The Arab/Israeli or Palestinian/Israeli conflict has been an ongoing struggle since the creation of Israel in 1948, as many may already know. But what many may not know is that every day, Palestinians are subject to human rights violations that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Israel has been in violation of international law since 1967, when U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted in November of that year, which condemned the seizure of land through war and called for Israel to withdraw its occupying forces to the June 1967 borders. Since, the international community (except the occupying power) considers the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, to be “occupied territories.”
With the onset of the occupation, Israel began to transplant parts of its own population to the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. These Israelis were settled on illegally acquired Palestinian land in what came to be known as Israeli settlements. Such population transfers are explicitly forbidden under the fourth Geneva Convention specifically to prevent colonization and annexation.
In the initial stage of this process, Israel claimed that the settlements were being built for “security” reasons. At a later stage, however, more ideological reasons were given to justify this illegal expansionist policy. To date, Israel has transferred more than 500,000 settlers into the occupied Palestinian territory, and the abuse of natural resources and the establishment of a dual system of law has created a clear situation of colonization; what many consider systematic apartheid.
Some who are “pro-Israel” may deny their current presence in Palestinian territory because they withdrew their troops occupying Gaza – a strip of land between Israel and Eygypt – in 2005. However, the international community still considers Israel as an occupying power because it has control over Gaza’s land borders, water and airspace.
Israel’s policies only hurt regular civilians and not terrorist groups. The United Nations’ submitted its annual report on the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories in January, describing a grim state of food insecurity, isolation, violence and failing health and education services. The report, which was presented during a Security Council session upon the Palestinians’ request, asserted that the number of civilian casualties rose by more than 30 percent in Gaza and the West Bank compared to 2010.
“Israeli authorities continued to impose a blockade on Gaza, amounting to collective punishment of the population and affecting every aspect of life in the Gaza Strip,” the report stated. The report maintains that the policies restricting the habitants of Gaza’s access to areas with viable agriculture and fishing prospects constrain their livelihoods. Moreover, restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza compromise the region’s health, education and sanitation services.
The UN also addressed the situation in East Jerusalem arguing that the Palestinian population there is growing isolated from the rest of the West Bank. Furthermore, the residents of “Area C” – which makes up 60 percent of the West Bank and is under Israeli control – have been facing escalating rates of home demolitions, settler violence and restricted travel.
Pro-Israelis may also respond to criticism of the Israeli government’s continued colonization of Palestine by blaming the victim – since Palestinians have failed to make peace with Israel, occupation is a necessary measure to ensure the security of the Jewish state.
Ironically, Israel’s occupation only aggravates violence and puts their own people at risk. Groups such as Hamas and Hezbullah have indiscriminately fired rockets into Israel as a way to stand up to the occupying power. Israel sees this as a reason to continue bombarding Palestinian land, although the problem lies first and foremost in the illegal acquisition of Palestinian land and resources by Israel.
So what is a “crime against humanity”? According to Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, this concept goes all the way back to the Nuremberg trial of 1945 for the trial of major Nazi war criminals. Drafted by the United States government, a new type of international crime was created to specifically deal with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.
This is what the United Nations Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian People: crimes against humanity.
To learn more about the conflict and crisis, CSUN will host a lecture today in the Northridge Center at 4:00 p.m., by Professor Ilan Pappé, an Israeli activist and scholar who advocates against Israel’s “false paradigm of parity and partition.”
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