This week will mark 48 years since the occupation began. Only two years shy of fifty. Think of all the people who were born into this reality: Palestinians and Israelis who know no other Israel, no other Palestine. They have never known any reality other than this “temporary” situation that has existed for almost half a century, with Israel as occupier and Palestinians under occupation. This state of affairs is the only one that millions of people have ever known. I am one of them: I was born after 1967. I have known no other reality, yet I know that I can no longer bear this one.
This reality will change some day. The exact how and when cannot be foretold, but in the meantime there are lies we should stop accepting. We must refuse to keep calling this reality “democratic” – a reality in which millions of people cannot take part in deciding their future and cannot vote for the institutions that rule their lives. And, we must refuse to continue cooperating with the lie that Israel’s control of the Occupied Territories is temporary, under the legal definition of “provisional military occupation”.
This reality is neither temporary nor democratic – a message clearly articulated in an op-ed published in the New York Times earlier this week. B’Tselem’s position paper published a year ago provides further details and in-depth analysis on why the occupation cannot be considered temporary.
As we mark this cheerless anniversary, we send you this newsletter highlighting our daily work to bolster human rights in the Occupied Territories, and to draw attention to the lie that this situation is temporary. As long as the occupation continues, we will continue to fight the human rights violations it brings with it: dispossession, blocking development, regular use of military force against civilians, two separate legal systems for Israelis and Palestinians, and the permit bureaucracy that controls every aspect of life for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories – be it building a home, working one's land, residency or travel abroad. To bring these violations to an end, we are unmasking the lie of “temporariness” and fighting for the one goal that will stop them: ending the occupation.
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The High Court of Justice is enabling the Civil Administration to demolish the village of Khirbet Susyiya, in effect ejecting the residents from their land, even as their petition appealing the rejection of their master plan for the village is still pending. At any moment, the Civil Administration might now demolish the village homes, leaving the residents with no shelter in harsh desert conditions. This mode of operation by the Israeli authorities allows them to take over additional lands and drive out communities from Area C. The absence of official annexation aside, the reality of the matter is that annexation and dispossession are already here in actual fact.
In late May, Israeli authorities completed the reopening of the road that connects Beitin and other Palestinian villages in the northeast Ramallah District with the city of Ramallah via the DCO checkpoint. Due to existing restrictions in the DCO checkpoint, the opening allowed access to Ramallah only for the use of private vehicles and in one direction only. However, this partial improvement in the freedom of movement of Palestinian area residents was short-lived: only one day after the much-publicized reopening of the road, the military blocked it off with rocks. The grounds given were that some of the Palestinian drivers did not obey a stop sign placed on the road in order to give the right of way to Israeli settlers from Beit El. The original closure of the Beitin junction to Palestinians was imposed in order to allow Beit El settlers exclusive use of the road on their way to Route 60.
The villages of a-Sheikh Sa’ed and a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiyah were cut off from East Jerusalem by the Separation Barrier. Formerly, they were part of a contiguous bloc with East Jerusalem, and particularly Jabal al-Mukabber and a-Sawahrah al-Gharbiyah with which they had extensive ties. The Separation Barrier has cut off residents from relatives, places of work and services. Israeli authorities have also imposed arbitrary restrictions that exacerbate the isolation. Israel must remove the barrier, which severs an urban, historical, and cultural continuum and disrupts the lives of tens of thousands of people. Until it does so, Israel must permit regular passage between these villages and East Jerusalem, enabling residents of the isolated villages lead normal lives.
In early April 2015 the Abu Haya family were subjected to repeated threats and harassment by Israeli security forces in Hebron. Among other things, soldiers detained Maher Abu Haya, 14, for alleged involvement in a stone-throwing incident near his home. After the boy denied the allegations, soldiers threatened to arrest him if he is seen once more in the vicinity of a stone-throwing incident, regardless of his involvement. For a week, soldiers came time and again to the family’s home and harassed them. The family, volunteers in B’Tselem’s camera project, filmed some of the incidents.
In April 2015 the Civil Administration ordered hundreds of Palestinians in the northern Jordan Valley to leave their homes temporarily to enable military training. They suffered rough conditions and financial losses, including dead livestock and cultivated fields trampled or ruined by fire. In recent years the military has deliberately stepped up training in the Jordan Valley to harass Palestinians living in the 46% of the Jordan Valley Israel has declared “firing zones”. Israel must stop the temporary evacuation of communities for training and abandon all other steps to get Palestinians to leave the area.
On 13 May 2011, Milad ‘Ayash, 17, was hit by a live bullet fired at him from the Beit Yehonatan settlement in Silwan, East Jerusalem. ‘Ayash died of his wounds the next day. Both the DIP and the Israel Police investigated the shooting; both closed their case files citing “perpetrator unknown.” B'Tselem appealed to the State Attorney’s Office against the decision to close the investigations, noting grave investigative failings. The negligence with which the investigations were conducted and the closing of the files evince disregard by Israeli authorities for Palestinian lives.