By Iris Mark/ PNN/
In June 2017, Palestinians marked 50 years of living under the world’s longest ongoing military occupation.
A historical overview
On the 14 of May 1948, the state of Israel was declared. By the time Israel and the Arab States signed the Armistice agreement in 1948, Israel had gained control over 75% of mandate Palestine. 531 Palestinian towns and village were depopulated or completely demolished. Out of the 1.9 million Palestinians, 800 000 were expelled or forced to flee and 15,000 were killed in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres. This is known as the Nakba, and is a violation of international law.
During the six day war in 1967, known as the Naksa, 300,000 Palestinian were expelled or forced to flee the West Bank alone. This war marks the beginning of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and annexation of East Jerusalem, territories which together made up the remaining 22% of Mandate Palestine. In violation of international law, Israel built hundreds of settlements in the occupied territories and governed with military law. The tactics employed by Israel’s occupying forces – detention without trial, home demolitions and torture – severely infringe on Palestinians political, civil and human rights.
In 1987, the first intifada occurred in response to Israel’s ongoing military occupation. A broad cross-section of Palestinian society joined in this resistance effort with public demonstrations and civil disobedience, eliciting a brutal and disproportionate response from the Israeli military. Pictures of Israeli soldiers responding to children throwing rocks with rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition stunned the world.
The world recognized a need for a resolution, and the following period is refereed to as the Oslo period. The Oslo agreement was supposed to make the Palestinians gain back control over the West Bank and Gaza during a five year period. The flawed peace process, and the constant frustration experienced by the Palestinians because of the occupation led to the second intifada in September of 2000.
The second intifada started out with demonstrations and clashes across the West Bank and Gaza. The situation escalated with bomb-attacks by some Palestinian individuals against Israeli settlers and occupying forces, met by a strong and brutal armed Israeli military. Meanwhile Israel put up more roadblocks and checkpoints, cutting of free movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. 2600 Palestinians and 400 Israelis died in the conflict.
Following the second intifada, Israel started building the apartheid wall, a concrete wall surrounding the entire West Bank. The wall is not only a direct violation of one of the key tenets of the Oslo Accords, but it is also transforming the landscape of the West Bank. The wall is mostly built eight kilometers inside the borders, but some places as far as 22 kilometers in. And a total of 45% of the occupied West Bank is now annexed.
The new normal of today
Israelis uphold their discriminatory policies in several ways and are severely affecting life in the West Bank.
The enforced permit system, were the Palestinians have to apply for living in their own homes, travel a few kilometers to see their family, harvest on their own land and traveling to occupied east Jerusalem to pray. There are more than 100 different types of permits, which includes movement, residency, travel, work, farming, trade and money transfer, education, worshipers, visiting holy sites, construction, renovation and health. With only 19% of the West Bank being controlled by the Palestinian Authorities, the Israeli are using checkpoints to control where and when the Palestinians can travel.
Research done by the Palestinian Counselling Center (PCC) established that the wall has had a profound negative impact on the mental health of Palestinian children and created a major obstacle for them to obtain an education. Home demolitions, Israeli military night raids, interrogation and detentions are all part of daily encounters. Collective punishment is widely used against families and entire neighborhoods in response to the actions of a few. If a child is arrested for throwing stones, the collective punishment can be a refusal of permits for the entire family, even if the family’s income is depending on permits to get to work. Political violence, as the abuse of power to humiliate and harass is commonly used by the occupying forces.
An occupation prolonged across generations is creating a burdensome status quo. Studies consistently show the psychological, social and economic effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestine. A longitudinal study, assessing the link between political violence and adult functioning during a 25 year period from 1967-2011 in Palestine concluded that “persistently humiliated men and women reported significantly lower health, economic, political, and psychological functioning.” The 1778 men and women participating were identified as in someway exposed to persistent humiliation.
Another study done from 1990-2013 in the middle east concluded that 54·4% of Palestinian boys and 46·5% of Palestinian girls (age 6–12 years) were estimated to have emotional and behavioral disorders. These numbers are higher than anywhere else in the Middle East.
Military, teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition, interrogation, detention, humiliation and verbal and physical abuse are a part of normal life for the population in Palestine. And the new normality is deteriorating. The strength, love, family and community values and the everlasting hope of return among the Palestinians is not only highly admirable, but might work as their primary resilience factor.
But this resilience factor is not able to neutralize war. A study running from 2000-2005 in Gaza found that 41% of the children suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). The same study found that nearly 87% of the population live under the poverty line.
Rehabilitation and treatment for victims of war is no longer sufficient in Palestine. The new normal of daily suppression, created during 50 years of occupation, is affecting all aspects of life. The occupation must end to create a non-violent and non-traumatizing upbringing for future generations. The Palestinians can’t end it alone. The international community must put the necessary pressure on Israel to end the construction of settlements on occupied territory and ongoing human rights abuses.