Trending Habitat Crimes against Palestinians
When things seem like they could not get worse, they do.
Since last reporting, the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) have faced an escalating cycle of grave violations under Israel’s illegal occupation, especially with Israeli military forces and settlers attacking Palestinian habitat. Throughout 2022, 500 people, including 267 children, fled seven local communities, due to attacks by settlers and the loss of access to, use of and control over their grazing land as the primary reasons. Four out of these seven local communities have been entirely emptied.
A total of 1,105 people from 28 communities (about 12% of their population) have been displaced from their places of residence since 2022, citing settler violence and the prevention of access to grazing land by settlers as the primary reason.
In a recent survey of 63 communities, almost all (55) reported a decrease in the number of their livestock, and at least 90% reported a reduction in cultivated grazing land. Some 79% of communities stopped accessing land due to attacks by settlers, and 60% cited the expansion of settlements into grazing land, or the takeover of land by settlers as reasons for the decrease. Of those communities, 66% reported that settler violence negatively affected their access to water; 46% reported that settlers had polluted, vandalized or seized water sources Palestinian herders rely on.
So far, in 2023, Israeli forces have killed over 200 Palestinians in the West Bank and inside Israel. This includes the highest number of assassinations by Israeli forces in the oPt since 2005.
During the largest military operation since 2002, Israeli forces surrounded and attacked the Jenin Refugee Camp, last July, pursuing Palestinian armed resistance. Over 3,500 of the estimated 14,000 camp residents fled to the neighboring villages, while Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians, including four children, and injured more than 100. Israeli army bulldozers and other heavy equipment significantly damaged 460 housing units, completely destroying 23, and rendering 47 otherwise uninhabitable, in addition to the destruction of the electricity, water, and sewage networks.
Across the oPt, Israelis demolished or seized a total of 290 structures, including 102 homes, and displaced 413 people, among them 194 children. That marked the highest number of demolitions recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 2016. Since 2021, at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem, including the families in Sheikh Jarrah, have eviction cases filed against them, placing at least 970 people, including 424 children, at risk of displacement and homelessness.
In the early hours of 11 July, Israeli police forcibly evicted Nora Ghaith and Mustafa Sub Laban from their home in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Ghaith-Sub Laban family, who had a protected lease on the house since 1953, had faced constant harassment and lawsuits from Israeli authorities and settlers seeking to seize their home under an inherently discriminatory law that applies to Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
Settler violence escalated during 2022, with 849 Israeli settler attacks in the first six months of this year, resulting in six Palestinians killed and 204 injured, including 24 children. Without preventive actions, and abetted by Israeli authorities, Jewish Israeli settlers typically seize land, destroy homes, burn agricultural fields, kill herds of animals, and cut down olive trees.
All these violations are encouraged and supported by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gviron, who has called for constructing more settler colonies and assassinating “hundreds, or if needed, thousands” of Palestinians, praising settlers for acting to defend themselves.” The population of Israeli colonial settlers in oPt has increased from 520.000, in 2012, to 700,000 in 2022, living illegally in 279 Israeli settler colonies, including 14 in occupied Jerusalem. At least 147 of these colonies are (informal) outposts, illegal even under Israeli domestic law.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are still facing a food crisis due to the sharp rise prices, leaving around 1.84 million Palestinians (36% of the population) food-insecure. This suffering is the direct result of economic conditions imposed by Israel and compounded by the current global food crisis.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement throughout historic Palestine deepen humanitarian needs among Palestinians, undermine access to livelihoods and essential services such as health care and education, and have a noticeable psycho-social impact on communities.
A mapping exercise by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), updated to August 2023, revealed 645 movement obstacles are spread across the West Bank. OCHA has documented an 8% rise in the number of obstacles since its previous survey.
The UN’s count includes 49 constantly staffed checkpoints; 139 intermittently staffed checkpoints; 304 roadblocks, earthen mounds and road gates; 73 earthen walls, road barriers and trenches; and 80 additional obstacles of various types within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron (H2). These developments are published in an interactive map featuring images and specific data for every documented obstacle.
In an joint statement in July, eight UN human rights Special Procedures condemned the forced eviction of east Jerusalem families, citing the dispossession and displacement of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and many other Palestinian families. The experts reiterated their past statement, noting that Israel’s transfer of its own population into the occupied territory confirms a deliberate intention to colonize the territory it occupies – a practice strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law, They noted that these actions amount to prima facie a war crime of population transfer and must be immediately reversed. They reiterated previous conclusions that “forced evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem are part of Israel’s apartheid machinery at work, designed to consolidate Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and racially dominate the city’s population.”
Despite these trends, the UN Security Council has adopted no resolution on Palestine in 2023. However, early this year, the Maltese UNSC president issued a statement voicing deep concern and dismay over further construction and expansion of settler colonies, confiscation of Palestinians’ land, and Isael’s supposed “legalization” of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians’ homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians in the oPt.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) is the only UN body explicitly and in name covers the entire Palestinian people. In September, CEIRPP launched a study on the illegality of the Israeli occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, a specific segment of that whole people. Entitled The Legality of the Israeli Occupation, commissioned by the Committee and prepared independently by the Irish Human Rights Centre of the National University of Ireland in Galway, the study aims to contribute to a broader understanding of the complex legal frameworks surrounding the Israeli occupation and its implications.
Keeping to its self-acclaimed side of the Green Line, the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the prominent Anglo-Jewish umbrella enterprise that raises funds from British Jews to support Israel Tours and youth movements in the UK, broke with its own ultra-Zionist tradition. UJIA published a policy paper this summer stating that, as a “General Rule,” it would “not fund or support activities beyond the Green Line” (inside the oPt). It is understood that this measure follows in the wake of a recent controversy, when two members of the UJIA-supported Birthright group, left the tour after accommodation difficulties within Israel proper led to a previously unscheduled stay in Kibbutz Almog, near the Dead Sea, inside the oPt. In a bid to save Israel Tours, UJIA further asserted that UJIA activities “will not be undertaken in a manner [that] treats areas beyond the Green Line as being part of the State of Israel,” including Jerusalem.
On the side of civic action, a group of 415 US Jews issued an open letter “The Elephant in the Room,” on 9 August 2023. They decried Israel growing “more right-wing and come under the spell of the current government’s messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda.” They lamented the fact that young Jews in the US have grown more and more alienated from Israel, while US Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right. These “American Jews,” many with Israeli affiliations, warned that “there cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid, as Israeli legal experts have described it.”
The conscientious 415 acknowledged that the problems did not start with the current radical government. They pointed out that “Jewish supremacism has been growing for years and was enshrined in law by the 2018 Nation State Law.” However, the statement does not mention the racist ideology and institutions of Zionism as a source of their displeasure. That elephant remains unmentioned, still roaming free.
Photo: The aftermath of a settler attack on Turmusaya village, June 2023. Source: BBC.