30 March 2005
Today Al-Haq observes Land Day, which commemorates the death of six Palestinians and the injuring of 70 others by Israeli gunfire in Nazareth in 1976 during protests against Israeli land expropriation. Land Day also serves to remind the world of the continued injustice of Israels historical and ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land.
Since its illegal occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel began the transfer of Israeli settlers into these areas, underpinned by multiple acts of land confiscation within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Today, an estimated 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the OPT in flagrant violation of international law. Despite repeated condemnation from the international community, the settlements continue to expand with the full political and financial support of the successive Israeli governments.|
Israel continues its aggressive settlement expansion and construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank while world attention is turned towards the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. In December 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Israel intends to strengthen its control of other parts of the Land of Israel, which will be an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.
Recent reports from Israeli government officials, non-governmental organisations, and aerial photography all confirm the continued expansion of settlements and establishment of new settlement outposts throughout the West Bank. Furthermore, Israels construction of the Annexation Wall not only confiscates land, but also seeks to secure illegal settlements on the western side of the Wall. Amongst the settlement groups expanding most rapidly are Alfe Manashe and Tzofim, located to the west of Israels Annexation Wall near Qalqilya and Toulkarem. Not only will this expropriation amount to de facto annexation, illegal under international law, it also serves to predetermine future borders.
Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in annexed East Jerusalem. The Israeli government recently made public its approval of plans to add 3,500 housing units between its largest settlement in the West Bank, Maaleh Adumim, and Jerusalem. This construction, along with the Annexation Wall, will effectively cut off East Jerusalem and its Palestinian residents from the rest of the West Bank in Israels drive to alter the demographic composition of Jerusalem.
Al-Haq urges the international community not to ignore these new facts on the ground. The settlements are, and always have been, a gross violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as unanimously upheld by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its recent Advisory Opinion on the Wall. Moreover, the exponential growth of these settlements will eclipse the number of settlers actually being removed from the Gaza Strip, and fracture the territorial contiguity of the West Bank.
The international community should not reward Israel with passive acceptance of its illegal practices in exchange for its modest and often illusory steps towards peace and the rule of law. On the contrary, all Parties to the almost universally ratified Fourth Geneva Convention are obligated, under Article 1, to ensure respect for its provisions, as reaffirmed by the Advisory Opinion. Al-Haq is convinced that the road to peace lies in the respect for fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law, and that Israels expropriation of Palestinian land, which this day serves to recall, is incompatible with a just and durable solution of the conflict. With this in mind, Al-Haq makes the following recommendations:
- States must ensure that they are not aiding or assisting in the construction or expansion of settlements. They must not allow economic cooperation with Israel that furthers settlements, financial aid to Israel that is then channeled to the settlements, or permit domestic corporations to sell Israel equipment that is used to build settlements.
- States must actively work towards the dismantling of the settlements. States that are party to bilateral agreements with Israel, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement and scientific and technical agreements, should make use of these agreements, and in particular their human rights clauses, to induce Israeli compliance with international law.
- Those states involved in the efforts to achieve a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure that the foundation of this solution is international law, including the ICJ's Advisory Opinion, which clearly states that Israeli settlement construction in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, is unlawful.