Restrictions on movement

Page last updated 23 Oct 2015


Since the occupation began in 1967, Palestinians now living in the Occupied Territories have experienced high levels of restrictions on their movement and this has intensified and worsened in recent years. Physical restrictions including the Wall, road blocks and checkpoints are strengthened by bureaucratic restrictions such as the obligatory military-issued permits which Palestinians are required to have in order to move between East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, or to travel abroad. This further perpetuates the segregation in Israeli society and the structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) produces regular reports on the situation. And Israel continues to this day to control the Palestinian population registry, with devastating consequences for where many Palestinians are allowed to live.

Control of Palestinian movement has been a feature of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory since its inception in 1967.  However, over the last 14 years the draconian system of movement controls used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory has become increasingly institutionalized and restrictive.  The permit system put in place in the early 1990s which requires that all Palestinians obtain military issued permits to move between the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem or to travel abroad is now complemented by a permanent system of roadblocks, gates, checkpoints, the Wall and other obstacles to movement in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza blockade.

“Taken together all of these factors contribute to forced displacement, severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water and basic services including health care and education, and perpetuate a system of segregation and legal and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis.  Understanding how Palestinian’s freedom of movement is restricted is important to understanding the severe impact of Israel’s occupation on average Palestinians.

The American Friends Service Committee puts it like this (see ref 2 below)

See also the section on ‘House Demolitions, Forced Displacement and Residency Rights’


Organisations, Articles and Analyses

1. Machsom Watch

Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch was founded in January 2001 in response to repeated reports in the press about human rights abuses of Palestinians crossing army and border police checkpoints. It produces weekly updates on the situation at the checkpoints.


2. Restricted Movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
The American Friends Service Committee, late 2012?

The AFSC gives a detailed historical account of the progression of restrictions put on Palestinian movements and answers the following questions:

* When did Israel first begin restricting Palestinian movement?
* Has Israel eased movement restrictions in the West Bank over the last several years?
* How does the Wall impact Palestinians’ Freedom of Movement?
* Are Jerusalem residents able to move freely?
* How is movement restricted in Gaza?
* What is the impact of the blockade on people in Gaza?
* Since the Israeli military’s redeployment of its forces outside of Gaza, are there any restrictions on movement in Gaza?
* How are corporations complicit in helping Israel restrict Palestinians freedom of movement?
* What can you do?


3. The Humanitarian Impact of Restrictions on Movement
OCHA, Jul 2013

As this report details, the restrictions on Palestinians’ movements detrimentally affects and undermines their living conditions and hugely damages the Palestinian economy, as a result further deteriorating essential services and infrastructure.


4. Who Controls the Palestinian Population Registry?
Gisha, Gaza Gateway, 11 Nov 2010

It is not often appreciated that the Palestinian Population Register is under Israeli military control. Where people are allowed to reside – not just in Gaza or the West Bank, but even changing residence in the West Bank is under Israeli control. And permission to change is not generally given…


5. Forget about Him, He’s Not Here
Human Rights Watch, 5 Feb 2012

This 90-page report describes the arbitrary exclusion by the Israeli military of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since 1967 and documents the impact that exclusion continues to have on individuals and families. The way Israel’s military has exercised its control over the Palestinian population registry – the list of Palestinians whom it considers to be lawful residents of the West Bank and Gaza territories – has separated families, caused people to lose jobs and educational opportunities, barred people from entering the Palestinian territories, and trapped others inside them. Egypt also has problematic policies on Palestinians trying to enter Gaza that are based on the Israeli-controlled population registry.


6. Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction (this link does work despite the strikethrough)
Andrew Stimson, WRMEA, Aug 2013

A review of Nadia Abu-Zahra & Adah Kay, Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction, Pluto 2012

For centuries, population registries, identity documents and movement restrictions have been tools of repressive states and empires. In historical context, Israel’s long history of Palestinian denationalisation is not unique as Abu-Zahra & Kay show.

This book illuminates the byzantine maze of permits and policies Palestinains are subjected to, and their effect on everything from architecture, health, education, employment, agriculture, the economy, and even family life. By 2012, over 100 kinds of permits governed Palestinian movement. There are permits required for worshippers attending Friday prayers in Jerusalem and separate forms for attending clerics. A plethora of medical permits distinguish among ambulance drivers, doctors and medical emergency staff, as well as those escorting patients by ambulance and those simply escorting patients. Permits for traveling to a wedding in the West Bank differ from those allowing visits for weddings in Israel, or a funeral, or a work meeting or a court hearing. Palestinians are subject to a constantly shifting regime of rules and orders…


7. Territorial Fragmentation of the West Bank  and West Bank Closure Count and Analysis
OCHA, May & Sep 2006

These two reports, although dated, give a flavour of the detailed, daily intervention in and control over Palestinian daily life exercised by the Israeli military authorities, fragmenting the areas in which people are allowed to move without controls and showing how checkpoints, roadblocks and permits are arbitrarily shifted and changed.


Contents of this section


a) Maps of the occupation
b) Occupation and the Fourth Geneva Convention

Israel’s human rights violations – an introduction
Settlement building and land issues
Restrictions on movement
House demolitions, forced displacement, denial of residency rights
The Wall
The Green Line
The economics of the occupation

c) Gaza under occupation
d) Living under occupation

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