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Israeli expansionist, colonial settlements are, and always have been, illegal

Palestinian demonstrators hold national flags and placards during a protest against Jewish settlements in West Bank on 26 March 2017 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Palestinian demonstrators hold national flags and placards during a protest against Jewish settlements in West Bank on 26 March 2017 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Discussing the issue of Israel's colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories has become a familiar topic as the harsh and brutal complexity of the occupation intertwines with the practical political approach imposed on the Palestinian people. Such an approach includes oppressive policies put into practice by the occupation government and its military authorities. One of the most dangerous is the policy of expanding the settlements on Palestinian land within the 1967 borders of the occupied West Bank. The citizens of the occupation state are moved into the occupied territory with the aim of outnumbering and eventually replacing entirely the indigenous population.

Israel's settlement policy, therefore, is primarily part of the effort to remove as many Palestinian people as possible from as much of Palestine as possible. All of the settlers — illegal under international law, as are the settlements themselves — share the expansionist ideology of the state, of course, and this ideology takes no account of the humanitarian or political effect that its policies have on the Palestinians. The economic, political and social foundations of their life is forfeit to the demands of Israel's colonial-settlement policy. Only when the Palestinian presence in Palestine is liquidated — when the ethnic cleansing started in 1948 is complete — will the Judaisation process have fulfilled its objective. The process picked up pace after the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, but it started with the beginning of Zionist activity in Palestine more than 100 years ago. Israel's settlements are a continuous offensive on Palestinians and their land, employing the terrorist arms of the state; the aim is to Judaise all of historic Palestine.

International humanitarian law prohibits the occupation state from moving its citizens to territories it has occupied (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949). In addition, the occupation state is prohibited from making permanent changes in the occupied territories, with the exception of urgent and necessary changes for military needs or for the benefit of the locals. Moreover, building settlements violates the rights of Palestinians stipulated by international law, most importantly the right of self-determination, ownership, the right to live a life at an appropriate standard and the right to move about freely.

Thus, Israel's settlement policy is rejected by international law and UN resolutions; the state is prohibited from making any legal or practical changes to the demographic composition of the occupied territories and Jerusalem and their cultural, historical and religious landmarks. All of Israel's measures in this context are therefore null and the UN has called for pressure on the state to comply with international legitimacy.

Palestinians experience first-hand the so-called Separation Wall which cuts them off from vital infrastructure, farmland and water resources. Furthermore, they believe its construction to have been motivated by racism.

Read: Experience life under Israel's stifling occupation

On 9 July, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall built by Israel on a large part of the Palestinian territories violates international law and called for its removal and compensation for the Palestinians affected by its construction. The Advisory Opinion stated, "The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments." It noted that the construction of the wall has "imposed substantial restrictions on the freedom of movement of the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. There have also been serious repercussions for agricultural production, and increasing difficulties for the population concerned regarding access to health services, educational establishments and primary sources of water." The court also called on Israel to dismantle parts of the wall that were built in the occupied territories in the West Bank. It urged the UN National Assembly and Security Council to put an end to the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the racist Israeli wall. Nothing of the sort has taken place; indeed, the Wall has simply got longer.

View of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp behind Israel's apartheid wall in east Jerusalem on 3 December 2014 [Muammar Awad/Apaimages]

View of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp behind Israel's apartheid wall in east Jerusalem on 3 December 2014 [Muammar Awad/Apaimages]

The Palestinian people, regardless of their political or religious backgrounds, are the targets of Israel's colonial-settlement policy. Their history and existence is denied; their land is occupied and colonised; their Arab and largely Muslim identity and civilisation are being erased. They have every right to resist this oppression and fight for self-determination and the establishment of an independent and completely sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital, based on the nominal borders in place on 4 June, 1967.


As the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip approaches, the people of Palestine reject the Israeli occupation of their land and any attempts to legitimise it. They also reaffirm their legitimate right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Moreover, there remains a commitment to the right of return and compensation for the Palestinian refugees who have been forcibly displaced from their homeland since 1948. This is in full accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of the same year. Fulfilment of the right to return was a condition of Israel's membership of the United Nations; it has reneged on its commitment ever since.

Finally, the Palestinians call for the unconditional and unrestricted release of all Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. It is also against international law for prisoners to be transferred to prisons in other countries, and most were arrested in the occupied West Bank, not Israel.

Israel's unrestricted and totally illegal colonisation of Palestine continues. As long as it does, Palestinian resistance to Israeli expansionism will also continue.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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