Today is the sixth anniversary of the ICJ opinion on The Wall

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has published a report for the occasion, entitled “The Impact of the Barrier [The Wall] on Health”.

Here is one of the most dismal pieces of information in the report: “The Barrier gate opening times pose potential health risks for the thousands of farmers who enter their land in the ‘Seam Zone’ on a daily or seasonal basis. The majority of gates open for brief periods, two to three times daily: only two Barrier gates out of 13 open continuously throughout the day. As the gates
are locked and unstaffed by soldiers between these short opening times, a widespread anxiety among farmers is that in the event of a work accident, snake bite or pesticide inhalation, they are unable to leave the ‘Seam Zone.’ Unless they succeed in attracting the attention of the military patrol which controls the gates (or communicate through the Humanitarian Hotline to the DCL – Israeli District Coordination Liaison Office) they are stuck until the next opening time, without access to first aid or emergency care. Restrictions on vehicles passing through the Barrier gates means that an injured person needs to be
transported by horse, mule or tractor to the gates, which often necessitates a long detour over rugged terrain. The farmers’ anxiety is compounded by the realization that access restrictions to the ‘Seam Zone’ also prevent the entry of health professionals and ambulances from assisting those in need of medical care. (See OCHA oPt, ‘Five Years after the International
Court of Justice Advisory Opinion’, July 2009, p. 36, for the case of a farmer who severed his fingers with a chainsaw while working in the closed are behind the Barrier)…

Here is some background, from the OCHA report: “In summer 2002, following a campaign of suicide bombings by Palestinian militants, the Government of Israel approved construction of a Barrier to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel. The Barrier’s total length is 707 km, more than twice the length of the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line) between the West Bank and Israel. Approximately 61.4% of the 707-kilometre-long Barrier is complete; a further 8.4% is under construction and 30.1% is planned but not yet constructed. When completed,the majority of the route, approximately 85%, will run inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, rather than along the Green Line. The total area located between the Barrier and the Green Line amounts to 9.4% of the West Bank,including East Jerusalem and No Man’s land … Since the last OCHA Barrier report [one year ago], construction of new sections has almost completely halted as a result of a number of financial constraints, concerns
raised by the international community and lack of demand by Israeli society. Most of the recent construction involved re-routings ordered by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ). In addition, new construction has taken place in the north of East Jerusalem and in the northwest of Bethlehem governorate.

“According to one journalist, citing an IDF source, the entire Barrier ‘is not slated to be completed until 2020 – in other words, 18 years after the Sharon government decided to put it into action.’ Hanan Greenburg, ‘IDF estimates security fence to be completed in 2020’, Israel News, 2 March 2010. The cost of the entire project is unknown but according to a recent estimate, the Barrier ‘has cost NIS 7 billion thus far. The total cost …once it is completed, will reach NIS 11 billion in the best case scenario’.”

That’s nearly $2 billion U.S. dollars spent so far, and the total cost will be nearly $3 billion U.S. dollars.

One particular feature of this Wall is the “Seam Zone” regime — people trapped between The Wall [which OCHA calls a Barrier and the border, or the Green Line, or a checkpoint.

This OCHA report says: “approximately 7,800 Palestinians reside in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line. Those aged 16 and above require permanent resident permits from the Israeli authorities to continue to live in their homes. Residents have to pass through Barrier checkpoints to reach workplaces and essential services, and to maintain family and social relations on the ‘Palestinian’ side of the Barrier. Few health and education services are available in the closed area … The Barrier has also adversely affected the access of the entire population to urban areas, in particular East Jerusalem, whose six non-government hospitals are the main providers of routine, emergency, secondary and tertiary care for Palestinian from the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.

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