Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors – Focus on Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem

March 01, 2004

“Ariel Sharon keeps goats and sheep. He puts a fence around them and closes them in with a gate. He decides if they come in or go out. This is now what he is doing to us.” – Palestinian from Sur Bahir

Israel’s Wall around Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem (also known as “Occupied East Jerusalem”) is another step in a long-term strategy of confiscating as much Palestinian land as possible, while simultaneously limiting Palestinian natural demographic growth and encouraging an exodus of the Palestinian population. Previous steps in this strategy have included the demolition of homes in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, the revocation of Jerusalem residency cards and receipt of significantly less municipal social services than Palestinians contribute as revenue. Simultaneously, Israel has increased the number of illegal Israeli colonies and Israeli Jewish settlers in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem by providing settlers with favorable apartment purchase prices, subsidized mortgages and exemptions from municipal taxes for certain periods. Due to Israel’s colonization, the increase in Israeli-defined Jerusalem’s Jewish population has primarily been in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, with settlers comprising an estimated 68% of the total increase in the Jewish population of the city since 1967.

Although justified as a “security” measure, the Wall has little to do with security. If the Wall were truly about security, the Wall would have been built on Israel’s 1967 Pre-Occupation Border (the “Green Line”). The Wall surrounding Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem is not being built on the Green Line, but well within Occupied Palestinian Territory thereby isolating a quarter of a million Palestinians from the remainder of the Occupied West Bank. At the same time, Israel is constructing a new colony in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem west of the Wall.

Coupled with Israel’s ongoing colonization and plans to expand the already expanded limits of Israeli-defined “municipal Jerusalem”, the Wall will divide the Occupied West Bank in two, while simultaneously consolidating Israel’s stranglehold over Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem.

The Case of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – Creating Palestinian Ghettoes, Expanding Israeli Colonies

Within weeks of occupying the West Bank in June 1967, Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of Jerusalem, incorporating approximately 70 square kilometers of Occupied Palestinian Territory (then referred to as “East Jerusalem”) into a newly expanded “Jerusalem municipality.” The territory incorporated amounted to 1.2% of the Occupied West Bank. The Israeli expansion was internationally condemned as a violation of the international prohibition against acquiring territory by force. The Israeli-imposed borders were drawn in such a way as to incorporate undeveloped Palestinian land for future Israeli colonies, while leaving Palestinian population centers outside the new borders. Israel has de facto expanded the “Jerusalem municipality” by incorporating an additional 59 square kilometers of the Occupied West Bank in what will be known as “Greater Jerusalem”1

The land illegally incorporated into the Jerusalem municipality is used to build illegal Israeli colonies in an attempt to change the demographic make-up of the area. There are now 12 illegal Israeli colonies in Israeli-defined Jerusalem with approximately 178,500 Israeli settlers and an additional 16 illegal colonies in “Greater Jerusalem” with an additional 69,100 settlers. The total settler population of “Greater Jerusalem” (247,600)2 amounts to more than half of the Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory3.

In 1980, Israel passed the Basic Law on Jerusalem by which it extended Israel’s jurisdiction to Israeli-Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. The attempted annexation was internationally condemned and declared of “no legal validity” by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

There are 19 Palestinian neighborhoods within the Jerusalem municipality, with a total Palestinian population of 249,000.4 These Palestinians are forced to have residency cards to live in their own city. Israel requires Palestinian (but not Israeli) residents of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem to regularly prove that Jerusalem is their “center of life.” If Palestinian residents of Jerusalem live, study or work outside of Jerusalem, they risk losing their residency rights. To date, almost 7,000 Palestinian residents of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem have lost their residency rights.

An additional 18 Palestinian neighborhoods (in the Occupied West Bank) surround Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, home to an estimated 106,000 Palestinians. These neighborhoods are dependent upon the facilities of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, including hospitals, universities, schools, employment and markets for agricultural goods.

Since 1993, Israel has denied Palestinians free access to Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. Non-Jerusalemite Palestinians wishing to visit Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem must obtain a temporary permit rarely granted by Israel. As a result, more than three million Christian and Muslim Palestinians have been denied access to their holy sites in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, even during religious holidays.

Israel continues to expand the colonies and the colony infrastructure in and around the Jerusalem area, particularly in the colonies of Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ma’ale Adumim. In December 2003, construction of a new colony, Nof Zahav, began close to the center of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem.

Facts on the Wall Enclosing Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem

Israel is building the Wall on the northern, southern and eastern sides of Israeli-Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, while also building separate Walls completely encircling Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhoods. 

Northern Wall

The constructed portion of the northern Wall enclosing Jerusalem is currently approximately 8 kilometers long and 40-100 meters wide, with an electrified fence, electronic sensors, watchtowers and buffer zones. Israel has confiscated 800 dunums (approximately 200 acres) of land for the Wall’s construction, 500 dunums (125 acres) of which will be isolated south of the Wall and 300 dunums (75 acres) will be used for a “buffer zone.”

The Wall has been built up to 8 kilometers north of the Green Line.

Southern Wall

The constructed portion of the southern Wall enclosing Jerusalem is currently approximately 14.5 kilometers long and consists of an electrified fence, buffer zones, trenches, barbed wire and electronic sensors.

The Wall has been built up to 3.2 kilometers from the Green Line cutting off the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahur and Beit Jala and the Palestinian refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin (combined population 170,000 Palestinians) from Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem and the central and northern parts of the Occupied West Bank.

Eastern Wall

The constructed portion of the eastern Wall enclosing Jerusalem is more than 2 kilometers long and consists of an 8-meter high concrete Wall. When completed the eastern Wall will be approximately 18 kilometers long.

To date, 753 dunums (approximately 188 acres) of land have been confiscated for the construction of the eastern Wall.

The Wall is being constructed approximately 2.7 kilometers east of the Green Line – well into Occupied Palestinian Territory.


In the northwest of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem, Israel will create the Bir Nabala Ghetto (population approximately 14,000) by encircling the Palestinian villages of Bir Nabala, Judeira, Jib and the old town of Beit Hanina. The ghetto Wall will be 17 kilometers long.

To the south of Jerusalem, Israel will create the Walaja Ghetto by encircling the 1,600 Palestinians living in Walaja with a 5 kilometer Wall.

To the south of Jerusalem, the residents of 37 homes will be cut off from the remainder of Bethlehem, trapped north of the Wall and south of Israel’s 1967 Pre-Occupation Border.

Effects of the Wall Enclosing Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem

As a result of the Wall

Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem and its 249,000 residents will be separated from the remainder of the Occupied West Bank.

Approximately 5% of the Occupied West Bank (320 km2) in and around Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem will be de facto annexed into Israel.

More than 15,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem live in the Qalandia Refugee Camp and Kufr Akab. These communities are located north of the Wall and consequently, residents risk losing their Jerusalem residency rights.

Palestinians will be denied access to special medical, educational and religious services that will be west of the Wall. These include:

  • Mukassed Hospital – provides heart care treatment;

  • Augusta Victoria Hospital – the only hospital in the Occupied West Bank that provides specialist kidney dialysis;

  • Al-Quds University and the Open University;

  • Haram al-Sharif and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – two of the most significant religious sites for Christians and Muslims;

  • The path of the Good Friday Procession to the Church of Lazarus will be blocked, thereby preventing this long-standing Christian tradition.

  • The Palestinian cemetery in Eizariya will be divided: the Wall will pass directly over the graves of Palestinians.

Colony Expansion in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem

Three new Israeli colonies are under construction or will be created in the Jerusalem area:
In Abu Dis – the colony of Kidmat Zion will be built (400 housing units).

In Jabal Mukaber – the colony of Nof Zahav is being built (400 housing units).

In the E1 area – the yet unnamed colony will consist of 4,000 housing units, 10 hotels, an industrial area, a paramilitary complex and a commercial area.

To facilitate colony expansion and to connect the colonies, Israel is constructing a “ring road” designed to encircle the Christian and Muslim neighborhoods of Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem:
The ring road follows the line of the Wall and connects the colonies in the east, north and south with west Jerusalem, cutting through Palestinian areas. The ring road is projected to be 15.5 kilometers in length.

At least 658 dunums (approximately 165 acres) of land will be confiscated from the Palestinian villages of Isawiya, Tur, Eizariya, Abu Dis, Ras al-Amoud, Sur Baher, Zaim, Sheikh Saad and Sawareh.

At least 28 homes and a gas station have already been demolished. In total, approximately 40 Palestinian homes will be demolished.

  • 1. B’Tselem, Land Grab 102-114 (2002).
  • 2. There were approximately 375,000 Israeli settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as of 2001. See, B’Tselem, id, at 17-18.
  • 3. Id., at 114.
  • 4. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Mid Year Projected Population in Jerusalem, 2003 (September 2003).
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