The Israeli occupation army has decided to close its probe into the killing of Ibraheem Abu Thurayya, a disabled Gazan demonstrator who was killed in December 2017 in protests near Gaza’s eastern border.
According to Haaretz, the Israeli army’s criminal investigation division claimed that it had questioned soldiers and examined video footage of the incident, but found no evidence that Abu Thurayya was killed by direct Israeli army fire.
The army said that the investigation found that on the day Abu Thurayya was killed the Israeli forces took “riot dispersal measures” against the Palestinian protesters with live fire being directed at the lower parts of the bodies of the protesters.
On 15 December 2017, Abu Thurayya took part in a protest along Gaza’s border with the 1948 occupied territories over the US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that he was killed by gunshots to his upper body, and eyewitnesses reported that he was shot directly in the head during the protests.
After the incident, a video was circulated through social media platforms showing the young man, shortly before he was shot, waving a Palestine flag while sitting on his wheelchair.
Abu Thurayya’s legs were amputated in 2008 after he was wounded in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza.
Many local and international human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the Israeli occupation army’s lack of seriousness in investigating incidents of deliberate killing of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers or settlers.
Palestinian girl, 5-year-old, identified as Aisha Lulu from Gaza Strip died a lonely death on Friday at a hospital in Jerusalem.
Local sources said that the Israeli occupation prevented her family from accompanying her during a complex brain medical operation.
The sources added that during the past months, the girl’s family (from the Bureij camp) appealed to international and local institutions and the occupation to allow a family member to accompany Aisha on a treatment trip.
Unfortunately, their repeated pleas were rejected on alleged security grounds by the Israeli occupation who refused granting them a permit to travel with the 5 year-old girl.
All those who witnessed her last moments of life said that she died alone crying.
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Thursday six Palestinian citizens after raiding their homes in different West Bank areas.
In a statement on Thursday, the Israeli army said its forces arrested six wanted Palestinians in the West Bank.
The IOF arrest campaigns took place in Kobar village (north of Ramallah), al-Mazra’a al-Gharbiya village (northwest of Ramallah), Beit Fajjar town (south of Bethlehem), Qabatiya town (southwest of Jenin).
The IOF also raided homes in other areas of the West Bank, without making arrests.
In a separate incident, the Israeli police kidnapped a teenager from his home in Silwan district, south of the Aqsa Mosque.
According to Wadi Hilweh Information Center, police forces stormed and ransacked the house of 16-year-old Mohamed al-Abbasi, rounded him up and took him to one of its stations in the holy city.
Some 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes and land when Israel was founded in 1948
Еvery year, a day after Israel marks its independence day on May 14, we commemorate with sadness and nostalgia the Nakba of 1948. The events of that year changed the Palestinian lot for generations to come, transforming them from a people living peacefully and comfortably off of the fruits of their land to refugees struggling in misery in overcrowded camps, forced to depend on charity for their daily bread.
Every year, in our communities we count how many elderly Palestinians who witnessed the Nakba are left. Although their numbers shrink with every passing Nakba day, the memory of what happened seven decades ago is kept alive. The keys to the homes from which they were forcefully expelled are passed on to us, the younger generation, as we continue the struggle for the return of all Palestinian refugees.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to do everything it can not to abide by international law and implement the United Nations resolution 194 of 1948, which stipulates the rightful return of all Palestinians to their homes. It continues to imprison millions of Palestinians behind walls in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and keep the Palestinian minority within its borders under an apartheid regime.
It also continues to propagate myths and false claims in order to justify flaunting international law and continuing the victimisation of Palestinians.
Israel says Palestine was a land without people.
But the census the British conducted shortly after they took control of Palestine in 1920 showed that it had a population of more than 750,000, only 11 percent of whom were Jewish.
Paradoxically, Israel also says that Palestinians left “voluntarily” in 1948 (meaning there must have been a native population that had to “leave”).
Yet, as Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe have demonstrated in their research, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was very well planned and executed by Zionist leaders. Clear instructions were given to Jewish militias to use terror, bombardment of villages, burning and demolishing residential areas, and booby-trapping evacuated homes to force people out and prevent their return.
The campaign of mass ethnic cleansing continued over seven months and resulted in the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians to nearby countries, the destruction of 531 villages and the depopulation of 11 urban neighbourhoods. In the words of Pappe, it was a crime against humanity.
Israel also claims that there is a new reality today and that the ownership rights of Palestinian refugees to their homes and their land have disappeared after 70 years.
But the passing of time does not and cannot cancel liability for a crime against humanity and absolve its perpetrators. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. And just like the Israeli state is a fait accompli, so is the right of more than six million Palestinian refugees to return, based on official legal documents produced by the UN under whose legal framework and recognition the Israeli state was created in the first place.
Israel also claims that it was created to provide “safe haven” to Jews and the return of Palestinian refugees would endanger them and result in a massacre.
We do not deny that Jews have the right to live in safety, but why should the solution to a tragedy they faced produce a tragedy for another people? The establishing of this “safe haven”, the way it was done in 1948 and ever since, has resulted in mass ethnic cleansing and incremental genocide of Palestinians. The Palestinian people have faced one massacre after another over the past seven decades and as a result, they have no “safe haven” of their own.
And with all Palestinians that Israel has killed over time, with all weapons it has accumulated, all walls it has built, and all repressive policies it has implemented, has it become more safe and secure? Security built on death and oppression is an illusion; true security for Israeli Jews will not be achieved until there is justice for Palestinians.
Our struggle is against occupation and apartheid, and not for the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Israeli Jews. As we continue to resist Israeli attempts to wipe us all out of our homeland, we do not wish to see Israeli Jews being wiped out either.
Israel also claims that Palestinians do not want peace.
Yet its leadership has officially declared its intention to seize all Palestinian land west of the Jordan River and has repeatedly demonstrated that it is using peace negotiations only to further entrench the occupation and make the return of Palestinians impossible. This strategy is not an aberration or a policy of the Israeli right only, but rather the direct continuation of the path taken by the Zionist movement since it was established – it is the path of ethnic cleansing of the native population and expansion of settler colonialism.
At this point, the only viable way forward that does not involve further violence and ethnic cleansing on either side is to re-arrange the current relationship between Palestinians and Israeli Jews on the basis of justice and equality as opposed to discrimination and dispossession.
Part of this solution has to be the return of Palestinian refugees, which is neither an outlandish idea nor a dangerous one. In fact, it is quite realistic. Demographic studies indicate that more than 80 percent of the land Palestinian refugees were ethnically cleansed from is either empty or has very low population density, as the majority of the Israeli population is concentrated in large cities.
There is enough land for all and with the cancellation of discriminatory policies that favour Jewish settlers, equal distribution of resources can be achieved.
Israel already has in place a law that allows Jews to immigrate and settle on its territory. It only makes sense that it would extend that policy to all Palestinian refugees to come back to their homes.
All this comes down to a choice Israeli Jews have to make – to continue living in unstable and insecure apartheid state or to embrace real stability and security by ending injustice and establishing equality and peace for all. We, Palestinians, have already made ours: We will continue to struggle for our rights and our freedom until the day we are able to stand at the doorstep of our ancestral homes with a key in hand.
And in this struggle we are not alone. We are backed by all those who believe in and advocate justice and humanity across the world.
Dr. Ola Awad, President of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), via figures, historical and current data, reviewed the geographical, demographical and economic situation of the Palestinian People on the eve of the 71th Commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, which occur takes place on May, 15th; and those figures and data run as the following:
The Nakba: Ethnic cleansing, displacement of Palestinians and settler colonializm
Nakba in Palestine describes a process of ethnic cleansing in which an unarmed nation was destroyed and its population displaced systematically by gangs and individuals from all over the world. The Nakba resulted in the displacement of 800 thousand out of the 1.4 million Palestinians who lived in historical Palestine in 1948 in 1,300 villages and towns. The majority of the displaced Palestinians ended up in neighboring Arab countries and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and other countries in the world. Furthermore, thousands of Palestinians – who stayed in the area controlled by the Israeli occupation in 1948 – were driven out of their homes and lands, which were seized by the occupation.
According to documentary evidence, the Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba. The atrocities of Zionist forces also included more than 70 massacres in which more than 15 thousand Palestinians were martyred.
The Demographic Reality: Palestinian population has doubled nine times since the Nakba 1948
The population of Palestine in 1914 was around 690 thousands of whom only 8% were Jewish. In 1948, the number of Palestinians in Palestine exceeded 2 million, 31.5% of them were Jews, while the number of Jews doubled more than six times during this period. Between 1932 and 1939, the largest number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine reached 225 thousand Jews. Between 1940 and 1947, more than 93 thousand Jews poured into Palestine. Palestine received around 318 thousand Jews Between 1932 and 1947 and 540 thousand from 1948 to 1975.
Despite the displacement of more than 800 thousand Palestinians in 1948, and the displacement of more than 200 thousand Palestinians (majority of them to Jordan) after the 1967 war, the Palestinian world population totaled 13.1 million by the end of 2018, which means that the number of Palestinians in the world has doubled more than 9 times since the events of the Nakba of 1948, more than half of them live in historic Palestine by the end of 2018 where their number reached 6.48 million, (1.57 million in the occupied territories in 1948), population estimates indicate that the number of population end of 2018 in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, was 2.95 million, and around 1.96 million in Gaza Strip, and with regard to the population of Jerusalem Governorate, it was about 447 thousand people of which approximately 65% (about 281 thousand people) live in those parts of Jerusalem which were annexed by Israeli occupation in 1967 (J1), the data show that Palestinians represent 49% of the population living in historic Palestine, while Jews constitute 51% at the end of 2018. The Israeli occupation continues its control over 85% of the area of historical Palestine, which amounts to 27 thousand square kilometer (km2), while the remaining areas continue to endure further attempts of usurpation and control. It should be noted that Jewish under the British Mandate used only 1,682 km2 of historic land of Palestine which represents 6.2%.
Palestinian Refugees Status
Records of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) reported on 1st January 2018 that the total number of Palestinian refugees was 6.02 million, 28.4% of whom live in 58 camps (10 in Jordan, 9 in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank and 8 in Gaza Strip). Estimates, however, indicate that this is the minimum number of refugees since many of them are not registered. This number does not include the Palestinians displaced in the period from 1949 till the six-day war in June 1967. The UNRWA definition of refugees does not cover the Palestinians who migrated or who were displaced after 1967 because of the war and who were not registered refugees. On the other hand, the Population, Housing and Establishments Census 2017 showed that refugees represented 43% of the population of the State of Palestine.
Population Density: Gaza Strip has one of the highest population densities in the world
The population density in State of Palestine at the end of 2018 was 816 individuals per square kilometer (km2): 522 individuals/km2 in the West Bank and 5,375 individuals/km2 in Gaza Strip, noting that 66% of the total population of Gaza Strip are refugees. The flux of refugees turned Gaza Strip into one of the highest population densities in the world. Despite the small area of Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation set up a buffer zone over more than 1,500 meter along the Eastern border of Gaza Strip. Consequently, the Israeli occupation controls about 24% of the total area of Gaza Strip (365 km2).
Continuous Siege on Gaza Strip
The continuous Siege on Gaza Strip, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, led to a sharp rise in unemployment in Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate reached 52%, around 72% of youth aged 15-24 years are unemployed. The siege also shakes the economy of Gaza Strip and turns over half of its population into poor 53%, and 11% of households use an improved drinking water source in Gaza Strip due to the deterioration in the quality of water extracted from the coastal basin.
More than 100 Thousand Martyrs since the Nakba 1948
The number of Palestinian and Arab martyrs since the Nakba in 1948 up to the present day (inside and outside Palestine) has reached about 100,000 martyrs . The number of martyrs killed between September 29th, 2000 and May 7th, 2019 was 10,853. The bloodiest year was 2014 with 2,240 Palestinian martyrs, of whom 2,181 were from Gaza Strip. The number of Palestinian martyrs reached 312 persons during the year 2018, out of them 57 children and 3 women. The Israeli occupation also detained the bodies of 15 martyrs.
Around 17 Thousand Wounded since the Start of the Marches of Return
The number of wounded Palestinians during the year 2018 reached about 29,600 persons, while data from the Ministry of Health indicated that the number of wounded in Gaza Strip has reached 16,800 since the beginning of the marches of return on the occasion of Land Day on March 30 2018. It is noteworthy that 136 citizens were amputated as a result of the Israeli occupation forces aggression against the Palestinians in the march of return and breaking the siege East of Gaza Strip, while the number of martyrs 272 citizens, among the martyrs 54 children and 6 women and elderly, and confirmed the martyrdom of 4 paramedics and 3 journalists.
About 1 Million detentions since 1967
The Israeli occupation arrested around 5,700 Palestinians, end of March 2019, of them 250 were children, 47 were women. Since the beginning of 2018, the Israeli occupation has arrested 6,500 Palestinians (including 1,063 Children and 140 women). In addition, the Israeli occupation imposed house arrest on 300 children in Jerusalem since October 2015. Around 36 children are still under house arrest. Most of those children have been arrested after the end of the period of a house arrest, which ranged from six months to one year.
Israeli Occupation: Continuous Expansion of Settlements
There were 435 Israeli occupation settlements and military bases in the West Bank (including 150 settlements and 116 outposts) by the end of 2017. Data indicated that the total number of settlers in the West Bank was 653,621 by the end of 2017, 306,529 (47%), of them lived in Jerusalem Governorate, including 225,335 of them lived in Jerusalem J1 . In demographic terms, the proportion of settlers to the Palestinian population in the West Bank is around 23 settlers per 100 Palestinians compared with 70 settlers per 100 Palestinians in Jerusalem Governorate.
The Expansion and Annexation Wall isolates more than 12% of the West Bank area, this imposed restrictions on 1.9 million people living in areas close to the wall and / or settlements, around 400 thousand people live in Area “C”. In addition to the expansion and annexation wall that surrounds the city of Jerusalem with the length of 93 km isolating about 84 km2 of the area of Jerusalem Governorate, while the incomplete part of the wall which is about 46 km will isolate about 68 km2 of the area of Jerusalem Governorate.
The Jurisdiction Area of the Israeli occupation settlements in the West Bank reached 541.5 km2 as at end of year 2018, representing about 10% of the West Bank, while the confiscated areas for the purposes of military bases and military training are about 18% of the West Bank, which deprives the Palestinian farmers and herders of access to their farms and pastures. The Israeli occupation places all obstacles to tightening the siege and restricting the urban expansion of the Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem and Area (C), in the West Bank, which are still under full Israeli occupation control.
Theft of Agricultural Land
The total area of land classified as high or medium agricultural value in the West Bank is 2,072 thousand dunums, constituting about 37% of the West Bank. The Palestinians use only 931.5 thousand dunums which constitute about 17% of the West Bank area.
The reason for the non-exploitation of agricultural land in the West Bank is the fact that Area (C) constitutes about 60% of the area of the West Bank, which is still under full Israeli occupation control that deprived many farmers from accessing their land and cultivation or taking care of cultivated areas which led to the destruction of most of the crops in those areas, in addition to bulldozing and uprooting 7,122 trees during 2018 by the Israeli occupation forces, bringing the number of trees uprooted more than one million trees since 2000 until the end of 2018. Thousands of dunums were confiscated by settlers, to be cultivated, where the area planted in the Israeli settlements in the year 2018 reached about 110 thousand dunums, the majority were of irrigated agriculture.
Continuous Confiscation of Land
The Israeli occupation used the land classification according to the Oslo Agreement (A, B, C) to tighten control of the Palestinian land, especially in areas classified as (C) with an area of 3,375 thousand dunums. About 2,642 thousand dunums, constituting 76% of the total area classified (C) is exploited by the Israeli occupation directly. The area classified (A) is about one million dunums, and the area classified (B) is 1,035 thousand dunums, and the area classified “Others” is 250 thousand dunums includes (Natural Reserves, and J1 in East Jerusalem, and H2 in Hebron, and unclassified areas). In 2018, the Israeli occupation confiscated 508 dunums of the Palestinian land, in addition to confiscating hundreds of dunums of the Palestinians through the expansion of Israeli checkpoints and establishments of military checkpoints to protect the settlers.
Jerusalem: Intensive and Systematic Judaization
At the time that the Israeli occupation forces demolish Palestinian buildings, and put obstacles and impediments to the issuance of building permits, the Israeli occupation issued deportation orders for 12 Bedouin communities in East Jerusalem, comprising about 1,400 people, in the effort to Judaize the city of Jerusalem. During the year 2018, the Israeli occupation approved the building permits for 5,820 settlement units. The Israeli occupation demolished 215 buildings in Jerusalem Governorate, leading to the forced displacement of 217 people, including 110 children.
The violations of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinians continue, in terms of demolishing buildings (housing units and establishments) and forced displacement of residents. Israeli occupation demolished 471 buildings in 2018 (houses and establishments), of which about 46% were in the city of Jerusalem with 215 demolitions. The demolished buildings were divided into 157 residential buildings and 314 establishments. In the year 2018, the Israeli occupation issued orders to demolish 546 buildings in the West Bank and Jerusalem, at a time when the needs of housing units for Palestinians increase. In figures and according to the data of the Housing Conditions Survey 2015, about 61% of households in Palestine need to build new housing units over the next decade.
A Bitter Reality for Water in Palestine, 22% of Available Water in Palestine Purchased from Israeli Water Company “Mekorot” The Israeli measures contribute to limiting the ability of the Palestinians to exploit their natural resources, especially water, and to forcing them to compensate for the shortage of water through purchasing the needed amount from the Israeli water company “Mekorot”. The quantity of water purchased for domestic use reached 83 million cubic meters (MCM) in 2017, which constitutes 22% amounting to 375 (MCM), in addition to 23.5 (MCM) of water flowing from Palestinian springs, 264.5 (MCM) flowing from underground wells, and 4.0 (MCM) of desalinated drinking water.
77% of Available Water is from Surface and Ground Water
Data showed that the percentage of the exploitation of surface and ground water from available water in the year 2017 was high, with an average of 77%. It should be noted that the Palestinians have been denied access to extraction from the Jordan River since 1967, which was estimated about 250 million cubic meters (MCM). On the other hand, the quantity of Water Pumped from Palestinian Wells in the West Bank in 2017 was 86 MCM from Eastern aquifer, Western aquifer and North-Eastern aquifer.
The amount of water extracted from the coastal aquifer for domestic use was 178.7 (MCM) in Gaza Strip in 2017, but this quantity is obtained via unsafe pumping that jeopardizes sustainability of the source knowing that the basin sustainable yield should not exceed 50-60 MCM a year. More than 97% of the water pumped from the coastal aquifer in Gaza Strip does not meet the water quality standards of the World Health Organization, this leads to the depletion of groundwater reserves, where the groundwater level in the coastal aquifer reached 19 meters below sea level.
Sources: 1. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2018: Israeli settlements in the West Bank, 2017. Ramallah- Palestine 2. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2019. Revised estimates based on the final results of Population, Housing and Establishments Census 2017. Ramallah-Palestine. 3. Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Israel. Jerusalem, 2018. 4. Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission 2019: Summary of the most Important Violations in Palestine, 2018. Ramallah- Palestine 5. Commission of Detainees and Ex-detainees Affairs, Annual Report, 2018. 6. Abdullah Al-Hourani Center for Studies and Documentation, Israeli violations 2018, Ramallah- 2019. 7. National Gathering of Martyrs’ Families, Database of Martyrs Families, 2019, unpublished data.
The National and Islamic Forces, the supreme coordinating body of the major Palestinian factions, has called for widespread participation in demonstrations in commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the Palestinian exodus, the Nakba of 1948.
In a communique, the Forces called for a major rally in Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank on May 15 to show anger over the racist and discriminatory policies of the occupation, as well as to express outrage over what has become known as the deal of the century.
It also called for mass protests at Israeli checkpoints across the occupied West Bank on May 17 to advocate for the same cause.
The communique called for the implementation of the decisions of the Palestinian National Council and the PLO Central Council, which call for a complete political, economic and security disengagement from Israel.
For over seven decades now, Palestinians have commemorated the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when Jewish militias ethnically cleansed more than 700,000 Palestinians and destroyed more than 500 villages.
The Nakba commemoration this year mark 71 years of dispossession of the refugees – now numbering in the millions – who are still waiting for their right of return.
While official annexation would be seen as a dramatic escalation, many Palestinians feel the area is already annexed.
Ramallah, occupied West Bank – While the international community and media created an uproar when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intent to annex the West Bank in a bid to garner votes during last month’s elections, many Palestinians living in the occupied territory were not fazed by the right-wing leader’s words.
“It’s obvious that the West Bank is already de facto annexed,” Wael Abdul Raheem, a 35-year-old lawyer residing in Ramallah, told Al Jazeera.
He recounted a recent incident when he was handed a traffic fine by an Israeli police officer on Road 60 – an Israeli road that cuts through the occupied territory used by both Israelis and Palestinians – near his village of Madama in the northern West Bank.
“I had to go to Beit El (an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank) in order to pay the fine. Israel already treats this area as its own. So, no, I definitely was not shocked by Netanyahu’s statement,” he said.
An official annexation of parts or the whole of the West Bank would likely result in a dramatic escalation of policies, which Palestinians say are aimed at eroding basic rights and self-determination.
However, Israeli and Palestinian analysts have told Al Jazeera that international concerns over Netanyahu’s comments were not reflective of reality, which has seen an incremental process of annexation in the occupied territory for decades.
Since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and particularly following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s that broke up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C – leaving about 60 percent of the land under full Israeli military control – “Israel has used and treated the entire area as if it was a part of sovereign Israel,” Amit Gilutz, spokesperson of Israeli rights group B’Tselem, said.
Unlike the rest of the West Bank, however, East Jerusalem was officially annexed into Israeli territory after Israel’s military conquest of the area more than a half-century ago.
According to Yara Hawari, a fellow at the independent Palestinian policy network al-Shabaka, there was a juncture between the international uproar following Netanyahu’s statements and the realities on the ground.
“In reality, there is one regime which controls everything from the river to the sea, and that’s the Israeli regime,” she said.
In Area C, home to about 300,000 Palestinians, the Israeli army has full control over the management of resources, planning and construction, and strictly limits Palestinian construction or development to less than one percent of the area, most of which is already built up, according to the UN.
“They [Palestinians] are denied any legal avenue to build homes or develop their communities, so they face the constant fear that their homes might be demolished, and that they [may] be expelled and lose their livelihood,” B’Tselem has noted.
At the same time, the Israeli government has continued to expand illegal settlements throughout Area C, with up to 600,000 Israelis living in the occupied territory in violation of international law, while creating an extensive network of roads connecting settlements to each other and to towns and cities across the Green Line – which divides the occupied territory from Israel.
“For Israelis travelling in the West Bank, you might not even feel like it is under occupation because the Green Line has been essentially erased,” Gilutz explained. “It doesn’t exist for settlers, whereas it’s a very real border for Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, there are dozens of Israeli police stations established in Area C, which patrol the area and issue Israeli fines to Palestinians who are caught speeding, not wearing their seat belts or committing other violations – despite Israeli police not being authorised to operate in the West Bank because it is not part of Israel’s sovereign territory.
Right-wing Israeli politicians have advocated for the official annexation of Area C for years.
In addition, there are 165 enclaves of Area A – where the Palestinian Authority (PA) has authority – and B – where there is joint Israeli-PA control, scattered like islands throughout Area C, and home to the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank.
These enclaves are “disconnected from one another and the resources they need to develop in any kind of sustainable way, because Area C contains everything that is needed for there to be a viable existence in this region,” Gilutz said, adding that Israel utilises the resources in Area C for the benefit of its own citizens, at the expense of Palestinian development.
Israel has long focused on creating facts on the ground that would control as much land and resources as possible, with as few Palestinians on that land as possible, Hawari said.
“All of this is very predictable,” Gilutz added. “The situation has been moving in this one direction for many decades.”
‘From de facto to de jure annexation’
Despite these Oslo-era land designations, Hawari says Israel continues to control the entire territory, and even in Area A the PA only “maintains the population” as a policing force, while Israel retains de facto control over the area.
While Israel already controls the whole of the West Bank, Hawari says, a legal annexation of the territory would see an increase in Israeli settlement building, while the language of annexation has fuelled the Israeli right-wing, particularly “violent settlers”.
These repressive measures against Palestinians would accelerate if the territory were officially annexed, she explains, but “it will still be a slow process of passing various forms of legislation”.
Israeli rights group Yesh Din has documented 60 bills proposed during the 20th Knesset (2015-2019) that pertained to the annexation of the West Bank, eight of which were approved and became law.
According to the group, this reflects the “transition from de facto annexation to de jure annexation” of the West Bank, noting that the Israeli parliament “regards itself as the legislative authority in the West Bank and the sovereign there”, as opposed to the military commander, who is expected to be the acting sovereign in the occupied territory as outlined in international humanitarian law.
Gilutz says Israel uses the pretext of security and the “temporariness of occupation” as a sophisticated strategy to “exploit the area for its own needs, use the resources, and engineer the space demographically so that Palestinians are concentrated in enclaves disconnected from one another and from the resources they need to thrive – and which Israel wants for itself”.
However, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is “clearly not designed to be temporary, but rather to last”, he added.
In this sense, the situation as it is today could be more beneficial to Israel than a formal annexation of the West Bank, Gilutz noted. “The facade of legality of this whole system of control is quite effective in how it allows Israel to portray itself as a democracy, and enjoy all the perks of being a member state in that club.”
Yesh Din has noted that the intensification of annexation signals that Israel is “transforming itself into an apartheid state”.
Despite Israel’s parliament creating legislation that directly affects millions of Palestinians in the occupied territory, they have no right to vote and lack any ability to influence Israeli policy.
“Two types of people live under Israel’s regime and are subject to its control and sovereignty: Israeli citizens who have full rights, and Palestinian residents who lack political rights, as well as other rights,” the group has noted.
Hawari points out that Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are an accurate case study for the potential annexation of the rest of the West Bank. Although Israel formally annexed the territory, Palestinians were not granted citizenship, but instead were issued Jerusalem IDs, which can be revoked for a variety of reasons.
Almost 15,000 Palestinians have had their Jerusalem IDs revoked by the Israeli state since 1967, according to Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, although Palestinians in East Jerusalem are permitted to vote in Jerusalem’s municipal elections, they are barred from voting in national elections.
However, Gilutz says the question of political rights is “just as relevant today as it will be if Israel formally annexes the West Bank, because Palestinians have already been living under Israel’s control for generations without political rights”.
He added that perhaps a formal annexation will increase international pressure on Israel to grant Palestinians political rights, but “from our perspective, it doesn’t actually matter”.
“What matters are the rights and freedoms of people who are already living under direct Israeli rule.”
In Gilutz’s perspective, the main issue is not whether the West Bank is annexed or not.
“The better question is why the annexation that has already existed has been allowed to develop, deepen and continue in broad daylight without the international community taking more decisive action in order to stop it,” he said.