Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
Video: Muna and Muhammad al-Kurd – a Sheikh Jarrah childhoodClose >>
Over half a million settlersNeighborhood in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Photo: Oren Ziv, activestills.org
There are currently:
- 124 Israeli settlements in the West Bank that the Ministry of the Interior recognizes as communities, three of which were first recognized in 2010 - Hemdat and Rotem, in the Jordan Valley, and Avnat, in the northern Dead Sea;
- 12 settlements built on land that Israel annexed in 1967 and included in the Jerusalem municipal borders. There are also a few Israeli enclaves in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, the largest being in Silwan, Ras al-‘Amud, and Sheikh Jarrah;
- About 100 unrecognized settlements, referred to in internal Israeli discourse as “outposts.” In order to build the settlements, over the past four decades Israel has taken hundreds of square kilometers of Palestinian land, and forbidden Palestinians from using it.
According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2010, the number of settlers living in the West Bank had reached 311,430. According to figures of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, at the end of 2009, 186,646 persons were living in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Thus the total settler population amounts to 6.4 percent of Israel’s population. These figures are lower than in previous years since they are based on the 2008 census, which did not include tourists or temporary residents who were included in previous censuses.
According to the ICBS, in 2012 the number of settlers in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem) grew by 4.9%. This is 2.6 times the growth of the Israeli population as a whole for the same year (1.9% population growth). Of the settlement growth rate, 29% results from immigration from inside Israel to settlements.Close >>
Faster pace of building after the freeze: 40 percent of all government housing starts are in occupied territoryEstablishment of the new settlement Leshem, near Salfit. Photo: Hagit Ofran, Peace Now, 21 January 2012
In November 2009, the Israeli government decided to freeze construction in settlements in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, for ten months. The ten-month period ended in September 2010.
Construction and Housing Ministry figures show that in 2010 the Ministry initiated 119 housing starts in West Bank settlements and 593 in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The total figure (712) represents 15 percent of total Ministry construction that year. Construction was completed on 1,285 apartments in the West Bank (951 in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and 334 elsewhere in the West Bank), 27 percent of all apartments built at the ministry’s initiative and completed in 2010.
In the first seven months of 2011, the pace of housing starts in settlements picked up. The Construction Ministry initiated 90 housing starts in settlements and 1,399 in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The total (1,489) amounts to 39 percent of housing starts by the ministry. During this period, the construction of 351 apartments in settlements and 618 in the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were completed, all under the initiative of the Construction Ministry. This total (969 apartments) was 48 percent of all apartments built and completed by the ministry in this seven-month period.Close >>
Extensive Construction Plans in East JerusalemPopulating the new settlement in Ras al-‘Amud, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Photo: Oren Ziv, activestills.org, 25 May 2011
In 2011, Israel increased its efforts to expand Jewish neighborhoods and establish new ones in East Jerusalem, as well as build a new national park there. These plans, if implemented, will sever the Palestinian neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank.
During the year, the District Planning and Building Committee approved four plans in East Jerusalem, which were deposited for objections by the public.
- In August, the Committee approved two plans to expand the Har Homa neighborhood: construction of 930 apartments southeast of the neighborhood’s built-up area, and construction of 42 apartments inside the built-up area.
- In October, the Committee deposited a plan for the establishment of a new neighborhood – Giv’at Hamatos – and construction of 2,610 apartments there. Realization of this plan depends on unification and re-parcellation of lots. Some of the land is privately owned by Palestinians and since this land has not been expropriated, as was done in other Jewish neighborhoods, some of the land of the new neighborhood may be used to expand the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa. Based on current-ownership records, it is likely that at least 1,700 of the apartments will be earmarked for Jews.
- In November, a plan was deposited for a new national park on the eastern slope of Mt. Scopus. The park will connect Jerusalem and E-1, the area north of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, in which Israel plans to build about 4,000 apartments.
- In August 2011, the Construction and Housing Minister approved progress on plans to build 625 apartments west of Pisgat Ze’ev, next to the built-up area of the Palestinian neighborhood Beit Hanina, and 1,600 apartments on Shu’afat Ridge (Ramat Shlomo). The District Committee has not yet discussed this plan.
In 2011, the construction of 17 luxury apartments were completed for settlers in the former Police compound in the Ras al-‘Amud neighborhood, opposite the settler neighborhood Ma’ale Zeitim, where the construction of 60 apartments was completed last year. These two compounds overlook the main entrance to Ras al-‘Amud.
In February, the planning committees began to discuss plans to build two new settlement compounds in the Umm Harun neighborhood, in Sheikh Jarah. If approved, Palestinian families that have lived there for over 60 years will have to be removed. In 2009, four Palestinian families who lived in another part of this same neighborhood were evicted following law suits settler organizations filed claiming ownership.Close >>
One hand approves, the other hand demolishesRight: Demolished structures in the Migron outpost, in Ramallah district (Ronen Zevulun, Reuters). Left: The Derekh Ha’avot outpost, whose evacuation has been postponed time and again (B'Tselem)
Some settlements in the West Bank are referred to as “outposts.” They were built without government approval, without land being formally allocated, without an approved building plan, and, in some instances, on privately-owned Palestinian land. Yet, the construction has been aided by the government and carried out with the knowledge of the military. The authorities thus fail to enforce the building laws. In the Quartet-sponsored Road Map and following petitions to the High Court of Justice, Israel undertook to evacuate all the outposts built after 2001, but has only taken a few symbolic steps in this regard.
In 2011, the Civil Administration demolished only three permanent structures that were built in the Migron outpost and a few temporary structures in unoccupied outposts. During the course of the year, the government decided to retroactively approve the illegal construction in the Hayovel, Horsha, and Shvut Rachel outposts. Following the decision, the state declared about one square kilometer of land state land and allocated it to the Hayovel and Horsha outposts, although the built-up areas in these outposts amounted to no more than 0.07 square kilometer.
In recent years, a few petitions have been filed with the High Court of Justice to remove outposts. Some were denied and others are pending.
- In 2006, Peace Now petitioned the High Court, demanding evacuation of the Migron outpost, which was established between the Geva Binyamin and Ofra settlements in 1999. The outpost was expanded in 2002 and is now the largest outpost in the West Bank, with some 250 residents. In August 2011, about five years after the petition was filed, the High Court ordered the state to evacuate the outpost, but delayed the evacuation until the end of March 2012.
- In 2008, Peace Now petitioned the High Court against the unlawful construction on private Palestinian land in the Derekh Ha'avot outpost, next to the Elazar settlement, in the Etzion Bloc. In September 2011, the High Court sanctioned the illegal construction in the outpost. Although the state declared for almost nine years that the construction there was conducted in contravention of the law, the justices accepted the state’s argument that demolition of the outpost was not on the Civil Administration’s order of priorities, and denied the petition.
- In the hearing on the petition filed by Yesh Din in 2008, the state promised the High Court that, by the end of 2011, it would inform the High Court when it would evacuate the Amona outpost, which was built in 1995 on privately-owned Palestinian land. The state has since requested a further extension, until the end of 2012.
- In September 2007, Peace Now filed a petition to evacuate six outposts. In March 2011, the state undertook to evacuate, by the end of the year, three of them – Givat Asaf, Mitzpe Yizhar, and Ramat Gilad. In November, the High Court granted the state’s request to delay the evacuation of Givat Asaf for six months. On 15 December, the authorities demolished two structures that had been built on private Palestinian land in Mitzpe Yizhar. Five other structures in the outpost, which had been built on state land, were not demolished. In December, the state reached agreement with the settlers on the Ramat Gilad outpost. According to the agreement, nine structures built on private Palestinian land would be moved to land that Israel declared state land northwest of the Karnei Shomron settlement. The Civil Administration will re-examine the two remaining structures; if it is found that they were built on private Palestinian land, they will be dismantled.
Exploitation: Jordan Valley resourcesSeizing control of land in the Jordan Valley by declaring the land a firing zone. Photo: Keren Manor, activestills.org, 23 May 2011
The Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area contains the largest land reserves in the West Bank. Through the regional councils that unify the 37 settlements and outposts there, Israel controls 90 percent of the area. The settlers exploit large swaths of land to develop intensive farming all year round and receive extravagant allocations of the Jordan Valley water supply. The water allotment to the tiny settler population in the Jordan Valley is almost a third of the amount of water consumed by all Palestinians living in the West Bank. In addition, the settlements mine minerals and operate archeological and tourist sites, including the beaches of the Dead Sea. Israel has built waste disposal sites in the area: a facility for treatment of sewage coming from Jerusalem and a regional waste dump. The extensive exploitation of the area’s resources contravenes international law and rulings of the High Court of Justice, which held as far back as 1983 that occupied territory “is not an open field for economic exploitation.”Close >>
Separate and unequal legal systems within the same territoryThe village Um al-‘Kheir, in the Southern Hebron Hills, with the Carmel settlement in the background. Photo: Keren Manor, activestills.org, 10 March 2011
Israel's financial, legal, and bureaucratic investment in the settlement enterprise has turned the settlements into Israeli civilian enclaves in an area under military rule. The result is a regime of separation and discrimination in the West Bank; two separate legal systems operate in the same territory and a person’s rights depend on his or her nationality. While Palestinians live under military occupation, the settlers benefit from all the rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens living inside Israel, and most also receive a host of additional financial benefits that reduce the cost of living in settlements and increase the settlers’ quality of life.Close >>
Settlements create hardships for Palestinian communities and threaten future Palestinian statePhoto: Keren Manor, activestills
The settlements violate numerous human rights of the Palestinians, among them the right to property, the right to an adequate standard and living, and the right to freedom of movement.
In order to take over West Bank land – and to hand over private and public Palestinian lands to the settlements for their use – Israel established an elaborate legal-bureaucratic apparatus, based on false claims of “military needs,“ “public purposes,” or “state land.” The result is settlement control of over 42 percent of the land and extensive construction on private Palestinian property (amounting to 21% of settlement construction). By taking over land in this way, Israel has severely and systematically violated the right of property of the local population.
Most of the settlements were established very close to Palestinian communities, making it impossible for the latter to develop and for the residents to exercise their right to an adequate standard of living. In some cases – such as Ariel – the site of the settlement was chosen specifically so that the topographic conditions would adversely affect the development of the adjacent Palestinian community.
The vast majority of the current restrictions on Palestinian movement are aimed at keeping them away from settlements or from main roads that settlers use. These restrictions impair the Palestinians’ daily lives and violate their right to freedom of movement.
The spatial-geographic reality that Israel has created in the West Bank makes it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.Close >>
Crossed the line: The settlements are illegalPolice evict settler women from a building in the Migron outpost before destroying the structure. Photo: Ronen Zevulun, Reuters, 27 April 2010
Under international humanitarian law, occupation is a temporary situation. Accordingly, it is forbidden to make permanent changes in the occupied territory. The occupying state holds the territory only as a “trustee.” It is required to ensure the wellbeing of the local population and to refrain from exploiting the natural resources for its own population. Also, the occupying state is forbidden to transfer its citizens to the occupied territory or to encourage them to move there.
Dismantle the settlements, while ensuring settlers’ rights
Since the settlements are illegal under international law, and given the severe human rights violations they entail, B'Tselem demands that the government of Israel remove all the settlements and return the settlers to Israeli sovereign territory. The removal must be carried out in a manner that respects the settlers’ human rights, including payment of compensation. The state is obligated to prepare an orderly plan to absorb the residents of the settlements and properly integrate them inside Israel. Turning a Blind Eye: Failure to Protect Palestinians from Violence by Israeli CiviliansClose >>