Machsom Watch was founded in January 2001 in response to repeated reports in the press about human rights abuses of Palestinians crossing army and border police checkpoints. The excessive Israeli response to the El Aksa Intifada, the prolonged closure and siege of villages and towns on the West Bank provided the stimulus and the motivation for what at first seemed an impossible mission. The initiative of three women – Ronnee Jaeger, a long time activist with experience of human rights work in Guatemala and Mexico, Adi Kuntsman a feminist scholar who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1990 and veteran activist Yehudit Keshet, an orthodox Jewess – Machsom Watch now boasts 400 women all over the country. The goals of the group are threefold:
- To monitor the behaviour of soldiers and police at checkpoints
- To ensure that the human and civil rights of Palestinians attempting to enter Israel are protected
- To record and report the results of our observations to the widest possible audience, from the decision-making level to that of the general public.
Machsom Watch is open exclusively to women. Our, quiet but assertive, presence at checkpoints is a direct challenge to the dominant militaristic discourse that prevails in Israeli society. It demands accountability on the part of the security forces towards the civilian estate, something hitherto almost unheard of.
Machsomwatchers comprise a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds, with a definite bias towards mature, professional women. All members are Israeli. The group is politically pluralistic within the context of opposition to the occupation and a commitment to human rights.