Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Supplementary joint memorandum submitted by International Service (IS) and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

Inquiry issue: The Control that the Network of Settlements in the Occupied Territories Have Over the Basic Conditions for Development of the Palestinian Economy: Agricultural Land, Water, Movement of Persons and Goods, Environmental Impacts.



(A copy of the full report submitted to the Committee has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons)

  IS and PCHR express their grave concerns regarding the ongoing Israeli government programme of settlement growth in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). IS and PCHR assert that the existence, maintenance and expansion of these illegal Jewish settlements in the OPT is the primary factor in the ongoing deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT, and remains a fundamental obstacle to economic, social and political development.

  All Jewish settlements located in the OPT constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely a war crime, as clarified in the first Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which expressly states that ". . . the following shall be regarded as grave breaches . . . the transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, in violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention . . ."[62]. The illegality of the settlements has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the international community, including through UN resolutions and statements issued, individually and collectively by the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions[63]. However, despite this clear understanding of the status of the settlements, they have been allowed to remain. Furthermore, the settlements have continued to expand, and new settlements continue to be established throughout the OPT.

  Measures; military, economic and social; employed in the furtherance of the Israeli government's settlement programme have systematically violated the fundamental freedoms of Palestinians, individually and collectively, throughout the OPT. This apartheid style network of control through segregation and subjugation includes direct control over natural resources, including land, water, over the economy, including agriculture, fishing and other industries, over movement of people and goods. Particularly for those Palestinian communities which settlements have been established directly adjacent to, such as the Mawasi area on which this report[64] focuses, these measures have crippled the economy, eliminated social and political life, effectively imprisoned entire Palestinian communities in isolated locales and created a humanitarian crisis, whilst simultaneously denying effective and timely relief and humanitarian assistance. At its least, the settlement programme and the methods of maintenance and expansion of the programme effectively facilitate the total control of all aspects of Palestinian life throughout the OPT.

  Israeli settlers began to establish these illegal colonies on land forcibly confiscated from Palestinians in the OPT from the late 1970s. Since that time the number of settlements in the OPT has continued to increase and the area of territory under the control of these settlements has continued to expand exponentially. In most instances, as in the Gaza Strip, the settlement programme was focused in areas of particular strategic or economic value. Certain locations were chosen on religious bases.

  The Oslo agreement and its division of the OPT into different zones of Israeli, Palestinian and joint control, increased the segregation between settlers and Palestinians and encouraged the settlers to appropriate more land for their own expansion. Particularly since the beginning of the current Intifada in 2000, citing the "security" of the settlers, the Israeli army has set up large numbers of military outposts and checkpoints, closed roads, and cleared large areas of land to act as "buffer zones" between the settlements and the Palestinians communities and towns. New settlements have been established throughout the OPT. All of these actions have served to exert greater control over greater areas of Palestinian territory.

  It must be remembered throughout, that the settlement programme continues to ensure that these measures of control are exerted in a discriminatory manner; there remains a huge disparity in the quality and standard of living between the two population groups—the illegal Israeli settlers and the Palestinian civilians. Due to massive government economic subsidies, and other support, Israeli settlers enjoy a very high standard of living, in many respects considerably better than that of many Israelis within Israel. In contrast, normal, functioning social, economic and political life for Palestinians remains impossible due to the increasing Israeli settler and military presence.

  Encouraged and assisted by significant state subsidies[65], the settlements have flourished and succeeded in establishing larger and more widespread Jewish communities on Palestinian lands in the area, whilst simultaneously reducing Palestinian access to natural resources, resulting in de-development and unprecedented poverty levels amongst Palestinians.

  As detailed in this report, the matrix of control over Palestinians in the OPT is formed of several different elements. Access to natural resources; separate legal systems (military courts for Palestinians compared with the Israeli state judicial system for Israeli settlers); movement restrictions, including ID cards and travel permits, curfews, checkpoints and road closures; land confiscation and house demolition; physical violence and harassment; are all used collectively, under the premise of "security", to maintain and expand direct control over the Palestinian population. The results for Palestinian life; for development, for the economy, for human rights, for family life; are devastating.

  This report provides a detailed analysis of the impact of the settlement programme on the lives of Palestinian civilians in the OPT. The report chooses as its focus the Palestinian community of the Mawasi, in the southern Gaza Strip. Life for the Palestinians in this isolated enclave, surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements and cut off from the rest of the Gaza Strip, reflects the broader picture of the reality of the settlement programme. In particular, the policies of dispossession and expulsion detailed in this report have facilitated gradual territorial expansion and de facto annexation of Palestinian land in southern Gaza Strip. In these respects, the Israeli government and military activities in the Mawasi area, reflect the policies and practices employed throughout the OPT. These policies of apartheid segregation, settlement expansion, closure and curfew, dispossession of lands and homes can be seen throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank including East Jerusalem.

August 2003

62   Protocol Additional I to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, article 85(4)(a). Also see articles 49 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Back

63   See statement issued following the 5 December 2001 meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention held in Geneva. Back

64   Not printed. Copy of the full report placed in the Library. Back

65   Specific information regarding state subsidies to settlers in the Gaza Strip is not readily available. However, it is generally accepted that these subsidies include tax benefits, greater investment in welfare services, cheap loans and rents for land and properties. According to information published by Peace Now approximately US$500 million was invested by the State in the settlements in 2001, in tax breaks and supplements and other non-military related investments. In particular housing in settlements received more than twice the government investment in housing in Israel. See "Peace Now: Almost half a billion dollars for Jewish settlers in 2001", Agence France Presse, January 23, 2003. Back

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