4 June 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On June 5, 2012, Palestinians will gather in the streets of Al Khalil (Hebron) to memorialize Naksa Day. ThisNaksa Day marks the 45th year of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, as a result of the 1967 war, leading to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians.
The demonstration is planned to commence in H1 territory (Palestinian Authority control) of Al Khalil near the municipality buildings. After gathering, the procession will march towards H2 territory of Al Khalil (Israeli military control). Upon reaching H2 area they will attempt to enter and carry out a peaceful demonstration.
It is predictable that that the protesters will not step foot into H2 territory without being confronted by the Israeli military. It is also predictable that they will not be deterred by the soldiers and their M-16s. As is the case for peaceful protesters in the occupied West Bank, they will continue to march despite the grave risk of military violence, to demonstrate the injustice Palestinians have faced since the illegal annexation of their land by Israel.
According to the Oslo 2 agreements in 1995, the Palestinian city of Al Khalil was split into H1 and H2 territory. The former is under Palestinian control whereas the latter is occupied by the Israel and some 650 settlers, despite being home to over 30,000 Palestinians.
Palestinians’ freedom of movement within the H2 district has been severely restricted, to the degree that they are detained and arrested arbitrarily on a daily basis. Palestinians are also prevented by the Israeli military from walking down the central Shuhada street, despite the lack of a law or ethical reason forbidding them from doing so. As well as facing harassment by soldiers, Palestinians face the humiliating verbal and physical abuse of the illegal settlers who are considered among the most radical and violent of settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Impunity under International Law
UN security resolution 242 specifically states that Israel withdraw from territories acquired as a result of the war as all territories acquired through war is deemed as inadmissible under international law.
After the Nakba in 1948, Israel acquired 78 percent of what was Palestine. 64 years later, Israel occupies all of Palestine and most of the land has been made inaccessible to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.
Under the Oslo Accords the West Bank has been divided into Area A, B, and C. Area A is governed or more accurately, administrated by the Palestinian Authority. Area A is only 18% of the West Bank, whereas Area C controlled by Israeli military and security forces is 62% of the land. In Area C, Israel retains authority over law enforcement and control over the building and planning sphere. A total of 60,000 Palestinians live within Area C and they face all forms of constraints on their livelihood due to restrictive planning and zoning policies, demolitions and displacement, access restrictions, settler violence, and water scarcity. There are also a number of humanitarian issues such as poor nutrition and lack of access to services such as education and health. This is primarily due to the restrictive planning policies which have prevented Palestinians from gaining access to a better public service infrastructure. Apart from these problems they face road blocks, poor roads, and lack of transport systems in remote areas.
According to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), over 1.4 million Palestinians live in 58 refugee camps across the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. 10 of these refugee camps were created to accommodate more refugees as a result of the 1967 war.
Socio-economic conditions in the camps are generally poor, with high population density, cramped living conditions, and inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers. While Palestinians continue to live in desperate circumstances, illegal Israeli settlements continue to increase. 120 Israeli settlements have been illegally erected in the West Bank since the 1967 war, housing more than 500,000 settlers. 200,000 of the settlers live in east Jerusalem. During this period of settlement expansion, Israeli forces have carried out over 24,000 demolitions of Palestinian homes, water cisterns, and agricultural properties such as olive trees.
As well as illegally occupying Palestinian Land, Israel conquered over 1,250 square kilometres of the Golan Heights following the 1967 war. The appropriation of the Golan Heights led to the forced migration of almost 130,000 Syrians. Today there are over 32 settlements in the territory, accommodating 20,000 Israeli settlers.
Israel has repeatedly violated international law on several occasions. The building and expansion of settlements is a direct breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as confirmed by the International Court of Justice. The continuous crimes carried against Palestinians in West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrians in Golan Heights are a direct breach of article 43 of the Hague Regulations which states that an occupying power must restore and maintain public order and civil life, including public welfare, in an occupied territory. As Israel continues to breach their lawful obligations, the international community turns a blind eye, giving them impunity under the law.
The march in Al Khalil will commemorate the tragedy of the Naksa. Come June 5, the anguish and the hurt of the Israeli occupation will echo across the world from al Khalil.
Sunny is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).