Freedom of movement in Palestine

For the ones who are lucky enough to have been born in a “developed” country as me, most of the times we are not aware about all the “given for granted” rights we enjoy. As for instance the right to freedom of movement that provides that people are entitled to move freely within the borders of the state, to leave any country and to return to their country.” [1]

It was not until 2007 when I went to live in China, when I realized that I have been enjoying the mobility right all my life. As a measure to control de internal migration to the richest regions of the unequal wealth distributed country, Chinese are restricted to internal movement. Their “hukou” (like an internal passport) registered them in a specific location and basically they do not exist out of it losing their basic rights as, p.e., to education, if they moved to a different location.

Living in Palestine I experience it in a much deeper way.

Going through the 99[2] fixed checkpoints in the West Bank gives you a long time to think over and a lot of rewarding experiences that cannot be found somewhere else.

When you have crossed the same checkpoint several times, you start to recognize the habitual characters, the old woman who holds a man’s picture and stands between the car files cueing to pass the Qalandia check point, the tea seller or the bunch of street peddlers who sell any product you can imagine, from vacuum packed pillows to potatoes or sockets.

There are 2 main types of mobility restrictions: physical and administrative.

In the case of physical restrictions, we find checkpoints, the separation wall[3], roads  which are closed or which cannot be used by certain individuals or vehicles, access forbidden to certain areas, such as “military zones” etc. Special attention has to be paid to Hebrón, whose level of restictions deserves a whole article

The administrative restrictions come in the form of the obligation to get permits. The Palestinians need to have the consent of the State of Israel to travel anywhere beyond their town; to go or live near the wall; to work in Israel or  in the settlements; to import or export goods; to use vehicles in certain roads; to build housing; to invest in business or set up new companies, etc. These limitations result in a huge waste of time and money, which seriously hinders them from leading a normal life.

As the Palestinian society is a patriarchal society with large gender  inequalities, the consequences of these barriers are not fairly distributed and are even more limiting to the Palestinian women: to access health care, the labour market or simple mobility to avoid “putting their reputation at risk” in the event of a body searches at checkpoints.

In practice, that also means segregation as you will face some annoyances to socialize with Palestinians who have not Israeli ID o especial permit; for example it will make impossible to invite them for dinner to my place in Jerusalem or to pick me up in Jerusalem in the logical route from Ramallah to Bethlehem (although according to the international treaties Jerusalmen is considered “international territory” , in practice is treated as area C under the administrative and military control of Israel).

All those restrictions to the entire population based on national origin that come to perpetuate the never-ending conflict are fully justified by Israelis for “security reasons” and lived by Palestinians as “occupation issues”.


[1] Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. December 10th, 1948

[2] Up dated by February 2014



By Neftalí Bernabé Muñoz


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