The Forbidden Road Regime in the West Bank - An Apartheid Practice

Published: 
9 Aug 2004

B'Tselem issues a new report today: "The Forbidden Roads: The Discriminatory West Bank Road Regime". In its new report, B'Tselem finds that:

  • Israel restricts Palestinian travel on forty-one roads and sections of roads throughout the West Bank, totaling more than 700 kilometers of roadway (the report includes a detailed map of the Forbidden Roads Regime).

  • B'Tselem has divided the Forbidden Roads Regime into three categories of roads: "sterile roads" where Palestinian traffic is completely prohibited, roads where Palestinians require special permits, and roads with restricted access. The regime applies only to Palestinians. Israeli vehicles are allowed to travel freely along these roadways.

  • Permits for Palestinians to travel on restricted roads are issued at the sole discretion of the Israeli security establishment. Rejections are given verbally and without explanation. According to the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Ilan Paz, "There are no definitive clear criteria for examining requests for a permit."

  • The Forbidden Roads Regime has been in operation for years, but the rules and regulations for its implementation have never been issued in writing. Thus, Israel frees itself of accountability and increases the arbitrariness with which it enforces the regime.

  • The Forbidden Roads Regime operates under the premise that every Palestinian is a security risk. Based on this premise, the Roads Regime violates the rights to freedom of movement and to equality of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel has an obligation to safeguard the lives of its citizens. But this obligation does not allow it to cause such harsh, extensive, indiscriminate, and prolonged harm to the local population.

By unlawfully discriminating against Palestinians based on their national origin, the Forbidden Roads Regime is reminiscent of the apartheid system that existed in South Africa. The regime violates fundamental principles of international law that are binding on the State of Israel.

B'Tselem demands that the government of Israel immediately end the Forbidden Roads Regime and that it respect the right of Palestinians to move freely on all roads inside the West Bank.