The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has launched a new report, “Seven years after the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Barrier: The Impact of the Barrier in the Jerusalem area”. This is the fifth year that OCHA has issued a report on the anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Opinion in July 2004. This Advisory Opinion stated that sections of the apartheid wall route which run inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, together with the associated gate and permit regime, violated Israel’s obligations under international law.
This new OCHA report focuses on the impact of the Barrier in the East Jerusalem area, in particular on West Bank communities and households now isolated on the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem side of the Barrier. As Palestinians in these areas have West Bank residency status, they have no right (according to Israel’s residency laws) to live in the Jerusalem municipal area. They are forced to cross checkpoints to access educational and health services, and even to do their shopping. Their family members from the West Bank cannot visit them unless they obtain Jerusalem entry permits from the Israeli occupation authorities.
The report also highlighted the impact of the Barrier Wall on Palestinian farmers, whose access to their land in the so-called ‘Seam Zone’ behind the Wall is severely limited. These farmers depend on Israeli-issued permits to access their land through gates which are only open for limited periods. This policy is devastating agricultural livelihoods throughout the West Bank.
The Report calls on the Israeli authorities to abide by the ICJ advisory opinion by ceasing construction of the Barrier, to reroute constructed sections to the Green (Armistice) Line, to dismantle sections of the Barrier already completed, and to repeal the gate and permit regime. Only then will Palestinian communities cut off by the Barrier be able to exercise their rights to freedom of movement, work, education, health and enjoy an adequate standard of living.
Welcoming the UN OCHA Report, a London-based commentator pointed out that only when the whole Israeli occupation is dismantled will Palestinians be truly free and able “to exercise their rights to freedom of movement…” as envisaged by the Report’s authors.