Israel's Separation Wall: A Health Hazard - by Stephen Lendman
In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled the Separation Wall illegal, saying its route inside the West Bank, and associated gate and permit system, violated Israel's obligations under international law, ordering the completed sections dismantled, and "all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto" repealed or rendered "ineffective forthwith."
The ICJ also mandated reparations for the "requisition and destruction of homes, businesses, and agricultural holdings (and) to return the land, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized," obligating member states to reject the illegal construction and demand Israel comply with international law.
Most nations ignored the ruling. Israel defied it and continued building, now 61% finished, another 8% under construction, and the remaining 31% planned but not begun. When completed, its expected to be over 800 km, twice the length of the Green Line, four times as long as the Berlin Wall, and in some places twice as high on about 12% of stolen Palestinian land, its erection devastating the people affected.
Based on its current route, about 33,000 Palestinians with West Bank ID cards in 36 communities will be located between the Wall and the Green Line, in the so-called Seam Zone along with most East Jerusalemites. Another 126,000 in 31 communities will be surrounded on three sides, and 28,000 more in nine communities entirely, with a tunnel or road connection to the West Bank, requiring hard to get permits to access.
In July, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a Special Report titled, "The Impact of the Barrier on Health," especially patient and staff access to East Jerusalem's specialized medical facilities (unavailable in Gaza or the West Bank) because of the Wall's intrusive route and associated permit/gate system.
Restricted Access to Land and Livelihoods
Since October 2003, Palestinians "have been obliged to obtain 'visitor' permits to access" their own Seam Zone farmland, also called a "closed military area," another way Israel confiscates land, a recent military order keeping residents of four villages off their land. Beit Ula's mayor said farmers had to evacuate over five square km and abandon their equipment to make way for Separation Wall construction.
To access any restricted areas, including their own property, Palestinians must submit documents proving a "connection to the land" to satisfy security considerations. Entry, by permit only, is then channelled through official access points, gates or other checkpoints, 57 open daily, seasonally or on a seasonal/weekly basis with unannounced closures possible anytime.
Most open only during olive harvest season, and for limited daytime periods, farmers required to leave by late afternoon or early evening, denied needed time to plough, prune, fertilize, control weeds and pests, harvest, and live freely.
Because of the permit system, the difficulty getting them, the gates and other checkpoints, and limited working hours, agriculture and rural livelihoods have suffered, especially in the northern West Bank from 2006 - mid-2009 where permit issuance "sharply decreased."
In January 2009, "closed area" designation extended south to Ramallah, Hebron, and parts of Salfit, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Previously, farmers only needed ID cards. Now they need permits. For example, 470 Hebron area farmers applied during the 2009 olive harvest season, 100 of them denied, in contrast to 2008 when about 1,500 farmers worked freely.
In the Ramallah governorate, most farmers objected, refusing to apply. As a result, six of 10 gates and checkpoints remain virtually deserted, a similar situation in the Jerusalem area where only seven farmers got permits, the others also refusing.
Lack of Seam Zone Emergency Medical Care
The Wall and gate system affect thousands of farmers and their ability to access medical care any time, especially for emergencies, those at night particularly worrisome when gates are closed until scheduled openings. Further, vehicle restrictions require transportation by horse, mule or tractor, causing delays and long detours over rugged terrain.
Since 2003, about 10,000 northern West Bank residents in closed areas have needed permits to live in their own homes and reach hospitals, health clinics, schools, workplaces, friends and relatives. Doctors, ambulances, mobile teams and other health professionals are also impeded from reaching the sick or injured.