A report published by the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem) has stated clearly that the Separation Wall built by the Israeli government has caused “unnecessary suffering” to the Palestinian people. The wall, says B’Tselem, has “cut social ties and isolated villages from their farmland and citizens from their livelihoods”.
Large tracts of Palestinian land, reports B’Tselem, have been confiscated by the Israeli government to build the wall. Its route has isolated some Palestinian communities, creating huge economic difficulties.
The B’Tselem report notes that the Separation Wall is part of “a long series of measures adopted by Israel in the West Bank since its occupation in 1967, reducing and restricting the possibilities for Palestinians’ economic development.”
Israel began work on the controversial wall in 2002 for security reasons during the second Intifada, and has defended the need for it on the grounds that the decline in attacks within Israel proves its success. The Palestinians, however, see the wall cutting through their land on which they hope to establish an independent state.
When finished, the wall will be 709 kilometres in length; 85 per cent of it will be built inside the occupied West Bank on Palestinian land.
The International Court of Justice in the Hague announced in a 2004 advisory opinion that “building the barrier within the West Bank is illegal”; the court called for the removal of the parts of the wall built on occupied land.
“The official justification for building the Separation Barrier along an invasive route within the territory of the West Bank was always that it was a temporary security measure. However, at the same time, Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak both said that the Separation Barrier stabilizes the future border of Israel, and the defence establishment already relates to it as a border,” says the B’Tselem report. “Palestinian agricultural and economic activity has decreased in areas once considered stable, and the ability of Palestinian communities to support themselves has been severely eroded.”
B’Tselem called on Israel to “dismantle all the sections [of the wall] already built inside the territory of the West Bank and stop further construction there.”
The human rights organisation added: “If Israel wishes to build a physical obstacle between Israel and the West Bank, as a rule it must do so along the Green Line [the 1948 Armistice Line] or within the sovereign territory of Israel. Even in that case, Israel must avoid building in such a way as to divide and isolate Palestinian communities.”