The current untenable situation
As a condition of its admittance to the United Nations in 1949, Israel promised to abide by UN resolutions and International human rights laws including UN resolution 194 and Geneva conventiosn which all speak of the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands. Yet, these refugees who in 1949 numbered 800,000 and today number over 4.5 million, were prevented by force from realizing their right of return.
Instead Israel immediately instituted laws to prevent them from returning and consolidate transforming a country predominantly Arab (Muslim and Christian) to a Jewish state. The Israeli army proceeded to secure the borders first to prevent those who fled from going back. Hundreds of peasants were killed trying to cross the border after the war to return to their farms, businesses and lands. Israel immediately seized all Palestinian property considered as absentee property. This included the property (movable and immovable) of 800,000 Palestinians who were made refugees. But it also included the property of one fourth of the Palestinians who remained within the new state of Israel, some of them hid in caves or nearby towns to escaped the fighting and yet their land and property was lumped with all other "absentee" property and turned over to the Jewish Agency to use to settle the new wave of Jewish settlers/colonists.
Israel considers the Land of Israel (Palestine) as belonging not to its citizens (even after the removal of 70% of the Palestinian natives between 1947-1948) but to "Jewish people everywhere." 93% of its land (most of it taken from Palestinians) is thus reserved for Jewish settlements and colonies.
Palestinian citizens of Israel (called Israeli Arabs by Zionists) include 20-25% "Present absentees" (in Hebrew, nochihim nifkadim) as Israeli law calls them or displaced people as International law calls them. These non-Jewish citizens are denied the right to their own lands which is confiscated as "absentee" property by law and turned to the Jewish National Fund for administration and lease to Jews.
Further over 100 "unrecognized villages" are denied basic services because their residents are non-Jews. We must add to this all the Palestinians who were forced to sell their property to the state or to Jews while under duress. While unemployment today among Israeli Jews is in the single digit, unemployment among the Palestinians who are citizens of Israel is nearly 30% (it is 50-70% in the areas of the West Bank and Gaza whose Palestinian residents lack any citizenship.
Israel's basic laws (which are now considered as the closest thing to a constitution which never materialized) are unique to say the least. Israel is the only country in the world that distinguishes citizenship from nationality recognizing members of a certain religion (in this case Judaism including converts) as nationals of the state (called by Israeli law the nation of Israel or "Am Yisrael") entitled to automatic rights including citizenship, land, homes, subsidies). These rights that supercede those of its own "citizens" who belong to other religions. Because of this Israel is the only country in the world whose parliament debates things like "who is Jewish" and enacts discriminatory laws based on religious affiliations.
The Palestinians who miraculously remained under Israeli rule after the large scale ethnic cleansing in 1947-1949 as discussed live as sixth or tenth class citizens, deprived of rights, of lands, or resources etc. But their plight pales compared to those who ended up as refugees discussed earlier and those who came under Israeli occupation in 1967 as Israel continued to expand its borders.
Israel initiated a war in 1967 in which it captured what remained of Palestine (22% called the West Bank and Gaza). This resulted in removal of another 250 to 300,000 Palestinians, some of them thus made refugees for the second time
Israel did not want to annex them immediately because these areas had still a large population of Palestinians including over 22 refugee camps. Immediately after Israel launched the war of 1967 and captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, Israel engaged in large scale settlement activity in the occupied areas in defiance of the 4th Geneva convention. Jewish settlements/colonies in the areas occupied in 1967 now house 400,000 colonists on land belonging to the native Palestinian people.
Israel wanted the land but not the people. So they proceeded to confiscate agricultural lands, hills, valleys etc and build settlements, military bases and other points of control. Squeezing the economics in such a way that the percent of Palestinians employed in agriculture dropped from 80% in 1966 to some 20% and unemployment increased from 10% to 70% today.
Israel has literally fenced in 1.2 million people in a large prison called Gaza (70% of them are Palestinian refugees), a place now with the highest density of people anywhere on earth and causing the highest rate of poverty in the Middle East. Israel is now building walls to "fence off" the towns of the West Bank in an analogous fashion (see http://stopthewall.org).
Israel in the past three years engaged in a large scale extrajudicial execution program (this is considered a war crime according to the Hague and Geneva conventions; no wonder Israel and its patron the US refused to ratify the International Criminal Court system). Army units are allowed to act as judge, jury, and executioner.
Israel had several prime ministers who are wanted terrorists (like Shamir, Sharon or Menachem Begin who was responsible for the massacre at King David Hotel and was listed as wanted by the British "dead or alive") or who bragged about their crimes of ethnic cleansing (e.g. Rabin). Amnesty documented war crimes by Sharon, Mofaz and BenEliezer in Jenin and Nablus. To quote from Amnesty:
"The situation In Jenin and Nablus the IDF carried out actions which violate international human rights and humanitarian law; some of these actions amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (the Fourth Geneva Convention) and are war crimes."
Israeli leaders instead get away with calling the natives names like: non-existent/"they never existed" (Golda Meir, 1969) "crocodiles" (Ehud Barak, 2000), "grasshoppers" (Yitzhak Shamir, 1988), "beasts walking on two legs" (Menachem Begin, 1982), "like drugged cockroaches in a bottle" (IDF Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan , 1983), and "from another galaxy" (President Moshe Katsav).
Israel is the only country in the world that practices torture codified and approved by its parliament. Despite a widely publicized Supreme Court ruling, Israeli forces are entrusted to interpret the law regarding "ticking bomb" situations and apply any kind of "moderate physical pressure" (torture) deemed useful without legal intervention or supervision.
Israel is the only country in the world that obliterated and looted over 450 native towns and villages, completely erasing them off the face of the map. Israel still systematically demolishes homes (thousands so far in the past couple of years) and agricultural areas and confiscates lands to transfer to members of another religion.
Israel is the only country in the world in which citizens must serve three year compulsory service and have to return regularly to the army every year for reserve duty (exception made for Orthodox Jews who have life long Torah/Talmud studies and most Palestinian citizens who are not welcome in the army of the Jewish state).
Every single human rights organization that visited the area issued reports stating that the Israeli government and its forces seem to target civilians and exhibit reckless disregard for human life. Not one human rights non-governmental organization agreed with Israeli government propaganda that they are careful not to kill civilians and that civilians killed are "accidental" (so far in two years over 2000 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces including over 300 children).
As documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights watch, Israel now holds 3.5 million people essentially hostages in their own homes denying them the right to travel, work, and even go to school, clinics, or places of worship (Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza).
Israeli forces target civilians for political purposes (the classic definition of terrorism). Here are several lines of proof from independent sources.
Physicians for Human Rights USA investigated the high number of Palestinian deaths and injuries in the first months of the Intifada, concluded that: "the pattern of injuries seen in many victims did not reflect IDF (Israel Defense Forces) use of firearms in life-threatening situations but rather indicated targeting solely for the purpose of wounding or killing." http://www.phrusa.org/research/forensics/israel/update_commentary.html
Yediot Aharonot (Hebrew Edition, 11/17/00) quoted Tal Etlinger, a "border guard" trained to quell demonstrations as stating that riots at Um Al Fahm (where scores of unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot and many killed by snipers) were much less violent than Jewish riots (such as in Tiberias) which were "much worse..but we handle Jewish riots differently..to a demonstration like this we know in advance to come without weapons.. These are the orders from above, and we use only gas."
Human Rights Watch issued a report May 3, 2002 on Israeli atrocities in Jenin stating in part: “civilians (in Jenin]) were killed willfully or unlawfully (by the Israeli military). (which) used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’ and used indiscriminate and excessive force.. The abuses we documented in Jenin are extremely serious, and in some cases appear to be war crimes.." ([http://hrw.org/press/2002/05/jenin0503.htm])
New York Times journalist Chris hedges wrote: " And it was--I mean, I've seen kids shot in Sarajevo. I mean, snipers would shoot kids in Sarajevo. I've seen death squads kill families in Algeria or El Salvador. But I'd never seen soldiers bait or taunt kids like this and then shoot them for sport. It was--I just--even now, I find it almost inconceivable. And I went back every day, and every day it was the same." [http://22.214.171.124/pmw/manager/features/display_message.asp?mid=487]
Videos clearly implicated the army where soldiers were cavalier about killing civilians: BBC obtains video showing shelling children running away: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_2102000/2102081.stm]
In an article in the Washington Post, Keith Richburg reported (11/ 30/2000; Page A01): "Iyad was shot because he ran too fast. Nshat was shot because he missed his ride. Ronny was shot for throwing a stone. And Abdel Kareem was shot where his two friends died. Iyad, Nshat, Ronny and Abdel Kareem had never met before. But these four young Palestinians now see one another daily, as patients at the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center."
Moshe Nissim, who operated a bulldozer for 75 straight hours in Jenin was quoted in Yediot Ahoronot:
"No one refused an order to take down a house. When they told me to destroy a house I exploited that in order to destroy a few more homes. On the loudspeaker [the Palestinian residents] were warned to get out before I came in. But I didn't give a chance to anyone. I didn't wait. I'm sure that people died inside of those houses. From my perspective we left them a football field, they should play there. The 100x100 was our present to the camp. Jenin will not return to be what it was." (Yedioth Ahronot, Friday 31 May 2002, translated by Alternative Information Center).
B'Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights group, reported in October 2001 that "the IDF continues to employ a policy of 'an easy trigger-finger' and demonstrates a disregard for human life." In one Press Release (12 March 2002) B'Tselem stated: "In every city and refugee camp that they have entered, IDF soldiers have repeated the same pattern: indiscriminate firing and the killing of innocent civilians, intentional harm to water, electricity and telephone infrastructure, taking over civilian houses, extensive damage to civilian property, shooting at ambulances and prevention of medical care to the injured." ([http://www.btselem.org/])
Investigations by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Physicians For Human Rights, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights have all contradicted the Israeli army assertions that they are showing restraint and have documented patterns of human rights violations by the Israeli occupation authorities. These detailed reports are available online and refute Israeli government lines that they have acted merely to protect lives and to ensure security. Even the politically biased US State department said this in its annual report on Human rights
Israel's overall human rights record in the occupied territories was poor, continuing a deterioration that began in late 2000, after the beginning of the sustained violence of the Intifada. Israeli security forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses during the year. Security forces killed at least 501 Palestinians and 1 foreign national and injured 6,300 Palestinians and other persons during the year, including innocent bystanders. Israeli security forces targeted and killed at least 33 Palestinians whom the Israeli authorities suspected had in the past attacked or were planning to attack Israeli settlements, civilians, or military targets. On August 27, Israeli forces also killed the secretary general of the political wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which some claimed expanded the scope of such operations to include political figures. Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups stated that four of those killed were not directly involved in terrorist activities. At least 18 other persons, including 4 children, killed by Israeli forces during such operations were bystanders, relatives, or associates of those targeted.
In contravention of their own rules of engagement, which provide that live fire is to be used only when the lives of soldiers, police, or civilians are in imminent danger, Israeli security units often used excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators including live fire. IDF forces also shelled PA institutions and Palestinian civilian areas in response to Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets. Israeli security forces killed 93 Palestinians and injured 1,500 in these attacks. The IDF killed another 68 Palestinians during Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory (Area A). Israeli security forces frequently impeded the provision of medical assistance to Palestinian civilians by their strict enforcement of internal closures, which reportedly contributed to at least 32 deaths. Israeli security forces harassed and abused Palestinian pedestrians and drivers who were attempting to pass through the more than 130 Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the occupied territories. During the year, human rights organizations, including B'tselem, Human Rights Watch, the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners reported that there was an increase in the number of allegations that Israeli security forces tortured detainees, including using methods prohibited in a 1999 High Court decision; there also were numerous allegations that police officers beat detainees. The Government states that the security forces have complied with the High Court's decision and that the Attorney General's office investigates any allegations of mistreatment. Two Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli custody under ambiguous circumstances during the year. Prison conditions were poor. Prolonged detention, limits on due process, and infringements on privacy rights remained problems. The IDF destroyed numerous orchards, olive and date groves, and irrigation systems on Palestinian-controlled agricultural land, and demolished the homes of Palestinians suspected of terrorism, without judicial review. Israeli authorities censored Palestinian publications in East Jerusalem. Some journalists who were covering the clashes were injured and killed by IDF fire. The Israeli authorities placed limits on freedom of assembly, and severely restricted freedom of movement for Palestinians. Israeli security forces failed to prevent, and in some cases protected, some Israelis who entered Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and injured and killed several Palestinians. (Full report at [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/nea/8262.htm])
Human Rights Organizations sometimes even issued joint press releases and declarations. In an open letter addressed to leaders of U.S., E.U., Israel, P.A., and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (June 6, 2001), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for the dispatch of international human rights monitors (even while Israel objected). They stated:
" the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians since October 2000 have been marked by systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Civilians have been the main victims of the violence, and an immediate priority must be to bring such violations to an end. At least 470 Palestinians have been killed, most of them unlawfully by Israeli security forces when their lives and the lives of others were not in danger. More than 120 Israelis have been killed, most of them civilians deliberately targeted by armed groups and individuals. The death toll includes more than 130 children."
The letter goes on to document abuses of Human Rights both by the Israeli government and the settlers and also by individual and groups of Palestinians. The letter said that the joint Israeli-Palestinian Authority security committees have not been able to address these recurrent human rights and humanitarian law violations on their own. (A copy of the letter can be found at [http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/07/isr-0706-ltr.htm]).
B'Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights group, reported in October 2001 that "the IDF continues to employ a policy of 'an easy trigger-finger' and demonstrates a disregard for human life." In one Press Release (12 March 2002) B'Tselem stated: "In every city and refugee camp that they have entered, IDF soldiers have repeated the same pattern: indiscriminate firing and the killing of innocent civilians, intentional harm to water, electricity and telephone infrastructure, taking over civilian houses, extensive damage to civilian property, shooting at ambulances and prevention of medical care to the injured." ([http://www.btselem.org])
The U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights sent forensics experts and an orthopedic surgeon to the region. The team concluded in an early November report that the Israeli army "has used live ammunition and rubber bullets excessively and inappropriately to control demonstrators, and that based on the high number of documented injuries to the head and thighs, soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense."
Physicians for Human Rights USA investigated the high number of Palestinian deaths and injuries in the first months of the Intifada, concluded that: "the pattern of injuries seen in many victims did not reflect IDF [Israel Defense Forces] use of firearms in life-threatening situations but rather indicated targeting solely for the purpose of wounding or killing." http://www.phrusa.org/research/forensics/israel/update_commentary.html
Physicians for Human Rights addressed the violations in October 2001 when Israeli forces entered Palestinian areas, shelled clinics, prevented medical care, and attacked medical personnel doing their job:
"Israeli security forces caused severe damage to medical infrastructure in Beit Jalla and Bethlehem. This damage almost completely prevents the functioning of the healthcare systems in the region. Today, not only do patients find it almost impossible to access medical aid, and doctors cannot reach their work -- now even patients within medical institutions are exposed to gunfire and danger of injury and death." (Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, 10/24/01).
Amnesty International issued a report 23 October 2001 stating that it is "gravely concerned at recent reports of random shelling and shootings by the Israeli Defense Force in Palestinian residential areas, among them Jenin, Ramallah, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and Beit Jala, which has left at least 25 Palestinians killed, among them several children, and scores of others injured, in retaliation for the killing of the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Zeevi on 17 October." Amnesty also issued a press release asking the international community to act to end Israel's policy of closures and house demolition. It stated in part:
"The confinement of more than three million people for 10 months to their own villages or homes by curfews and closures is a totally unacceptable response to the violence of a few," the organization said. Amnesty International "welcomed the European Union's call on Monday 16 July for international observers. But the international community must not wait any longer before acting to unblock what has become an intolerable situation" (AI, 18 July 2001).
The use of torture by Israeli forces has been well documented by Human Rights organizations. In fact torture as method of obtaining confessions was considered legal in Israel for 52 years until an ambiguous Israeli high court decision of 1999. The high court decision, like many others before it has not been adhered to (unlike the US, high court decisions are not independently enforced as they are in the US). One high court decision in 1951 to return the villagers of Ikrit and Biram to their homes and lands is still to be implemented (50 years forward) and the Israeli cabinet formally rejected it on 10 October 2001 for "security concerns" and because it "would set a precedent for other displaced Palestinians who all demand to return to their homes and lands." the Associated Press reported on July 11, 2001 that Danes were incensed over the appointment of Carmi Gilon, the previous director of Israel's Shin Bet services (the secret service that engaged in torture) as ambassador to Denmark. He continued to defend torture and boasted that he "authorized about 100 cases of torture while heading Shin Bet."
In an article in the Washington Post, Keith Richburg reported (November 30, 2000; Page A01): "Iyad was shot because he ran too fast. Nshat was shot because he missed his ride. Ronny was shot for throwing a stone. And Abdel Kareem was shot where his two friends died. Iyad, Nshat, Ronny and Abdel Kareem had never met before. But these four young Palestinians now see one another daily, as patients at the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center."
Human Rights Watch reported results of its investigation into the killing of 12 year old Muhammad Al-Durra and found that he was not in "cross-fire" neither was he or his father presenting a threat to Israeli forces when they shot at them for close to 20 minutes (HRW report 21 November 2000).
In an interview with Ha'aretz reporter Amira Hass, a one Israeli sniper described the commands he receives from his superiors: "Twelve and up, you're allowed to shoot. That's what they tell us," he said. "So," responded the reporter "according to the IDF, (the appropriate minimum age group at which to shoot) is 12?" the soldier replied, "According to what the IDF says to its soldiers. I don't know if this is what the IDF says to the media."
In a report dated November 20, 2001 titled "Israel Fails to Address Increasing Use of Torture", Amnesty International (web page http://www.amnestyusa.org/) wrote:
"Amnesty International's briefing to the Committee stated that, since the September 1999 High Court of Justice judgment which banned interrogation methods constituting torture, there has been strong evidence that these methods - including sleep deprivation often seated in painful positions; prolonged squatting on haunches; painful handcuffing - are now being used again. Amnesty International was also clear that return of refugees is a basic human right that cannot be denied. In their report of March 2001, AI stated:
We regret that notwithstanding the High Court of Justice's 1999 ruling and the Committee Against Torture's clear statement in 1997 that these methods constitute torture, the State of Israel, in its report to the Committee, continues to deny this."
"Amnesty International also called on the Committee Against Torture to declare that the demolition of Palestinian homes constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. The European Court of Human Rights has deemed Turkish demolition of houses to constitute inhuman treatment in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights....Amnesty International also considers that other forms of collective punishment carried out by the Israeli authorities, including the prolonged closures of towns, villages and whole areas, denying freedom of movement to Palestinians, and prolonged curfews might also fall under Article 16 of the Convention."
Human Rights Watch issued a report May 3, 2002 on Israeli atrocities in Jenin stating in part:
“(Palestinian) civilians [in Jenin] were killed willfully or unlawfully (by the Israeli military). . . . (which) used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’ and used indiscriminate and excessive force. . . . The abuses we documented in Jenin are extremely serious, and in some cases appear to be war crimes. . ."
“With regard to the specific issue of Palestinian exiles […] durable solutions respectful of their human rights must be made available to them in any final peace agreement. Their right to return has been recognized by the United Nations since UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948 … and continues to be recognised by authoritative bodies within the UN system for the protection of human rights. Any peace agreement reached should resolve the issue of the Palestinian diaspora through means that respect and protect individual human rights. … there are other considerations that must be addressed in the negotiations -- the security concerns of both sides, for instance -- but these issues must be resolved within a framework that does not sacrifice individual human rights to political expediency” Similarly Human Rights Watch stated “[Any viable final] agreement should recognize [the right of return] for Palestinian refugees and exiles from territory located in what is now Israel or in what is likely to be a future state of Palestine. … Like all rights, the right to return binds governments. No government can violate this right. Only individuals may elect not to exercise it. […] the international community has a duty to ensure that claims of a right to return are resolved fairly, that individual holders of the right are permitted freely and in an informed manner to choose whether to exercise it, and that returns proceed in a gradual and orderly manner.” (Human Rights Watch, December 2000)
More recently, Israel is about to complete the apartheid wall. The International Court of Justice just ruled that the so called ”separation barrier” that Israel is building in the occupied areas is illegal and should be dismantled. This barrier is a series of fortified walls, ditches, fences, and moats that are built on Palestinian land. It isolates Palestinians from each other, villages from cities, farmers from their fields, and students from their schools. Israel is counting on more US arm-twisting of other countries and, should that fail, yet another US veto at the UN to protect it from sanctions and from any meaningful enforcement of International law. (see http://stopthewall.org)
What the wall does is literally make concrete existing atrocities. Israeli occupation forces have already confiscated some 30-40 percent of the land of the occupied territories (West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza) for illegal colonies that now house over 400,000 Jews from all over the world. The areas controlled by these colonies are not random. They include major hilltops, the water aquifers, the so called Jerusalem envelope, and the best agricultural areas (including the Jordan River Valley). These are the real reasons for the settlements/colonies.
The West Bank and Gaza together are a mere 22 percent of historic Palestine. Israel seems to have gotten away with ethnically cleansing the other 78 percent of most native inhabitants. Between 1947-1949 over three-quarters of the native Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) were driven out (by Zionist terminology the land was “cleansed”). More than 530 villages and towns were completely removed off the face of the map. Yet, as the maps above illustrate, teh process continues of achieving teh basic Zionist goal of maximum geography with minimum demography (of native Christians and Muslims). This is ofcourse nothing short of apartheid as amply illustrated and discussed by many people. Belwo are just a few articles by some individuals on why this is apartheid and how we should move forward.
Elaine Hagopian http://www.qumsiyeh.org/palestinianstrategy/
Virginia Tilley http://www.alternativeflags.org/tilley.html
Mustapha Barghouti http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/646/focus.htm
Hillel Barak http://www.qumsiyeh.org/hillelbarakscall/
The Olga Appeal (from Israeli Jews) http://www.qumsiyeh.org/theolgaappeal/
Mazin Qumsiyeh http://www.qumsiyeh.org/promotingafailingapartheidsolution/