Threats to mobility and familiar reunification

Israel imposed, especially after the second Intifada (2000), serious restrictions on the mobility of the Palestinian population with more than 550 checkpoints (earthmound, road gate, road block earthwall, road barrier and trenchs) as well as with the construction of the Apartheid Wall, which is more than 800 km long and declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2011, where 85% of its route goes into the West Bank territory, confining more than 10,000 Palestinian people in what is called the Seam Zone7 (Exclusion Zone). But also bureaucratic obstacles such as limitations on permits to move and access certain areas, the designation of restricted or closed areas, or family reunification.

In the case of the Gaza Strip, the blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 affects 2.5 million inhabitants, imposing serious restrictions not only on mobility, but also on access to food, household goods, construction materials and all types of medical treatment.

In March 2022, Israel passed a law denying naturalisation to Palestinians from the occupied territories who marry an Israeli citizen, formalising a decree that had been enacted in 2003 and renewed annually 14. Spouses from other ‘enemy states’, such as Lebanon, Syria and Iran, are also banned from family reunification with Israeli citizens and residents.

Israel is including its longstanding refusal to even contemplate the possibility of the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes in 1948, even for those with family members who stayed behind. However, what is often referred to as the ‘demographic threat’ is increasingly less about the plight of Palestinians abroad and more about the fate of those who remain in Israel and the occupied territories 15.

For East Jerusalem residents who marry West Bank residents, the barriers to family reunification are just as cumbersome, and the process takes an average of ten years, if the application is successful at all. Children born in East Jerusalem to West Bank parents, meanwhile, have been refused registration in East Jerusalem despite being born there. These children are thus forced to live in the city without legal status, a situation that limits their access to healthcare and education. Moreover, Israel has created an additional requirement, demanding East Jerusalem residents to prove that their ‘centre of life’ is in the city in order to keep residency. Despite this, thousands of ‘jerusalemites’ have had their residency revoked due to arbitrary “violations” of this provision, leaving many hesitant to leave the city, even to briefly visit relatives in other occupied territories, for fear of having their residency status revoked.

Gaza Strip residents face even more dire circumstances. They are essentially barred from leaving the territory at all, not even to visit family, tend to their land, work or study in the West Bank and abroad. The fact that Israel prevents Palestinians from entering or leaving the Palestinian territory demonstrates the level of control it exercises over this population.

The Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank have launched a chilling campaign of repression cracking down on peaceful protests with unlawful force, targeting journalists, civil society activists, and lawyers with arbitrary arrests and torturing detainees.