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Israel Supreme Court: Open 'apartheid' road to Palestinians

Israel's Supreme Court ordered a segregated West Bank highway to be opened for Palestinian use. But rights groups say 10 more 'apartheid' roads should be opened too.

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Inthe first ruling of its kind, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the Israeli army on Thursday to allow Palestinians to travel on a West Bank road they had been banned from using.

The case, filed by the Association for Human Rights Israel (ACRI) on behalf of 22 Palestinian villages in the area south of Hebron, is being hailed by human rights activists as a victory in their battle against segregated roads in the occupied West Bank. While most West Bank roads are open to both Israelis and Palestinians, a few major ones are closed to Palestinian traffic, leading critics to decry them as "apartheid" roads.

A spokeswoman for ACRI said that it was the first time that the Supreme Court had ever ruled on road closures imposed by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Following the outbreak of violence in the second intifada in September 2000, the IDF closed roads in many areas in what it said was a move to protect Israeli citizens, including both Jewish settlers and passing Israeli motorists. Approximately 10 of these roads remain closed, ACRI says.

"The Supreme Court never made a decision before relating to a particular place where Palestinians are banned from driving on a road just for being Palestinians," said Nirit Moskovich of ACRI. The group is disappointed, however, that the Supreme Court did not seize the opportunity to make a ruling on segregated roads in general, she added.

"In our petition, we put great emphasis on the fact that the entire notion of prohibiting public resources to people based on their ethnic or national identity is forbidden and should be outlawed," Ms. Moskovich said. "But the Supreme Court did not refer to that at all in their decision. It was based on the circumstances of that particular case."

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