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Formalizing Israel’s Land Grab
Posted on Aug 16, 2010
By Chris Hedges
Falk, who taught international law at Princeton University, will issue a report to the United Nations this fall in which he will assert that the Israeli process of colonialism and apartheid has accelerated over the past three years. He will call in the report for the U.N. to consider unilaterally declaring Palestine an independent state, as it did with Kosovo. Falk cites as examples of Israeli colonialism the official 121 Jewish settlements, as well as roughly 100 “illegal outposts” in the West Bank, and the extensive network of roads reserved exclusively for Jews that connects the settlements to one another and to Israel behind the green line. He estimates, when “all restrictions on Palestinian control and development are taken into account,” that Israel has effectively seized 38 to 40 percent of the West Bank.
The punishing conditions imposed by the Israeli blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been replicated for the roughly 40,000 Palestinians who live in “Area C,” the 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under complete Israeli military control. Save the Children, UK (STCUK), in a recent report called “Life on the Edge” argues that Israeli policies of land confiscation, expanding settlements, lack of basic services such as food, water, shelter and medical clinics are at “a crisis point.” The report concludes that food security problems are even worse than in Gaza. According to the report, “ ... Seventy-nine percent of communities surveyed recently don’t have enough nutritious food; this is higher than in blockaded Gaza where the rate is 61 percent.” Palestinian children growing up in Area C experience, according to the report, malnutrition and stunted growth at double the level of children in Gaza. Forty-four percent of these children were found to suffer from diarrhea, often with lethal effects. STCUK writes that “Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian access to and development of agricultural land—in an area where almost all families are herders—mean that thousands of children are going hungry and are vulnerable to killer illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia.”
“Children are being forced to cross settlement areas and risk beatings and harassment by settlers, or walk for hours, just to get to school ... many children are losing hope in the future,” Jihad al-Shommali of the Defense for Children International Palestine Section was recently quoted as saying with reference to the problems of children in Area C.
Falk said, “This overall pattern suggests systematic violations by Israel of Article 55 of Geneva IV and Article 69 of the First Geneva Protocol of 1977 that delimits Israel’s obligations to ensure adequate provision of the basic needs of people living under its occupation, especially in Area C where it exercises undivided control.”
The annexation of Palestinian territory has been reinforced by the construction of 85 percent of the separation wall—256 of a planned 435 miles has been completed—on occupied Palestinian territory. The barrier cuts the West Bank off from Israel and has been built in a configuration which plunges deep into the West Bank. The settlements and the land to the west of the wall, which makes up 9.4 percent of the West Bank, have already been absorbed into Israel. The seizure of nearly 40 percent of the West Bank includes Israeli control of most of the Palestinians’ water supply. The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are allotted per capita four to five times the amount of water allotted to Palestinians by the Israeli government.
The settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank violate Article 49(6) of Geneva IV, which prohibits the transfer of the population of an occupying power to the territory temporarily occupied. Israel’s stubborn rejection of the demand of Security Council Resolution 242 that it withdraw from Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967 creates, as Falk said, “a background that resembles, and in some dimensions exceeds, in important respects the situation confronting the government of Kosovo.”
“Lengthy negotiations have not resolved the issue of the status of Palestine, nor do they give any reasonable prospect that any resolution by negotiation or unilateral withdrawal will soon occur,” he said. “Under these circumstances, it would seem that one option available to the Palestine Liberation Organization [the Oslo Agreement empowered the PLO to negotiate international status issues] acting on its own or by way of the Palestinian Authority under international law would be to issue a unilateral declaration of status, seeking independence, diplomatic recognition and membership in the United Nations. The recent Kosovo advisory opinion of the World Court in The Hague provides a well-reasoned legal precedent for such an option.”
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