Machsom Watch, or Checkpoint Watch is a group of Israeli women who monitor checkpoints in the West Bank and the military courts, out of opposition to the Israeli occupation. The self described "politically pluralistic" human rights organization is composed of Israeli women to the exclusion of men, with a "bias towards mature, professional women" who tend to have a "liberal or leftist background". Machsom Watch claims to have 400 members, notably including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's daughter Dana. The word machsom is Hebrew for "checkpoint," referring to Israeli Defense Forces checkpoints which control movement between different parts of the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel.
The IDF view of the humanitarian situation expressed by IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz during a two-hour meeting with members of the group in March 2006 where he told the women that: "Humanitarianism is not exclusively owned by Machsom Watch and it is tested not only at the checkpoints, but also in preventing suicide bombers from reaching the markets of Tel Aviv and Netanya."
According to its website, the group's aims are to monitor the behavior of soldiers and police at checkpoints; ensure that the human and civil rights of Palestinians attempting to enter Israel are protected; and record and report the results of their observations to the widest possible audience, from decision-makers to the general public. Some members also see their role as protesting against the existence of the checkpoints.
Machsom Watch has been accused of being hostile towards the Israeli troops and disrupting the operation of checkpoints. Some of its charges against the troops have also been disputed as false. On May 2006, the group sent a letter of apology to the IDF after activists had verbally attacked a soldier, called him "Nazi" and other profanities as he asked Palestinians to stand in line for an ID check at a checkpoint leading into Israel. In response to the group's contentions regarding the checkpoints, the IDF has implemented training procedures intended to ensure respectful behavior by soldiers.
Machsom Watch was founded in 2001 by Ronnee Jaeger, previously a human-rights worker in Guatemala and Mexico; Adi Kuntsman, who arrived in Israel from the Soviet Union in 1990; and Yehudit Keshet, a former Orthodox Jew and scholar of Talmudic ethics, in response to allegations of human-rights violations at IDF and border-police checkpoints. The three activists made a decision to travel to Bethlehem checkpoint so they could observe what was happening there with their own eyes. In a matter of weeks they were joined by 30 female activists who started visiting checkpoints in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Membership of the organisation is given to all those who volunteer to participate in monitoring at the checkpoints 
By 2002 due to media coverage the organisation had attracted 200 members. Based in Tel Aviv the volunteers began to observe checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank. At its height membership reached 400 volunteers in 2004.
The primary activity of the organisation is the regular, systematic observation of Israeli military checkpoints in Jerusalem and the West Bank along with the reporting of their findings to decision makers and the wider public.
Machsom Watch volunteers visit the checkpoints in daily shifts of 2–4 hours, morning and afternoon, where they position themselves in proximity to the Israeli soldiers so they can monitor their interaction with Palestinians. Volunteers document their observations with notes and photographs. They also try to intervene on behalf of Palestinians when something inappropriate occurs or something has been ignored or overlooked by the Israeli soldiers. Intervention is made firstly by directly approaching soldiers, when this is ineffective attempts are made to contact higher military ranks, the media and Israeli politicians.
Reactions, accusations of bias and the "violin incident"
Criticisms of Machsom Watch
During a two-hour meeting with members of the group in March 2006, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told the women that: "Humanitarianism is not exclusively owned by Machsom Watch and it is tested not only at the checkpoints, but also in preventing suicide bombers from reaching the markets of Tel Aviv and Netanya."
Machsom Watch has been accused by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), some non-governmental organizations[who?], individual soldiers, and soldiers' mothers of disrupting the operation of checkpoints, showing hostility, and shouting derogatory comments and curses toward the troops, as well as making false accusations against them. In fall 2008, company commanders in the Military Police's Taoz Battalion began filming Machson Watch's activities as a result of repeated complaints from soldiers that Machson Watch and similar organizations were disrupting the work at the checkpoints and entering restricted areas without permission.
According to Yossi Olmert, a political commentator, Machsom Watch volunteers "disrupt the work of soldiers at checkpoints who are trying, not always successfully, to prevent the entry of terrorists."
Support of Machsom Watch
In March 2004, the group was awarded the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for "their remarkable activities and ongoing surveilance of operations of the armed forces at checkpoints in the occupied territories, at a time of general indifference and waning sensitivity to the human rights of Palestinians".
In an editorial of March 8, 2006, Haaretz argued that organizations like Machsom Watch should not be viewed negatively in Israel: "This organization - like other human rights organizations, each of which focuses on a different consequence of the occupation - is the least that Israeli citizens can do to try to prevent injustices stemming from the occupation. Life under the anomaly of an occupation regime produces strange solutions, such as the presence of women alongside soldiers in an effort to ensure a more humane routine. The human rights organizations are the state's pride, not a threat that must be liquidated or minimized."
The Beit-Iba checkpoint violin incident
On 9 November 2004, members of Machsom Watch released a video of IDF soldiers requiring Wissam Tayam, a Palestinian violinist, to play his instrument at a checkpoint. The IDF announced that the soldier had acted insensitively and reprimanded him, but later declared that the violinist had been playing voluntarily. The violinist later rejected the IDF's assessment, stating that he never offered to play and that the soldiers had asked him to do so. The Maschom Watch observers said that they did not hear the discussion between the violinist and the soldiers and did not speak Arabic, which Tayam speaks. A month after the incident, Tayam was invited to attend a seminar for violinists at a kibbutz in Western Galilee.
- Machsom Watch website
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