Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Jews for Justice for Palestinians

A.  JEWS FOR JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS

  1.  Jews for Justice for Palestinians is a group of British Jews who are principally concerned with the human, economic and political rights of Palestinians. We believe that the Palestinians have the right to their own state in the areas currently occupied by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, no less than Israel has the right to a secure existence within the 6 June 1967 borders. Accordingly we believe that Israel should negotiate in good faith to withdraw to the 1967 borders. We do not prescribe the conditions for a just peace, but look to a solution that both parties are prepared to accept. Thus an equitable land swap to accommodate some of the settlements adjacent to the Green Line may be acceptable.

  2.  We abhor terrorism in all its forms and believe it cannot be condoned, regardless of who perpetrates it. This applies equally to Palestinian attacks on civilians, and to Israeli "targeted killings" which inevitably kill and maim bystanders and which can be called state terrorism. We believe, however, that the cycle of terror and counter terror is caused by the long occupation, by Israel's obvious intention to use the settlement project—and now the Separation Wall—to annexe large swathes of the occupied land, and from the many punitive measures it takes against the Palestinian population.

  3.  We are the largest Jewish peace group in the U.K, with nearly 750 signatories. We believe that we and the other Jewish peace groups in the UK represent the views of a significant part of the UK's Jewish population, whose voice is rarely heard. We travel regularly to the Middle East and are in touch with all the main Israeli and Palestinian Peace organisations

  4.  We believe that the Israeli population are not told the full ramifications of the settlement project or of the deprivations faced by Palestinians, and the Jewish media in Great Britain also acts to sanitise the situation. In particular the separation wall is accepted as a temporary security measure. We very much welcome the concern this committee has expressed and hope that your conclusions will be discussed with the leaders of the Jewish community and reported in the Jewish press in this country.

B.  EVIDENCE

B.1(3)   The impact of the separation wall on Palestinian farmers and for employment, movement of people and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

    a.  The western section of the wall is being built on a meandering route which often extends deep inside the West Bank in order to incorporate settlements on its "Israeli" side. There is also a planned eastern section which will go down the Jordan Valley well to the west of the Jordanian border. If completed, the Wall will - literally - create two Palestinian ghettos completely surrounded by Israel and/or Israeli-controlled territory. The settlements in the Jordan Valley, as well as those adjacent to Israel, will thus be incorporated into the annexed land.

    b.  This massive project would annexe 62% of the West Bank. It would also take more than 2/3 of the water wells used from drinking and agriculture. Israel would control the borders of the ghettos and would also ration the water used in them. These results can hardly be unintended.

    c.  The separation barrier is bordered on each side by a barbed wire fence, a trench and sometimes other "depth barriers". There are also three paths on its western side: a trace road, a patrol road and an armoured vehicle road. The average total width of the system is 60 metres. The barrier itself has confiscated tens of thousands of acres of farmland. Much of the West Bank's best farmland, notably around Qalqilya and Tulkarem, has been confiscated in this way.

    d.  16 villages are being confiscated and 210,000 Palestinians in 67 villages are being harmed.

    e.  Farmers in dozens of villages are being separated from their lands by the western wall. This occurs either when a village is inside the wall area and its fields outside, or vice versa. In principle there are gates to allow farmers to access their fields, but in practice they are not manned so as to allow passage when the farmers require it. Nor are they allowed to take vehicles through and there are instances of farmers being refused access with their donkeys. Experience has shown that Palestinian farmers trying to use the few gates built so far have been regularly beaten, abused, arrested or even shot. Palestinians are also being separated from their places of employment in nearby towns and villages.

    f.  Between 10,000 and 15,000 Palestinians live between the Green Line and the western section of the Wall. They will be restricted to five enclaves separated from the rest of the West Bank and from Israel. Israel is already creating a pass system to control the movement of Palestinians out of and into the enclaves. This is open to the interpretation that it is intended to "encourage" them to move into the ghettos or further afield.

    g.  The proposed line of the separation wall through East Jerusalem includes a double wall now being built around the town of a-Ram, north of Jerusalem. It has 60 thousand inhabitants, of which 40 thousand have Jerusalem IDs and Israeli license plates on their cars. The double wall will cut the town off, both from Jerusalem and the West Bank. The only passage out of this pocket will be the infamous Kalandia checkpoint. Normal life will become impossible and commercial life will be exceptionally difficult. Pupils will have to get up at 5 am in order to reach their schools in adjoining neighbourhoods on the other side of the wall. Sick people and pregnant women will have to travel for hours before they reach the hospitals in Jerusalem or Ramallah.

B.1(4)   The control that the network of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories . . . environmental impacts.

    a.  Within two weeks of Israel's victory in the 1967 war, it formally annexed East Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank areas to the north and south, and commenced the settlement project. In the words of Benny Morris, "Within two to three years a gigantic settlement venture was afoot.", enjoying major government infrastructure and financial support at a cost of billions. In 1977, the first Likud government systematised and expanded the settlement project. Between 1993 and 2000—years of Labour-led governments—the number of settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) increased by almost 100%.

    b.  By February 2002, there were 158 Israeli settlements containing about 400,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories (The West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza). The Palestinian population in these areas is 3.1 million. Despite comprising only about 11% of the total population of these areas, the Israeli settlements, reserved lands, connecting roads and other Israeli Army controlled land take up about 56 % of the land area.

    c.  CBS has reported that 3,650 new homes are under now construction in the West Bank and Gaza. Between January and October 2003, tenders for 1,700 further new units were approved.

    d.  The settlement project violates the rights of the indigenous Palestinians under international law. Among the rights violated are: self-determination, equality under the law, property, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement.

    e.  Israel uses a complex legal and bureaucratic system to control land use for the benefit of the settlers and to the detriment of the Palestinians. The core of the system is the planning process. Israel changed the composition of the planning institutions by transferring numerous planning powers from the pre-existing Palestinian authorities to the new Jewish regional and local authorities. The system has separate Israeli and Palestinian tracks. The Israeli track authorises and facilitates settlement construction and expansion, and construction of the by-pass roads which are for exclusive Israeli use. The Palestinian track obliges Palestinians to apply to the Jewish local authorities, which routinely reject requests for building permits.

    f.  After the signing of the interim Oslo accords in 1993, Israel transferred planning powers in the Palestinian controlled areas—Areas A and B—to the Palestinian Authority. While the vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in these areas, the vacant land available for construction in dozens of villages and towns in the West Bank is on the margins of the communities, in areas defined by Israel as Area C. Therefore the Israeli planning authorities continue to control expansion and development of these communities.

    g.   Almost 2 m. dunams of land seized by Israel over the years, mainly by means of its declaration as "state and", has been included in the jurisdiction of six Jewish regional councils but not attached to any particular settlement. Some of this land, especially in the Jordan valley, is farmed by settlers or used by the IDF for training. However, the great bulk of it is empty, and thus constitutes reserves for future expansion of settlements and establishment of industrial or tourism zones.

    h.  The network of by-pass roads, which are reserved for Israeli use, and the checkpoints impose major restrictions on Palestinian movement. Often journeys which should take half-an hour in fact require hours. This severely impedes Palestinians in conducting commerce, selling produce and conducting their personal business. Long delays at checkpoints—often unexplained—exacerbate these problems and frequently cause medical emergencies.

POSSIBLE LONG-TERM EFFECT OF THE SEPARATION WALL AND THE SETTLEMENT INFRASTRUCTURE

  The manifold economic and movement difficulties created by the Separation Wall and the settlement infrastructure could easily make conditions for Palestinians so difficult that they move out of the West Bank altogether. This has been referred to in Israeli political circles for some time as "quiet transfer".

NOTE

  The material summarised in section B comes from four published sources: Behind the Barrier (B'tselem), Land Grab: Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank (B'tselem), Report on Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories (Foundation for Middle East Peace), and Gush Shalom. The full reports can be found on the websites of these organisations.

November 2003


 
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