- This article summarizes an August 2007 B'Tselem report
now available in print. It's one of a series of studies it conducts on
life in Occupied Palestine to reveal what major media accounts suppress.
This one is titled: "Ground to a Halt - Denial of Palestinians' Freedom
of Movement in the West Bank."
- B'Tselem has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy
and integrity. It's the Jerusalem-based independent Israeli Information
Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
It was founded in 1989 by prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and
Knesset members to "document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers
about human rights violations in (Occupied Palestine), combat (the Israeli
public's) denial, and create a human rights culture in Israel" to
convince government officials to respect human rights and obey international
- Its work is detailed, wide-ranging, carefully researched,
and based on hundreds of testimonies and dozens of on-the-ground observations.
For verification, it's also cross-checked with relevant documents and other
government sources. Work on this report was completed over a six month
period in 2007. It included information from other reports, statements
from political and military officials, petitions to Israel's High Court
of Justice, and media accounts.
- B'Tselem states: "For the past seven years (since
the September 2000 Second Intifada began), Israel has imposed restrictions
and prohibitions on Palestinian movement that are unprecedented in scope
and duration." It refers to hundreds of permanent and temporary checkpoints,
other obstacles, physical barriers, and Israel's Separation Wall (ruled
illegal by the World Court) on confiscated Palestinian land.
- Free movement in the West Bank is severely restricted
and nearly always entails "intolerable and arbitrary delays, much
uncertainty, friction with soldiers, and often substantial expense."
B'Tselem stresses that throughout 2008, it will continue to focus on this
topic - with new maps, short videos, and various "public education
and advocacy activities to highlight" Israel's unnecessary, outlandish
and illegal restrictive measures. People need to know, and B'Tselem intends
to tell them.
- This is its 14th report on this topic since September
2000. Previous ones covered specific type restrictions like checkpoints,
for-Jews only roads, and the Separation Wall. The one is comprehensive.
It surveys all of them and their collective effects on Palestinians' lives.
- The measures aren't new or restricted to the West Bank.
They've been ongoing since the early 1990s and have undergone expansion
and refinement ever since. Until 1991, Palestinians (except small numbers
designated security threats) could move freely throughout the Territories
and were able to enter and stay in Israel during daytime hours. It helped
Palestine establish social, cultural and commercial ties to its neighbor,
Israeli Arab citizens in it, as well as between Gaza and the West Bank.
- During the January 1991 Gulf war, everything changed.
General permits were cancelled and replaced by new restrictive policies.
Thereafter, all Palestinians needed (selectively authorized) permits to
enter Israel and East Jerusalem. Checkpoints and barriers were erected
for enforcement. They've restricted movement ever since, and at times,
like the 1993 killings of nine Israelis, became a general closure policy.
All free movement was halted, Palestinians lost their jobs in Israel, few
opportunities at home could replace them, and the Territories suffered
great economic and social harm.
- Closure also split the OPT into three areas: East Jerusalem,
the remaining West Bank and Gaza. After September 2000, Israel tightened
free movement further and continues harassing and containing relentlessly.
Two main factors explain how:
- -- Israel's "ever-expanding settlement enterprise....along
the length and breadth of the West Bank;" they're on strategically
chosen and most valued lands; in areas designed to contain Palestinian
city expansions; further harmed by Israel's (for-Jews-only) bypass roads
that constrict, isolate and divide West Bank areas; and
- -- the effects of the Oslo Accords; they split the West
Bank into three areas - Area A under Palestinian Authority (PA) security
and civil affairs control; Area B under Israel security and right to restrict
free movement; and Area C under total Israeli control, including on matters
relating to land, planning and building; Areas B and C comprise 80% of
the West Bank, including its main roads, so that lets Israel restrict movement
how, when, for as long, and for whatever purpose it wishes over most of
- After September 2000, its measures were hardened. It
clamped down on free movement, isolated Palestinians in cantonized enclosures,
and made a fundamental human right a privilege to grant or withhold as
it pleases. Its pretext is security but, in fact, that's false. The real
aim is harassment, land grab, and a state-sponsored expulsion plan so Israel
can seize all the land it wants for Jews only. It's gone on for decades
and so far unchallenged by the world community. B'Tselem wants to stop
it along with all other law violations so Palestinians can have their long
denied justice they deserve and should get.
- Israel's Means to Control Movement
- B'Tselem divides Israeli control into three categories
reflecting "different layers" of restrictive policy. They, in
turn, build on each other and are interrelated:
- -- physical means to divert movement to certain passageways
and roads and prevent access to others;
- -- restrictions and prohibitions that first layer physical
tools enforce; and
- -- the means to ease or tighten, selectively and under
careful monitoring, second layer restrictions and prohibitions.
- The essential idea is that in combination these layers
represent a single control mechanism, all parts operate together, and determining
their impact requires evaluating the combined effect of four types of control:
- (1) obstructions to deny access to main roads; they divert
Palestinians to checkpoints where the army (IDF) supervises movement from
one area to another or can deny it altogether; obstructions are in different
forms - dirt mounds, concrete blocks, boulders, trenches, fences and iron
gates; their numbers have gradually increased and in mid-2007 totaled 455
throughout the West Bank; they limit pedestrian and vehicular movement,
and especially affect the elderly, the ill, pregnant women and small children;
they're even more restrictive in winter when water accumulation turns dirt
- (2) permanent staffed checkpoints; they're fairly constant
in number, and Israel has used them to some degree throughout 41 years
of occupation; they gained prominence, however, after Israel cancelled
general-entry (free movement) permits in 1991; they were then expanded
during the Second Intifada; over time, they've become the most conspicuous
occupation symbol and one of its most hated;
- -- in mid-2007, 80 were in place of which 33 were the
last inspection point before entering Israel along the Green Line; the
other 47 lie inside the West Bank, some with control towers; seven are
to transfer goods; they're called "back-to-back" because merchandise
is unloaded on one side, checked, then reloaded on another truck on the
other side; operating times vary - many open at 6AM and close at night;
others are staffed around the clock but limit crossings to "urgent
- -- movement restrictions vary from one checkpoint to
another and always at Israel's discretion; to pass, travelers must show
proper ID or crossing permits; searches may be conducted; procedures are
at the discretion and mood of soldiers; some checkpoints are for pedestrians
only; others are restricted to commercial and public transportation.
- (3) so-called flying checkpoints; they're temporary,
may be erected anywhere, and remain for hours or longer; in recent years,
they've increased in numbers - from a weekly average of 73 in late 2005
to 136 in 2006 to about 150 in 2007 and at times up to 200. Again, the
pretext is security, their real aim is to harass, and no one does it better
- Consider the effects of all checkpoints. Since September
2000, they've become "the main (source of) friction (between) Palestinians
and Israeli security forces." They generate tension, create uncertainty,
deny or delay passage, humiliate and overall makes things intolerable.
They're also degrading by demanding that males expose their upper bodies
in public simply as a way to harass them.
- It gets worse by selective detentions in so-called "positions"
- isolated holding areas for additional "security" checks that,
in fact, are to punish and further humiliate; they can last hours, in exposed
heat or cold, without food or water, and at times include physical abuse;
many Palestinians are affected daily; Israel's high command has full knowledge;
the government does as well; nominal recommendations are made to stop it,
yet abuse continues and few offenders are ever punished.
- (4) the Separation Wall; in June 2002, Israel decided
to build it; again the claim was security; in fact, it was separation and
theft of over 10% of Palestinian land, including for-Jews only roads to
connect settlements with Israel and other settlements; most of the Wall
is completed; its planned length is 721 kilometers; only 20% of it lies
along the Green Line; most of it runs deep inside the West Bank; near Jerusalem,
it surrounds the Ma'ale Adumim settlements about 14 km into the West Bank
on stolen Palestinian land;
- -- its route creates two kinds of Palestinian enclaves
- villages and farmland between the Wall and Green Line (in the "seam
zone") on the Israeli side of the barrier; another area comprises
villages on the Palestinian side that are surrounded on three or more sides
because of the route's winding path or that the Wall meets roads on which
Palestinian movement is forbidden or physical obstructions prevent it.
- Physical restrictions and movement prohibitions give
Israeli security forces more latitude, and they take full advantage through
a fourfold layer of control:
- (1) by imposing a siege to completely or partially prevent
Palestinians from crossing to or from a certain area as well as isolating
the area from other parts of the West Bank; it's done with physical obstructions
to block access and force residents to pass through staffed checkpoints;
closing off the area facilitates sweeping movement prohibitions on specific
classifications of people by gender, age or place of residence; the IDF
claims their "risk profile" makes them "potential terrorists;"
targeting them by siege is a frequently used post-September 2000 tactic;
large areas of the West Bank have been affected; their degree of harshness
varies; and areas like the Jordan Valley, Area A and cities like Nablus,
Jenin, Tulkarm and Hebron have been especially impacted.
- -- in December 2001, the West Bank IDF commander signed
the Proclamation Regarding the Closure of Area (Encirclement) (Area A);
it classified it as a closed military area, was unlimited in duration and
still remains in force; in April 2007, a separate order was issued for
Nablus restricting entry to and exit from the city to certain checkpoints;
again the army claims it's a security measure "to prevent terrorists
and materiel from leaving Palestinian towns in Judea and Samaria...."
- (2) the "seam zone;" Israelis say it's the
enclosed area between the Green Line and Separation Wall; when its first
section was completed (in October 2003), the IDF declared this section
a closed military area with entry into it forbidden; later areas may also
be closed off, but even ones that aren't will have severe movement restrictions
the way they're imposed throughout the West Bank; all Palestinians are
affected; Jews and foreigners have permits permitting easy entry and exit.
- (3) prohibiting travel on certain roads for Jews only;
on some roads, no Palestinian vehicles are allowed; on others, travel is
allowed for ones with special permits; the Oslo Accords set the rules;
most often (but not always), Palestinians may travel on Areas A and B roads
but prohibited or restricted in Area C; they're excluded from about 311
km of West Bank roads for Jews only; they connect settlements to Israel
or other settlements.
- -- rules are so harsh and convoluted that further restrictions
are imposed on some roads Palestinians may use; an example is forbidding
Palestinian vehicles from crossing a road, requiring passengers to leave
their vehicles on one side, cross on foot, and get other transportation
on the other side; this creates great hardship, is only to harass, and
in cases of passenger illness or mothers in labor it may be life-threatening;
in addition, Israeli security forces have great enforcement latitude; orders
are issued verbally, not in writing, and soldiers at checkpoints can pretty
much do as they please, depending on their mood.
- (4) harsh travel laws act as deterrence; they impose
high fines and/or insurance requirements; Palestinian violators are treated
discriminatorily; and a high percentage of drivers are affected.
- To counter public criticism, Israel issued two selective
easing measures; they help some Palestinians but tighten movement restrictions
- (1) the permits regime; since 1991, Israel required Palestinians
to have personal entry permits to enter its territory and East Jerusalem;
after 1996, Palestinians also needed permits to enter West Bank jurisdictional
areas; post-September 2000, rules were further tightened; some Palestinians
must have permits to enter, remain in, or leave large areas inside the
West Bank, including the "seam zone" and areas under siege; other
permits are needed to arrange (passenger and commercial) vehicular checkpoint
crossings; a limited number are allowed based on the capacity of security
forces to inspect vehicles, goods and passengers;
- -- B'Tselem lists nine different type permits for passenger
vehicles - commercial ones; public ones for taxis and buses; movement in
areas under encirclement; humanitarian ones; for permanent "seam zone"
residents; for daily "seam zone" entry; "seam zone"
entry for farming or work; and to enter the Jordan Valley;
- -- movement restrictions and prohibitions are so onerous
and for so many reasons that Israelis consider permits a privilege; for
Palestinians, they're essential to meet daily needs; West Bank District
Coordination Offices (DCOs) issue them, but procedures are unclear and
lack transparency; B'Tselem believes "two general and sweeping criteria
must be met" to get one:
- (a) "lack of 'prevention,' either for security or
police-related reasons relating to the applicant," and
- (b) having documents to show justification for the request.
- Quotas exist in all cases; when they're filled, many
qualified residents are left out; in addition, other qualifying procedures
exist but are unstated; ultimately DCO officials have total discretion
in awarding or denying permits and can be pretty arbitrary about it; "seam
zone" residents provide an example of what all Palestinians endure;
to get a permit to their own home area, they must prove they reside there
from their ID card address on the day the declaration of closed military
area was made or in some other way show their center of life is there;
those getting one are allowed entry via one checkpoint only;
- (2) So-called "fabric of life" roads for Palestinians
only; the West Bank's main roads are only for Jews; initially, those for
Palestinians passed through villages and city centers, but because of criticism
an alternate plan was developed - creating a separate, contiguous road
network running north-south in the West Bank; it's based on separate levels
in places where Israeli and Palestinian roads meet; bridges and interchanges
achieve separation with Israelis able to travel on top at high speed; lower
level "fabric of life" roads comprising 20% of the West Bank's
total are for Palestinians; elements of the plan have been implemented
and "fabric of life" roads are being built; they represent another
part of Israel's repressive apartheid scheme.
- Splitting the West Bank
- Article 13 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
- (1) "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement
and residence within the borders of each state.
- (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his country."
- Israel is a serial international law and human rights
abuser. For Palestinians, it believes allowing free movement is a privilege,
denying it is the norm, and actions no matter how outlandish require no
explanation or justification.
- Israel divided the West Bank into three control areas
- A, B and C. For purposes of restricting movement, it further split the
Territory into six geographical units:
- -- North that includes the Jenin, Tulkarm, Tubas and
Nablus districts, except for those in the Jordan Valley and Separation
Wall enclaves; about 840,000 Palestinians lived in this area as of summer
2007; today the number is somewhat higher;
- -- Central that includes the Salfit, Ramallah, and Jericho
districts, except for parts in the Separation Wall enclaves; in summer
2007, the Palestinian population exceeded 400,000;
- -- South that includes the Hebron and Bethlehem districts,
except for the northern Dead Sea and Separation Wall enclaves; Palestinians
here number over 700,000;
- -- the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea that includes
the eastern strip of the West Bank, except for Jericho and nearby refugee
camps; the Palestinian population is around 10,000;
- -- the Separation Wall-created "seam zone"
and inside the West Bank "internal" enclaves; when the Wall is
completed, the "seam zone" Palestinian population will number
about 30,000; an additional 25,000 will be in "internal" enclaves;
the "seam zone" also contains thousands of Palestinian farmland
dunams (a dunam equals about one fourth of an acre) and 39 settlements;
unlike the other geographical units, the enclaves are dozens of non-contiguous
sections that are separated from the rest of the West Bank; and
- -- East Jerusalem that includes all the area Israel annexed
in 1967 and is attached to the Jerusalem Municipality, except for the Shu'afat
refugee camp and Kfar Aqeb that the Wall separates from the city; around
200,000 Palestinians live in this section.
- All geographical units are constricted by Israel's rigid
control system explained above. Below are the checkpoints that control
movement from one section to another:
- -- Za'tara (Tupuah) Checkpoint controls North to Central
sections movement; in addition, the IDF directs to this checkpoint all
west and east traffic along the Trans-Samaria highway and from Route 60
from Nablus in the north and Ramallah in the southwest and south; Palestinians
may generally pass freely heading north; those traveling south encounter
ID and sometimes vehicle checks; delays are common; males aged 16 - 35
often aren't allowed to go south.
- -- Container Checkpoint almost totally controls movement
between the South and Central sections; Border Police staff it round the
clock; from 2002 to February 2007, passenger cars were prohibited without
a special permit; it's now cancelled; since September 2000, Palestinians
have been prohibited from using Route 398 that runs from the checkpoint
to the Ma'ale Adumim and Qedar settlements; Palestinians are diverted to
other worn roads of nearby villages; Palestinian traffic passing through
the checkpoint are subjected to lengthy delays and at times searches; when
Israel declares a comprehensive closure, it applies to this checkpoint;
it severs the southern West Bank from the rest of the Territory and requires
Palestinians traveling to or from the South to do it by foot.
- -- Tayasir, Hamra, Gittit and Yitav checkpoints control
movement to and from the Jordan Valley. In May 2005, Israel instituted
sweeping Palestinian movement prohibitions here, except for residents with
ID cards and persons with special permits. They were cancelled in April
2007, it affects only pedestrians and those using public transportation
(that also requires a permit), and applies only to the Tayasir and Hamra
- -- Almog Checkpoint that controls movement to and from
the northern Dead Sea; generally only Palestinians with work permits for
nearby settlements and/or to enter Israel may pass; since May 2007, the
latter category was cancelled.
- -- the Separation Wall directs movement between the "seam
zone" enclaves and the rest of the West Bank to several gates in the
Wall; only Palestinians with special entry permits may pass; 38 gates are
in place; only six operate daily from 12 to 24 hours continuously; 17 others
open two or three times a day for 30 minutes to two hours; 13 additional
ones operate during farming season; two other gates allow movement of residents
of a few houses that are enclosed by the Wall and separated from their
village; still other crossings are for Israeli travel between the West
Bank and Israel; they operate round the clock.
- -- the Separation Wall also directs movement between
East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank; this section is called the
"Jerusalem envelope" and has 12 checkpoints; crossing (permitted
only through four of them) requires a valid ID and permit and submitting
to stringent checks; they include exiting vehicles, having them searched,
and passing through a revolving gate equipped with a metal detector; the
remaining eight checkpoints are for settlers, Israeli residents and East
Jerusalem Palestinians with Israeli IDs.
- In addition to area to area restrictions, Israel tightens
them further with others within areas by breaking them into sub-areas and
controlling movement between them. Nablus in the North is separated from
nearby villages and from other northern West Bank districts.
- The Nablus area includes the city, three refugee camps
and 15 villages that contain over 200,000 Palestinians combined. It's been
under siege for seven years; entry and exit is through four surrounding
checkpoints; passage through them entails stringent personal and vehicle
checks, including for all merchandise in both directions; and special permits
are required for passenger vehicle entry.
- Collective Nablus movement prohibitions are harsh and
unique in the Territory. Males between 16 and 35 are especially affected,
but they overall disrupt life for everyone. The restricted male population
alone affects 26,000 persons. If the age is lowered to 15, it rises to
36,000, and if females are included (as sometimes happens) it totals 73,000.
This group is the area's main work force, its entire economic life depends
on them, and prohibiting their movement brings it to a halt.
- When it's in force, siege conditions vary by checkpoint
for those allowed through. The two main Beit Iba and Huwara ones inflict
the longest and most burdensome delays and restrictions. In addition, all
persons having a "risk profile" because of age are forbidden
to leave the area and need a "movement permit in area under encirclement"
if they want to exit. However, it's not easy getting one with a convoluted
system in place that requires a party permitted to cross to apply for persons
who aren't and even they can't do it easily. In addition, permits aren't
issued for "ordinary" needs, such as work, family visits or school.
Those considered are only for "humanitarian" reasons like needed
medical care. Few overall are issued.
- The Nablus siege also restricts movement in the Jenin
Tulkarm and Tubas districts. Nablus is vital for them and for years was
the West Bank's economic and industrial center. Now these districts are
separated, and major roads between them are blocked. In the past, traveling
from Jenin to Nablus took about 40 minutes on the main road. It now takes
one to three hours on narrow, winding roads plus a long wait at one of
the Nablus area checkpoints.
- Over the past two years especially, accessing Nablus
has been hard and complicated for villagers located to its north. Checkpoint
access is limited, some are closed to traffic, and those that operate have
delays running up to hours. In addition, soldiers at times block road traffic
for several hours, no advance notice is given, and it causes undue hardship
for travelers having to wait or use alternate routes. The IDF is also at
times punitive. It sets up indiscriminate flying checkpoints, uses them
for punishment, and makes it harsher with instances of violence and confiscation
of permits and identity cards that can only be redeemed at a permanent
checkpoint that may or may not be operating.
- The Central Section splitting caused much the same type
hardships. It created two principal sub-areas around Salfit and Ramallah.
It detached some of these cities' villages and separated them from their
- After the IDF blocked Salfit's main entrance road from
the north, alternate routes became necessary, and they lengthened travel
times considerably. It created great hardship for travelers who rely on
Nablus for basic services and also for villagers who are blocked from their
farmland. Sixty-six thousand people are affected.
- It's even worse for the 300,000 Ramallah district residents
in a city that's the West Bank's seat of government because Israel denies
East Jerusalem that status. In addition, after undo restrictions and hardships
caused many Palestinian entrepreneurs to leave Nablus and the northern
West Bank, Ramallah developed into the Territory's cultural and economic
center. Obstructions, checkpoints and the Separation Wall demarcate the
area and combined make movement just as hard as throughout the rest of
the West Bank.
- It's the same for Jericho's 40,000 residents. In addition,
for 10,000 of them in the north in the besieged Jordan Valley, they're
separated from the city, and for those in the east there's another obstacle
- 19 km of trenches and land east of it that's a closed military area.
- The South section's splitting has been less conspicuous,
but it hasn't made movement easier. Most notably since September 2000,
have been restrictions in Route 60's southern section that runs the entire
length of the southern West Bank and is this subsection's principal roadway.
Access roads to the Route are now blocked, over time some have been eased,
but use of the road remains limited.
- Most harmed are residents in towns and villages in Hebron's
southern area. To reach the city, they must use long, winding, beat-up
roads that are no substitute for decent ones. Once the Separation Wall
is completed east of the Efrat and Gush Atzion settlements, Route 60's
northern quarter in the South section will be on the Wall's Israeli side
and completely off-limits to Palestinians. As a result, Bethlehem will
be separated from Jerusalem as well as the main road to Hebron with all
the hardships that will create.
- Consider how they affect Hebron. It's the only Palestinian
West Bank city (other than East Jerusalem that Israel annexed in 1967)
with an Israeli settlement in its center. Because of it, the IDF created
a contiguous strip of land through the city over which Palestinian vehicles
are prohibited. It runs from the Kiryat Arba settlement in the east to
the Palestinian Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the west, and in many sections
along its center, Palestinian pedestrians are banned. The main Shuhada
Street is most affected. In addition, the strip blocks Hebron's main north-south
artery harming the entire Palestinian population.
- Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea restrictions involve
the use of Route 90 that runs the entire length of the section. Israel
operates five checkpoints here for control. Only public transportation
and vehicles with special permits may pass. That frees the Route for settlers
and Israelis traveling between Jerusalem and the Beit She'an Valley, the
Sea of Galilee, or the Galilee area in the north. It also allows the IDF
to use large Jordan Valley sections as fire-exercise zones and close off
much of their water and grazing areas to Palestinians.
- Dozens of non-contiguous "seam-zone" enclaves
are also affected. The Separation Wall separates them by winding back and
forth between the Green Line and deep into the West Bank. They all contain
Palestinian farmland on the barrier's Israeli side. Some also include villages
where 30,000 Palestinians live. Because they aren't connected, crossing
from one subsection to another at best is hard and at worst impossible.
It forces travelers to cross the Wall twice with all the hardships that
entails. Further, since permits are for one enclave only, entering another
one requires a second permit.
- The Separation Wall then can be divided into five sections
plus the Jerusalem area, and each one contains separate enclaves. Combined
they form a crazy quilt isolation pattern with physical obstacles and human
repression used against a defenseless civilian population.
- Internal community and farmland enclaves are affected
as well but not by having to pass through the Wall or obtain permits. However,
roads that used to connect them have been closed making travel times longer
and more complicated. When completed, the Wall's route will create 13 non-contiguous
internal enclaves for about 240,000 Palestinians in dozens of towns and
- East Jerusalem is the final section. Israeli Arabs with
identity cards may move about fairly freely with one notable exception.
It's the use of temporary checkpoints (so-called "collection"
ones) to collect resident tax debts. They operate a few hours at a time
on main neighborhood roads where Israeli Police (usually Border Police)
provide security along with tax officials to do the collecting. Police
stop cars, collectors do the rest, but never to Jerusalem's Jewish residents.
- Harm to Palestinians' Fabric of Life
- West Bank separation and division inflicts great harm
to Palestinians' fabric of life in the short and longer term. This section
- First consider health as a fundamental human right and
how restricting movement affects it. Ill persons needing treatment are
greatly impeded reaching medical centers. The quality and availability
of service is hampered as well by delaying or restricting physicians and
staff. First aid crews also aren't able to reach the sick and injured quickly.
Even when situations aren't life threatening, movement restrictions increase
morbidity chances and may shorten a life span.
- Overall, West Bank Palestinians have limited or no access
to medical care, and residents of villages and outlying areas are most
gravely affected. Then consider so-called "risk profile" people
being denied passage through checkpoints. Another example is persons needing
a permit for access to Jerusalem hospital treatment. To get one, patients
must provide medical documents testifying to their illness and confirming
their appointment at a specific hospital.
- The situation is especially problematic for pregnant
women when their time to deliver approaches and their hospital is in Jerusalem.
Permits are valid only for one or two days, as it is for all ill persons,
but the moment when it's needed is uncertain. They must thus be continually
renewed, and there are times when it's impossible. It thus forces mothers
to give birth at checkpoints because they're denied passage through them.
- In 1996, the Physicians for Human Rights petitioned the
State Attorney's office for relief and nominally got it - to allow passage
through checkpoints without permits in cases of medical emergency so ill
persons can be treated. All checkpoint locations are supposed to comply,
but it turns out they don't. Soldiers don't treat Palestinians kindly,
are unresponsive to their needs, and are untrained medically to recognize
- Patients encounter other obstacles as well. Their travel
is slowed by having to use long, winding and worn roads; they're sometimes
blocked causing long delays; they have no access to ambulances or other
transportation; must pass through checkpoints when they do or by foot;
be up against closed ones; be forced to wait at open ones; and undergo
- These problems make people more dependent on first aid
that can't cope in emergency cases where special expertise is required.
At times, long distances are involved, and when need is greatest, it means
lives are endangered. This is what Palestinians endure daily.
- Movement restrictions also affect hospitals, especially
East Jerusalem ones that are considered the OPT's best because they provide
services unavailable elsewhere in the Territories. East Jerusalem's separation
from the rest of the West Bank and needing a permit to enter is the problem.
It affects staff and patients with the situation at al-Makassed Hospital
typical. Twelve of its workers live outside the city and are classified
"prevented entry." They have no permits. Even workers with them
face long checkpoint delays or their closure when Israel wishes.
- Restricting free movement also impacts health care professionals
from developing their skills through in-service training. Students as well
are affected, are unable to complete their studies or receive a lower professional
training degree. It places Palestinians needing medical care in a hopeless
situation. They're unable to move freely or receive expert care if they
- B'Tselem's report is on the West Bank. Gaza is another
matter, and since Israel's June 2007 siege, 130 in the Territory have died
because they couldn't be treated. Their deaths are in addition to the hundreds
of others from near daily incursions that continue without letup.
- Movement restrictions also greatly affect the OPT's economy
and trade. Post-September 2000, it's been in deep depression. GDP has declined
around 40%, unemployment stands at about 80%, and the poverty level is
punishing. It's how Israel and Washington planned it to bring the Territories
to their knees and demand surrender as the price for relief.
- At present, look how working conditions and transport
of goods are affected. Palestinians could once travel freely outside their
communities to jobs. No longer, and many lost out and have no means of
employment. Employers as well are affected. They lost workers, had to scale
back their operations or shut them down entirely.
- The same hardships apply to transporting goods. They
can no longer move freely, permits are required, they're hard to get, travel
times are longer even with them, at much greater cost, and an example is
trade between Nablus and Ramallah. The cost is fourfold what it was in
2002, the result is greatly reduced trade, it's forced merchants to concentrate
more on their own communities and those nearby, and the result is far less
commerce overall that severely impacts everyone.
- Here's what's involved to move goods between Nablus and
- -- permits are needed;
- -- a quota restricts the number;
- -- goods allowed to be transported endure the so-called
"back-to-back" method; at point of shipment they're loaded; then
stopped at a checkpoint; unloaded; inspected by mechanical scanner, manually,
and/or by dogs; they're then reloaded on another truck for delivery;
- -- damage is frequent because of extra handling and Israelis
aren't too gentle about it;
- -- delays are the rule and they're costly;
- -- transport requires passing through other checkpoints
and repeating the whole procedure again that may be more or less stringent
depending on the whims of inspectors;
- -- when the Separation Wall is completed, transport will
be even harder and its cost greater.
- Tourism is also affected. Between the Oslo Accords and
September 2000, cities like Bethlehem were desired destinations. No longer
because of difficulties getting there and how hard it is to move around.
The result is privately owned tourist sites throughout the West Bank have
closed or have greatly cut back. An example is the Barahameh family's park
in al-Badhan, a village 10 km north of Nablus. Getting there from Ramallah
means passing through four permanent checkpoints plus whatever flying ones
are up for the day. The result is wasted hours to spend a day at the park,
and most tourists won't do it.
- Small businesses like stores, souvenir shops and restaurants
are also impacted. Many close down or operate at a fraction of their former
levels. A World Bank West Bank report cites movement restrictions and their
costs as two major obstacles affecting a healthy Palestinian economy.
- They affect farming as well in areas like the Jordan
Valley and "seam zone." Agriculture is an important source of
Palestinians' income. Farmers need permits for it in these areas. Many
are denied and their livelihoods destroyed or greatly impacted. Farm workers
are also affected. They, too, need permits, but even having them means
putting up with long travel times and exhausting days. Many workers won't
do it it so farmers lose a vital work force and the ability to grow their
- Farmer and merchant Husni Muhammad 'Adb a-Rahman Sawafteh
is an example of what others like him endure:
- -- he lives, works and farms in Tubas; he and his brothers
have a house and 250 dunams of land in Bardala, a northern Jordan Valley
village; they also have livestock;
- -- to reach Bardala, they must pass through Tayasir checkpoint;
doing it involves "much difficulty;" it affects their workers
- -- to sell their produce, they need to reach Bardala,
but the hardship forces Sawafteh to manage things by phone; it's inadequate
because it's vital to be current on prices and dealer payments that requires
being in Bardala to do it;
- -- sometimes he can't be for a month; the result is dealers
send "payment on account" and pay less than the amount owed;
their back due debts accumulate; being there is essential to handle things;
when he can't do it, he hasn't enough money for materials to fertilize
the land and grow crops;
- -- caring for the livestock is another problem; they
need daily care; Sawafteh had to build a new Tubas farm to do it, but it
was lacking; Tubas hasn't enough grazing land so the flock can't do it
daily as they need to; he thus has to buy them food; it's an additional
expense he can't afford;
- -- he and other farmers have an additional problem as
well; they need permits for themselves but also for their tractors and
farm vehicles; it forces most of them to go long distances on foot or donkeys;
- -- it also restricts what crops can be grown; restrictions
forced farmers like Sawafteh to forgo higher revenue-generating ones like
tomatoes and cucumbers and switch to less labor intensive ones like wheat;
- -- some farmers give up altogether and let their land
lie fallow rather than risk economic failure or work under onerous conditions.
- Family and social life are also affected. Palestinian
community life is based on extended familial ties even though members don't
often live in the same towns and villages. Movement restrictions and inability
to get permits prevent their ability to see each other, and it's especially
felt in the "seam zone," Jordan Valley and Nablus under siege.
- Ni'ma 'Ali Salameh Abu Sahara from Nablus is a case in
- -- her daughter married and moved to the Jordan Valley;
- -- no one has been able to see her, not even during holidays,
because "the army doesn't let us cross the Hamra checkpoint;"
- -- she wasn't able to visit her first grandson and only
saw him two months after his birth when her daughter visited her;
- -- her daughter just had a second child by Caesarean
section; Abu Sahara went to the checkpoint to get through to see her; soldiers
refused to let her pass; she begged them; they still refused; Abu Sahara
"went home and cried."
- This story and many others like it are commonplace, and
it's caused the splitting up of nuclear families. Students leave parents
to be near school. Wage earners and tradesmen leave families to be close
to work. The ill live in cities to be near essential medical care facilities.
From the time they leave homes to whenever they try to return, they encounter
problems. For most Palestinians, they're painful to impossible.
- Restrictions prevent routine family gatherings as well
as special ones like weddings, funerals, and caring for the sick. Palestinians
once could take vacations, and a favorite spot was the northern Dead Sea
area with its 25 km of coastline. No longer. The 'Ein Fascha nature reserves
there (one of the most popular recreational sites) are now operated by
Israel's Nature Reserves and Parks Authority for Jews only.
- Movement restrictions affect all facets of daily life,
including basic services and law enforcement - urban infrastructure, social
services, mail, governance, rescue operations, electricity and gas, water,
and locally-based security. When breakdowns occur and repairs are needed
or other vital services have to be performed, district government employees
get no preferential treatment crossing checkpoints to handle them. The
result is long delays fixing essential public services or dealing with
problems like medical emergencies.