Leading Catholic development agencies have condemned the “forced displacement” of Palestinians by Israeli authorities in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), and inside Israel’s pre-1967 lines.
The new report, ‘No Place Like Home’, is published this week by International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE), an alliance of Catholic development agencies, and “examines the forced displacement of Palestinians as a central issue in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.”
“Half a century after Israel seized control of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”, states CIDSE, “forced displacement of Palestinians is making them poorer and keeping them in misery and despair, according to a group of Catholic development agencies.”
The report highlights what it claims are the three main factors contributing to Israeli authorities’ displacement of Palestinians: restrictive planning processes; illegal settlements; and military and other forms of violence.
In the West Bank, says CIDSE, “illegal” Israeli settlements “not only take over Palestinian land and water resources, they lead to restrictions on movement, impeding Palestinian access to education, health care and employment”, adding: “The damage to the economy worsens poverty.”
“Similar processes” are also impacting on Palestinian citizens of Israel, the report documents, since “discrimination in land allocation, planning and housing allocation is prevalent.”
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, “recurring Israeli military incursions and attacks”, the Israeli closure, and internal Palestinian conflict “have all contributed to the fact that around 80 per cent of Gaza’s population relies on humanitarian aid for survival.”
“The current status quo is unsustainable,” said British-based Catholic charity CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy, Neil Thorns. “Our Israeli and Palestinian partners describe worsening conditions on the ground, as families are driven into ever-deeper poverty and left to live on aid hand-outs.”
“Displacement is a fundamental threat to the chance of a just peace”, he added.
Brigitte Herremans, from CIDSE’s working group on Palestine and Israel, described “forced displacement and its effects” as “a central challenge to protecting the rights of Palestinians and promoting the development of their communities in both occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.”
She continued: “Urgent action is needed by the international community, including the EU and its member states, in order to address the situation. Israel must uphold its duties under international law.”
According to CIDSE, ‘No Place Like Home’ aims to “create awareness, stimulate discussion and encourage dialogue; heeding Pope Francis’s call to ‘intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the condition for a stable peace based on justice’.”