The Separation Wall and Checkpoints


The Separation Wall

In 2002, Israel began construction of the “West Bank Barrier” in order to separate the West Bank from Israel. Currently, the Separation Wall serpentines through the West Bank and annexes most illegal settlements rather than running along the 1967 Green Line (Armistice Line). In fact, the Separation Wall is twice as long as the Green Line and 85% of the Wall is located within the West Bank. The barrier, which most Israelis refer to as the “security fence” and most Palestinians as the “apartheid wall”, consists partly of fence (90% of its length) and partly of a concrete wall 6-8 meters high (10%). The Wall includes a “buffer zone” 30-100 meters wide, which often includes electric fences, razor wire, military patrols, cameras and sensors, and trenches. See here for an excellent map from B’tselem.  

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice rendered its advisory opinion that the Separation Wall built by Israel in the West Bank is illegal and should be dismantled. On July 24, 2004, the UN General Assembly also passed a resolution demanding that Israel and all UN member states abide by the International Court’s advisory opinion from two weeks previous. The Wall violates human rights, such as the right to freedom of movement, work, good health, education, an adequate standard of living, and the right to self-determination. B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, explains here how the Separation Wall is an extreme and harmful solution to Israel’s security threat and infringes upon the rights of Palestinians. 
The Wall is not the only mechanism of movement control. As Stop the Wall points out, there are hundreds of checkpoints and other military obstructions such as roadblocks, trenches, and gates that restrict Palestinian movement. Additionally, there are 1,661 km (1,032 miles) of settler-only roads that connect settlements and settlement blocs. B’tselem further remarks on the many systems Israel has used to restrict movement since the 1990s, such as “checkpoints and obstructions, the Separation Barrier, forbidden roads or roads with restrictions in Palestinian use, and the movement-permit regime.” These restrictions have split the area into six areas: North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, enclaves created by the Separation Wall, and East Jerusalem. Israel restricts movement not only from area to area, but also movement within each area or enclave. More details on a specific and major system of movement control, checkpoints, is outlined next.

Ever since the early 1990s, Israel has operated hundreds of military checkpoints and barriers of various sorts throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel claims that checkpoints are for the sake of security, preventing Palestinian militants from entering Israeli settlements and towns. It is estimated the 30,000 Palestinian undocumented day-laborers cross the Green Line daily to work within Israel. Rather then restrict Palestinian movement into Israel, the system of checkpoints, permits and barriers restricts the Palestinians’ freedom of movement within the occupied area, greatly impacting their access to employment, school, medical care, and other vital social services.

The checkpoints and movement barriers violate Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” The World Health Organization and other international humanitarian groups have noted hundreds of deaths and birth complications in the past decade as the result of Israeli soldiers’ actions and failure to allow Palestinians through. B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, refers also to checkpoints as a form of collective punishment, violating the rights of an entire population under the assumption that all Palestinians are a security threat.

This form of collective punishment is detrimental to the economy as a whole, severely limiting the flow of goods, including humanitarian aid. According to a February 2010 UN World Bank report, movement and access restrictions such as the Separation Wall and checkpoints impact the Palestinian economy by creating greater unemployment, crippling private sector activity, causing a rapid decline in GDP, decreasing wages, and increasing poverty. In addition, checkpoints restrict the Palestinian economy by limiting access to economies of scale to create further growth, limiting access to natural resources, and making foreign investment extremely difficult.

Further Resources:

Stop the Wall
Fact Sheet: “The Apartheid Wall”
The Apartheid Wall fact sheet provides basic information about the Wall,
including location and costs, as well as how the Wall is part of a network,
which includes checkpoints, tunnels and settler roads. The fact sheet also
explains the ghetto system and the position of the international community.
It concludes with the repression of popular resistance to the Wall in 2010
as well as settlement expansion and settler violence.

July 2009
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign
Report: “Rights Without Remedy”
This joint report by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign examines the impact the Wall has had on the rights of
the Palestinian population and the inadequacy of measures taken by Israel
and the international community to ensure that the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion
is implemented or redress provided to victims of damages or human rights
violations caused by the Wall.

July 2004
"The Racist Separation Wall in the West Bank”
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, discusses the Separation Wall’s economic and social effects, and its ramifications on the future of the Palestinian people.