A report compiled by the United Nation Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed a new social and economic reality that has emerged in the last year for Palestinians in the West Bank: that they have been imprisoned in separate enclaves, or ‘ghettos’, surrounded by the Wall and unable to move.
Says the report summary, "It is important to note that had the Barrier in the West Bank been constructed on the Green Line, this report would be unnecessary. Concerned that Palestinian livelihoods and access to essential services would be harmed by the construction of the West Bank Barrier, the international donor community – through the Humanitarian Emergency Policy Group (HEPG) – requested regular updates on the humanitarian impact of the Barrier. The HEPG comprises the European Commission and the EU President, the World Bank, USAID, Norway and UNSCO."
The study concluded that in fact the Wall does have an extremely harmful impact on Palestinians living in the West Bank. Hundreds of exits from Palestinian communities to main and regional roads are blocked. Traffic among the enclaves is directed to secondary roads and a small number of main roads passing through Israel Army-controlled checkpoints. Entry to the Jordan Valley (in the east), Palestinian East Jerusalem and to various enclaves caught between the separation fence and the Green Line is barred to all Palestinians except those registered as residents of those areas. To enter such areas, special authorization to "non-residents" must be obtained, and it is rarely given.
Palestinians are not allowed to drive their cars between the northern and southern West Bank (through the Abu Dis checkpoint east of Jerusalem). Private vehicular traffic to and from Nablus is prohibited. Passage by car through the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem is limited to bearers of Jerusalem residency cards, in cars with Israeli license plates. At the Zaatara checkpoint south of Nablus entry is frequently denied to all south-bound residents of the northern West Bank as part of the Israeli "differentiation" policy.
Palestinian farmers are losing large swaths of farmland, as Israel seizes the land by constructing the Annexation Wall as deep as 20 kilometers inside the border of the West Bank. Farmers have suffered tremendously from the Israeli annexation of land and destruction of water sources and orchards over the last several years. Over 1 million olive trees, the main source of livelihood for many Palestinian farmers, have been uprooted by Israeli soldiers and settlers, often with no reason given except ‘security reasons’.
The report disclosed a number of old laws which are selectively enforced – not enforced in Israeli areas, only in the militarily-occupied Palestinian land. One is the ‘law of land’ mandated in the Othman era, in which land not registered and being cultivated for three consecutive years is liable to be marked as "state land", immediately enabling Israel to expropriate the land.
"Large swaths of land located in the closed areas were categorized by Israel as state lands and consequently could be expropriated," OCHA’s report said. Another law, not described in the report, that has been enforced arbitrarily on Palestinians is the ‘absentee property’ law, which has been used extensively to seize the homes of Palestinians who hold Palestinian West Bank ID cards, and thus have been kept from their homes in East Jerusalem. After several years of keeping the Palestinian owner away from their home, the Israeli authorities declare the owner ‘absentee’, and seize the home and land for Israel.
The report continued, "Most Palestinians in the West Bank are barred access to the closed off areas of the West Bank…Palestinians who live east of the wall are finding it increasingly impossible to reach their farmlands in the closed areas."
The UN study also reported that the farmlands in the closed areas became less productive as they have not been planted due to the owner’s lack of access to the land. Furthermore, due to the restrictions, a number of farmers have turned to crops that take less care, like wheat, instead of the time and labor-intensive (but much more profitable) production of tomato and cucumber.
The report added that productivity has been affected by the lack of regularity of gate-opening times for farmers: "In October 2005, the Israeli army in Tulkarem, Qalqilia, and Salfit districts opened 21 wall gates out of 42 for the Palestinians holding permits. Usually the gates that do open are relatively far away from the farmlands due to the closure of roads by Israeli forces, compelling the farmers to travel long distances to their land."
The per capita GDP for Palestiniands has dipped by about 30 percent since 1999, according to the World Bank. The fact that the Palestinian economy is functioning well below its potential, according to the World Bank, is first and foremost the result of restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
The economist Hisham Awartani believes that limitations of Palestinian traffic has raised the cost of the transport of goods and raw materials five-fold. The relay of goods back-to-back in Nablus and Ramallah, long waits at internal checkpoints and travel on poor, bumpy roads damages goods and agricultural produce. In a meeting two weeks ago between Palestinian business people and World Bank representative David Craig and diplomats, Awartani said the restrictions were impairing the competitive edge of Palestinian manufacturers and farmers.
According to Awartani, Palestinian export to Israel is 50 percent below its 2000 rate. Israeli import to the Palestinian areas has fallen by about 34 percent since 2000 because of the decline in Palestinian buying power. According to the World Bank, in the first third of 2005, unemployment in the Palestinian Authority was 23 percent (20 percent in Gaza and 29 percent in the West Bank) – more than double the rate before the intifada. Joblessness in the 20-24 age group was 35 percent, with 43 percent of the population below the poverty line. The unemployment and poverty rates are even higher in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the most crowded place on earth, whose borders are completely controlled by Israel.
The West Bank’s "new border", as described by acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is currently being unilaterally imposed by Israel along the line of the Annexation Wall — thus annexing 20% of the Palestinian land in the West Bank, and surrounding the rest in ‘ghettos’ enclosed by the 20-meter high Wall.