Israel Inflicts Collective Punishment Against 3 Million Palestinians

Israel Inflicts Collective Punishment Against 3 Million Palestinians

The Israeli (War) Minster Shaul Mofaz; imposed movement restrictions against 3 million Palestinians living in occupied West Bank territory in retaliation to a shooting incident near the Israeli illegally established Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which ended with three Israeli settlers dead. The Israeli (offensive) Army reinstalled much of the roadblocks that were removed during the course of last year throughout the West Bank; a step came in parallel to that taken on the political level by Israel39;s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to freeze all talks with the Palestinians for the time being.

On the other hand, both Sharon and Mofaz underwent a massive wave of criticisms set by the Gush Etzion regional council and the council of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria & Gaza for opening road 60 (along which the shooting took place) for Palestinian travel. It should be indicated that road 60 is not an Israeli creation but in fact a road that existed (constructed and used by Palestinians) long before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and naturally long before the illegal establishment of Gush Etzion settlements bloc. Another issue to consider is that Israel is obstructing movement on the only available route to nearly 800,000 Palestinians living in Hebron and Bethlehem districts only to facilitate the movement to nearly 75,000 Israeli settlers living in the Gush Etzion bloc (illegally established under international law).

Beit Jala DCO checkpoint was reinstalled on the 16th of October, 2005 by the Israeli occupation forces. This checkpoint is located on the western entrance to Beit Jala, which has become the main road leading to Bethlehem region. Residents of the western rural villages of Al Walaja, Battir, Husan, Nahalin and Wad Fuqin (population 25000) use this entrance to access services in Bethlehem region.

Moreover, the restriction of use of private vehicles on these roads have had only more expanses to add to the financial burdens of the Palestinians who are forced to use several means of public transportation to get to their destination or to move agricultural products or other commodities.

Separate Road System: Apartheid Resurrected

When Israel started putting up the Segregation Wall in the West Bank, the Israeli Army devised a plan to construct a 500 Km road system throughout the West Bank to be used by Palestinians as opposed to the existing one to separate Palestinian traffic from settlements clusters and settler39;s transportation routes. Naturally, Israel had no consideration for the well-being of the indigenous Palestinians who has been using these same roads longer than the time when the Israeli settlers intrude onto their lives. The impact of this mutilation is enormous to the lives of the Palestinians who will face yet another addition to the Israeli apartheid system on their way of live after the Segregation Wall. This will further contribute to the Israeli plan to shatter the Palestinian territory into isolated and cut off communities from one another. The following map illustrates the Israeli proposed 500 Km alternative road system in the West Bank. See Map 1

Israeli Bypass Roads System is the Core Issue  

The Israeli proposed 500 Km alternative road system in the West Bank is in fact a supplementary part of the bypass roads system. The concept itself came hand in hand with the gradual development of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory to serve Israeli settlers.

The most straightforward explanation of this system was detailed in Israel39;s Settlement Master Plan for 1983-1986. The Settlement Master Plan explains that: 39;The road is the factor that motivates settlement in areas where settlement is important, and its [road] advancement will lead to development and demand.39;. The explains that: 39;The road is the factor that motivates settlement in areas where settlement is important, and its [road] advancement will lead to development and demand.39;. See Map 2  

Today the bypass road system extend along 734 Km; linking every illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory together and with Israel, thus allowing settlers to move freely between the West bank and Israel without having to enter any Palestinian towns or villages and even though the bypass roads are built on Palestinians seized lands, they are often restricted and at some areas denied the use of these roads. The bypass roads have also served more strategic purpose other than to grant Israeli settlers easy access through out the occupied territory, it also intended to impose geographical and physical limitation around Palestinian towns and villages to hinder further expansion of these towns and villages39; built-up areas. Furthermore, the bypass roads have contributed equally to disrupt traditional linkages between Palestinian communities thus shattering the West Bank into 64 separate cantons.

It is a Collective Punishment & Apartheid System

During the past 38 years of occupation, Israel practiced all kinds of harsh practices to humiliate Palestinians, violating in the process international and humanitarian laws particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Israel has illegally practiced confinement and restriction laws during its ongoing occupation since 1967 as a mean of collective punishment, a practice widely condemned and prohibited under international law. The Israeli occupation forces have introduced checkpoints and barriers at major and secondary roads throughout the West Bank. These are meant to impede Palestinian travel out of the immediate area of their residence or work and prohibit access to Israeli bypass roads.  As a result, Palestinian travel has been limited to walking or taking taxis from one barrier to the next. 

December 2004 witnessed the peak of the Israeli implanted obstacles and barriers in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the number of barriers reached to 768 distributed according to the following classification. 

BarriersClassification Number
Guarded Israeli military checkpoints 84
Trenches on village & towns boundaries 58
Earth mounds in and around urbanized areas 464
With authorized permits to enter or exit the area 34
Israeli Army gates 33
Total 768

Source: ARIJ Database 2005

To the Palestinians, these barriers and especially the checkpoints represents a nightmare and as they experience all kinds of abuse and humiliation going through them, under the rain or under the burning sun, the long hours of waiting before emigrant soldier wave with his hand for them to go through the checkpoint is an experience of its own. All this constitutes under international law a form of collective punishment that is widely used by the Israeli Army against Palestinians.

Restricted roads and checkpoints under the International Laws and Human Rights

There is a wide array of international human rights principles which can be applied to the functioning of Israeli checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Israeli checkpoints violate the right to freedom of movement, the right to healthcare, the right to education, the right to religious freedom, the right to work, the right to food and water, the right to freedom from collective punishment, and other basic human rights.  These rights are covered under various international treaties and covenants.

Freedom of Movement is protected by Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states: 39;Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.39; Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 also strictly prohibits the occupying power from initiating 39;violence to life and person39; and 39;outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment39;.

In the OPT, other rights are contingent upon freedom of movement and also protected in their own right.  For instance, the right of access to healthcare is protected by Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the right to education is protected under Article 12 of the ICESCR and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); the right to freedom of religion is protected under Article 18 of the ICCPR; the right to work is protected under Article 6 of the ICESCR; the right to food and water is protected under Article 11 of the ICESCR and Article 26 of the UDHR; and other rights also fall under various aspects of human rights law.  Israel39;s checkpoints, however, seriously impede, hinder and often explicitly prevent the implementation of these rights and the provisions of the international human rights laws which protect them. 

To conclude,

The checkpoints and Israel39;s closure policy are often used as a means of enforcing collective punishment on the inhabitants of a certain area, or even the entire population of the OPT.  The restrictions placed upon access to certain parts of the Gaza Strip or certain cities in the West Bank, such as Nablus, are clearly intended to target the civilian residents of these areas. The use of collective punishment is strictly forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33 which states: 39;No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. . .  Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited. 

In light of the Israeli constant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention particularly the illegal use of collective punishment, the high contracting parties of the convention are obligated to make sure that the covenant is honored at all time as stated in Article 1 39;The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances39;. Israel, being a member of the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, has a responsibility to abide by its rules and obligations and other contracting parties have a responsibility to see that the rules and obligations are followed through.


[1] Master Plan For Settlement of Samaria and Judea, Plan for Development of the Area for 1983-1986.Jerusalem: Ministry of Agriculture and Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, 1983 (pg 27).

[2]  This right is also protected under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[3]  The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 3, Sections (a) and (c). 

[4]  For further analysis of Israeli travel restrictions in the OPT and international law, see the report: 39;Forbidden Roads: The Discriminatory Road Regime in the West Bank.' B39;Tselem, 2004 (

[5] Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.



Prepared By  
The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem

Categories: Closure