Op. It is time to end Israel’s dangerous lawlessness

By Hanan Ashrawi/

“In the past few months, Israel has intensified its deliberate breach of international law and conventions and has employed a series of dangerous and violent policies and racist laws and legislation against the Palestinian people aimed to systematically destroy their homes and rob them of their land, resources and rights; these policies further enable extrajudicial executions, illegal detentions and other blatant violations.

In addition to approving plans to construct 770 out of 1200 settlement units between the illegal settlement of Gilo and the Palestinian town of Beit Jala last week, Israel also opened tenders for 323 units in and around Occupied Jerusalem in the illegal settlements of Gilo, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, and Har Homa. Moreover, in the beginning of July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced plans to build 560 units in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim and 240 units in the illegal settlements of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa.  In that same period, Netanyahu and Lieberman declared their intentions to expand and intensify settlement activities in Hebron, including approving the construction of an additional 42 units in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba.  Such constant annexation of Palestinian land and the escalation of settlement activities (considered war crimes under international law) will provoke grave violence and extremism and threaten security and stability throughout the region and beyond.  

Israel is employing a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement with its demolition of Palestinian homes and structures.  Since the beginning of 2016, more than 650 buildings and structures in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) have been destroyed by Israeli forces.  According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, more Palestinian homes were demolished between January and June of this year than in all of 2015; and in the past 10 years, more than 1,100 homes were destroyed, leaving 5,000 people, including 2,602 children, homeless.  On July 25 and 26, Israel destroyed 12 homes in the village of Qalandiya, 4 residential and commercial properties in Al-Isawiya, one residential building in Ras Al-Amud, and a home under construction in Silwan. Moreover, it should be mentioned that the Bedouin village of al-Araqib was destroyed for the 101st time on Wednesday morning. With its official policy of destroying Palestinian homes and lives, Israel is confirming its aim of continuing the Nakba of 1948 by displacing Palestine and replacing it with “Greater Israel.”

The Israeli government continues to implement a long list of racist laws, proposals and practices by exploiting its own judicial and political systems to violate Palestinian rights and institutionalize apartheid.  Note the following recent examples: On July 28, in a preliminary reading a bill was approved that would make the illegal settlements eligible for tax breaks based on “the security threats they face.”  The Knesset passed a law on July 20 allowing three-quarters majority of its members to expel elected politicians who “negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite racism, or express support for an armed struggle against the State of Israel by an enemy state or terrorist organization.”  Knesset Members, including Speaker Yuli Edelstein, are seeking to pass a bill that would validate illegal settlements built on private Palestinian land via retroactive appropriation, planning, and zoning regulations; this includes the largest illegal settlement outpost of Amona.  A Knesset bill was proposed in early July by MK Oded Forer that would place inhuman and cruel restrictions on some Palestinian political prisoners such as the prevention of family visits, receiving photographs and of pursuing a higher education from prison.

Since October 2015, Israel has carried out a violent and oppressive campaign in both the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza which has resulted in the killing of 224 Palestinians, including 52 children and 16 women. 

Currently, there are roughly 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails; more than 700 of them are being held under administrative detention (without evidence, charges or due process).  In particular, Palestinian child prisoners continue to suffer psychologically, physically and emotionally at the hands of the Israel Prison Service.  According to B’Tselem, by the end of April, 414 Palestinian children were imprisoned by Israel, and based on statistics from the Defense for Children International Palestine, from January to June of 2016, 13 Palestinian children were held in solitary confinement for two or more days, while 2015 saw a total of 15 cases.  In October 2015, Israel resumed the illegal use of administrative detention against Palestinian children; according to B’Tselem such a punitive measure had not been implemented since December 2011. By the end of April, 13 children were being held under administrative detention, and by the end of June, 8 children were being held under this illegal practice.

Such unbridled violations by Israel constitute deliberate acts of provocation, violence and grave political irresponsibility.  Lack of effective international intervention and accountability and the absence of a political horizon have encouraged Israel to persist in its flagrant violations of international law and international humanitarian law and to defy the international community in thwarting all attempts at achieving a just peace.  It is time for the international community to undertake its responsibilities and put an end to Israel’s dangerous lawless system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. 

Hanan Ashrawi is a PLO Executive Committee Member