Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Al-Haq: Law in the Service of Man[13]

The Impact of Israeli Settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territories[14]


  1.  Irrespective of changes in Israeli governments, since 1967, the Israeli settlement of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) has continued unabated. The primary basis of this policy is to ensure that Israel's acquisition of these territories is made permanent, creating facts on the ground that would preclude the formation of a viable Palestinian state. By extending all facets of Israel's domestic jurisdiction to the settlements, the de-facto annexation of the territory is achieved through the incorporation of these colonial settlements into the Israeli national system.

  2.  The current Israeli government, like its predecessors, strongly supports colonization in the OPT through expansion of existing settlements and the construction of new ones, as well as settler outposts. The Israeli government, in effort to encourage Israelis to take up residency in settlements, provides a number of financial incentives. These include a reduction in income tax, subsidised mortgages, and cheaper rates for water and electricity. The continued growth of settlements in the OPT is shown by figures provided by the Yesha Settlers Council. The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) and Gaza at the end of 2002 was stated as 226,028. This figure represents a rise of nearly 6% over the previous year. Over 250 Israeli settlements have been built in the OPT since 1967, some of which are within Palestinian residential areas, as is the case in the old city of Hebron in the Southern West Bank.


  3.  The discrimination inherent in Israel's settlement policy is institutionalised in the laws, procedures and practices of the Israeli military authorities operating in the OPT. By upholding the rights of settlers, while at the same time deliberately denying the same rights to Palestinians, the Israeli government is clearly guilty of employing double standards. The issue has been raised by the Human Rights Committee, the implementing body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

    The committee is concerned that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who remain under the control of Israeli security forces do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as Jewish settlers in those territories, in particular in regard to planning and building permits and access to land and water. The committee is also concerned at the policies of confiscation of lands and settlement in the OT. The committee recommends that coordinated and targeted efforts be made to establish basic standards that are applicable equally to all persons under the jurisdiction of Israel. [15]


  4.  The expropriation of Palestinian lands for the construction of settlements and the exploitation of water resources in the West Bank for settler use are further examples of discrimination. Palestinian land is also being expropriated for the building of settler bypass roads that connect the Jewish settlements to each other and to Israel. While according to the Oslo Agreements, the building of these roads on Palestinian land was claimed to be for the use of both populations, the Israeli military authorities have banned most Palestinians from using these roads and have restricted them exclusively for the use of Jewish settlers in the OPT. Palestinian cars with Palestinian license plates using the by-pass road networks are prohibited from using these roads to facilitate access to their own villages, towns and cities. The Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights noted the following in its concluding remarks to Israel in May 2003:

    Despite State party's obligation under article 11 of the Covenant, the Government of Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian lands and resources for the expansion of Israeli settlements. Thousands of dunams (1 dunam equals 1,000 square meters) of land in the West Bank have recently been confiscated to build 20 new bypass roads which cut the West Bank towns off from outlying villages and farmlands. The consequences—if not the motivation—is to the fragmentation and isolation of Palestinian communities and facilitation of the expansion of illegal settlements. The committee also notes with concern that while the Government annually diverts millions of cubic meters of water from the West Bank Eastern Aquifer Basin, the annual per capita consumption allocation for Palestinians is only 125 meters while settlements are allocated 1,000 cubic meters per capita.[16]

  5.  In addition to the expropriation of Palestinian land and water resources for the benefit and use of Jewish settlements, we witness further destruction of Palestinian agricultural land through the pollution of the environment. Industrial wastewater and sewage from settlements and their industrial zones are being pumped or allowed to run onto Palestinian agricultural land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. One important example is the Bitar settlement west of Bethlehem in the West Bank and close to the Palestinian village of Nahaleen. On August 12, 2003, settlers from the Bitar settlement opened two sewage pipes, each 10 inches wide, and allowed raw sewage to pour onto the agricultural land of Nahaleen for two weeks. This resulted in the destruction of 100 over dunams of land used for agriculture and for the grazing of approximately 1000 goats, thus depriving the residents of the village of their major source of income. The runoff also penetrated an underground spring, which is the primary source of drinking water for the village.


  6.  Such practices are also combined with Israel's compliance and/or tolerance of settler violence against the Palestinian civilian population. Al-Haq has documented numerous cases from survivors and eyewitnesses concerning different forms of settler violence, including killings, injuries, beatings, destruction of property and vandalism, most of which are tolerated by both Israeli soldiers and police.[17] There is enough evidence to suggest that such violations are not taken seriously by the Israeli authorities that have the responsibility under the 4th Geneva Convention as the occupying power to protect Palestinian civilians in areas under their control. We believe that there exists a policy, albeit unofficial, of tolerance towards the attacks perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians. In a number of reported incidents, Israeli soldiers and border police have actively assisted settlers in carrying out attacks. [18]


  7.  The illegality of Israel's settlement policy according to international law has been recognized by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The prohibition on transfer of civilians into occupied territory is accepted by the international community as proscribing Israel's settlement of the OPT.[19] It is also recognized by the international community that Israel has a duty to ensure the safety of the civilian population in the OPT. Its failure to do so contravenes its obligations under both international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

  8.  Britain is a High Contracting Party to the 4th Geneva Convention and has a legal obligation under Article 1 of the Convention to "respect and ensure respect" for the Convention. As such, it must take immediate measures to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population and to work with the International Community towards the dismantling of Israeli settlements. The measures are required if a just and durable solution is to be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  An annex to this memorandum—details of a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice for an Interim Injunction against Israeli soldiers and police complying with settler violence against Palestinian civilians—has not been printed. A copy has been placed in the Library.

October 2003

13   Al-Haq is a Palestinian human rights organisation, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists and has consultative status with UN ECOSOC. Al-Haq was established in 1979 with the aim of upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories. For more information about Al-Haq, and the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories, please visit our website: Back

14   Al-Haq is currently finalising a study on settlements in the OPT. The study provides extensive documentation of settler violence against Palestinians and the impact of this violence on everyday Palestinian life. (A draft of the study is available upon request). Back

15   UN Official Document No. (CCPR/C/79/Add.93, 18 August 1998, Para. 13). Back

16   UN Official Document No. (E/C.12/1/Add.90, 23 May 2003, Para. 18). Back

17   Al-Haq has recently filed a petition with 12 individual petitioners to the Israeli High Court of Justice against Israeli police and soldiers who either comply with or tolerate settler violence against Palestinian civilians in the H2 area in Hebron, which is completely under the control of the Israeli Military Authorities. The petition is still pending in the court. See Appendix. Back

18   Available in Al-Haq's files are numerous affidavits and reports that support this argument. Back

19   According to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, the "Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Back

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