Halt construction of settlements and the “separation barrier”
There are currently 121 settlements and approximately 102 “outposts” (small clusters of trailers or homes that usually eventually expand and become settlements) built illegally on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967. All of these settlements and outposts are illegal under international law and have been condemned by numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions.
These settlements and outposts are inhabited by a population of approximately 462,000 Israeli settlers — 191,000 in and around East Jerusalem and another 271,400 spread throughout the West Bank. The settler population has grown consistently between 4-6% per year over the last two decades, a much higher rate of growth than Israeli society as a whole (1.5%).
If Israel sticks to its current plans, approximately 385,000 settlers in 80 settlements will be located between the “Separation Wall” and the “Green Line” (the border between Palestine and Israel before the 1967 war, and internationally recognized as what the border should be under any peace deal).
In the fall of 2008, when peace negotiations re-started as part of President George Bush’s “Annapolis” process, permits for new settlement building increased by 550% compared to 2007.
Settlements are built on less than 3 percent of the area of the West Bank. However, due to the extensive network of settler-only roads, barriers and checkpoints, Israeli settlements dominate more than 40 percent of the West Bank.
East Jerusalem is a particular focus for settlement-building, since it is the site of many shared religious monuments and Israel wants all of Jerusalem for its capital.
In June of 2002, Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in order to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel. In most areas, the barrier consists of an electronic, barbed-wire fence with trenches on both sides. However, in heavily populated areas, a wall about 26 feet high has been erected.
The wall is being built deep within the West Bank – sometimes by as much as 10 miles — as it zigzags throughout 10 out of the 11 West Bank districts to encompass 6o existing settlements and water aquifers. As a result, the wall essentially annexes nearly 50% of the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians have difficulty getting to their fields and marketing their produce in other areas of the West Bank. Farming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the barrier’s route, an area that constitutes one of the most fertile areas in the West Bank.
Palestinians’ whose land lies on the Israeli side of the barrier must obtain permits to access their own land. However, many permit requests are rejected, either because of “security concerns” or due to claims that the applicants have not provided sufficient proof of ownership. Even when a permit is granted, the owner may not be allowed to pass through the gate in the fence at any particular time: When the Israeli army declares that the Occupied Territories are “closed,” entry is denied. Furthermore, many residents have to travel long distances, usually along unpaved roads, to get to the closest gate. The difficulty and expense in gaining access to their land have made farming unprofitable for many families, forcing them to seek another primary source of livelihood.
Regardless of where the wall is built, we do not believe it is a just, peaceful solution to Israel’s need for security. There is a fundamental injustice in caging in an entire population.
The Palestinians have fought back in a number of ways. After they filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the ICJ ruled in July 2004 that Israel must cease construction of the barrier, dismantle the parts already built inside the West Bank and compensate Palestinians who had suffered losses. The court also called on the international community to withhold its support and to take legal measures to ensure enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, Israel has ignored the ruling and the international community has allowed it to do so.
Meanwhile, individual communities are fighting back as well. For example, in the village of Bil’in, the residents have been demonstrating against the wall every week, despite repeated middle-of-the-night arrests of protest participants and volleys of teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets when the marchers get close to the wall. In April of 2009, one of the protesters was killed. Meanwhile, the village resistance committee has also partnered with others to sue a Canadian company that has invested in the nearby settlement the wall is designed to “protect.”
For further information:
Settlements in general –
The wall –