By: Dr. Zahra Khadraj
Wild trees are uprooted and green spaces are destroyed so that the Israeli occupation instills settlements and streets on its ruins
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
Settlement expansion is directly proportional to the bypass roads.
Bypass roads are the road networks built by the Israeli occupation to connect the settlements with each other and with the lands of the 1948 occupied territories.
As an outcome of the Oslo Accords of 1993 was the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, leading to the delusion that Israel's influence on the Palestinian’s daily lives is minimal.
Israel imposes the worst policies in the West Bank harshly discriminating against Palestinian residents, depriving them of basic necessities. It has not only seized lands for the establishment of settlements, but has also confiscated other lands to build hundreds of kilometers of roads and bypass roads for the benefit of the settlers.
Checkpoints have been spread around other restrictive measures have been imposed, which only restrict the movement of Palestinians, in addition to limiting access to many Palestinian owned agricultural lands located near the settlements.
Bypass roads played an important role in reinforcing the existence of settlements in the West Bank. In 1970, the first structural plan for bypass roads in the West Bank was prepared, and it included all the lands. After which several modifications were made depending on the on-ground locations of the settlements, and accordingly the bypass roads were planned not only to allow settlers to commute more efficiently but also to surround Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
According to the previous reference, the length of the bypass roads network until 2002 was more than 1,400 km (including the main and regional “secondary” networks. Length of roads inside the settlements were also included).
Not only did Israel build bypass roads, but also denies the use of land at an average of 150 meters on each side of the road, of what is called the “right of way”. Palestinians are denied from constructing residential buildings, extending any water lines, digging channels, or extending wires of any kind unless they get an approval from the Higher Structural Organization Committee, whose employees are only Jews.
According to some data, for every 100 km used for the construction of the bypass roads, 10,000 donums of Palestinians lands are lost to serve what is called “right of way”.
The map of the bypass roads indicates that the bypass roads and cross roads built after 1967 in the West Bank are divided into four parts (two in the middle and two in the north and south).
The bypass roads linked the settlements to the state of Israel, and at the same time, it separated all the Palestinian cities and communities.
In the process of constructing roads of all kinds, Israel’s bulldozers destroyed more than 140,000 dunams of agricultural lands and water projects, one of the most important projects destroyed is the Fara’a irrigation project (which is 14 km long).
According to an investigation conducted by B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), settlement roads in the West Bank are classified based on the degree to which Palestinian drivers are able to travel on them in practice.
The roads are divided into three categories: completely prohibited, partially prohibited, and restricted use.
The first category:
Roads on which Palestinian travel is completely prohibited. This category includes roads on which Israel completely forbids Palestinian vehicles. On some of the roads, the prohibition is explicit and obvious: Israel places a staffed checkpoint through which only Israeli vehicles are allowed to pass. An example is Route 557, which leads to the Itamar and Elon Moreh settlements.
In some instances, not only is travel forbidden, but crossing the road by car is also not allowed. This prohibition restricts Palestinians from reaching roads that are not prohibited. In these cases, Palestinians can travel along the road until they reach a forbidden road, where they have to get out of the car, cross the forbidden road by foot, and get into another vehicle.
The second category:
Roads on which Palestinian travel is partially prohibited. The total length of these roads is 245 km. Palestinians are allowed to travel on these roads only if they have special movement permits issued by the Civil Administration, through the District Civil Liaison office. The Civil Administration haggles over the permit in exchange for the Palestinians to serve as agents, which is always completely rejected by the Palestinians.
The third category:
Roads on which Palestinian travel is restricted. This category includes roads that can be reached only via an intersection with a checkpoint, because the other access roads from Palestinian villages adjoining these roads have been blocked by the IDF.
These bypass roads forced Palestinians to change their travel habits within the West Bank, and forced them to use difficult and bumpy roads that led to accidents and in some cases many of them lost their lives.
Wildlife Violation by the Occupation
The negative impact of the occupation’s practices on the Palestinian environment and the plant and animal wildlife increases every day. Even though Israel claims civilization and urbanization by showing concern for the environment, while in fact it is relentlessly destroying Palestinian wildlife which is clearly visible through its practices.
Since the beginning of the occupation, Palestinian lands and water resources have been a main objective of Israel’s policies that aimed at uprooting the Palestinians and controlling all their production resources making them completely dependent on Israel’s economy.
In the first months of the occupation, the occupation authorities destroyed 140 water pumps on the Jordan River, which the Palestinians used to irrigate their crops with, and closed many wells in the Jordan Valley, then denied access to 70,000 dunums of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley claiming security reasons. After that, the confiscation of Palestinian lands began to be used to establish military bases on them, which soon turned into "Nahal" units, that is, Israeli youth group activists’ training camps, which gradually turned into settlements.
The occupation also tended to change the wild environment through a systematic policy of inbreeding, as eucalyptus, pine, cypress and other forests were planted extensively in Palestinian mountainous areas such as Mount Carmel, and the mountains to the west and south of Jerusalem. Israel continues to devastate and change the natural environment and the original habitat of wild animal in the Arab Bedouin villages, which led to the elimination of the wild animal’s food places, and their inability to adapt to the new environmental conditions.
The occupation intensified its violations against the Palestinian environment by razing the green lands and uprooting nature reserves, in order to build roads to connect the settlements together and connect them to the occupied territories of 1948, and to construct the apartheid wall. Since its inception, the occupation has built roads to serve its military infrastructure and settlements. Some of these settlement areas are bigger than Tel Aviv, all of this done taking into consideration the ecological wildlife corridors that wild animals have been accustomed to using during their travels thousands of years ago.
Israel split mountains to build roads and tunnels, destroying the habitats of wild animals, their nests and their dens, not caring about the lives of these animals, which became vulnerable during their natural movements. They become forced to cut off the roads established in their living areas, and so wild animals are often seen trampled on the roads, such as hedgehogs, turtles, snakes, squirrels, foxes and others. Which caused an imbalance in the number of animals and even risked the survival of their species.
Israel did not stop at violating the Palestinian ecology, resulting at the imbalance of the ecological system, rather, they deliberately transferred some wild animals from their original places to new places within the Palestinian environment, such as wild boars, which, in the past few years, have spread widely in the West Bank areas, destroying many farms and fields where these wild animals tend to find any available food resource to live in their new environment, after they were removed from their natural environment; and the situation got worse after they were surrounded by the apartheid wall, which prevented the movement of wild animals, not just wild boars.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh