West Bank*

Not Free
25
100
PR Political Rights 4 40
CL Civil Liberties 21 60
Last Year's Score & Status
25 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.
* Indicates a territory as opposed to an independent country.

header1 Note

Prior to its 2011 edition, Freedom in the World featured one report for Israeli-occupied portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and another for Palestinian-administered portions. Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the methodology and FAQ.

header2 Overview

The West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, which entails onerous physical barriers and constraints on movement, demolition of homes and other physical infrastructure, restrictions on political and civil liberties, and expanding Jewish settlements. Jewish settlers in the West Bank are Israeli citizens and enjoy the same rights and liberties as other Israelis. The West Bank’s Palestinian residents, excluding those living in East Jerusalem, fall under the partial jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is operating with an expired presidential mandate and has no functioning legislature. The PA governs in an authoritarian manner, engaging in acts of repression against journalists and human rights activists who present critical views on its rule. East Jerusalem Palestinians are governed directly by Israel. While a small minority of them have Israeli citizenship, most have a special residency status that provides them with a restricted set of rights compared with those of Israeli citizens.

header3 Key Developments in 2020

  • Over 114,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 1,100 deaths were recorded in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). The economic fallout of the pandemic was compounded when the PA refused to receive tax revenue transfers from Israel and cut off security coordination beginning in May—a protest against Israel’s declaration of plans to annex portions of the West Bank. However, the PA resumed coordination with Israel in November, and Israel transferred over $1 billion of accrued tax revenues in December.
  • In November, Israeli authorities demolished the hamlet of Humsah al-Baqaia in the Jordan Valley, under the pretext that it was unlawfully constructed. They destroyed over 70 structures, the largest single demolition in the past 10 years. During the year, 989 Palestinians were rendered homeless because of building demolitions, including over 300 in East Jerusalem—the most of any year in East Jerusalem since 2004.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has not held a presidential election since 2005. The four-year term of Mahmoud Abbas, who won that year with 62 percent of the vote, expired in 2009, but he has continued to rule with the support of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by his party, Fatah. The rift between the West Bank–based PA government, under the control of Fatah, and the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has impeded the resumption of regular elections. Hamas, an Islamist political movement and militant group, seized control of Gaza in 2007. This followed its victory in the 2006 legislative elections and a period of armed struggle between Hamas and Fatah that left each in control of a separate territory. A 2014 agreement between the two groups to form a unity government did not result in actual power sharing. In 2017, the two sides committed to a reconciliation deal brokered by Egypt, but there has been little progress on implementation. In September 2020, Fatah and Hamas announced that they had agreed to hold legislative and presidential elections within six months, though no official date was set at year-end. Both parties have demanded that Israel allow East Jerusalem residents to participate.

Under PA laws, the prime minister is nominated by the president and requires the support of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). However, the PLC elected in 2006 was unable to function due to the Fatah-Hamas division and Israel’s detention of many lawmakers. Abbas has since appointed prime ministers and cabinets without legislative approval. Mohammad Shtayyeh was appointed and sworn in as prime minister along with a new Fatah-led cabinet in April 2019. Hamas opposed Shtayyeh’s appointment.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

Palestinians in the West Bank do not have a functioning legislative body. Elections for the 132-seat PLC have not been held since 2006, when Hamas won 74 seats and Fatah took 45. Israel’s suppression of Hamas and fighting between Fatah and Hamas left the PLC unable to function. Israeli forces have repeatedly detained elected PLC members since 2006, and the legislature’s electoral mandate expired in 2010. In December 2018, President Abbas ordered the formal dissolution of the PLC, backed by a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that also called for legislative elections within six months. Hamas rejected the decision. In September 2020, Fatah and Hamas announced that they had agreed to hold legislative and presidential elections within six months, though no official date was set at year-end.

The majority of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem do not hold Israeli citizenship and thus did not have the right to vote in Israel’s 2019 and 2020 Knesset (parliamentary) elections. Noncitizen Palestinian residents are permitted to vote in Israeli municipal council elections in Jerusalem, but historically most have boycotted.

Israeli citizens living in West Bank settlements are represented by the Israeli Knesset and participated in the 2019 and 2020 Israeli legislative elections.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1.001 4.004

Palestinian residents of the West Bank cannot vote in Israeli general elections. PA laws provide a credible framework for presidential and legislative elections, but neither have been held since 2005 and 2006, respectively. The Palestinian Central Elections Commission oversees elections in the West Bank and Gaza. The body’s nine commissioners are appointed by the president, although the law requires them to be experienced and politically impartial judges, academics, or lawyers.

Israel’s Central Elections Committee oversees Knesset elections, and its Interior Ministry manages Israeli municipal elections, including in Jerusalem. These elections are generally free and fair, but Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are excluded from participating. Noncitizen Palestinians in East Jerusalem are also excluded from participating in Knesset elections.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 1.001 4.004

In addition to Fatah, a number of small Palestinian parties operate relatively freely in the West Bank. However, the PA deals harshly with supporters of Hamas and rivals of President Abbas within Fatah. Israel detains and arrests political activists if they are perceived as threats to Israeli security.

Since 2007, the PA and Israeli forces in the West Bank have collaborated in surveillance and repression of Hamas, periodically engaging in mass arrests and closures of affiliated institutions.

East Jerusalem Palestinians can form party lists to run in the city’s Israeli municipal elections, but doing so may lead to increased scrutiny by Israeli authorities and harassment from Palestinians who oppose participation.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 0.000 4.004

The prolonged and indefinite postponement of presidential and legislative elections has prevented any rotation of power in the West Bank. The PA leadership has been accused of avoiding any contest that could lead to a Hamas victory. Moreover, the boycott of the 2017 local elections by opposition groups left them largely unrepresented in West Bank municipal councils.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 1.001 4.004

Israeli authorities regularly surveil, detain, and harass political figures from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other factions that Israel considers terrorist groups. In addition, Israel’s restrictions on freedom of movement—including checkpoints, roadblocks, and permit restrictions, as well as the continuous barrier it has constructed along the West Bank side of the pre-1967 border—can impede Palestinian political organizing and activity.

Foreign government donors sometimes exert influence over the PA to promote or marginalize certain politicians or political factions. For example, following the 2006 legislative elections, the United States and other members of the Middle East “Quartet” (Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) temporarily suspended aid to the PA. Further, in 2018 and 2019, the US government halted aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), shuttered US Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in the occupied territories, and dramatically reduced aid to the PA in what was widely seen as a pressure campaign to encourage the Palestinian leadership to negotiate with Israel under the Trump administration’s terms.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2.002 4.004

Women and religious and ethnic minorities enjoy formal political equality under PA laws, and both women and Christians have held PLC seats and cabinet positions. There are legislated gender quotas for party lists in legislative and local elections, which tend to result in approximately 20 percent of candidates being women. In some districts of the West Bank (Ramallah and Bethlehem), seats are set aside for Christian candidates. Reforms to increase Christian representation in local councils prior to the 2017 elections were interpreted by opponents of Fatah to have political aims.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have the option to apply for Israeli citizenship, though most decline for political reasons, and about half or more of those who apply each year are unsuccessful. In November 2020, an Israeli court ordered the Interior Ministry to implement a 1968 legislative clause that would facilitate the process by which young Palestinians obtain Israeli citizenship. While noncitizen residents can vote in Israeli municipal elections in Jerusalem, historically most people have boycotted; noncitizens cannot vote in Knesset elections. A Palestinian Jerusalem resident who is not a citizen cannot become mayor under current Israeli law. East Jerusalem Palestinians are only entitled to vote in PA elections with Israel’s approval.

As of 2020, there were over 475,000 settlers in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem, and over 200,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, all of whom are Israeli citizens with full political rights in Israel.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 0.000 4.004

The PA lacks an elected executive and legislature. Because the legislature has not functioned since 2007, new laws are introduced via presidential decree. The ability of the PA president and ministries to implement policy decisions is limited in practice by direct Israeli military control over much of the West Bank. The PA has virtually no ability to provide services, access farming communities, or develop water, waste management, or land resources in Area C—a largely rural area that makes up more than 60 percent of West Bank territory and is under exclusive Israeli control. Israel periodically withholds the transfer of tax revenues to the PA, which affects salary payments and policy implementation. In an act of protest against Israel’s declared intention to annex portions of the West Bank, the PA refused to accept tax revenue transfers from and halted security coordination with Israel in May 2020, compounding the economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PA resumed coordination with Israel in November, and Israel transferred over $1 billion of accrued tax revenues in December.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

Official corruption remains a major problem that is widely recognized by the public, according to opinion surveys. The PA’s Anti-Corruption Commission is responsible for implementing an anticorruption strategy, but a December 2019 report released by Transparency International showed that 78 percent of Palestinians are unfamiliar with the body. In their October 2020 report covering developments in 2019, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) noted some improvements in legislation to curb bribery, refine procurement procedures, and enhance protections for whistleblowers. However, ensuring transparency, combating nepotism and favoritism in appointments and promotions, and safeguarding a strong and fair judiciary remain prominent challenges.

Documents published online in June 2019 revealed that PA cabinet members under former prime minister Rami Hamdallah had secretly received large salary increases in 2017, during a time of economic stagnation, with approval from Abbas. Prime Minister Shtayyeh suspended the raises and pledged to investigate them.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 1.001 4.004

Government transparency is generally lacking in the PA, and in the absence of basic accountability mechanisms including regular elections and legislative oversight, the administration has little incentive to make substantive improvements. Journalists, activists, and others who attempt to scrutinize PA policies or internal operations are subject to intimidation and harassment.

The operations of Israeli military authorities in the West Bank are opaque, and the Israeli military and civil administrations are not accountable to Palestinians.

ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTION

Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group? −3 / 0

The growth of Jewish settlements, seizures of Palestinian land, and the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank continued in 2020. Under the pretext of unlawful construction, Israel demolished 272 housing units and hundreds of other structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, leaving 989 homeless, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The November demolition of the hamlet Humsah al-Baqaia in the Jordan Valley destroyed over 70 structures and was the largest single demolition in the past 10 years. Demolitions in East Jerusalem in 2020 left more Palestinians homeless there than any year on record since 2004. The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) employs 2017–18 occupation policies (including Military Order 1797) that remove options for Palestinians to challenge demolition orders and allow the ICA to confiscate portable buildings without a hearing or right to objection. In 2018, the Knesset passed a law limiting Palestinians’ direct access to the Israeli Supreme Court for petitions against the construction of Jewish settlements.

A 2017 Israeli law authorized the retroactive, formal seizure of private Palestinian land, with compensation, where settlements had been built illegally. But, following petitions, the law was frozen, and in June 2020, the High Court of Justice nullified it. In a rare decision in August 2020, the Supreme Court overturned a 2018 district court decision and ruled for the removal of a settlement outpost in the West Bank that had been built on privately owned Palestinian land.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

The news media are generally not free in the West Bank; journalists are surveilled and repressed by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities, and social media companies have sometimes blocked Palestinian journalists’ accounts. Under PA law, journalists can be fined and jailed and newspapers closed for publishing information that might harm national unity, contradict national responsibility, or incite violence.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), the closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April 2020 resulted in a decline in overall violations of media freedom in the occupied territories during that time frame. Violations of media freedom by Palestinian and Israeli authorities in the West Bank included the summons, interrogation, and arrest of journalists, confiscation of equipment, and restrictions on reporting.

In 2017, President Abbas issued the Electronic Crimes Law (ECL), prescribing heavy fines and lengthy prison terms for a range of vaguely defined offenses, including the publication or dissemination of material that is critical of the state, disturbs public order or national unity, or harms family and religious values. In October 2019, a Palestinian court in Ramallah ordered 59 websites, many of which carried news content, and social media pages to be blocked under the ECL, claiming that they disturbed public order and threatened civil peace. The sites featured criticism of Abbas, were affiliated with opposition groups, or focused on combating corruption. The decision was appealed and referred to the Constitutional Court, which had conferred no ruling by the end of 2020.

Reporters are subject to surveillance, assault, and detention by Israeli forces. Israeli authorities were responsible for 210 media freedom violations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2020, according to MADA. These violations included physical assault, preventing journalists from covering certain events, interrogation, arrest, and detention. Facebook also shut down pages and accounts of Palestinian journalists due to alleged incitement to violence and terrorism.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 2.002 4.004

The PA Basic Law declares Islam to be the official religion of Palestine and states that “respect and sanctity of all other heavenly religions (Judaism and Christianity) shall be maintained.” Blasphemy is a criminal offense. The ECL criminalizes expression aimed at harming moral and religious values without defining those values, allowing for arbitrary enforcement.

Security-related restrictions on movement, and vandalism or physical assaults against worshippers or places of worship, affect Jewish, Muslim, and Christian residents of the West Bank to varying degrees. The Israeli authorities regularly prevent Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank from reaching Jerusalem to pray, and generally restrict access for young adult males to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound on Fridays.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2.002 4.004

The PA has administrative authority over Palestinian education. Political activism is common on university campuses, and student council elections generally proceed freely—an Islamist bloc sympathetic to Hamas has performed strongly in several of the past Birzeit University student council elections, for example. However, students affiliated with the bloc have been detained by Israeli and Palestinian authorities. In March 2019, Israeli forces entered Birzeit University, arrested three students, and raided the office of the student council.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, East Jerusalem’s schools are underfunded compared with schools in West Jerusalem, and East Jerusalem severely lacks physical classrooms.

Israeli authorities have more actively restricted visas for foreign academics attempting to visit Palestinian universities in the West Bank since 2016, according to the Right to Enter Campaign.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2.002 4.004

Residents have some freedom to engage in open private discussion, though Israeli and PA security forces are known to monitor online activity and arrest individuals for alleged incitement or criticism of Palestinian authorities, respectively. The adoption and enforcement of the ECL has increased concerns about the freedom of personal expression online.

Human rights organizations have accused the PA of monitoring social media posts and detaining individuals for harsh questioning related to their comments. In 2018, evidence emerged that the PA has engaged in extensive electronic surveillance of lawyers, activists, political figures, and others, which could have a deterrent effect on expression more broadly. Issa Amro, a prominent human rights activist who was allegedly beaten and tortured in detention in 2017, faced a potential prison term for “disturbing public order” under the ECL and has been arrested on multiple other charges since. Throughout 2020, individuals were detained for their posts on social media, including for posts that discussed planning a protest; that denounced the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; that “defam[ed] authorities”; and that criticized the PA’s resumption of relations with Israel.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 1.001 4.004

In 2020, the PA restricted freedom of assembly as a part of the state of emergency enacted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, PA security forces reportedly fired sound grenades and tear gas on peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah, dispersing the group.

The PA requires permits for demonstrations, and those that protest PA policies are generally dispersed by security forces. In 2019, hundreds of women peacefully demonstrated in the West Bank to call for an end to gender-based violence following the August murder of a 21-year-old Palestinian woman, Israa Ghrayeb, allegedly by her male relatives.

Israel’s Military Order 101 (1967) requires a permit for all political demonstrations of more than 10 people. Israeli Military Order 1651 (2009) is used to prosecute and sentence those who are accused of harming public order or engaging in alleged incitement. Israeli authorities frequently restrict and disperse demonstrations, some of which become violent, and certain protest areas are designated as closed military zones. Protesters are at risk of injury by tear-gas canisters, rubber-coated bullets, or live ammunition, and clashes between demonstrators and Israeli troops periodically result in fatalities.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

A broad range of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate in the West Bank. However, Israeli restrictions on movement can impede civil society activity, Islamist groups have been periodically shut down by Israeli or PA officials, and activists who criticize the PA leadership can face harassment and abuse by security services.

A 2017 Israeli law bars entry for any foreign individual who publicly supports a boycott of Israel or its West Bank settlements. In August 2019, the law was used to prevent US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel and the West Bank; while Tlaib’s prohibition was modified later in the month so that she could visit relatives in the West Bank, she rejected the offer. The law was also used in November 2019 to expel Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine representative for Human Rights Watch (HRW), for his advocacy against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In July 2020, Israeli authorities reportedly raided the offices of three artistic and cultural organizations in East Jerusalem—the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, the Yabous Cultural Centre, and the Shafaq Cultural Network—seizing documents and materials, ransacking the offices, and detaining the groups’ directors.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

Teachers in the West Bank staged a strike in October 2020 after not receiving their full salaries for months. Some teachers were reportedly arrested after taking part in the strikes. The official teachers’ union warned that they would not be able to protect teachers taking part in unauthorized actions from being arrested. In December, the union called on teachers to strike after the government stated it would not pay them the full amount of their delayed salaries.

Workers may establish unions without government authorization, but labor protections in general are poorly enforced. Palestinian workers seeking to strike must submit to arbitration by the PA Labor Ministry, and various other rules make it difficult to mount a legal strike. Palestinian workers in Jerusalem are subject to Israeli labor law.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to the jurisdiction of both the Palestinian judiciary and the Israeli military court system, neither of which is fully independent. In July 2019, President Abbas issued two decrees, the first dissolving the existing High Judicial Council and replacing it with a transitional body, and the second lowering the retirement age of judges. A number of judges and human rights organizations denounced the moves as an effort to increase executive control over the judicial branch. Although the transitional council included former members of the High Judicial Council, it was given an expanded mandate to restructure the judicial system.

Enforcement of judicial decisions is impeded by PA noncompliance as well as lack of Palestinian jurisdiction in Area C, where the Israeli military exerts exclusive control.

The Israeli civilian courts, which have jurisdiction over Israeli settlers in the West Bank, are independent.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1.001 4.004

The opaque distinction between criminal and security-related offenses, the regular use of detention without trial by Palestinian and Israeli security forces, and the use of martial law and a military court system that applies exclusively to Palestinians in the West Bank all violate the due process rights of Palestinians. Jewish settlers are tried in Israeli civilian courts, which generally provide due process protections.

Human rights groups regularly document allegations of arbitrary detention by PA security forces. Palestinians are also regularly detained without charges for extended periods by Israeli authorities. The Israeli military frequently conducts home raids without a warrant. According to B’Tselem, there were over 3,900 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners from the West Bank being held in Israeli prisons as of September 2020, and 157 Palestinian minors from the occupied territories (which includes the Gaza Strip). Minors being held are usually interrogated without a lawyer or parental guardian present and are tried by a special military court. Acquittals are very rare, and the courts have been criticized for a lack of due process protections. East Jerusalem Palestinian minors are tried in Israeli civilian juvenile courts.

Maher al-Akhras, a 49-year-old man from the West Bank, was detained without charge by Israeli authorities in July 2020 and went on a hunger strike for more than 100 days protesting his detention. He was released at the end of November.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 0.000 4.004

Penal codes applicable in the West Bank permit capital punishment, but no executions have been carried out since 2005. In 2018, the State of Palestine became a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which severely restricts the use of capital punishment.

Physical abuse of detainees by PA authorities in the West Bank has been documented by human rights organizations. Individual testimonies also attest to the use of excessive violence by the Israeli military.

Israeli soldiers accused of excessive force or abuse of Palestinian civilians are subject to Israeli military law, though convictions, which are rare, typically result in light sentences. Jewish settlers who attack Palestinian individuals, property, and agricultural resources generally enjoy impunity. B’Tselem reported that 23 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2020. There were also hundreds of cases of violence against Palestinians by settlers.

Israeli security personnel and civilians face small-scale terrorist attacks in the West Bank. According to B’Tselem, three Israeli civilians and two security personnel were killed in the West Bank by Palestinians during 2019.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

The legal arrangements operative in the West Bank are fundamentally discriminatory: Israelis and Palestinians who reside or commit crimes in the same location are subject to different courts and laws.

Palestinian women are underrepresented in most professions and encounter discrimination in employment, though they have equal access to universities. Women are legally excluded from what are deemed dangerous occupations. Gender-based harassment and violence remain major problems in the West Bank.

Although LGBT+ people in the West Bank do not face prosecution for same-sex sexual activity, they have been subject to harassment and abuse by PA authorities and members of society.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

The PA employed movement restrictions between towns and districts and curfews to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. Closures were in place from March through May, then reimposed again in November. While some Palestinian workers from the occupied territories were prevented from traveling into Israel for work due to the declaration of a March lockdown there, others in construction, agriculture, and health were allowed to cross the border.

Israeli checkpoints, travel permits, and other restrictions continue to seriously constrain freedom of movement, stunt trade, and limit Palestinian access to jobs, hospitals, and schools.

The Israeli separation barrier, 85 percent of which lies in West Bank territory and which was declared illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice, divides Palestinian communities and causes general hardship and disruption of services.

East Jerusalem Palestinians are vulnerable to revocation of their residency status if they leave the city for extended periods of time, affecting their freedom to travel, or if they are deemed to be a threat to public safety, security, or the state of Israel.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

While Palestinians are able to own property and engage in business activity, their rights are seriously undermined by Israel’s movement and access restrictions and the expansion of Israeli settlements, which is encouraged by the Israeli government and private groups. Israeli authorities employ a variety of methods to prevent Palestinians from developing their privately owned land, particularly in Area C, for example by declaring nature reserves, denying permit requests, and demolishing structures. In East Jerusalem, demolitions in 2020 left more Palestinians homeless in the city than any year on record since 2004. In 2020, Israel carried out its largest single demolition in the West Bank in a decade in the hamlet of Humsah al-Baqaia. Palestinian property is also illegally damaged by Israeli settlers.

Palestinian structures built in and around Jerusalem are consistently under threat of demolition by Israeli security forces, even if they fall in the area of the West Bank technically under the jurisdiction of the PA.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2.002 4.004

Palestinian laws and societal norms, derived in part from Islamic law, put women at a disadvantage in matters such as marriage and divorce. For Christians, personal status issues are governed by ecclesiastical courts. Rape and domestic abuse remain underreported and frequently go unpunished, as authorities are allegedly reluctant to pursue such cases.

The widely publicized August 2019 murder of Israa Ghrayeb drew attention to the problem of so-called honor killings and other gender-based violence. Ghrayeb was allegedly killed by three of her male relatives who objected to her posting a photo of herself with her fiancé online. The men were charged with her murder the next month, and the case was still pending at the end of 2020. A 2018 law amended a provision in the penal code that had been used to grant leniency to the perpetrators of honor killings, prohibiting its application in cases of serious crimes against women and children. However, activists argue that the practical effects of these changes have been minimal.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Unemployment rates in the Palestinian territories are high compared with the rest of the Middle East and global averages. The excess supply of workers creates conditions in which labor exploitation is more likely. Unemployment rates also increased in the occupied territories due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of closures on the Palestinian economy, especially during the stricter lockdowns.

In 2017, the PA signed international protocols dealing with human trafficking, child trafficking, and child prostitution. However, child labor is still prevalent in the occupied territories.

Many West Bank Palestinians, mostly male, work in Israel and the settlements, where the PA has no jurisdiction. While these workers are covered by Israeli labor laws, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported in 2018 that inconsistent application of these laws remains a concern. The Palestinians’ work permits usually tie them to a single employer, creating a relationship of dependency, according to the ILO. Nonetheless, some laborers have achieved collective bargaining agreements with their Israeli employers. Tens of thousands of Palestinians work without permits, making them vulnerable to greater exploitation. Many Palestinians lose considerable income to “brokers” who are needed to connect Palestinian workers to jobs. Israel has revoked work permits for those who share last names with individuals whom Israel considers to be security threats, even if they are not related.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    25 100 not free