The military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip imposes severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. Since the early 1990s, Israel instituted a permit system, requiring that all Palestinians obtain military issued permits to travel between the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem or to travel abroad. This permit regime, along with the walls around the Gaza Strip and inside the West Bank, accompanied by the system of roadblocks, gates, checkpoints, and other obstacles to movement, severely limits Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water and basic services including health care and education, and perpetuate a system of segregation and legal and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis.
This section of Investigate includes companies that are involved in the various components of the system of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians as individuals and the fragmentation of the Palestinian society as a whole. This encompases the wall that blockades the Gaza Strip. Corporate involvement in this system takes various forms, chief among them are:
- Engineering firms involved in the planning of construction of the Gaza and West Bank walls
- Companies that provide materials for the construction or maintenance of the Gaza and West Bank walls
- Companies that operate or maintain checkpoints
- High tech companies that provide surveillance equipment for the walls or checkpoints
The Gaza Wall
The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip is one of the most militarized in the world. The separation wall that blockades the Gaza Strip consists of several physical barriers. Construction of the barrier started in 1994, after the signing of the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area. The initial barrier consisted of a metal fence with barbed wire along the Green Line, Israel’s internationally recognized border. In 2000, after the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel rebuilt the fence and outfitted it with high tech observation towers. In proximity to populated areas and to border crossings the wall consisted of concrete slabs.
After Israel unilaterally withdrew its settler population from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it placed new and increased restrictions over the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a military blockade over the Gaza Strip, and does not allow anyone to get in or out except for some humanitarian cases. The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross have both declared the blockade to be an illegal form of collective punishment against the Gaza population. To enforce the blockade, Israel also cleared a no-go buffer zone along the fence perimeter, on the Gaza side, and instructed its soldiers to kill anyone who enters it, regardless of any indication of a security threat, a flagrant violation of international law. Over the years, Israel gradually expanded the width of the buffer zone, destroying in the process thousands of Palestinian farms, more than a thousand homes, several hundred water wells, and a few mosques, schools, and factories.
To enforce the blockade more efficiently, Israel introduced two new unmanned weapon systems designed to guard the Gaza border. The first, Sentry Tech, designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli-government-owned defense technology company, consists of remote-controlled machine guns mounted on pillbox guard towers that were erected every few hundred feet of the border. The second was Guardium, a weaponized autonomous armored border patrol vehicle, designed by a joint venture of Elbit Systems and the Israel Aerospace Industries. The latter was replaced in 2016 by an Elbit-designed combat vehicle based on a Ford F-350 truck.
The third phase of building the Gaza border wall began in 2017, to prevent tunnels from crossing the barrier underground. The new wall is comprised of 20-feet-tall concrete slabs above ground and 130-feet-deep concrete slabs reinforced with iron rods underground. The wall’s high tech components include surveillance cameras above ground and motion detection sensors underground. This aspect of the construction is headed by Elbit Systems, with several subcontractors. The new wall is scheduled to be completed in 2019, at a total cost of about $1 billion. According to news sources, several European and Chinese companies refused to be involved in this project because of its “political sensitivities.”
While Israel no longer maintains a civilian population and permanent military presence inside the Gaza Strip, and despite Israeli declarations that the wall around the Gaza Strip is an international border, Gaza is still considered occupied territory under international law. Israel still retains exclusive control over the Gaza Strip’s airspace, territorial waters, population registry, and tax revenues, among others. Since 2006, AFSC has called for an end to the Gaza blockade. We’ve called for action by both Israel and the international community, noting that both bear responsibility for the disaster in Gaza.
The West Bank Wall
In 2002, Israel started to construct a system of separation walls and barriers in the West Bank. Unlike the wall in Gaza, the West Bank wall is not constructed on the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 border. Instead, roughly 85 percent of the wall’s path runs inside the occupied West Bank, placing most illegal settlements on the Israeli side of the wall. As early as 2003, John Dugard, at the time the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, referred to the construction of the wall as a “visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security.” The annexation of an occupied territory is strictly forbidden under international law.
While some parts of the wall separate Israeli communities from Palestinian ones, in other places it separates Palestinians from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, parts of the wall run inside the municipal boundaries, cutting off Palestinian neighborhoods from their communities and means of livelihood. In many places in the West Bank, construction of the wall was accomplished by massive land confiscation and destruction of Palestinian communities and means of livelihood. The West Bank barrier is not yet complete. It is complemented by a permanent system of roadblocks, gates, checkpoints, and other obstacles to the movement of Palestinians.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that, by building the wall, Israel has breached “various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments,” and that therefore the construction of the wall and its associated regime “are contrary to international law.” In accordance with this decision, AFSC believes that “construction of the wall should be halted, sections already completed should be dismantled, legislation and regulatory acts related to the wall should be canceled, and reparations should be made for all damages caused by the wall.”
Related Databases and Resources
- WhoProfits Wall and Checkpoints database - including privately-owned companies that are not publicly traded
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - information about the West Bank wall and its humanitarian effects
- B’Tselem - information about human rights violations that are part of the West Bank wall
- Gaza Unlocked - first-hand personal accounts from Palestinians living in Gaza under the Israeli blockade