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Movement and Access

Movement of people and goods in and out of Jerusalem has been a central part of the city’s history as the economic, political and cultural capital of Palestine. Therefore, the idea of cutting Jerusalem off from its surrounding towns and villages leaving any Palestinian from the rest of the West Bank dependent on military permits to enter the city at any time, for any reason, is simply absurd.    

However, the violation of the basic right of freedom of movement has dominated the life of Palestinians since the beginning of the occupation. As it looks today the Israeli regime that restricts the movement and access while separating Occupied Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank has three dimensions: physical, institutional, and administrative. Physical separation and obstacles include checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches, earth mounds, and the Annexation Wall. Institutional and administrative practices are associated with the permits and legal orders that limit the freedom of Palestinians to move home, maintain social and family relations, obtain work, conduct or invest in business, develop their own resources; and restrict access to large segments of Palestinians to their occupied land.

Altogether, these components severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water and access to basic services such as healthcare and education.



Starting in the early 1990s, the establishment of checkpoints on roads leading to Occupied Jerusalem has been used as a physical tool in the Israeli “divide and conquer” policy. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy of acquiring military issued permits to enter the city was implemented. Additionally, in 2000, a series of military checkpoints and physical obstacles were installed.1 This policy was, of course, not exclusively carried out in Jerusalem, but throughout the whole of the 1967 occupied territories. hundreds of military checkpoints and barriers of various sorts are currently in place.

According to a report published in 2013 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Palestinians from the West Bank are restricted to use only 4 of the 13 fixed checkpoints in Occupied Jerusalem.2 Some of these checkpoints have been completely or partially privatised, and several are staffed by armed civilian guards employed by private security companies under supervision of the Crossing Directorate of the Israeli “Ministry of Defense.”3

The control of movement by checkpoints is used as a tool of collective punishment as in the case of the neighborhood of al-’Eisawiyah. The people of al-’Eisawiyah are known for a powerful resistance against the occupation as a response to the systematic oppression they experience. It frequently leads to confrontations with the Israeli Occupation Forces. Due to these confrontations, measures of collective punishment were implemented in 2012. A new checkpoint was erected at the entrance of the village. This aggressive bureaucratic policing resulted in a checkpoint not for security purposes, but to collect taxes and debts (previously ruled illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court).

Therefore, the policy of checkpoints that is officially justified by the image of every Palestinian as a security threat brings with it the sweeping violation of 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.”4


Planning and Blockades of Roads

When considering the planning and construction of roads in Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank one will also find measures taken in order to restrict the access and movement of Palestinians.

Over the years, existing main roads have been enlarged and their routes changed in order to connect colonies to each other and Israel. The apartheid road scheme was advanced during the years of the Oslo “peace process” (1993-2000) when Palestinian land was confiscated during the construction of new highways for settlers and roads that bypassed and surrounded Palestinian communities.5

In February 2014, there were 65.12 kilometers of roads in the West Bank that Israel had classified for the sole use of Israelis. Palestinians are even prohibited from crossing some of these roads with vehicles, thereby restricting their access to nearby roads that they are allowed to use. In these cases, Palestinian travelers need to get out of the vehicle, cross the road on foot, and find an alternative mode of transportation on the other side.6

The policy of the apartheid roads is in general not laid out in the military legislation or in any official document except for the prohibition on travel on Route 443. This road connects Jerusalem and the West Bank to the Palestinian villages to its west; however, since 2002, Israel has sweepingly banned the movement of Palestinians on the road. The ban was implemented first by placing physical obstructions - iron gates, concrete blocks, checkpoints, or a combination of these - and later by army patrols. The ban was prescribed in a military order five years after the prohibition was instituted and was partially lifted following a ruling by the Israeli “High Court of Justice.”7

In addition, Israel periodically blocks roads with physical obstructions, such as concrete blocks, iron gates and trenches, depending on political circumstances. At the close of 2013, OCHA counted approximately 59 physical obstructions in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem only. These obstructions restrict the movement of many pedestrians such as the elderly, pregnant women and sick persons who have trouble bypassing while preventing the crossing of vehicles even in emergencies.8


The Annexation Wall

In 2002, the Israeli government approved upon the building of a “security fence” which would make obvious the restrictions on movement while at the same time changing the physical and demographic landscape of occupied Jerusalem. Although the Annexation Wall was justified with security reasons, it was clearly motivated by the political goal of a closure system upon all Palestinians.

The route of the Annexation Wall defies all security logic and is more than twice the length of the 1949 armistice green line. What is by the Israeli Authorities called a “fence” is in reality a 25-foot high wall consisting of concrete, metal fences, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, an electronic monitoring system, patrol roads, and a buffer zone.9

Consequences of the Annexation Wall

To the north of occupied Jerusalem, over 15,200 Palestinian residents of four villages in Bir Nabala are surrounded by the Wall on three sides, with an Israeli security road on the fourth. As a result, these residents are in a totally enclosed enclave and isolated from Jerusalem.10 On the ‘Jerusalem’ side of the Wall 1,400 West Bank residents are isolated while denied residency and access to work and services in occupied Jerusalem.11

At the same time, several neighbourhoods located within the municipal borders with almost 90,000 Palestinians holding Jerusalem resident IDs have been excluded from Jerusalem by the Wall.12 Even though its route does not officially undermine the Jerusalem status of these excluded neighborhoods, they are de facto physically separated from the city. Examples of such neighborhoods left outside on the ‘West Bank’ side of the Annexation Wall are Kufr ‘Aqab and Shu’fat Refugee Camp where workers, school and university students struggle every day to pass through checkpoints to reach their destinations within occupied Jerusalem.13

Furthermore, many farmers have been cut off from their agricultural lands by the Annexation Wall. The village of Beit Duqqu northwest of occupied Jerusalem is one example of a place where farming was turned into a bureaucratic nightmare after the construction of the Wall. Farmers of Beit Duqqu and other villages only have access to their agricultural lands through gates and the majority are only open during the six weeks of the olive harvest and usually only for a limited period during the day. Furthermore, the receipt of permits to access the agricultural areas are limited. Many permits are rejected for ‘security reasons’ or lack of ‘connection to the land.’ The limited allocation of permits combined with the restricted opening of the gates have curtailed agricultural practice and undermined rural livelihoods, forcing farmers to shift from labour-intensive to rain-fed and low-value crops or to stop cultivation entirely.14

Additional consequences of the construction of the Annexation Wall have been felt by traders and farmers who once brought agricultural products into Jerusalem but are now required to gain permits identical to those needed to import goods internationally into Israel - a complex and expensive process.

On the “Jerusalem side of the Wall” the consequences are particularly evident along Salah a-Din Street and Damascus Gate which have experienced a steady decline in activity. Throughout the eastern sector, over 5,000 businesses have shut down as a consequence of the Annexation Wall.15

Overall, it has solidified the various Israeli mechanisms that have been put in place to restrict Palestinian movement between the West Bank and Jerusalem, namely identity cards, permits and checkpoints. While Israeli authorities argue that the gates in the Wall enable residents to cross from one side to the other and maintain their fabric of life, experience shows that most of the gates are open only a few hours a day, leaving residents waiting for hours.

In effect, the Annexation Wall is the physical culmination of these access restrictions which have weakened the connections between the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.


The Permit Regime - Who Can Enter?

The institutional and administrative practices that restrict the access and movement of Palestinians is associated with the permit system. This system was implemented as a part of the closure policy and created a situation in which the occupied 1967 territories were divided into three areas: the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the eastern part of Occupied Jerusalem. Passage between, and sometimes within, them now requires a permit from the Israeli authorities.16

The possibility of entering Occupied Jerusalem depends upon which type of ID card one holds. Israel controls the Palestinian population registry which contains information on every person in Occupied Palestine above the age of 16 and their place of residence. Israeli authorities grant four types of identifications to Palestinians: Gaza strip Palestinian; West Bank Palestinian; Jerusalem Palestinian and Israeli Citizenship Palestinian.17

Palestinians with West Bank ID cards are required a permit to enter Jerusalem. To obtain this permit, the Palestinian needs to pass an Israeli security checking procedure. If a permit is granted, it specifies the length of stay, the duration of the permit and in many cases which checkpoint the person is allowed to pass through.  

Palestinians with Jerusalem residency or Israeli citizenship are not required any permits to enter Occupied Jerusalem. However, Palestinians in Jerusalem are always at the risk of having their residency status revoked since, according to the Israeli law, they have to give proof that Jerusalem is their “centre of life.” This means that if authorities suspect a Palestinian does not reside in Jerusalem their status can be revoked, they will not be allowed to stay in Jerusalem. Then, access to Jerusalem will require them a permit as well.

In general the “state of Israel” perceives this permit regime as a regime of privilege, rather than a right-based regime, which obligates the state to avoid violations of individual rights. As a regime of privilege, Israel arbitrarily grants or denies services and permits to Palestinians. Altogether this “privilege” of closing the territory and implementing the associated permit regime has imposed extreme restrictions on the daily access and movement of Palestinians.18