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From the field

Conquer and Divide: The 53rd year begins today, 5 June 2019

Dear Friends,

Midway between Israel’s general elections in April and the repeat elections to take place in September, we find ourselves in June, which this year marks 52 years since Israel occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Governments have come and gone, and countless declarations have been made. Yet one thing has remained unchanged: all the people who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are ruled by a single government  one elected only by Israeli citizens, who enjoy the benefit of political rights which Palestinian subjects do not.  
Israel has worked tirelessly and consistently to shatter Palestinian space, breaking it up into weakened, isolated fragments that are easier to control, exploit and oppress. Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza (the starting point of “conquer and divide”), Palestinians have been living an increasingly divided existencewith the West Bank separated from Gaza, East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and areas within the West Bank isolated from one another. Israelis, meanwhile, enjoy freedom of movement within the West Bank, within Israel, and between the two areas. 
To visualize these spatial and temporal processes – how they took place, the pretexts cited, and the reality they shaped – B’Tselem is launching Conquer and Divide: a special interactive project in collaboration with UK-based research agency Forensic Architecture. Viewers can scroll through maps covering 52 years of Israeli policy, showing how military orders, various declarations and planning measures have served in concert to establish ever more Israeli settlements and infrastructure, promoting Israeli interests at the expense of Palestinians’ rights. The maps throw into stark relief the current situation of Palestinian communities, which have been intentionally cut off from one another and exist as islands in a vast sea of Israeli control. The maps also demonstrate how dividing Palestinians from one another facilitates the implementation of ever greater Israeli control and tyranny. 
The future of all 14 million people who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea cannot possibly be founded on Israeli dominance, and separation and oppression of Palestinians; icannot be based on one people shattering the lives, communities and lands of another. At B’Tselem, we believe in standing up to injustice – backed by facts. We invite you to explore the maps in the project not merely as an academic exercise; it is an invitation to see reality for what it is – and demand an entirely different future. 
With appreciation for your support and partnership, 
Hagai El-Ad  
Executive Director 

Demographic majority for Jews. Demolition for Palestinians.

Engineering a Jewish majority by driving out Palestinians has been Israel's policy ever since the occupation began and East Jerusalem annexed. Israel has devised legal excuses to gradually empty East Jerusalem of Palestinians. It refuses to draft zoning plans that would allow construction. So, just to have a roof over their heads, Palestinians are forced to build without permits. The authorities then demolish their homes for being built "unlawfully." Since 2004, Israel has demolished at least 848 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. At least 2,960 people, including 1,596 children, have lost their homes. The threat of demolition looms over the homes of tens of thousands of others. Demographic majority for Jews, demolition for Palestinians.

Settlers torch fields in Burin and ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah

On Friday, 17 May 2019, settlers torched unfarmed fields in Burin and ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah. In both villages the settlers threw stones at the residents’ homes. In ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, where the area is controlled by military watchtowers, a settler even fired shots in the air. Soldiers nearby did not arrest the attackers and prevented the Palestinians from approaching their burning land.

The torched fields in Burin are situated approximately 400 meters from the village homes, and one kilometer from the settlement of Giv'at Ronen. The military prohibits Palestinians from entering these areas except on predetermined days twice a year. Even then, entry is only possible after coordination with the Israeli DCO. At a certain stage the settlers extinguished the fire, probably due to concern that it would spread toward the settlement. This complete backing from the state authorities is consistent with Israel’s longstanding policy in the West Bank, under which such acts of violence serve its interests and help it achieve its goals.

High Court seeks order, not justice | op-ed piece by Yael Stein Haaretz English Edition

"Justice Amit hurried to define its boundaries: “Our role is limited …we’re only discussing demolition, not planning.” Thus, artificially severing the link between different stages of the expropriation process – demolition and planning – the judge turned all West Bank Palestinians into “construction transgressors” who choose, consciously and willfully, to violate the law and annoy the occupation authorities. Does Justice Amit really believe that there is no link between Israeli planning, which denies Palestinians any possibility of building legally, and the enormous amount of permit-less construction across the West Bank? Why, actually, does the judge "only" deal with the demolition side of it?... This highlights the degree to which the justices have internalized the court’s role in putting on a sanctimonious face, as if the court were neutral, conducting fair and equitable processes. There has not been a single case in which a Palestinian appeal against a demolition was upheld, even when a whole community was evacuated, something which constitutes a war crime."
Routine harassment: Israeli military blocks access roads to 4 Palestinian villages in March-April 2019

Route closures in West Bank villages have long since become a routine method of oppression used by Israel against West Bank residents. For example, when allegations are made that young men from some Palestinian village had thrown stones or Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles on local roads, the military punishes the entire population of that and nearby villages by closing the gates it had installed at their entrances over the years.

Even when open, the very fact that the gates are there serves as a constant reminder that Palestinians’ freedom of movement is entirely subject to arbitrary Israeli decisions made in complete disregard for the needs of the residents.

Over the course of March and April, the military closed the gates it had placed at the entrances to four Palestinian villages, citing such allegations as grounds. In the village of ‘Azzun, east of Qalqiliyah, the gate was closed for 20 days; in Kifl Hares, northwest of Salfit, for 8; in Deir Istiya, east of Salfit, for 5; and in Tuqu’, southeast of Bethlehem, for 17.

It is unlawful to block off roads, a measure which harm thousands of people whose only “crime” was living in a village the military has decided to oppress. The road closures severely disrupt residents’ lives, undercuts their ability to make a living, get to school, farm their land, receive medical treatment, or simply maintain a reasonable routine. This measure constitutes collective punishment, forcing residents to live in a state of uncertainty, causing frustration, wasting precious time, and depriving thousands of Palestinians of their freedom of movement. The road closures constitute arbitrary abuse of power by the military. There is absolutely no moral or legal justification for inflicting this harm.

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