50 Years of Israeli Military Rule: Settlements & Settlers

June 05, 2017 IMEU
50 Years of Israeli Military Rule: Settlements & Settlers
As Israeli soldiers watch, Jewish settlers from the settlement of Yitzhar throw rocks at Palestinian farmers near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (PHOTO: Emad Drimly Xinhua/Zumapress)


  • Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are segregated housing units built by Israel for the use of Israeli Jews on Palestinian land occupied by the Israeli army during the June 1967 War. Their purpose is to cement permanent Israeli control over the occupied Palestinian territories and to prevent the creation of an independent Palestinian state in them.


  • All Israeli settlements, including those in occupied East Jerusalem, violate international law and longstanding official US policy. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Hague Convention on the laws of war also forbids occupying powers from making permanent changes in the occupied territory unless it is a military necessity.


  • While successive Israeli governments have argued that settlements are not illegal, a formerly classified document dated September 1967 shows that the legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry at the time advised the government of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."


  • Today, there are approximately 650,000 settlers living on occupied Palestinian land in approximately 125 official settlements and more than 100 “outposts,” including approximately 300,000 in East Jerusalem and 350,000 in the rest of the West Bank.


  • Although Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied territories live in the same land, they are subject to two separate and unequal legal systems based on their religion. As Human Rights Watch noted in a June 2017 statement entitled, Israel: 50 Years of Occupation Abuses :

“Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that are not extended to Palestinians living in the same territory who are subjected to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services.”


  • The presence of settlers makes life extremely difficult for Palestinians:

    • Palestinian land is stolen by the Israeli government and by settlers themselves for the expansion of settlements and Palestinians are forcibly evicted from their homes so that settlers can live in their place;

    • Palestinian famers and others are harassed, assaulted , and even murdered by heavily-armed extremist settlers, often while under the protection of Israeli soldiers.

    • Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians imposed by the Israeli army for the convenience of settlers and the location of settlements dividing Palestinian population centers makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to travel freely or live normal lives.


  • Israel’s settlement enterprise and related infrastructure, including roads that are off limits to Palestinians, cover approximately 42% of the occupied West Bank.


  • According to one study, Israel has spent an estimated $20 billion on settlements and related infrastructure since 1967. As part of an effort to encourage Israelis to move to settlements, Israel’s government provides the average settler with three times more in public subsidies than Israelis living within Israel’s internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders.


  • Today, settlers are a powerful political force in Israel, exerting a strong influence on the government through parties like the extreme religious nationalist Jewish Home, counting among their number several cabinet ministers. After half a century, Israel’s settlement enterprise is deeply entrenched on the ground in the occupied territories and in Israeli society.


  • Polls repeatedly show that nearly half of all Americans, and a majority of Democrats, would support sanctions or stronger action against Israel due to settlement construction.