Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

item 7

Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Claims

Claim 14: Israel restricts the movement of Palestinians

examples

Turkey, 45th Session

“The oppression by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues unabated…movement restrictions remain as daily practices in the Occupied Territories.”

Syria, 45th Session

“[Syria] demands an end to the barbaric practices committed by the occupation army and Israeli settlers, including…the imposition of restrictions on the movement of goods and people, the closure of crossings…”

Palestine, 45th Session

“The occupation forces and settlers are continuing and increasing their attacks against the civilian population, by…imposing restrictions on movement…”

Our Response

UN Watch

Free movement of Palestinians was the norm before suicide terrorism. Until the First Intifada in the late 1980s, Palestinians were generally free to travel between the West Bank, Israel and Gaza. The same was true for Israelis who traveled to the West Bank for commerce, tourism and to visit Jewish holy sites. However, the burst of suicide bombings in the 1990s and other Palestinian forms of terrorism over time caused Israel to implement certain security measures to protect its citizens. This resulted in restrictions for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis, too, can no longer freely enter Areas A and B of the West Bank.

During the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005, more than 1,000 Israelis were killed and thousands more severely injured by Palestinian terrorists, most of whom had infiltrated Israel from the West Bank. The construction of Israel’s security barrier significantly reduced Israeli fatalities. Before construction on the barrier began, in 2002, 457 Israelis were killed. After the barrier was erected, in 2009, eight Israelis were killed.[1] In the Samaria region of the West Bank, according to MK Avi Dichter, the former head of the Israel Security Agency, the security barrier successfully reduced terrorist attacks by 90%.[2]

Similarly, checkpoints have proven to be an effective tool in thwarting terrorist attacks.[3] It should be noted that security checkpoints are not unique to Israel. Countries such as France[4] and Spain[5] have established security checkpoints in response to major terrorist attacks, as have other countries engaged in conflict.[6] Many countries have also instituted checkpoints to enforce coronavirus lockdowns.[7]

Unfortunately, Palestinian terrorism has never stopped and the checkpoints and other restrictions are still necessary to protect Israelis. While the measures do inconvenience many innocent Palestinians passing through, they save lives. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said it thwarted at least 560 terror attacks in 2019, an astonishing figure that illustrates the threat.[8]

Apart from the checkpoints, Israel administers 13 border crossings with the West Bank. These operate like any other border crossing terminal anywhere in the world, with security and identity checks, and of course involve some waiting time. Like every other sovereign state, Israel has no legal obligation to allow Palestinians, who are non-citizens, to freely enter its territory. Israel has the right to control who enters its territory and under what conditions, e.g., the length of the stay, activities permitted during the stay, or whether to require a permit.

Nevertheless, Israel has an interest in maintaining calm and improving the economic situation of the Palestinians. Accordingly, in the last number of years, Israel invested more than $85 million to upgrade the technology at nearly all of these crossings, in order to streamline the process and reduce waiting times.[9] The improvements at the traffic-heavy Qalandiya crossing, which were completed in April 2019, reduced the waiting time from approximately one hour to a few minutes.[10] According to Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), in the second half of 2020, an average of around 250,000 West Bank Palestinians entered Israel weekly.[11]

Notably, while it is not mentioned at the UNHRC, Israel is not the only country to control the entry of Palestinians into its territory. Egypt operates the Rafah crossing from the Gaza Strip to the Sinai, which is heavily restricted and often closed.[12]

[1] Mitchell Bard, West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon Security Barriers: Background and Overview, Jewish Virtual Library (last visited December 24, 2020), https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-of-israel-s-security-fence.

[2] Avi Dicter and Daniel L. Byman, Israel’s Lessons For Fighting Terrorists And Their Implications For The United States, Brookings Institution (March 8, 2006), https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/byman20060324.pdf.

[3] Id.

[4] Paris attacks suspect ‘got past three police checkpoints,’ France24 (December 20, 2015), https://www.france24.com/en/20151220-paris-attacks-suspect-salah-abdeslam-police-checks-hamza-attou.

[5] Jonathan Watts and Stephen Burgen, Police extend hunt for Barcelona attack suspect across Europe, Guardian (August 21, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/20/spain-attacks-king-joins-public-at-mass-for-victims-in-barcelona.

[6] See, e.g., Iraq 2020 Crime & Safety Report: Baghdad, OSAC (May 12, 2020) (concerning checkpoints in Iraq), https://www.osac.gov/Country/Iraq/Content/Detail/Report/0352cf01-82a2-41e8-b2ce-18aa92be0ab9; Afghan forces killed as Taliban attacks checkpoints: Gov’t, Al Jazeera (March 30, 2020) (concerning checkpoints in Afghanistan), https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/3/30/afghan-forces-killed-as-taliban-attacks-checkpoints-govt; Turkey has developed 73 checkpoints in southeast provinces since 2015 – report, Ahval (July 5, 2019) (concerning checkpoints in Turkey), https://ahvalnews.com/kurds-turkey/turkey-has-developed-73-checkpoints-southeast-provinces-2015-report.

[7] Oliver Holmes and agencies, Three killed in Gaza after explosions at  two police checkpoints, Guardian (August 28, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/28/gaza-explosions-hamas-police-checkpoints.

[8] Yoav Zitun and Itamar Eichner, Israel foiled 560 ‘significant’ terror attacks in 2019, says head of intel agency, Ynet (January 20, 2020), https://www.ynetnews.com/article/H1YwYUQZI.

[9] Ilan Ben Zion, Israel invests in high-tech upgrades at West Bank crossings, Associated Press (July 29, 2019), https://apnews.com/article/705e2ffbea5342bc96d3fe88e307c24f#:~:text=Israel’s%20Defense%20Ministry%20poured%20over,by%20improving%20conditions%20for%20Palestinians.

[10] Adam Rasgon, Israel opens new Qalandiya checkpoint, phasing out inadequate crossing, Times of Israel (April 25, 2019), https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-opens-new-qalandiya-checkpoint-phasing-out-inadequate-crossing/.

[11] Movements in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, COGAT (last visited December 24, 2020), https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/faq/movements.

[12] Adam Rasgon, Hamas-run Gaza government shuts Egypt crossing to travelers amid virus crisis, Times of Israel (March 15, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-run-gaza-government-shuts-egypt-crossing-to-travelers-amid-virus-crisis/; Nidal al-Mughrabi, Egypt limits Gaza passage after Palestinian Authority quits border crossing, Reuters (January 8, 2019), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-gaza-egypt-idUSKCN1P21AJ.

UN Watch