Dispelling the myth of ‘Jews-only roads’ in the West Bank

The claim that religiously exclusive roads exist in the West Bank needs to be debunked, suggests Adam Levick.

AN op-ed by Hanan Ashrawi headlined 'Ireland can make history by backing human rights in Palestine in Seanad tomorrow', included the claim that, in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, there are roads “for Jewish use only”.

The claim that there exists such religiously exclusive roads is a charge typically levelled to evoke the greater lie that Israel is an apartheid state.

Today, if you were to travel across the green line, you would see Palestinian license plates on roads from Jenin to Hebron, on settlement bypass roads which Ms. Ashrawi would suggests are for Jews only - such as the Qalqilya bypass, the southern Nablus bypass, and the Ramallah bypass roads, as well as on main roads like Route 505 leading to Ariel.

There are not, nor have there ever been, anywhere in Israel or the West Bank, roads exclusively for Jews or settlers.

Such false allegations over the years, suggesting the existence of such religiously exclusive roads, have been refuted repeatedly by commentators and media watchdog groups familiar with this myth.

In fact, multiple media outlets, including Associated Press (AP), The Washington Post and Financial Times, have been forced to amend articles which initially included some variation of this false accusation.

Here are the facts:

* The overwhelming majority of roads in the West Bank are open to all traffic. However, for security reasons, a very small percentage of West Bank roads around Israeli settlements (about 40 km in total according to the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem) are prohibited to Palestinian traffic. But, even these 40 km of restricted roads are open to Israeli citizens of all faiths (including Muslims), east Jerusalem Palestinians (most of whom are Muslim), and foreign visitors of all faiths – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians.

* Moreover, even the 40 km of restricted roads in Israeli controlled sections of the West Bank (Area C) should be placed in context. Israelis, for instance, are not permitted to drive on roads in the Palestinian controlled West Bank (Area A). This is because PA security personnel (and the IDF) can’t guarantee the safety of drivers with Israeli license plates travelling in Palestinian areas.

Does this mean that there’s apartheid being practised against Jews? Of course not.

All such West Bank restrictions – placed on both Israeli and Palestinian drivers – are imposed not for racial reasons, but to mitigate the security risks stemming from an intractable and historically violent conflict involving two people who both lay claim to the same land.

Whilst pro-Palestinian commentators in Ireland, or elsewhere, are free to criticise Israeli actions in the West Bank, such criticism – by activists and journalists - should be based on facts and empirically based arguments, not propaganda, agitprop and categorically false allegations such as the myth of ‘Jews only roads’.

Adam Levick is the Managing Editor of UKMediaWatch.org

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