How Israel Is Increasingly Privatizing the Occupation of the West Bank

Israel checkpoint
Palestinians wait to cross through the Israeli Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 24. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Updated | The sun had barely risen, and Khairy Masoud was already in trouble. It was a cold morning in February and Masoud, a day laborer and father of eight, had just passed through a military checkpoint separating his home in the West Bank, near the city of Tulkarem, from Israel. As he hurried to the chaotic parking lot for a ride to work, he says a tissue fell from his pocket. Suddenly, an armed Israeli guard shouted at him in Russian-accented Hebrew and confiscated his most important documents: his work permit and identification card. His infraction: littering. Masoud waited for hours until the guard returned the documents. By then, he’d already lost the day of work.

For years, most of the Israeli men and women working these checkpoints were soldiers in the army. But a decade ago, the crossing Masoud passed through—known as Sha’ar Efraim in Hebrew and al-Tayba in Arabic—was among the first to privatize. Now, Israeli private security guards are increasingly common in the West Bank.

These guards are part of a lucrative industry that benefits from $200 million a year in government contracts in the West Bank. Today, there are more than 30 crossing points between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza; since the mid-2000s, about half of them have fully or partially outsourced security to Israeli companies. The Ministry of Defense does not directly employ guards, but it does contract the companies that hire them and oversees training, salaries and working conditions.

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