User:Dmitri9/Palestinian freedom of movement

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View from Nablus side of Huwwara Checkpoint, Palestinians waiting to travel south.

The restriction of the movement of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories by Israel is one issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The varying restrictions, by which Palestinians required exit permits to travel within Israel, were put into place following the 1967 war and intensified during the First Intifada.[1] A policy of permanent closure of the occupied territories began in 1991, and would result in total closures following rises in Palestinian political violence.[1]

In the mid-1990s, with the implementation of the Oslo Accords and the division of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into three separate administrative divisions, there was little change to these restrictions. Comprehenesive closures during the Second Intifada resulted in complete prohibitions on Palestinian movement into Israel and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the situation remains the same today.[1] Israel says that the regime of restrictions is necessary to protect Israelis living in Israel proper and the Israeli settlements.[2][3]

Israel enforces restrictions on Palestinians freedom of movement in the West Bank by employing a system of permanent, temporary and random manned checkpoints, the West Bank Barrier and by forbidding the usage of roads by Palestinians.[4] A 2007 World Bank report concluded that the West Bank "is experiencing severe and expanding restrictions on movement and access, high levels of unpredictability and a struggling economy."[5] Unmanned physical obstructions to block roads and paths might include dirt piles, concrete blocks, large stones, barriers, ditches, and metal gates. The physical obstructions might be altered often, on the basis of political and security circumstances.


Subsequent to the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel's military proclaimed the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be closed military areas. According to B'tselem, in 1972, orders were issued allowing residents of the West Bank to freely leave, to enter Israel and East Jerusalem, and travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; however, inhabitants of the West Bank were not permitted to be in Israel or East Jerusalem between 1.00 and 5.00 a.m.[1]

The closure policy imposed as a permanent administrative measure by Israel in March 1993. It has become a permanent feature of Palestinian life influencing freedom of movement and the Palestinian economy. The official Israeli rationale for closure was to provide security for Israelis and curtail Palestinian political violence; however, according to Amal Jamal, professor of political science at the University of Tel Aviv, the policy was used as "a political weapon to force Palestinians into accepting short-term economic improvements over long-term territorial and political solutions."[6]

In September 2000, the Second Intifada began, triggering Israeli closures and restrictions on Palestinian movement. In 2005, Israelis of the Gush Katif Israeli settlements were evacuated as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. According to B'tselem, the Gaza Strip has been blockaded since 2007, restricting the movement of inhabitants into Israel and to other parts of the Palestinian territories.[1]

Both the 1994 Oslo Accords and the 2003 Road Map for Peace were based on the principle that Palestinian economic and social life would be unimpeded by movement restrictions.[5] According to B'tselem, Israel's current restrictions on Palestinian movement, implemented since the beginning of the Second Intifada, are the strictest so far implemented by the state.[7]

Legality of restrictions[edit]

The right to freedom of movement within states is recognized in article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

B'Tselem has argued that the consequences of the restrictions on the economic status Palestinian population have been so severe that they breach the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- in particular, the right to a livelihood, the right to an acceptable standard of living, the right to satisfactory nutrition, clothing, and housing, and the right to attain the best standard of physical and mental health.[8]

B'Tselem also argues that the restrictions on ill, wounded and pregnant Palestinians seeking acute medical care is in contravention of international law that states that medical professionals and the sick must be granted open passage.[9]

John Dugard argues that "Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by a rigid permit system enforced by some 520 checkpoints and roadblocks resemble, but in severity go well beyond, apartheid's 'pass system.'"[10]


Inside Palestinian territory[edit]

Most of the checkpoints are inside Palestinian territory and are used by Israel to control the internal movements of Palestinians. As of 31 August 2009, according to B'Tselem, the Israeli army had 60 permanent checkpoints inside the West Bank, 18 of them in the city of Hebron. According to B'Tselem, 28 are regularly staffed - some around the clock, some only during the day, and some only a few hours a day. According to B'Tselem, permanent checkpoints form the most severe restriction on movement of Palestinians, who are subjected to checks that often cause prolonged delays and at some checkpoints, soldiers ban every Palestinian from going through except those who carry special permits.[11]

The army announced in 2007 that it would lift the restrictions on Palestinians entering the Jordan Valley. However in practice, according to B'Tselem, by August 2009 there were still checkpoints restricting entry into the valley and requiring special permits.[11]

Many checkpoints only allow the passage of Palestinians who meet certain gender and age-based criteria.[2] Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), state that there has been an average of 65 random checkpoints in the West Bank each week between September 2008 and the end of March 2009.[11]

Between Israeli and Palestinian territory[edit]

Kalandia checkpoint

There are 39 of these checkpoints that are permanent, manned and operate 24 hours a day and serve as the last control points between the West Bank and Israel. Although only land within the Green Line is administered as part of the State of Israel, according to B'tselem, most of these checkpoints are positioned within the West Bank, often kilometers from the Green Line.[11]

There are 63 gates in the West Bank barrier, of which half are available for Palestinian use; however, Palestinians are required to have a permit to cross. According to B'tselem, the gates for Palestinians are open for a few hours each day.[11]

Misbehaviour of personnel manning checkpoints[edit]

The Israel Defense Forces' Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Dr. Menachem Finkelstein released a statement to the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee in which he admitted that there were many complaints about the troops manning the checkpoints abusing and humiliating Palestinians. He said that the excessive number of complaints "lit a red light". He said that the number of complaints required an examination to see whether the misbehaviour was being caused by an excessive workload of the IDF solders manning the checkpoints. [12]

An Israeli soldier was removed from duty and imprisoned for two weeks for refusing the passage of a pregnant Palestinian woman in labour. The woman was forced to give birth at the checkpoint and she suffered a miscarriage. [13]

Forbidden roads[edit]

Metre square cement roadblocks used to restrict access

According to B'tselem, Israel has shut off access roads to main roads with a number of physical obstructions, such as dirt piles, concrete blocks, large stones, barriers, ditches, and metal gates. The physical obstructions are altered often, on the basis of political and security circumstances; in 2007, there were 459 obstacles placed a month. These physical obstructions are not as flexible as manned checkpoints because they cannot be removed in times of emergency. As well as preventing vehicles from travelling they also prevent pedestrians who cannot travel over or around them such as old, young, ill, wounded or pregnant civilians.[4]

Palestinians who are caught committing a traffic violation on a West Bank road must pay the traffic fine at an Israeli post office or a police station. However, in the West Bank the only such post offices and police stations are within Israeli settlements that Palestinians cannot go near without a special permit. If Palestinians fail to pay the fine, they lose their licences the next time they are stopped by Israeli police. Then they get a criminal record as well, which makes it even harder to get an Israeli entry permit. [14]

B'Tslem has counted some 312 kilometers of road in the West Bank that is forbidden or restricted to cars with Palestinian number plates.[15]

The Israeli Justice Ministry claims that the roadblocks were put in place in order to protect Israeli citizens from suicide and shooting attacks by Palestinian militants and have prevented hundreds of such attacks. [15]

Splitting of the West Bank[edit]

According to B'Tselem, the West Bank has been split into six distinct localities by Israel's restrictions - North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, the enclaves created by the West Bank Barrier and East Jerusalem. Travelling between these regions is difficult and an exceptional occurrence, requiring a justification for officials, a great deal of time and sometimes substantial expense.[16] According to a 2007 World Bank report entitled Movement and Access Restriction in the West Bank, "In the West Bank, closure is implemented through an agglomeration of policies, practices and physical impediments which have fragmented the territory into ever smaller and more disconnected cantons."[5]

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Israeli checkpoints impede the travel of Palestinians between the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, from Gaza and the outside world. "They make it extremely difficult for Palestinians even to move from one city to another and from one village to another within the same area or region".[17]

Closure of the West Bank[edit]

Picture of Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank, just outside the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Also known as Qlandiya Checkpoint. Queued up are Palestinian women trying to travel from one Palestinian town to another.

During closures, all travels permits issued to residents of the West Bank to travel over the Green Line are frozen, whether they are for purposes of work, trade or medical treatment. In 2006 there were 78 closure days. In 2005 there were 132.[18] Such closures of the West Bank are common during Jewish religious holidays.[19]

In 2010 Israel announced plans to close the West Bank over Passover for security reasons. The closure started on March 29 and will take place for the duration of Passover. This closure will prevent thousands of Palestinian workers from travelling to their places of work. A number of religious workers will be permitted to enter East Jerusalem over this period.[20]

Protests have occurred at a checkpoint on the route from the Christian holy site of Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Christian Palestinians have complained that they wanted to attend church in Jerusalem to celebrate the Christian holy day of Palm Sunday but they have been prevented by the Israeli security regime. Christian protesters have been joined by Muslims and atheist Palestinians.[21]

The West Bank Barrier and Seam Zone[edit]

The Israeli West Bank barrier is the single largest obstacle to Palestinian movement. The zone between the barrier and the Green Line is known as the Seam Zone. There are many olive groves in the seam zone and even though Israel opened "seasonal gates" in the barrier and issued permits to farmers, olive production has been hindered by the lack of access granted to Palestinian farmers throughout the year.[22]

Impact on medical care[edit]

Ill and wounded Palestinians who require acute medical care are placed at risk by Israeli restrictions on movement. The residents of villages and outlying regions require permits to travel to hospitals located in central regions. Obtaining the permits is difficult, requiring medical documents testifying to the illness as well as confirmation that the hospital is the only facility where the treatment is available and the time and date of the appointment.[9]

According to B'Tselem, even if they have a valid permit, sick Palestinians must travel on long, winding, unmaintained roads and are often delayed for long periods at checkpoints. If they require medical care at night they must wait until checkpoints open during the day. Some Palestinian communities are prevented from using their cars or ambulances so that the sick must travel to the hospitals by foot.[citation needed] In 2007, B'Tselem documented five cases in which ill or wounded Palestinians died after being delayed at a checkpoint.[9]

According to B'Tselem, Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank have difficulty functioning due to the delays on the arrival of doctors and staff as a result of the movement restrictions. This has prevented the development of medical expertise in the Palestinian health system as staff are prevented from acquiring in-service training and students are preventing from going to university.[9]

Treatment of pregnant women[edit]

Obtaining medical treatment is particularly difficult for pregnant Palestinian women about to give birth, since the delivery date is largely unpredictable yet the permits given are only valid for one or two days. The women must therefore constantly renew their permits, and as a consequence mothers have often entered labor and given birth at checkpoints because they did not have up-to-date permits. In 2007, 5 such births occurred at Israeli checkpoints.[9] Between the years 2000 and 2006, more than 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to statistics from the Palestinian health ministry. Of these, 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.[13]

Economic effects[edit]

View from Nablus side of Huwwara Checkpoint, people waiting to travel south.

According to B'Tselem, the restrictions on movement put in place by Israel since the Second Intifada are generally accepted as a major reason for the worsening of the Palestinian economy and as a reason for the increasing unemployment and poverty among Palestinians in the West Bank.[8]

According to B'Tselem, tens of thousands of Palestinians lost employment in Israel as a direct result of the closure of the West Bank that Israel initiated at the start of the Second Intifada. Before the closure 110,000 Palestinians were employed in Israel and the settlements, which has been much reduced depending on the number of permits that Israel decides to issue to Palestinians.[8]

According to B'Tselem, the checkpoints and restrictions within the West Bank make it difficult for Palestinians to commute to their places of employment and for goods to be transported to where they are needed. This has increased the costs of transportations and has thus led to lower profits for companies operating in the territories. According to B'Tselem, the restrictions have made trade between different sections of the West Bank inefficient, costly and erratic and this has split the West Bank economy into smaller localized markets. Agriculture and tourism are two sectors that have been greatly damaged by the movement restrictions.[8]

According to B'Tselem, Palestinian importers and exporters have been particularly hard hit by the Israeli restrictions on commercial trade. Palestinian manufacturers that require the importation of raw materials have also faced hardship, and the Palestinian economy is highly dependent on foreign trade.[8]

A World Bank report concludes: "As long as Israeli restrictions to access to land and water resources and movement are in place, and the majority of the West Bank remains to a large degree inaccessible for Palestinian economic investment, and the investment climate will remain unfavorable and business opportunities much below potential"[23]

Gaza Blockade[edit]

According to B'Tselem, the blockade of Gaza has harmed the Gaza economy and significantly impaired Palestinian trade between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[8]

Freedom of movement of Israeli citizens[edit]

Israeli citizens including settlers, are allowed unrestricted freedom of movement in the West Bank and along all main West Bank roads which connect Israeli settlements to each other and to Israel proper. Israeli citizens are only restricted from travelling through regions controlled by the Palestinian Authority. These regions amount to only 18% of the West Bank.[2]

Opinions on the Israeli restriction of Palestinian movement[edit]



Professor David Kretzmer, who teaches constitutional law and international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Ramat Gan Law School heavily criticized the closure of Route 443 to Palestinians in Haaretz.[2][4][7][5][11][8][16][18][24][9][22][25][26][27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Restrictions on Movement: Closure". Btselem. Retrieved 2010-04-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d "OCHA Closure Update" (PDF). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2008-05. Retrieved 2010-03-29.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "חל איסור מוחלט על אזרחים ישראלים להיכנס לשטחי A ללא היתר והכניסה לשטחי B מסוכנת". IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  4. ^ a b c "Restrictions on Movement: Checkpoints, Physical Obstructions, and Forbidden Roads". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Movement and Access Restrictions in the West Bank: Uncertainty and Inefficiency in the Palestinian Economy" (PDF). World Bank. 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  6. ^ Amal Jamal (2005). The Palestinian national movement: politics of contention, 1967-2005}. Indiana University Press. p. 150. ISBN 0253217733, 9780253217738 Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help). 
  7. ^ a b "Restrictions on Movement". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Restrictions on Movement: Effect of Restrictions on the Economy". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Infringement of the Right to Medical Treatment". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  10. ^ Israelis adopt what South Africa dropped, John Dugard
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Restrictions on Movement: Information on checkpoints and roadblocks". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  12. ^ "Humiliation at the checkpoints". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  13. ^ a b "Israeli jailed over baby tragedy". BBC. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  14. ^ "It's the little things that make an occupation". The Economist. 2001-01-27. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  15. ^ a b "Israeli rights group B'Tselem slams West Bank checkpoints as 'illegal'". Haaretz. 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  16. ^ a b "Restrictions on Movement: Splitting the West Bank". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  17. ^ A Palestinian Perspective on Checkpoints", Encyclopedia Britannica, retrieved 2010-03-31 
  18. ^ a b "Closure: Figures on comprehensive closure days". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  19. ^ "IDF closes West Bank for Passover". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  20. ^ "Israel to impose 9-day blockade of West Bank". Arab News. 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  21. ^ "Clashes as Israel imposes West Bank blockade". Euro news. 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  22. ^ a b "WEST BANK MOVEMENT AND ACCESS UPDATE NOVEMBER 2009". United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2009-11. Retrieved 2010-03-29.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. ^ "The Economic Effects of Restricted Access to Land in the West Bank" (PDF). The World Bank. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  24. ^ Kretzmer, David (2008-01-31). "Tyranny of Tar". Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  25. ^ "Restrictions on Movement: Route 443 – West Bank road for Israelis only". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  26. ^ "Siege". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  27. ^ "Curfew". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  28. ^ "Restrictions on Movement: Alternative Roads for Palestinians". B'Tselem. Retrieved 2010-03-29.