PHOTO: Hamde Abu Rahma
Following a stabbing and shooting attack in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, 16 June 2017, that resulted in the killing of three Palestinian youngsters and an Israeli female soldier, the Israeli forces imposed additional collective punishment measures against the Palestinian civilians in occupied Jerusalem and later in Deir Abu Mash'al village, northwest of Ramallah, from which the three youngsters come. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns these measures and stresses they fall within the collective punishment policy which is prohibited in the international human rights law.
“Occupation” and "Settlements" are both words commonly associated with Israel/Palestine, but there is a high level of misunderstanding of what these really mean. In that regard, the “Two-State Solution” also must be understood, not as a goal we can assume is desired by all parties or is the agreed upon solution, but as a contentious issue in its own right, one that is central to the failure to achieve a just peace. You will find a wealth of information and analysis that lie under the surface of this much-used phrase.
This month marks 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the “world’s longest-sustained military occupation in modern history,” according to the ICRC. Israel today controls these areas through systematic rights abuses: unlawful killings, forced displacement, abusive detention, unjustified restrictions on movement and the development of settlements and accompanying policies that institutionally discriminate against Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have also carried out serious violations, including arbitrary arrests and torture.
The Israeli occupation is most of all about land and the hunger for more land. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began with the Six Day War of June 1967; in 2017, the occupation becomes 50 years old. Yet in international law and practice, military occupations are expected to be temporary, until the final status of that territory is determined and a government established. During that time, the occupier bears responsibility for the welfare of the inhabitants of that territory and is forbidden to make any permanent changes to their land or to move its own citizens there as residents, which would constitute colonizing that land.
However, Israel’s actions since the occupation began have clearly demonstrated its intentions: that this occupation will not be temporary, but rather will lead to permanent possession of some or all of the Palestinian territory taken in the 1967 war.
The Oslo Accords, signed in the early 1990’s, established the Palestinian National Authority with the goal of soon resolving remaining issues between the two peoples and achieving self-determination for the Palestinians. Yet, since that time, Israel has hugely expanded its presence in and control of the West Bank and increased the number of Israeli settlers from about 260,000 in 1993 to 650,000 or more in 2017.
Growing a nation’s territory by force is strictly forbidden in international law, as the UN Security Council made clear in Resolution 242, which the UN SC adopted unanimously in November 1967 and which states “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and calls for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel controls nearly every facet of life for the Palestinians:
…the list of violations of Palestinians’ human rights goes on and on, and they occur on a daily basis. Several generations of Palestinians have been born into and lived their entire lives under these conditions.
The Gaza Strip is part of the occupied Palestinian territories, despite Israel’s insistence that Gaza has not been occupied since 2005 when Israel removed military bases and Jewish settlers. “Occupation” is a term of international law which still applies, primarily because Israel exercises “effective control” over the people of Gaza with its blockade by air, sea and land.
East Jerusalem also is occupied territory. Israel unilaterally expanded Jerusalem’s borders farther into the occupied West Bank soon after the 1967 war, then annexed all of that expanded municipality to itself. Because Israel treats East Jerusalem as part of its sovereign land, Israeli law is applied there, rather than the military regime in the rest of the occupied West Bank. Nevertheless, the disposition of occupied East Jerusalem is one of the key issues to be resolved for peace to come to the Holy Land.
Israel has used its power as an occupying force to produce a brutal regime that has dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their homes and land, traumatized generations of Palestinian children, caused widespread poverty, and trampled Palestinians’ human rights for half a century. In the opinion of many analysts, the current extent of colonization in the West Bank has made the establishment of a viable, contiguous state impossible; without doubt, the blockade of Gaza has produced a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions.
This state of sweeping injustice cannot be allowed to remain forever, and ending the Israeli occupation has become a central objective for many who work for a just peace in the Holy Land.
Some source text has been adapted and supplemented.
The West Bank is a part of the occupied Palestinian territories that covers 2,270 square miles. It is home to approximately 2.6 million Palestinians. In small areas of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which was created under the terms of the supposedly interim Oslo Accords during the 1990s, exercises some governing responsibilities but exists under the auspices of the Israeli military. In addition, Israel's separation wall cuts thousands of West Bank Palestinians off from their farmlands, and severely restricts their movement, affecting their access to employment, education, and medical care.
Since militarily occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, during the June 1967 War, Israel has:
During Israel’s establishment (1947-49), approximately 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes and land in fear or were driven out. After the war, around 150,000 Palestinians remained inside of what became Israel’s internationally recognized borders. Today, there are approximately 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, comprising about 20% of the total Israeli population. Though Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote and participate in political life, they face a web of institutionalized discrimination and exclusion.
The city of Jerusalem, holy to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, is a flashpoint of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its future is one of the most contentious issues to be resolved under any peace agreement. Although the eastern half (including the Old City) has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967, Palestinians regard Jerusalem—Al-Quds in Arabic—as their capital. Despite the fact that most Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are banned by Israeli military order from accessing the city, Jerusalem remains a powerful focal point and symbol of Palestinian culture.
PHOTO: Hamde abu Rahma, 06/10/2017
"700,000 illegal Israeli settlers now live in occupied Palestinian territories. There are now 590,000 settlers living in official illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank and occupied Jerusalem. 380,000 settlers live in the West Bank, while the number in occupied Jerusalem now stands at 210,000. Almost half of the West Bank settlers live outside the major settlement blocs."
Israel’s settlement enterprise has had a devastating effect on the lives of ordinary Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Private Palestinian land is frequently expropriated for the building of settlements. Settlements also separate and isolate Palestinian population centers from one another and from the outside world. The presence of settlements, along with Israeli policies implemented under the guise of protecting them, severely restrict the movement of Palestinians, affecting employment, education, access to health care, and the economy.
More than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. [Reuters]
Since 1967 Israel has established over a hundred settlements in the West Bank. In addition, there are dozens more settlement outposts that are not officially recognized by the authorities. These settlements were established on vast tracts of land taken from the Palestinians, in breach of international humanitarian law. The very existence of the settlements violates Palestinian human rights, including the right to property, equality, a decent standard of living and freedom of movement. Israel’s dramatic alteration of the West Bank map has precluded realization of Palestinians' right to self-determination in a viable Palestinian state.
From 1967 to late 2015, 127 Israeli settlements were established in the West Bank that were recognized by the Ministry of the Interior as “communities”. Also established:
The settler population in the West Bank is estimated to be upwards of 588,000: in late 2015 the population of the West Bank settlements was 382,916; in late 2014 there were 205,220 individuals living in Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Plans for 4,909 housing units in the settlements were promoted since the beginning of 2017, 3,178 of which during the [month of June]. This number is 85% more than the housing units promoted during all of 2016 and in half the time. For comparison, in all of 2016, 2,657 housing units were advanced in the settlements. Looking at the promotion of housing units through plans and tenders, the number of housing units advanced this year is almost triple (286%) the number of units advanced through plans and tenders in all of 2016. (7,721 in 2017, 2,699 in 2016).
Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the settlements, proves yet again, that a two state solution is not on his agenda. By promoting the establishment of the first new settlement in 25 years, as well as thousands of additional settlement units, Netanyahu’s actions speak louder than his empty words on peace. On the week marking 50 years of Israeli occupation, rather than working towards conflict resolution, the Israeli government chooses to expand settlements in order to prevent a future two state solution. Source: http://peacenow.org.il/en/nearly-double-housing-units-half-time-advancement-settlement-plans-2017-comparison-2016-2
The existence of settlements leads to violations of many of the human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. In addition, the radical changes Israel has made to the map of the West Bank preclude any real possibility of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the fulfillment of the right to self-determination.
The settlements have been allocated vast areas, far exceeding their built-up sections. These areas have been declared closed military zones by military orders and are off limits to Palestinians, except by special permit. In contrast, Israeli citizens, Jews from anywhere in the world and tourists may all freely enter these areas. In total, the settlements and the areas under the jurisdiction of the regional councils cover 63% of Area C (under full Israeli control) and Palestinians are prohibited from construction or development in these areas. Unlike the restrictive planning policy in place for Palestinian communities, Israeli settlements enjoy full representation in the planning process, detailed planning, hookup to advanced infrastructure and a blind eye regarding illegal construction.
Although the West Bank is not part of Israel's sovereign territory, the settlements and the settlers are generally subject to Israeli law. As a result, the settlers enjoy all the rights of citizens in a democratic state, just as Israeli citizens living within the Green Line do. Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to live under martial law and are thereby systematically deprived of their rights and denied the ability to have any real impact on policymaking with respect to the territory in which they live.
The establishment of settlements contravenes international law, which states that an occupying power is not allowed to make permanent changes to the territory it occupied. According to international law, it is also prohibited for the occupying sate to relocate its own citizens to the occupied territory. Notwithstanding, Israeli governments have implemented a consistent and systematic policy in violation of international law, designed to encourage its citizens to relocate to the West Bank.. One means of encouraging settlement is offering financial benefits and incentives to citizens - either directly or to the local Jewish authorities – to raise the residents’ standard of living.
Considering the fact that the settlements are illegal, and given the attendant human rights violations, B'Tselem calls on Israel to vacate all settlements. Such evacuation must be conducted in a manner that respects the settlers’ rights, including payment of compensation.
The evacuation of the settlements is clearly a complex project that would take some time to accomplish. However, there are number of interim steps that may be taken already now in order to minimize human rights violations and breaches of international law. Among other steps, the Israeli government should halt all new construction in the settlements be it for establishing new settlements or expanding existing ones; allow Palestinians to use non-built-up areas that had been brought under the municipal jurisdiction of settlements and regional councils; dismantle the special planning committees in the settlements, thereby revoking the powers given to local authorities to prepare master plans and issue construction permits; discontinue the financial incentive programs intended to encourage Israeli citizens to move to settlements, instead allocate these resources to encouraging settlers to relocate to communities within the borders of the State of Israel.
PHOTO: Illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Israel’s policy of building settlements in occupied territory is one of the core issues in the conflict. Illegal under international law, settlements are built on confiscated or stolen Palestinian land, are one of the core justifications for the building of the wall and the restriction of Palestinian movement within the West Bank, contribute to forced displacement, severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water, and perpetuate a system of segregation and legal and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis. Understanding Israel’s settlement policy and its impacts is important to understanding what continues to drive the conflict.
This paper provides background information on this policy.
Settlements are illegal Jewish-only communities built by Israel for its citizens on territories it occupied in 1967. According to B’Tselem there are 124 official settlements in the West Bank[i] with approximately 350,000 residents in 2013.[ii] Official settlements are all authorized by the Israeli government, have approved planning schemes, and receive the same benefits and services as towns within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
In addition to official settlements there are approximately 100 “outpost” settlements located throughout the West Bank. These communities are built without official approval from the Israeli government, but with financial support from Israeli government ministries and agencies. Although even the Israeli government recognizes these communities as illegal, it provides most "outposts” with state funded protection and access to water, electricity, and other basic services. Together, settlements and outposts control approximately 42% of the total land area of the West Bank.[iii]
There are an additional 14 official settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.[iv] Conservative estimates place the settler population in east Jerusalem at just over 200,000 people, although recent estimates indicate that as many as 300,000 settlers may live in East Jerusalem.[v]
Post 1967 Israel also established 17 settlements in Gaza, but these settlements were dismantled in 2005. Israeli communities established in the Syrian occupied Golan after 1967 are also considered illegal settlements under international law.
The establishment of settlements by an occupying power in occupied territory violates international humanitarian law which is the body of law governing situations of armed conflict and military occupation. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention[vi] explicitly prohibits an “Occupying Power” (Israel) from transferring any part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. The Hague Convention of 1907[vii] also prohibit occupying powers from making any permanent changes in the territories they occupy that are not undertaken in accordance with a narrow definition of military necessity or for the purpose of benefiting the local population. Israeli settlements established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are a clear violation of both sets of law and agreement on settlements illegality is the consensus position of the international community including the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States government.
It has often been stated that the premise of the Oslo “Peace Process” was an exchange of “Land for Peace.“ Regardless of questions about whether this was ever an adequate premise from which to build a just and lasting peace, given the centrality of control over land to the negotiating process it is reasonable to expect that the peace process should have required a complete halt to all Israeli settlement expansion and land confiscation. However, the reality is the opposite. Settlements grew exponentially after the Oslo Accords were signed. Even during the so called “settlement freeze” in 2010 construction activity in settlements continued without interruption.[viii]
In 1993 when the Oslo accords were signed there were approximately 110,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and 146,000 living in East Jerusalem. In 2013 there were approximately 350,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and as many as 300,000 living in East Jerusalem. Building the facilities needed to accommodate this increased population has led to massive settlement construction in both areas. In its 2010 report “By Hook and By Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank”, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem provides information on three Israeli settlements (Modi'in Illit, Betar Illit, and Ma’ale Adummin) which makes clear the link between settlement growth and land confiscation.
"The built up areas of all three settlements expanded significantly from 2001 to 2009, and their populations rose substantially. The built-up area of Modi’in Illit expanded by 78 percent, from 1,287 to 2,290 dunum; the built-up area of Betar Illit rose by 55 percent, from 1,270 to 1,975 dunam; and in Ma'ale Adummin, the built-up area increased by 34 percent, from 2,500 to 2,342 dunam.”[ix]
The land area controlled by these settlements but not built up also expanded greatly during this same period. Some of the land confiscated for these and other settlements does come from areas that are unpopulated, but much of the land taken for settlements is stolen from Palestinian owners who are never compensated. For example, Ma'ale Adummin is built on land taken from the Palestinian communities of Abu Dis, Al-Eizariya, At-Tur, Issawiyeh, Khan Al-Ahmar, Anata, and Nebi Musa. Betar Illit is built on land confiscated from Wadi Fukin, Nahhalin, and Husan, and Modi’in Illit is built on land taken from the Palestinian villages of Ni'lin, Harbata, Saffa, Bil'in, and Der Qadis.
Prior to 1996, Jabal Abu Ghneim (Abu Ghneim Hill) was a forested oasis and a popular picnic destination for Palestinian families from Bethlehem and its surrounding villages. In 1996 Israel began constructing the settlement of Har Homa on Jabal Abu Ghneim, and soon thereafter all of the trees that had covered the hill were gone and Palestinians were banned from entering the area. Today, approximately 15,000 Jewish Israeli settlers live in Har Homa. The settlement serves as a buffer for Israel, cutting off Palestinian east Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the West Bank and, if connected to other Jerusalem area settlements such as Gilo and Ma’aleh Adumim, effectively severing the northern and southern West Bank. Although Har Homa did not exist in 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed, during past negotiations Israel has demanded that this area be ceded to it and this demand (which Palestinians have refused) has become one of the major issues blocking a peace agreement.
PHOTO: Israel settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law. Source: MIRRI
Israeli citizens are heavily incentivized by the Israeli government to move to settlements. Included below are a few examples of some of the many benefits provided to settlers and settlements by the Israeli government.[x]
While Palestinian communities and settlements are physically located side by side, they exist in what Human Rights Watch has called a “two tier system of laws, rules, and services... which provide preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians."[xii] Below are several examples of inequalities of how settlements and settlers contribute to inequality, discrimination, and violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Separate Legal Regimes – Although Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank live in the same geographic area, they live under separate and unequal legal systems. As Israeli citizens, settlers are provided with all of the rights afforded by Israeli civil and criminal laws. However, their Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military law.[xiii] Some of the differences between the two systems include the following.
Discriminatory Movement Restriction – According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of September 2012 there were at least 542 obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank. These include roadblocks, gates, checkpoints, segregated roads, and other obstacles. Most of the movement restrictions in the West Bank are put in places to specifically restrict Palestinian access to roads used by settlers or to areas near or controlled by settlements. While Palestinian movement is severely restricted, a separate system of roads that are closed to Palestinians or that bypass Palestinian communities has been set up for Settlers to ensure their unrestricted movement in the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel.[xiv]
Unequal Access to Water – Israel controls all water resources in the West Bank and decides how much water is provided to Palestinians. The West Bank settler population (including East Jerusalem) consumes approximately six times more water than the entire Palestinian West Bank population of 2.6 million. The 9,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley alone use up to one quarter of the total amount of water consumed by Palestinians in the West Bank.[xv]
In the West Bank approximately 313,000 Palestinians are not connected to any water network and are at high risk of water scarcity. An additional 50,000 Palestinians live on less than 20 liters per capita daily. This is the minimum amount of water recommended by the World Health Organization for short term survival in an emergency situation. At the same time, many settlement outposts in the West Bank which even the Israeli government has said are illegal are connected to the Israeli government run water network.[xvi]
Restrictions on Building and Community Growth – Of the more than 150 Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank, only 18 have town planning schemes of which only 2 were developed with input from local residents. All of these planning schemes limit building to only a few restricted areas. Building or renovation in areas without planning schemes is illegal. Even in areas where plans are set, over 94% of requests for construction permits are rejected. Construction or repair work on any building carried out by Palestinians without a permit results in the issuance of a demolition order by the Israeli military.
All settlements are also located in Area C. Official settlements all have planning schemes in place and building in these communities moves forward with full government support. Despite the existence of planning schemes, Settlers often build homes, roads, and other infrastructure without permits or in unplanned areas. In most cases this illegal building is approved retroactively. The more than 100 outpost settlements in the West Bank are all built without permits or plans, but rarely receive demolition orders. In the few instances when outposts have been ordered demolished, the Israeli government has supported settlers’ efforts to delay or halt demolitions using the courts, and after outposts have been demolished settlers are usually allowed to immediately rebuild their illegal structures.[xvii]
Settler Violence – Over the last several years the number of violent attacks on Palestinians and their property by settlers has grown significantly. In 2011 UN OCHA recorded 121 violent attacks by settler on Palestinians. These attacks resulted in 3 deaths and 183 injuries. In 2012 there were 98 attacks by settlers on Palestinians resulting in 150 injuries. During 2011 and 2012 there were also 558 attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian property.[xviii] These actions include vandalism, theft of property, blocked access to land, destruction of crops, burning fields, cutting down olive trees, killing livestock, and attacks on homes and mosques. Over 90% of UN monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli Police were closed without indictment.[xix]
Although the settlement enterprise is primarily supported and financed by the Israeli government, settlements are also built, protected, and supported by a variety of Israeli and international corporations. Several of the corporations that support or do business in settlements are listed below.
Support boycott and divestment campaigns targeting companies that support settlements: Ahava, Sodastream, Motorola and Veolia are all the targets of active boycott and divestment campaigns. Support these campaigns which aim to end corporate support for Israel’s settlement policy and thereby contribute to ending settlement growth and construction. More information on these campaigns can be found here:
Call on the US to enforce its policy opposing settlements: The US government officially opposes Israel’s continued settlement policy and recognizes the illegality of all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. However, the US has taken no steps to pressure Israel to stop building and expanding settlements. Take action by encouraging your representatives to support policies that:
[x] For more information see: http://www.btselem.org/download/201007_by_hook_and_by_crook_eng.pdf
[xii] “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories", Human Rights Watch, 2010
Occupation 101: Voices of a Silenced Majority (2006) An award-winning documentary film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directed by Sufyan Omeish and Abdallah Omeish, and narrated by If Americans Knew founder Alison Weir.
A thought-provoking and powerful documentary film on the current and historical root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film presents a comprehensive analysis of the facts and dispels many of its long-perceived myths and misconceptions. - 1 hr 28 mins
EAPPI - Eyewitness
Provides a vivid, up-close view of Palestinians’ lives under occupation, as well as the contrasting lifestyle of Israelis just a few miles away, all as as they are witnessed by Ecumenical Accompaniers.
- 13 mins
Israeli soldier chokeholds young boy at gunpoint after clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protesters following Nabi Saleh march against illegal Jewish only settlement expansion on their village land. West Bank, Palestine August 28, 2015 (Photo: AFP/Getty )
AFSC – PDF: Life Under Occupation (2010) – 8 pp.
AFSC – PDF: Occupation Realities: An Overview (2004) – 1 pg.
AMP – PDF: Key Topics – 3 pp.
B’Tselem – PDF: 47 Years of Temporary Occupation (2014) – 6 pp.
B’TSelem – PDF: Reality Check: Almost Fifty Years of Occupation (2016) – 7 pp.
EAPPI/WCC – PDF: Faith Under Occupation: The Plight of Indigenous Christians in the Holy Land (2012) – 97 pp.
HRW – PDF: Separate and Unequal: DiscriminatoryTreatment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2010) – 170pp
IPMN – PDF: Steadfast Hope Fact Sheet 2 – The Matrix Of Control – 3 pp.
IPMN – PDF: Steadfast Hope Fact Sheet 8 – Clarifying Essential Questions – 4 pp.
NAD – Web page: Fact Sheet: 45 Years of Israeli Occupation (2012)
NAD – Web page: Key Points to Remember When Reporting on Occupied Palestine (2016)
OCHA – Web page: Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2015 (June 2016)
OCHA – PDF: Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2014 – 24 pp.
OCHA – PDF: Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2013 – 108 pp
OCHA – PDF: Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2012 – 80 pp.
OCHA – PDF: Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2011 – 63 pp.
OXFAM – PDF: 20 Facts, 20 Years Since the Oslo Accords (2003) – 6 pp.
UCC – Web pages: Israel-Palestine Background and Definitions, B.J.Bailey (2008?)
UMHLTF – PDF: Introduction to the Israeli Occupation (color) – 4 pp. (2015)
Introduction to the Israeli Occupation (B&W) – 4 pp (2015)
UMKR – PDF: Why Boycott the Settlements? – 4 pp. (2016)
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