Israel: New report condemns Israel's ‘blatant violation of International Law’ in West Bank

Israel’s wall, checkpoints and settlements criticised ahead of 40th anniversary of occupation of Palestinian territory

Amnesty International has today (4 June) criticised Israel’s “Blatant violation of international law” in the West Bank in a new report published ahead of the 40th anniversary (tomorrow) of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel’s security fence/wall – built largely on Palestinian land in defiance of the International Court of Justice – plus its network of checkpoints and its illegal settlements are all criticised in the report for inflicting unnecessary suffering on the Palestinian population.

The human rights organisation, which is emphasising that it takes no sides over the Israel-Palestinian conflict or the occupation itself, is calling for an end to human rights violations that stem from Israel’s policy of entrenching the occupation through illegal and discriminatory measures. Amnesty International is also calling on Palestinian armed groups to end their targeting of Israeli civilians, both in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Israel has every right to defend its citizens from armed attacks but absolutely no right to do so at the expense of innocent Palestinians.

“Israel’s quite legitimate security concerns are no excuse for blatant violations of international law, nor the mistreatment of thousands of Palestinians in a massive programme of collective punishment.”

Amnesty International’s 47-page report, “Enduring occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank”, outlines the harmful effects of the huge “security” fence/wall that cuts into Palestinian land and the hundreds of checkpoints that are similarly sited on Palestinian territory - not at the border with Israel.

The wall, already over 220 miles long and planned to extend for 450 miles, often loops deep into Palestinian farming land and even past Palestinian villages. Eighty per cent of the wall is built on Palestinian land and when completed it will effectively create a “land grab” amounting to 10% of the West Bank, land on which 60,000 Palestinians presently live.

In line with international law, including an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in 2004, Amnesty International is calling for the wall to be dismantled where it is built on Palestinian land, and for farmers and others to be compensated for loss of land and livelihood and the destruction of buildings, olive tree orchards and other vital resources.

Kate Allen said:

"The Palestinian economy has virtually collapsed under the weight of harsh restrictions by Israel. This has only fuelled despair and poverty among a young and increasingly radicalised Palestinian population.”

Amnesty International’s report also criticises Israel’s imposition of a huge network of 550 checkpoints in the West Bank. In addition to hundreds of temporary sites known as “flying checkpoints”, the barriers are criticised as having questionable security value while profoundly disrupting all aspects of Palestinian life. The report includes examples of expectant mothers prevented from reaching hospitals, bridegrooms unable to reach their own weddings and of ill infant Children's rights dying as they and their desperate parents were held back at checkpoints.

Kate Allen added:

“Israel’s legitimate right to defend its people cannot justify imposing hundreds and hundreds of checkpoints on Palestinian land.

“Contrary to official claims about Israel’s overall ‘security’ needs, the checkpoints and restricted West Bank roads appear to exist mainly for the benefit of Israel’s settlements, settlements that are themselves illegal under international law.”

Amnesty International, which takes no position on the occupation per se, is however pointing out that the 450,000 settlers living in 235 settlements and “outposts” do so in direct contravention of international humanitarian law and human rights principles.

It is forbidden under the Geneva Conventions to move your own civilians into an occupied territory and the settlements - which receive privileged access to roads, resources and are for Jews only - are clearly discriminatory.

Amnesty International continues to condemn all attacks by Palestinians on settlers at the same time that it calls for the settlements to be removed in accordance with humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions.

Amnesty is calling for an international human rights monitoring mechanism to be deployed, to monitor compliance by both Israelis and Palestinians with international law. This should be backed up with a commitment to investigate and prosecute those who commit war crimes or other crimes under international law.

The human rights organisation’s report comes ahead of the 40th “anniversary” of the occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory at the outset of the “Six Day War” on 5 June. On the evening of 5 June Amnesty International UK will host an event in London with distinguished solicitor Geoffrey Bindman. Mr Bindman will outline some of the legal and human rights issues of the occupation.

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