Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Checkpoint West Bank

Many know of the restrictions imposed on Gaza but ovement and life in the West Bank are also governed by the Israeli security apparatus, which has set up hundreds of checkpoints, gates, artificial barriers, forbidden and segregated roads and of course, the 700km wall. 

As of January 2017, there were 59 permanent checkpoints within the West Bank and 39 on its periphery to control the movement of people in and out of it. Then there are the "flying checkpoints", which the Israeli military sets up temporarily on any given Palestinian road. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), there were some 4,924 flying checkpoints on West Bank roads between January 2017 and July 2018 alone. Checkpoints are arbitrarily opened and closed to control Palestinian movement. There is never an official reason given, but most of the time it is to facilitate traffic for Israeli settlers in the area,

One World Bank paper estimated that placing one checkpoint a minute away from a town decreases employability of a Palestinian resident by 0.5 percent and his/her hourly wage by 5.2 percent. The combined impact of all checkpoints in 2007 in the West Bank was a loss of $229m or six percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in that year. Another World Bank study found that all these restrictions cost the local economy $3.4bn, or 35 percent of the GDP in 2011. And - if you're wondering - the combined cost of all deleterious aspects of the Israeli occupation cost Palestinians $9.46bn (that was 74 percent of Palestinian GDP in 2014).
Palestinians are barred from entering or using land (even if it's theirs) within the so-called Area C - a territory outlined in the Oslo Accords where most illegal Israeli settlements are located and which constitutes about 61 percent of the West Bank. For example, 270 of the entire 291 hectares that belong to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin near Bethlehem are designated as Area C. Palestinians who live there rely almost entirely on agriculture for their livelihood and struggle on a daily basis to access their lands. In fact, they have to get an Israeli permit to go work their land. 
Palestinians need one in order to leave the West Bank. Those are mainly given to people in important positions (big businessmen and politicians) who have the right financial records or political credentials and to poorer Palestinians, who provide Israelis with much-needed cheap labour, especially in the construction business. The rest of the Palestinian population can only leave if they are issued a permit for medical or family reasons - and those are rare and easily revoked.
In the West Bank, you regularly run into people who have never entered Jerusalem, despite living less than an hour away. You would also meet many Palestinians who hold American or European passports, are able to travel most of the world without a visa, but find it impossible to get a permit to visit Jaffa, for example, which is just 20km away. The reason being that the Israeli authorities know they have Palestinian IDs, so they block them from entering
But controlling Palestinian movement through checkpoints and other barriers is not enough for the Israelis, so they have taken to constructing alternative roads for us. There are, of course, al-Mu'arajat and Wadi al-Nar "highways", connecting the north to the Jordan Valley and the south of the West Bank respectively, and now there is the newly opened Route 4370, commonly known as "apartheid road", which connects the villages of Anata and Azzayim and which has a high concrete wall separating Jewish drivers from the Palestinian ones. All of the above-mentioned byways are designed to keep Palestinians off Israeli roads that cut through the West Bank, such as Highway 1 and Highway 60.

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