Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011

Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
07. Land Grab in the Guise of Security
  • .1

    Route of the Barrier reveals territorial aspirations of the State

    Palestinians waiting for gate to open at the southern checkpoint leading to Azzun ‘Atmah village after a long workday in Israel and the settlements. Photo: Yehudit Levin, MachsomWatch, 24 November 2011

    In 2002, following a series of attacks inside Israel, the government decided to build a physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. However, the route of the Separation Barrier was not only based on security, but also other considerations that are completely unrelated to the security of Israeli civilians. In fact, one of the major considerations in setting the route is the desire to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel. The planned route, 85 percent of which runs inside the West Bank, encircles settlements such as Ma’ale Adummim and Ariel, and also encircles a few Palestinian communities. Upon completion, 9.4 percent of the West Bank, containing eight Palestinian communities and about 90 settlements, outposts and Israeli industrial areas will lie west of the Barrier. In at least 12 places, the barrier has been built, or is planned to be built, hundreds and even thousands of meters from existing settlements, to enable settlement expansion. The desire to annex territory to Israel is the primary reason for the Barrier’s length – which at 708 kilometers is over twice the length of the 320-kilometer-long Green Line, the armistice line between the West Bank and Israel.

    So far, 437.5 kilometers of the Barrier has been constructed (62 percent of the planned route), resulting in of the rights of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who remain in enclaves or are detached from their farmland. Another 58 kilometers is currently under construction and the remaining 212 kilometers await government approval or are in planning. All the sections under construction or awaiting approval are located inside the West Bank.

    The state has the right and obligation to protect its citizens from attacks, but if it requires a barrier to do so, it must construct it along the Green Line or inside Israel. It is not allowed to use the Barrier’s route to expand the area of settlements or its sovereign territory. Therefore, Israel must dismantle all parts of the barrier that were built inside the West Bank.

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  • .2

    The seam zone: Separating Palestinians

    Farmers waiting on both sides of an agricultural gate in the Separation Barrier in Habla. Due to harsh restrictions on entry of equipment, many farmers have to use a horse- or donkey-drawn cart. Photo: Anthya Sadeh, MachsomWatch, 29 May 2011

    Israel’s policy of including as many settlements and as much unsettled land as possible on the western side of the barrier isolated much land and created enclaves between the Barrier and the Green Line, an area officially referred to as the “seam zone.” The village of ‘Azzun-Atmah was placed in one such enclave. 'Azzun-Atmah is located south of Qalqiliya, and is bounded on the west by the settlement Oranit and on the south by the settlement Sha’arey Tikva. The Barrier surrounds the village on all sides. Today the only way to reach the village is through two gates: one, south of the village leads to the Elqana settlement enclave and to Israel, and the other, to the north leads to the rest of the West Bank.  Until about a year ago, the northern gate was closed at night. Since March 2010, the military has allowed unlimited access to the village through the gate. Residents of the village pass through these gates, as do other Palestinians who have permits to work in the settlements in the Elqana enclave and in Israel. Eleven families from the village remain isolated inside a separate enclave created by the barrier. Every visit to these families, whether by physicians, ambulance teams, relatives, or any other person, requires a special permit from the Civil Administration to cross the southern checkpoint.

    Thousands of Palestinians have been separated from their farmland and water sources on the western side of the Barrier. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who worked these lands have lost their source of livelihood. Israel has built 66 agricultural gates along the Barrier that are supposed to serve farmers and farm laborers, but the gates are opened infrequently or on a seasonal basis, and only some of the landowners, those who manage to obtain a permit from the Civil Administration, are allowed to cross. Farmers who obtain permits have trouble working their land because they generally are not allowed to bring in farm equipment or laborers to assist them. The procedure for obtaining a permit is cumbersome, and, to aggravate matters, the Civil Administration has yet to publish in Arabic the criteria for obtaining a permit.

    The Civil Administration reported that in 2010 it issued 30,985 permits to enable Palestinians to enter the seam zone. Some 70 percent of permit requests were granted. Of the permits that were issued, 61 percent were for short periods of up to three months. Since 2007, the Civil Administration does not grant more than 70 percent of the requests for a permit, regardless of the number of requests submitted.

    The Civil Administration has consistently reduced the number of long-term permits (over one year) to enter the seam-zone areas. This policy makes it impossible for Palestinians with farmland west of the Barrier to develop modern agriculture or raise diverse crops that require intensive cultivation. Having no option, they limit their farming to olive orchards, which require relatively little cultivation. In April 2011, the High Court of Justice rejected petitions by Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and ACRI that challenged the legality of the permit regime in the seam zone. The High Court held that, subject to a few changes that had to be implemented, the permit regime is proportionate and maintains a proper balance between Israel’s security needs and the needs of the local population.

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  • .3

    Bil’in: State takes four years to carry out High Court decision

    Parts of the dismantled section of the Barrier in Bil'in loaded onto a truck. Photo: Oren Ziv, activestills, 28 June 2011

    In July 2011, the military completed relocation of the Separation Barrier in the Bil’in area, four years after the High Court of Justice ordered that the Barrier be rerouted to run closer to the Modi’in Illit settlement. The rerouting returned 700 dunams (0.7 sq km) of farmland to the villagers; 1,500 dunams (1.5 sq km) of their land remain west of the Barrier.

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  • .4

    East Jerusalem: Harmful route in complicated reality

    Section of the separation wall at the Shu’afat checkpoint. Photo: Anne Paq, activestills.org, 27 December 2011

    Given the complex reality in the Jerusalem area, any route that is chosen for the Barrier will inevitably violate human rights. East Jerusalem is an integral part of the West Bank. Israel annexed this area and included it as part of the Jerusalem municipality, however for years this did not affect the daily life of Palestinians in this area. New streets were built on both sides of the municipal boundary, and schools, health services, and other institutions built on these streets served Palestinians on both sides of the border. Due to the permanent shortage of housing solutions in East Jerusalem – a result of discriminatory planning, the failure to issue building permits, and wide-scale demolition of houses – many Palestinians holding the status of Jerusalem residents lived outside the city limits.

    The construction of the Separation Barrier along the municipality’s border completely disrupted the fabric of life that had developed over decades, and led to severe infringement of the human rights of residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the city. East Jerusalem residents who live beyond the Barrier, as well as other Palestinians holding permits to enter East Jerusalem, are permitted to enter the city via just three of the checkpoints located along the Barrier. Checkpoints were set up at the entrances to neighborhoods outside the city limits – such as a-Sheikh Sa’ed and a-Nu’man – and restricted their residents’ access to Jerusalem. Residents of these neighborhoods have to spend much of their time waiting in long lines at the checkpoints, which limit their access to health and education services and to their jobs.

    The route of the barrier leaves two large Palestinian neighborhoods – Kafr ‘Aqab and the Shu’afat refugee camp – physically cut off from the city, so their residents have to undergo security checks every time they leave their neighborhood and go to other parts of the city. Residents of the Shu’afat refugee camp can only reach the rest of the city via the checkpoint at the main entrance to the camp. In December 2011, this checkpoint was replaced by a large terminal, like those separating the West Bank from Israel.

    Since the Barrier was built, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Police have shirked their responsibilities for life in the camp: drug crimes are rampant, and uncontrolled construction is widespread. The municipality makes no effort to regulate building in the community to meet the residents’ needs.

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  • .5

    Al-Walajah: Choked by the Barrier

    Separation wall built alongside villagers’ homes in al-Walajah. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B’Tselem, 5 November 2010

    In August 2011, Israel's High Court of Justice approved the route of the Barrier in the section that encircles the built-up area of al-Walajah, a Palestinian village in southwest Jerusalem. The Barrier – in this case a concrete wall nine meters high and 700 meters long – will sever the village from hundreds of dunams of village farmland. Only one opening will be left for exiting the village, on the road leading to Beit Jala.

    Israel expropriated half of the village’s land to build the settlements of Har Gilo, which lies adjacent to the village, and Gilo, which is in land annexed to Israel and included in the Jerusalem municipal boundaries. One-third of the village’s land was annexed to Jerusalem in 1967.

    The route of the Separation Barrier in the area, which runs entirely in the West Bank, has been changed a number of times over the years. The original plan placed the village on the western side of the Barrier, detaching the village from the Bethlehem District, to which the villagers belong and from which they receive their services. Later, the defense establishment changed it, setting a winding route running around the built-up area of the village, separating it from the hundreds of dunams of village farmland, from the spring the farmers used for irrigating their crops, and from the village’s old cemetery.

    Israel began to build the Barrier around the village in early 2010. Residents of the village petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice challenging the legality of military orders seizing their land. In December 2010, after most of the village’s built-up area had already been surrounded with a wall, the Court froze additional construction of the Barrier.

    Completion of the Barrier will make development of the village impossible because it runs close to the houses. Also, the earthwork and construction have caused serious damage to the Emek Refaim reserve – including the 1,500 year-old agricultural terraces, some of which were being cultivated by residents of the village who have now suffered a blow to their source of income. Once the Barrier is completed, villagers wanting to reach their land will need to obtain permits from the Civil Administration to cross the Barrier. Based on the experience in other areas of the West Bank, the Civil Administration gives permits sparingly to farmers and only for short periods of time. As a result, many people with land on the other side of the Separation Barrier have been compelled to abandon these lands and have lost their source of livelihood.

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