The Wall

Page last updated 25 Sep 2015


In June 2002, the government of Israel approved the first stage of a physical barrier that will separate the West Bank and Israel. The official reason for the decision was the wave of suicide attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israeli citizens in the preceding months. Over the next three years, the government and the Political-Security Cabinet approved additional stages of the barrier, as well as changes in the route in previously approved sections. In accordance with the government’s decision in February 2005, the barrier was expected to be 680 kilometers in length…

Officially, the purpose of the barrier is to prevent attacks, by means of a physical separation between the West Bank and Israel. However, only some twenty percent of the barrier’s route will run along the border between them, the Green Line. As a result, more than 530,000 dunams [4 dunams = 1 acre], which represents 9.5 percent of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), will ultimately be situated between the barrier and the Green Line. This area contains twenty-one Palestinian villages, which are home to more than 30,000 residents, and some 200,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli identity cards and live in East Jerusalem. After the barrier is constructed, all of these people will be separated from the West Bank. In addition, as a result of its winding route, the barrier will surround on at least three sides fifty more Palestinian villages, in which 244,000 persons live, that lie on the “Palestinian” side of the barrier.

Where the sections of the barrier have been completed, the barrier severely violates the human rights of Palestinians living near the route, in large part because of restrictions on freedom of movement. Thousands of families living east of the barrier are separated from their farmland situated west of the barrier, impairing their ability to earn a living. The barrier makes it difficult for residents of villages situated between the barrier and the Green Line, and residents of the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem, to obtain health services, obtain an education, and maintain family and social ties as they did in the past. In most cases, the barrier’s route runs right alongside the village’s built-up area, and often surrounds the village on three sides, blocking any possibility of urban development and breaching the residents’ planning rights. Finally, construction of the barrier severely impinges the right of property: it limits access to private property, and the construction itself entails the taking of tens of thousands of dunams of private land and the destruction of agricultural property, such as trees, greenhouses, and irrigation systems.

The barrier’s penetration into the West Bank, which is the cause of most of the human rights violations, occurred mostly in areas in which Israeli settlements are located, leaving them on the “Israeli” side of the barrier. The route approved by the government in February 2005 leaves sixty settlements (twelve of them in East Jerusalem) west of the barrier, separated from the rest of the West Bank and contiguous with the State of Israel…

While Israel officially contends that the objective underlying the inclusion of these sixty settlements on the “Israeli” side of the barrier is to protect the settlers’ lives, senior government officials have broadly hinted that the real purpose is to prepare the land for annexation by Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for example, said in an interview that the “settlement blocs”, which will be located on the western side of the separation barrier, “will be part of the State of Israel, contiguous with Israel, with many more people”.

It is quite clear that expansion plans of settlements remaining on the “Israeli” side of the barrier have played a significant role in determining the route. Detailed study of how the route was determined around a number of settlements showed clear discrepancies between the security considerations Israel purportedly relied on in setting the route, and the reasons relating to expansion of the settlements. Indeed, security issues have weighed so little that by July 2012, construction of the barrier was still only 62 percent complete.

[This draws heavily on a report prepared by B’Tselem and Bimkom (Planners for Planning Rights), Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank, Dec 2005]

In 2004 at the request of the United Nations General Assembly the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on the legality of the Wall and indeed of the settlements. It was unambiguous that the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opion ruling that the barrier was illegal, that by building it Israel was in breach of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments, and that it should be removed and reparation made for all damage caused by its construction.

Villages affected by the Wall have seen some of the most-enduring attempts at non-violent resistance by the local Palesinians, supported by many radical Israelis who have regularly joined the weekly protests at Bil’in, Nil’in, Budrus and elsewhere. (See section on Palestinian non-violent resistance)


land grab_znet_nick watson

nick watson, znet


Reports and articles (mainly contemporary critiques)

1. Separation Barrier
B’tselem, 1 Jan 2011

A relatively recent update on the situation regarding the Wall


2. Israel’s Wall in the West Bank
Vermonters for a Just Peace. c.2005 ?

A website providing a series of images and maps of the wall and its route


3. On the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the Wall, 2004

B’tselem, Opinion of the International Court of Justice

BBC, West Bank barrier ruling: Key points


4. Special report on the West Bank security barrier
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 15 July 2003


5. Behind The Barrier: Human Rights Violations As a Result of Israel’s Separation Barrier
B’Tselem, April 2003


6. Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank
B’Tselem and Bimkom (Planners for Planning Rights), Dec 2005


7. About a Wall
Glenn Bowman, Social Analysis 48:1 spring 2004

A contemporary article, but still highly relevant today, asking just what it was that Israel wanted from the Wall. “Like the United States…Israel has, with its victories over the antagonisms against which it established itself, become unrestrained in its will to sovereign power both within and beyond its borders.”


8. Barbed-wire Screen, Smoke Screen
B. Michael, Yedioth Ahronoth, 31 October 2003
Trans. Tal Haran.

An astonishing indictment by veteran Israeli journalist in his weekly column in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely-read evening paper.

‘A lot of “separating” can be achieved with 3,000 km (2,000 miles) of barbed-wire: separating livestock from its owners, olives from their harvesters, vines from their pickers, a doctor from his patients, a worker from his place of work, a teacher from his students. Especially the farmer from his land. One kind of separation will not be obtained by the thousands of barbed kilometers: Separating the suicide-bomber from his victims.’


9. Israel’s concrete plan to choke Bethlehem
Gerald Kaufman, The Times, 14 Oct 2003

“I find it impossible to understand how Jews, who have been persecuted for millennia, can oppress another people in this way.”

For an account of how Kaufman, as a long-time supporter, fell out of love with Israel see The End of an Affair 


10. On Israel’s separation fence
Meron Rappaport, Yedioth Ahronoth, 31 May 2003

“You have to be almost insane to think that somebody uprooted mountains, leveled hills and poured billions here in order to build some temporary security barrier ‘until the permanent borders are decided.’… The moment the work began on the fence last August, everyone understood that this was to be the new border, and those who don’t board the train now, would miss it… For the fence to be effective, they say, it has to be as short and as straight as possible. What is happening is exactly the opposite.”


11. European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP): statements on the Wall and on the Seam Zone, 2003-04

Three statements issued by EJJP viz:

(A) “Peace needs bridges not walls”, 13 Aug 2003
(B) “Want to live here? Not without an Israeli army permit”, Dec 2003
(C) “Statement on the International Court of Justice”, 16 Feb 2004


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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