Talk of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is often centered on questions of legality, statehood and the “peace process.” All of the settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, and they control about 42% of land in the West Bank–land that has been viewed for decades as part of a Palestinian state.
But just thinking about the settlements in those terms ignores the stark human cost the colonies incur on the human rights of Palestinians. A statement released by Amnesty International on October 15 in response to the news that the Israeli government has approved the construction of over 200 settlement units in East Jerusalem puts the emphasis on the human cost of illegal settlements:
Israel’s land grab and dissection of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians. In East Jerusalem, 35 per cent of the land has been expropriated for settlements in which 195,000 Israelis live.
Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Palestinians are designated only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem, which is already heavily built up.
In the rest of the West Bank, around 40 per cent of the land has now been classified by Israel as “state” land and often used for settlements. A further 21 per cent of the settlements’ built-up areas lie on private Palestinian land.
The confiscations, seizures and appropriations of land for settlements, bypass roads, the fence/wall and related infrastructure have resulted in the forced eviction of Palestinians.
According to the UN, in 2009 alone more than 600 Palestinians were displaced in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, more than half of them children, after their homes were demolished under order from the Israeli authorities, often to make way for Israeli settlements.
Under Israeli military law, Palestinian families evicted from their homes are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation. The result is that many then face homelessness and destitution.
“Last year, Amnesty International reported on the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to water, said Philip Luther.
“We have repeatedly documented the connection between settlements and the destruction of Palestinians’ homes, crops, agricultural lands, and livelihoods.”
Israel’s policy of settling its civilians on occupied land violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime, according to the statute of the International Criminal Court.
In addition to the violations Amnesty International mentioned, there’s also the daily terror visited upon Palestinians by the residents of those settlements.
The Washington, D.C.-based Palestine Center recently released a report titled, “When Settlers Attack: Understanding Settler Violence against Palestine’s Civilians,” which documented settler attacks on Palestinian civilians between January 2009 to August 2010.
Here’s video of Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Palestine Center, presenting the findings of the report on settler violence at a September 15 Palestine Center event: