June 5, 2012, marked the 45th anniversary of the start of the 1967 War, when Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt and began its military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and Syrian Golan Heights.
Since that time, Israel has ruled over millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories by military decree, granting them no political rights while relentlessly colonizing their land. Forty-five years on, Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise become more entrenched by the day, leading many observers to conclude that the creation of a sovereign and territorially contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel (i.e. the two-state solution) is no longer possible.
The following fact sheet provides an overview of 45 years of Israel's occupation and settlement enterprise.
- East Jerusalem
- The West Bank Wall
- Restrictions on Movement
- Gaza Restrictions on Movement
- Home Demolitions
- Theft & Destruction of Resources
- Apartheid Analogy
- Background on the 1967 War
(Click here for 2012 UN map showing land allocated to settlements in the West Bank)
(Click here for Peace Now’s interactive “Facts on the Ground” settlement map)
Almost immediately after the 1967 War ended, Israel began to colonize the occupied territories in violation of international law, with Jewish-only “settlements.” The settlement enterprise was established with the purpose of creating irreversible “facts on the ground,” thereby solidifying Israeli control over the occupied territories and ensuring that under any future diplomatic agreement Israel would retain possession of vast and strategically important tracts of Palestinian territory.
The settlement enterprise was also intended to ensure that a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state would never emerge in the occupied territories. In the words of Henry Siegman, Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994 and former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:
A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon [the former Israeli prime minister and defense minister and godfather of Israel’s settlement enterprise]. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.
In 2011, respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem noted: “The extreme change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility to establish an independent, viable Palestinian state in the framework of exercising the right to self-determination.”
- As of 2012, there are more than half a million Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Of those, upwards of 300,000 live in the expanded boundaries of East Jerusalem. In addition, approximately 20,000 settlers live in settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
- As of 2012 there were some 130 official settlements and more than 110 “outposts” (nascent settlements built without official government approval) in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
- According to Human Rights Watch: "Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp - not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes."
- From 1993 to 2000, as Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiated what came to be known as the Oslo Accords, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, which are mostly built and expanded before 1993, are harder to find, but as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according to B'Tselem.
- Settlements and related infrastructure (including Israeli-only roads, army bases, the separation wall, closed military zones, and checkpoints) cover approximately 42% of the West Bank.
- In a 2012 report entitled “Torpedoing The Two State Solution,” Peace Now, the leading experts on Israel’s settlement enterprise, documented a 20% rise in construction starts in the West Bank in 2011 over the previous year.
- Israel withdrew its soldiers and 8000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, however Gaza remains under Israeli occupation according to international law as Israel continues to control all entry in and out of the territory, as well as its coastline and airspace.
- In 2004, Dov Weisglass, a top advisor to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza (the “disengagement” plan) was intended to “freeze” the peace process, by alleviating international pressure on Israel to take further action, stating:
And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.
- The pre-amble of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed shortly after the 1967 War, in November 1967, stresses “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The text of Resolution 242, which is the cornerstone of the two-state solution and international efforts to make peace in the region for more than two decades, calls for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
- Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
- The Hague Convention also forbids occupying powers from making permanent changes in the occupied territory unless it is a military necessity.
- In its 2004 advisory opinion that deemed the wall that Israel is building in the West Bank illegal, all 15 judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also found Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, to be in contravention of international law.
- Successive Israeli governments have argued that settlement building does not violate international law, however a formerly classified document dated September 1967 shows that the legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, advised the government of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention." Disregarding the opinion, in September 1967, Eshkol’s Labor government authorized the establishment of the first civilian settlement, Kfar Etzion, on the outskirts of Hebron in the West Bank.
- International human rights organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned Israel’s settlement enterprise as illegal.
- Numerous United Nations resolutions have also affirmed that Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land in the occupied territories is a violation of international law. In 1979, the Security Council passed Resolution 446, which states: “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
- The official policy of the United States, in line with the rest of the international community, has always been that Israeli settlements are illegal.
- In 1979, the State Department issued a legal opinion declaring that settlements were “inconsistent with international law." However, presidents from both parties have chosen to look the other way more often than not rather than confront Israel over the issue.
- One notable exception occurred in 1991, when President George H. W. Bush threatened to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir refused to halt settlement construction to facilitate the start of peace talks with the Palestinians. Under pressure from Congress, Bush relented and approved the guarantees on condition that only “natural growth” would be allowed, a loophole quickly exploited by the Israelis who soon began building at a faster rate than ever.
- 2003’s Roadmap for Peace called for a freeze on all settlement construction, including so-called “natural growth” and the removal of all settler outposts.
- Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama began to urge Israel to stop all settlement construction as part of an effort to revive peace talks. After strenuously resisting, in November 2009 Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month partial construction “moratorium.” However, it contained so many loopholes and exceptions (it didn’t cover public infrastructure, construction that had already been approved, or settlements in occupied East Jerusalem) as to render it meaningless. When the 10 months were over, settlement construction resumed as before and a year later, in September 2011, Peace Now reported that in the intervening 12 months settlement growth doubled, more than making up for the partial slowdown.
- In November 2010, the Obama administration attempted to lure Israel into agreeing to a three-month partial construction freeze by offering a package of incentives including 20 F-35 fighter jets worth $3 billion, a promise that the US would continue vetoing any UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, and a promise not ask for another freeze after the three months expired. Despite the enormous size of the offer, Netanyahu turned it down.
- In February 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal, despite the fact that the resolution reflected official American policy as it has stood for the past four decades.
(Click here for UN map “Settler Violence Incidents in 2011”)
- Many settlements like Yitzhar, Kiryat Arba, and Itamar, are home to heavily armed religious extremists who frequently attack Palestinians and their property, including physical assaults and murder, graffiti and arson attacks against mosques, and the destruction of olive trees and other crops.
- In March 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported that senior European Union officials had drafted a confidential report concluding that Jewish settlers are engaged in a systematic and growing campaign of violence against Palestinians and that "settler violence enjoys the tacit support of the state of Israel.”
- Under Israel’s occupation regime, Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to the civilian laws of Israel, with the attendant legal rights and protections, while Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, and are granted virtually no legal rights or protections.
- According to a 2012 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
- The weekly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage increased by 32% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 144% compared to 2009.
- In 2011, three Palestinians were killed and 183 injured by Israeli settlers. In addition, one Palestinian was killed, and 125 others injured, by Israeli soldiers during clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
- In 2011, approximately 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, primarily olive trees, were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of families.
- In 2011, 139 Palestinians were displaced due to settler attacks.
- Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment.
- There are 80 communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 Palestinians vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 who are at high-risk.
- The most notorious instance of settler violence was carried out by an Israeli-American settler, Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. More than 100 others were wounded in the attack. In the unrest that followed, another 25 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers. Just over a month after the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, Hamas launched its first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians.
- In May 2012, Haaretz newspaper reported that the Israeli army was examining 15 complaints about Israeli soldiers who allegedly stood by and did nothing as Palestinians were beaten or attacked by settlers. Also in May 2012, a settler was filmed shooting a Palestinian near Nablus while Israeli soldiers stood idly by.
- The aforementioned Haaretz article noted: "From the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 through December 2011, [Israeli human rights organization] B'Tselem filed 57 complaints regarding IDF soldiers who allegedly did not prevent violence against Palestinians or their property. [Israeli authorities] told B'Tselem that investigations have been opened so far into only four of those cases, two of which were closed with no action against the soldiers."
- A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having "systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy.”
- In recent years, settlers have begun so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government actions that displease them, such as the dismantling of settlement outposts.
- The price tag campaign has included a string of more than a dozen arson attacks against, and desecrations of, West Bank mosques. In two cases, mosques inside of Israel’s internationally recognized borders were also torched.
- Following the 1967 War, Israel unilaterally expanded East Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and formally annexed it. Neither move has been recognized by the international community, including the United States.
- Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has been repeatedly rejected by the international community through a series of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476 and 478. Resolution 252 (1968) states that the Security Council “[c]onsiders that all…actions taken by Israel…which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status.”
- Although Israel has attempted to make a distinction between them, according to international law, there is no legal difference between East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories. As such, Israel has no internationally recognized legal claim to any part of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites.
- Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court has begun recognizing as legitimate legal claims from Jews to properties in East Jerusalem that were allegedly owned by Jews prior to Israel's creation in 1948. As a result, at least three Palestinian families and one shop owner have been evicted in recent months to make way for Jewish settlers who claimed ownership of the land pre-1948. At the same time, the Supreme Court refuses to recognize legal claims by Palestinian Arabs to properties owned in what became Israel in 1948.
- Following its capture in 1967, Israel expanded the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem, which comprised about four square miles, annexing an additional 45 square miles (more than 17,000 acres) of the occupied West Bank to the city.
- Since 1967, Israel has expropriated approximately 5776 acres of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.
- Palestinian residents of Jerusalem contribute around 40% of the city's taxes but only receive 8% of municipal spending.
- In an attempt to separate and isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank, Israel has built a ring of settlements around its outskirts. This ring has been reinforced by the wall Israel is constructing, which also separates Israeli settlements in and near East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
- Since 1993, Israel has prohibited non-Jerusalemite Palestinians from entering the city unless they obtain an Israeli-issued permit, which is rarely granted. As a result, over four million Palestinians are denied access to their holy places in Jerusalem, are prohibited from studying in East Jerusalem, and are denied certain medical treatments that are only available in East Jerusalem hospitals.
- The State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011 noted:
Restricted access to East Jerusalem had a negative impact on patients and medical staff trying to reach the six Palestinian hospitals there that offered specialized care unavailable in the West Bank. IDF soldiers at checkpoints subjected Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances from the West Bank to violence and delays, or refused entry into Jerusalem even in emergency cases… The PRCS reported hundreds of violations against its teams and humanitarian services during the year. Most incidents included blocking access to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers, or maintaining delays on checkpoints for periods sometimes lasting up to two hours.
- According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
- According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem: “Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, the government of Israel's primary goal in Jerusalem has been to create a demographic and geographic situation that will thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city. To achieve this goal, the government has been taking actions to increase the number of Jews, and reduce the number of Palestinians, living in the city.”
- In 2010, Jerusalem city councilman Yakir Segev stated: “We will not allow residents of the eastern [occupied Palestinian] part of the city to build as much as they need... At the end of the day, however politically incorrect it may be to say, we will also look at the demographic situation in Jerusalem to make sure that in another 20 years we don’t wake up in an Arab city.”
- Methods used by Israel as part of an effort to “Judaize” or alter the religious composition of Jerusalem by increasing the number of Jews while decreasing the number of Palestinians, include:
- Revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians who stay abroad for at least seven years, or who are unable to prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency rights of about 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians, of which more than 4,500 were revoked in 2008.
- The encouragement of Jewish settlement in historically Palestinian-Arab areas. While severely restricting the expansion of Palestinian residential areas and revoking Palestinian residency rights, the Israeli government, through official and unofficial organizations, encourages Jews to move to settlements in East Jerusalem.
- Systematic discrimination in municipal planning and in the allocation of services and building permits. According to a 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
Since 1967, Israel has failed to provide Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with the necessary planning framework to meet their basic housing and infrastructure needs. Only 13 percent of the annexed municipal area is currently zoned by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up. It is only within this area that Palestinians can apply for building permits, but the number of permits granted per year to Palestinians does not begin to meet the existing demand for housing and the requirements related to formal land registration prevent many from applying. As a result, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves confronting a serious shortage in housing and other basic infrastructure. Many residents have been left with no choice other than to build structures “illegally” and therefore risk demolition and displacement.
- Demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures built without difficult to obtain permission from Israeli authorities. Since 1967, approximately 2000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated to be as high as 20,000.
According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
‘Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.’
- Since 1993, Palestinians living in the West Bank have been forbidden by Israel to enter East Jerusalem without a difficult to obtain permit. As a result, millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza are prevented from accessing their holy sites in Jerusalem.
- According to the 2010 State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “[Israel’s] strict closure policies and the separation barrier constructed by the Israeli government severely restricted the ability of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to reach places of worship and to practice their religious rites, particularly in Jerusalem.”
- The same State Department report noted: “The Government of Israel's construction of a separation barrier, begun in 2002 due to stated security concerns, has severely limited access to holy sites and seriously impeded the work of religious organizations that provide education, healthcare, and other humanitarian relief and social services to Palestinians, particularly in and around East Jerusalem.”
(Click here for 2011 UN map of the wall)
In June 2002, under the pretext of security, the Israeli government began unilaterally constructing a wall, much of it on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank. (Since 1994, the Gaza Strip has been surrounded by an Israeli wall that cuts off the 1.6 million Palestinians living there from the rest of the world. See section on Gaza restrictions.)
- In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion deeming the West Bank separation wall illegal. The court said the wall must be dismantled, and ordered Israel to compensate Palestinians harmed by its construction. It also called on third-party states to ensure Israel's compliance with the judgment. While the ICJ’s decision was an advisory opinion, and therefore not binding on the parties, it is an authoritative statement of the status of the wall in international law.
- As of May 2012, more than 325 miles of the wall had already been built, at a cost of $2.6 billion (US).
- Once completed, the full length of the wall will be between 420 and 440 miles (according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and B’Tselem, respectively) – more than twice the length of Israel’s internationally recognized border with the West Bank.
- Eighty-five percent of the wall will be built not along Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 border, but on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank.
- When finished, the wall, along with the settlements, Israeli-only highways and closed military zones, are projected to cover 46% of the West Bank, effectively annexing it to Israel.
- Critics have accused Israeli authorities of designing the wall’s route to envelop as much Palestinian land and as many Israeli settlements as possible on the western, or Israeli side, while placing as many Palestinians as possible on the eastern side. In total, about 85% of the Israeli settler population is expected to end up on the Israeli side of the wall.
- The wall also surrounds much of occupied East Jerusalem, cutting its more than 200,000 Palestinian residents off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
- During construction of the wall, Israel has destroyed large amounts of Palestinian farmland and usurped water supplies, including the biggest aquifer in the West Bank.
(Click here for 2011 UN map of barriers to movement in the West Bank)
- At any given time, there are upwards of 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to Palestinian movement inside the West Bank - an area smaller than Delaware - hindering Palestinians from moving between their own towns and cities and the outside world.
- Palestinians are prohibited from driving on the vast network of settler roads built inside the West Bank, which are restricted to Israeli citizens.
- In addition to limiting movement of individual Palestinians, Israeli restrictions also impede the flow of commercial goods and commerce, with adverse effects on the Palestinian economy and development.
- According to a September 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
- 522 roadblocks and checkpoints obstruct Palestinian movement in the West Bank, compared to 503 in July 2010.
- 200,000 people from 70 villages are forced to use detours between two to five times longer than the direct route to their closest city due to movement restrictions.
- One or more of the main entrances are blocked to Palestinian traffic in ten out of eleven major West Bank cities.
- Four of the five roads into the Jordan Valley are not accessible to most Palestinian vehicles.
- Almost 80 percent of land in the Jordan Valley is off-limits to Palestinians, with the land designated for Israeli settlements’ ‘firing zones’ and ‘nature reserves.’ (See here for 2012 UN map)
- Palestinian access to their private land around approximately 55 Israeli settlements is highly restricted.
(Click here for December 2011 Gaza access and closure map)
- Since the early 1990s, Israel has restricted passage to and from Gaza, but in 2006, following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections, Israel tightened its restrictions severely and imposed a total naval blockade on the tiny coastal enclave.
- Israel's siege and naval blockade of Gaza are acts of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, and is considered as such by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
- A 2009 Amnesty International report following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, stated:
The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in place for some 18 months before the current fighting began, amounts to collective punishment of its entire population.
The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits collective punishment. Its Article 33 provides: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
- In 2011, the UN released the so-called Palmer Report on Israel’s attack against the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists (one of them a US citizen). The report deemed Israel’s blockade legal, however it was widely considered a politicized whitewash, containing the important caveat that “its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either fact or law."
- Shortly after the Palmer Report was released, an independent UN panel of experts released a report concluding that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does violate international law, stating that it amounts to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law." The International Committee of the Red Cross and a UN fact-finding mission into Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla reached the same conclusion in 2010.
- Israeli officials have admitted that the siege is not motivated primarily by security concerns, but is part of a strategy of "economic warfare" against the people of Gaza. In 2006, senior advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said the goal of the Gaza siege was to put the 1.6 million people of Gaza “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
- Despite the fact that Israel loosened restrictions under international pressure following the assault on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, the siege and blockade continue to strangle Gaza economically. According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report:
Israel's punitive closure of the Gaza Strip, tightened after Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June 2007, continued to have severe humanitarian and economic consequences for the civilian population.
Gaza’s economy grew rapidly, but the World Bank said the growth depended on international assistance. The economy had not returned to pre-closure levels; daily wages, for instance, had declined 23 percent since 2007. Israel’s near-total restrictions on exports from Gaza hindered economic recovery. Due to low per capita income, 51 percent of the population was unable to buy sufficient food, according to UN aid agencies.
Israel allowed imports to Gaza that amounted to around 40 percent of pre-closure levels, the UN reported. Israel continued to bar construction materials, like cement, which it said had “dual use” civilian and military applications. Israel allowed shipments of construction materials for projects operated by international organizations, but as of September Gaza still had an estimated shortage of some 250 schools and 100,000 homes.
(Click here for UN map showing no-go zones)
- In May 2010, Israel declared “no-go” zones within 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall that surrounds Gaza. In practice, however, the UN has concluded that the no-go zone is actually 500 meters (546 yards). Palestinians who venture into this area risk being shot by Israeli soldiers without warning. Numerous Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, have been wounded and killed in these areas.
- Human rights organizations such as B’Tselem have documented dozens of cases of cases in which Israeli soldiers opened fire at people who posed no threat and were much farther than 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall - up to 1,500 meters (1640 yards) away.
- According to UN statistics, the area of the official no-go zones, together with the area in which entry is effectively restricted due to a real risk of gunfire, covers about 39 square miles, or 17% of the total area of Gaza.
- The no-go zones affect some 113,000 Palestinians (7.5% of Gaza’s population), causing harm to their homes, land, workplaces, and schools. Seven schools are located in these areas.
(Click here for UN map showing nautical fishing limit)
- In the Interim Agreement signed by Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords during the 1990s, Israel agreed to allow fishing boats from Gaza to travel some 20 nautical miles from shore, except for several buffer zones near the borders with Israel and Egypt to which they were denied entry altogether. But according to a 2011 report from B’Tselem: “In practice, however, Israel did not issue permits to all the fishermen who requested them, and allowed fishing up to a distance of 12 nautical miles.”
- Since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the Israeli navy has reduced that limit to three nautical miles.
- According to the aforementioned 2011 B’Tselem report:
In addition to the harsh restrictions on fishing, B'Tselem has documented cases in which naval forces have attacked and harassed fishermen. The documented cases include, for example, gunfire, detention, delay, and confiscation of boats and fishing equipment.
The prohibition on entering deep waters and the danger now inherent to every excursion to sea deny fishermen access to areas abundant with fish, limiting their catches [to] small fish of poor quality. As a result, it is extremely hard to earn a living from fishing, or even cover fishing expenses. Given the lack of other sources of income in the Gaza Strip, some fishermen are left no option but to violate the prohibition and endanger their lives.
The fishing sector in Gaza has suffered a sharp blow. According to various estimates, the livelihood of some 3,000 families in Gaza, comprising some 19,500 people, depends directly on the fishing industry, and another 2,000 families make a living from affiliated industries, such as building and maintenance of boats and sale and maintenance of equipment. The imports also raise the cost of fish, preventing many families from obtaining an important source of protein. Because of the short supply, the price of fish has risen.
- According to the Israel Prison Service, there were about 4424 Palestinian prisoners and security detainees being held in Israeli prisons as of the end of April 2012. According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, there were 4653 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as of May 1, 2012.
- Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned upwards of 700,000 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, or about 20% of the total population of the occupied territories.
- Those who are charged are subjected to Israeli military courts that human rights organizations have criticized for failing to meet the minimum standards required for a fair trial.
- According to Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “Palestinians in the [occupied territories] subject to Israel’s military justice system continued to face a wide range of abuses of their right to a fair trial. They are routinely interrogated without a lawyer and, although they are civilians, are tried before military not ordinary courts.”
- According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
‘Israeli military justice authorities arbitrarily detained Palestinians who advocated non-violent protest against Israeli settlements and the route of the separation barrier. In January a military appeals court increased the prison sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahme, from the village of Bil’in, to 16 months in prison on charges of inciting violence and organizing illegal demonstrations, largely on the basis of coerced statements of children.’
- Until 1999, the use of torture by Israeli military and security forces was both widespread and officially condoned under the euphemism of “moderate physical pressure.” Methods included beatings, forcing prisoners into painful physical positions for long periods of time, and sleep deprivation.
- In 2000 it was revealed that between 1988 and 1992 Israel’s internal security force, the Shin Bet, had systematically tortured Palestinians during the first, mostly nonviolent, uprising against Israel’s occupation, using methods that went beyond what was allowable under government guidelines for “moderate physical pressure.” These methods included violent shaking, tying prisoners into painful positions for long periods, subjecting them to extreme heat or cold, and severe beatings, including kicking. At least 10 Palestinians died and hundreds of others were maimed as a result.
- In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the use of “moderate physical pressure” was illegal, however reports of torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners continued unabated. Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories states:
Consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods. Confessions allegedly obtained under duress were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts.
- Other abusive practices employed by Israel against Palestinian prisoners include the use of solitary confinement, denial of family visits, and forcing prisoners to live in unsanitary living conditions.
- The harsh conditions endured by Palestinians in Israeli prisons prompted a series of hunger strikes, including a mass hunger strike by more than 1500 prisoners in early 2012 leading to some concessions from Israel. The concessions reportedly included an end to the use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure and allowing family visits for prisoners from Gaza.
- Israel uses a procedure known as administrative detention to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial for months or even years. Administrative detention orders are normally issued for six-month periods, which can be extended indefinitely.
- Administrative detention was first instituted by the British during the Mandate era in 1945, prior to the creation of Israel.
- There are currently as of May 29, 2012,approximately 308 Palestinians being held in administrative detention.
- Since 1967, some 100,000 administrative detention orders have been issued by Israel.
- Although there are none currently being held in administrative detention, Israeli authorities have in the past used the procedure against Palestinian children as well as adults.
- Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention has been condemned by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem.
- An end to the use of administrative detention was one of the main demands of a recent wave of hunger strikes by Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
- In May 2012, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch implicitly admitted that Israel uses administrative detention for reasons other than stated urgent "security" concerns, urging authorities to "use it only if there's a need."
- As of April 2012, there were 220 Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons.
- Since September 2000, Israel has arrested and imprisoned more than 7000 Palestinian children.
- Like all Palestinians from the occupied territories, Palestinian children are subject to Israeli military tribunals.
- Palestinian minors are frequently arrested in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, taken away without their parents and harshly interrogated without a guardian or lawyer present.
- According to a recent report by the Israeli NGO No Legal Frontiers, which followed the cases of 71 Palestinian children as they made their way through the Israeli military court system:
- The most common offense was throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. In most cases the object was not actually thrown, did not hit a target, or cause any damage. In no case was serious harm caused.
- In 94% of cases the children were held in pre-trial detention and not released on bail.
- In 100% of cases, the children were convicted of an offense.
- 87% of them were subjected to some form of physical violence while in custody.
- Under pressure from human rights organizations and children's rights advocates, the Israeli army announced in 2011 that it would raise the age that Palestinians are treated as adults from 16 to 18 years of age, however, critics complain that they are still subject to the same unjust and abusive treatment accorded Palestinian adults.
- Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
- Israel has demolished approximately 27,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories since 1967.
- Demolitions are carried out for three stated reasons: military purposes; “administrative” reasons (i.e. a home or structure is built without difficult to obtain permission from Israel); and to deter or punish militants and their families, a violation of provisions of international law that prohibit collective punishment.
- According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.
- Since 1967, some 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in occupied East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated at up to 20,000.
- Palestinians in East Jerusalem are often forced to choose between demolishing their own homes and paying for Israeli authorities to do it.
After taking control of the occupied territories in 1967, Israel began to exploit their natural resources. Most critically in the semi-arid region, Israel began to exploit aquifers and other water sources.
According to international law, including Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, an occupying power is prohibited from using an occupied territory's natural resources for its own benefit. An occupying power may only use resources in an occupied territory for military necessity or for the benefit of the occupied population. Thus, Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian resources such as water for use in Jewish settlements and inside Israel proper is a clear breach of international law, a position supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
Despite this clear prohibition, in December 2011, in response to a petition filed by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli companies could continue exploiting Palestinian resources in the occupied territories.
- While Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill swimming pools, Palestinians living nearby often cannot access an adequate amount of water for drinking, cooking, or proper hygiene.
- In the West Bank, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times the amount of water as Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter the total amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, some 2.5 million people.
- A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for
- According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, 60,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full Israeli control) lack access to running water, and must pay high prices – up to one-sixth of their income – to bring in water tankers, which in turn require special permits from Israel. "systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy.”
- A 2009 Amnesty International report entitled “Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water” found:
In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.
Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached [a] crisis point.
- According to the 2011 US State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied territories:
According to Amnesty International, Palestinians received on average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization’s standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security.
Between January and July, according to the UN, the Israeli military destroyed 20 water cisterns, some of which were funded by donor countries for humanitarian purposes.
Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers, access to the springs.
- In addition to water and arable land, Israel also exploits Palestinian resources such as minerals, including from the Dead Sea.
- Since the start of the occupation in 1967, Israel has destroyed vast amounts of Palestinian agricultural land in order to construct settlements and attendant infrastructure such as roads and military bases, and for the separation wall. In addition, vast amounts of farmland have been destroyed in Israeli military operations and by rampaging Jewish settlers, who frequently set fire to Palestinian farmland, uproot olive trees, and even kill livestock.
- According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, in 2011 alone some 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, mostly olive trees, were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of West Bank families.
- Between 2000 and 2007, more than half a million Palestinian olive trees were destroyed by Israel for the construction of the separation wall or by settlers.
- The United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
- The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as "an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime;"
- Over the entirety of its 65-year existence, there has been a period of only about one year (1966-67) that Israel has not ruled over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted no political rights simply because they are not Jewish. Prior to 1967 and the start of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Palestinians who remained inside what became Israel in 1948 were ruled by martial law for all but one year, not unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories have been for the past 46 years.
- There are more than 50 Israeli laws that privilege Jews or discriminate against non-Jews. These laws affect everything from immigration and family reunification to land ownership rights.
- According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report entitled “Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories":
- "Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp - not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes."
- One of the first people to use the word “apartheid” in relation to Israel was Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who warned following the 1967 War of Israel becoming an “apartheid state” if it retained control of the occupied territories.
- In 1999, then-Israeli prime minister and current defense minister Ehud Barak stated: "Every attempt to keep hold of [Israel and the occupied territories] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”
- In 2010, Barak repeated the apartheid comparison, stating: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic… If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
- In 2007, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Israel would face a civil rights struggle similar to the one mounted against apartheid in South Africa if it did not relinquish the occupied territories.
- In 2006, former US President Jimmy Carter published a book entitled, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” comparing Israel’s regime in the occupied territories to South African apartheid.
- Many veterans of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa also consider Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to be a form of apartheid. One of the most outspoken voices has been that of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the struggle against South African apartheid, who has repeatedly made the comparison. In 2012, Archbishop Tutu wrote that Israel’s version of apartheid is actually worse than South Africa’s, stating: “Not only is this group of people [Palestinians] being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated.”
- In June 2013, the recently retired South African ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, wrote that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is a "replication of apartheid."
- In July 2013, the recently retired head of the US military's central command (CENTCOM), Marine Corps General James Mattis, warned that Israel's construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land were turning Israel into an apartheid state, telling a conference:
If I'm Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the [occupied] east and there's 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don't get to vote - apartheid. That didn't work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.
- Some critics assert that Israel’s occupation regime cannot be compared to apartheid because it was not meant to be permanent. Proponents of the apartheid analogy counter that whatever Israel’s intentions, the occupation has been in place for nearly half a century and the Bantustan-like arrangement is so entrenched due to the construction of settlements and the wall, and other unilateral Israeli actions, as to make it irreversible and therefore, de facto, permanent.
Although the ultimate origins of the 1967 War lie in Israel’s creation in 1948 and the attendant expulsion of the majority of the non-Jewish, Palestinian-Arab population of the approximately 78% of historic Palestine that became Israel, its immediate causes involved growing tensions between Israel and Egypt in the months prior to June 1967.
Seeking to put pressure on Israel, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser took a series of steps including asking the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping force from the Sinai Peninsula and moving Egyptian soldiers into their places along the border with Israel, and most importantly, closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, which was considered a casus belli by Israel.
Despite his saber rattling, behind the scenes Nasser was sending diplomatic signals to the US and Israel indicating that he wanted to resolve the crisis through negotiations. Much of the Egyptian army was bogged down in Yemen, where Egypt had intervened in the civil war, and Nasser was in no position to launch a war against Israel. On June 2, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk relayed to Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harman that the US had “been told categorically that Egypt will not attack.”
Knowing that Nasser was likely bluffing, and sensing an opportunity to eliminate much of his Soviet-supplied armed forces and expand territorially, on the morning of June 5 Israel launched a devastating air assault on the Egyptian air force, most of which was destroyed on the ground in a few hours. Syria and Jordan came to Egypt's defense, and were swiftly defeated as well.
Over the course of the next six days, Israel conquered and militarily occupied the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem (both controlled by Jordan post-1948), and Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt post-1948), the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula (the latter was returned as part of the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt). In doing so, Israel came to control the remaining 22% of historic Palestine.
Israel's rapid victory stunned the international public, despite the fact that Israeli and US intelligence had both predicted an easy Israeli victory, even in a battle waged on multiple fronts. Israel’s UN envoy, Abba Eban, initially claimed to the UN Security Council that Egyptian troops had attacked first and that Israel's air strikes were retaliatory. Within a month, however, Israel admitted that it had launched the first strike. It asserted that it had faced an impending attack by Egypt, evidenced by Egypt's bellicose rhetoric, removal of UN peacekeeping troops from the Sinai Peninsula, closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and concentration of troops along Israel's borders.
Later, Israeli political and military leaders acknowledged that they knew Israel wasn’t in imminent danger of an Egyptian attack. Yitzhak Rabin, future prime minister and chief of the General Staff of the Israeli army during the war, said in a 1968 interview:
I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.
General Matityahu Peled, a member of the General Staff during the war, later said:
The thesis according to which the danger of genocide weighed on us in June 1967, and that Israel struggled for its physical existence is only a bluff born and developed after the war.
Our General Staff...never told the government that the Egyptian military threat represented any danger to Israel.
Fifteen years after the war, in 1982, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in a speech:
In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him... [The government decided to] take the initiative and attack the enemy, drive him back, and thus assure the security of Israel and the future of the nation.
Israel’s victory was a watershed moment in the history of the modern Middle East and in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with widespread repercussions that continue to reverberate today.
As a result of the Arab defeat, Palestinians stopped looking to Arab states like Egypt to redress the wrongs done to them during Israel’s creation nearly two decades earlier. In 1969, Yasser Arafat and his Fatah party took control of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been created by the Arab League in 1964 to manage and contain the growing Palestinian national movement spreading across the Arab world. In the process, the PLO was transformed into an independent umbrella organization representing a cross section of Palestinian political parties, attracting the support of Palestinians around the world. In 1974, the PLO was formally recognized by the UN as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people.
Amongst the Israeli public, raised on a steady stream of propaganda portraying Israel as constantly facing annihilation at the hands of hordes of Arabs and Muslims, the war was widely seen as a miraculous triumph. However, it proved a Pyrrhic victory. For with the conquest of the occupied territories came the beginnings of the settlement movement that, 45 years later, has made the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel all but impossible. As they realize that the facts Israel continues to create on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem preclude a sovereign Palestinian state ever emerging there, more and more Palestinians are demanding civil rights within one, secular, democratic state comprising Israel and the occupied territories – the so-called “one state solution.”
B’Tselem / Ir Amim:
Map of Settlements Around Jerusalem (March 2010)
Palestine Liberation Organization, Negotiations Support Unit:
Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs:
Facts of the Ground (interactive West Bank settlement map)
Gaza Strip: Access and Closure (December 2011)
Restricting Space in the OPT: Area C Map (December 2011)
The Barrier Route in the West Bank (July 2011)
West Bank: Access Restrictions (December 2011)