Checkpoints and Closures - Introduction

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives all people the right to freedom of movement within their own country as well as the right to leave it and to return freely. For more than 60 years – and especially since 1967 when Israel illegal occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem – Palestinians have been denied this right.

Since 1967, Israel has implemented a policy of movement restrictions, including checkpoints, man-made earth mounds, trenches, roadblocks, the Apartheid Wall, and an intricate and difficult system of traveling permits. After the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, broke out in 2000, Israel has increased these roadblocks and checkpoints to more than 600. In addition, through its restrictive traveling permit system, many Palestinians are no longer allowed to enter Jerusalem, though they may have been born there or may live just a few minutes away.

Such restrictions on movements have crippled the Palestinian economy. Palestinians often times can’t get to work, particularly if the Apartheid Wall separates them from their place of employment or if their job was in Israel. According to the World Bank, the current recession in the Palestinian economy since 2000 is “among the worst in modern history.” In fact, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reports that the per capita Gross Domestic Product fell 4 percent each year from 2006 to 2008.

The restrictions on movement have severely affected the Palestinians access to medical care. Ambulances and other emergency medical assistance don’t make it passed the checkpoints. Palestinian ambulances are stopped at checkpoints, sometimes for hours. In many cases, patients must leave the Palestinian ambulance, walk across the checkpoint and get into an Israeli ambulance to get to the hospital. Women have given birth at checkpoints and many people have died because of the delays. The Israeli military at checkpoints delayed or denied access to hundreds of ambulances operated by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in 2009, according to that agency’s Humanitarian Duty Report for 2009. In addition to that, people seeking treatment in hospitals in occupied Jerusalem have to apply for travel permits, which are routinely denied. In Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reports more than 360 people have died since 2007 since they could not access medical care as a result of Israel’s illegal siege.

The Apartheid Wall, the hundreds of checkpoints and closures and the blockade on Gaza has made access to a quality education nearly impossible. In the West Bank in 2004, for instance, more than 226,000 children found going to school “impossible, irregular or very difficult,” because of the checkpoints, according to UNICEF. And nearly 78 percent of school children have been absent because checkpoints and gates in the Apartheid Wall were closed, according to “Fragmented Foundations: Education and Chronic Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” by Susan Nicolai.