Last week, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir landed in hot water for claiming “my right … to get around on the roads in Judea and Samaria, is more important than the right to movement for Arabs.”
Clearly, this is a despicable opinion to hold. But in the West Bank, it’s also an unfortunate reality.
Israel’s West Bank policy is drastically different for Jews and Palestinians. Palestinians suffer from a policy of segmentation, which prevents them from accessing nearby towns, villages and sometimes even their own farming land. For Jews, integration is fostered, with easy travel between settlements and access to Israel.
Building the separation barrier, with the vast majority of Israeli settlements on the Israeli side, was a key part of this policy. It allowed settlers to act as if they were living in Israel, carrying out their daily lives with almost no restrictions, at the same time as it providing a physical barrier to Palestinian movement within the West Bank. Even worse, some Palestinians found themselves caught on the Israeli side of the wall, but still in the West Bank, limiting their movement completely, with the wall preventing them from entering the rest of the West Bank and their Palestinian IDs prohibiting entry to Israel.
Palestinians also find their lives restricted by over 500 checkpoints, choking off access to other parts of the West Bank. Some Palestinians have to go through checkpoints just to farm their own land, with access subject to the arbitrary decisions of the Israeli military.
These walls and checkpoints mean that a Palestinians wanting to travel from Bethlehem to Ramallah, a journey of just 30km, have to go on a long detour through two fixed checkpoints and any number of flying checkpoints. This makes the journey nearly three hours long. Meanwhile, driving from Giv’at Ze’ev, a settlement near Ramallah, to Gilo, a settlement near Bethlehem, takes only half an hour.
So yes, Ben Gvir may be a despicable racist who should have been kept as far from power as possible, but supporters of Israel decrying him for granting a gift to BDS should take a closer look at the West Bank, where different rights for Jews and Arabs are already the reality.