours in each direction, if not longer.
The food quantities allowed by Modi’in Ezrahi do not meet the daily dietary needs of the workers, and they prefer not to buy food at the considerably more expensive Israeli stores.
MachsomWatch informed the Israel Defense Forces about the new bans but received no response, the organization said. Modi’in Ezrahi issued a statement saying questions should be directed to the Defense Ministry’s crossings administration.
MachsomWatch activists said a security guard on duty told them the food restrictions were imposed due to “security and health risks.” However, at the nearby Qalqilyah checkpoint, which is still run directly by the IDF, workers have been allowed to carry through all the food items banned at Sha’ar Efraim.
However, responsibility for the Qalqilyah checkpoint is supposed to be transferred to a private company this week, and workers voiced concerns that similar restrictions might be imposed there.
The IDF Spokesman’s office said in a statement: “There are no limits on food quantities. They may take through food necessary for personal consumption during a day’s work. When a worker arrives with a large quantity of goods intended for sale rather than for personal use, he is asked to pass through the goods crossing instead, where the goods are handled appropriately and with the appropriate customs checks. This crossing is intended for pedestrians and not for goods.”