The entire area Israel controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. By geographically, demographically and physically engineering space, the regime enables Jews to live in a contiguous area with full rights, including self-determination, while Palestinians live in separate units and enjoy fewer rights. This qualifies as an apartheid regime, although Israel is commonly viewed as a democracy upholding a temporary occupation.
In 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors. In at least 11 cases, the forces fired unlawfully at Palestinians who posed no risk. Despite the pandemic, Israel ramped up demolitions in the West Bank, leaving 1,006 Palestinians, including 519 minors, homeless. This year, we documented 248 cases of settlers harming Palestinians or their property –with full state backing. This year, too, Palestinians were subjected to a daily, violent occupation routine of incursions, night raids, movement restrictions, and arrests.
As part of Israel’s efforts to take over more land in the West Bank, authorities yesterday destroyed the homes of 44 Palestinians (22 of them minors) and cut off entire communities from the water supply. Some of the homes demolished yesterday were still under construction and not yet occupied. These demolitions are the extreme manifestation of Israel’s policy designed to empty entire areas of the West Bank of their Palestinian residents. Other methods routinely used by Israel are conducting military training in residential and farming areas, denying Palestinians access to land, prohibiting construction, preventing connection to basic infrastructure and confiscating property. With a month left before the end of the year, Israel has demolished the homes of more than 900 Palestinians in 2020 (the figure includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem), compared with 677 in all of 2019.
At a hearing in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights this afternoon, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, spoke about the urgent need for determined European action, which would clarify to Israel that violating the rights of Palestinians will carry consequences: Consequences for human rights violations can be introduced through European foreign policy, by effectively using Europe’s considerable leverage. Clearly, the decision to not do so is a political choice. It undermines Europe’s commitment to human rights and weakens the rules-based international order. It normalizes oppression and dehumanizes Palestinians, because – apparently – no one has to be held accountable for their permanent subjugation.
As part of normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates, Israel has decided not to officially annex the West Bank as yet. De facto, it annexed the West Bank long ago, treating the area as sovereign Israeli territory while acting unilaterally to establish and perpetuate control. The uproar over official annexation has subsided, but the reality remains unchanged: the international community has welcomed Israel back with open arms – legitimizing its continued policy of dispossession with no price.
The representatives of 17 countries, including EU members as well as other countries, are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, whose residents Israel is seeking to expel. Since 2000 the residents have been waging a legal struggle in Israel's High Court of Justice. Last August, before the last hearing in the case, the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research revealed a document that proved what was already clear: Israel had declared the area a firing zone to facilitate the expulsion of its residents. The judges ignored that information and the residents are currently awaiting their ruling.
While the news are full of the plans to annex the West bank and legalize construction in settlements – Israel is busy creating facts on the ground, as usual. Annexation or not, Israel has been demolishing homes in the West Bank and trying to drive Palestinians out of their homes for decades. These attempts to take over the coveted land are carried out in utter indifference to the severe damage to Palestinians’ property, livelihood, water and power supply infrastructure they set up themselves, and their ability to plan their lives.
As the whole world battles an unprecedented and paralyzing healthcare crisis, Israel’s military is devoting time and resources to harassing the most vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, that Israel has attempted to drive out of the area for decades. Shutting down a first-aid community initiative during a health crisis is an especially cruel example of the regular abuse inflicted on these communities, and it goes against basic human and humanitarian principles during an emergency. Unlike Israel’s policies, this pandemic does not discriminate based on nationality, ethnicity or religion. It is high time the government and military acknowledged that now, of all times, Israel is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the five million Palestinians who live under its control in the Occupied Territories.
On the morning of Monday, 22 July 2019, the Israeli authorities began demolishing buildings in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Humos, the eastern extension of Zur Baher in East Jerusalem. The move came after Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected the residents’ appeal, and ruled there was no legal barrier to prevent the demolitions. Israel is planning to demolish a total of 13 buildings, including at least 44 housing units, which are in various stages of construction. Two families were already living in the buildings demolished today. Their 17 members, including 11 minors, are now homeless. Some of the structures slated for demolition were built in Area A, where the Palestinian Authority is responsible for planning and building, and had issued the required permits.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.