The international community must ban the importation of goods produced by illegal Israeli settlements and must end the millions of dollars profit-taking that have fuelled massive violations of the Palestinians' human rights, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, Amnesty International has launched a new campaign calling on other countries to prevent the entry of goods produced in Israeli settlement into their markets and to prevent their companies from operating in the settlements or trading in their goods.
Amnesty International Secretary – General, Salil Shetty, said: "The world has stood idly by for decades, while Israel has been demolishing Palestinian houses and dispossessing their land and natural resources to make a profit. While the Palestinian economy has been paralyzed as a result of the offensive Israeli policies for 50 years, a prosperous settlement project has been launched with hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of the methodical repression of the Palestinian people."
Shetty added: "Now, after 50 years, the denunciation of the expansion of Israeli settlement is no longer enough. Time has come for States to take concrete international action so as to stop financing settlements that constitute, in themselves, a flagrant violation of international law and war crimes."
"Although the vast majority of States denounced officially the settlements and considered them illegal under international law, hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent internationally in the exportation of goods that are produced in Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli and international companies have worked for years to empower settlements and to facilitate their construction as well as their expansion," said Amnesty International in its statement.
It insisted also that "the Israeli policy of settling Israeli civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories has led to a series of human rights violations. Israel has demolished and destroyed tens of thousands of Palestinian houses and property, displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. It forced also many families to leave their houses or land in order to evacuate their areas for the establishment of settlements. In reality, at least 100,000 hectares of Palestinian land have been confiscated exclusively for the purpose of settlement."
Amnesty International added that "Israel has unlawfully seized Palestinian natural resources, such as water, fertile land, quarries and minerals, and transformed them for the benefit of the industries, which are located in the settlements, in order to produce agricultural goods, construction materials and manufactured goods that are often exported abroad. At the same time, Israel has imposed arbitrary restrictions that prevented Palestinians from accessing their land, water and other resources. The restrictions limited also their economic growth and violated their economic and social rights."
The organization clarified that "throughout the West Bank, the infrastructure of the settlements, including 'the settlers' exclusive roads,' has divided Palestinian towns and villages and significantly reduced Palestinians' ability to move freely. Israel has continued its illegal air, sea and land blockade of the Gaza Strip for nearly ten years, where it squeezed nearly two million people in less than half the area of New York City."
Suppression and Humiliation
"One of the tragedies of the ongoing violations, which are associated with the 50 years occupation, is that the world is becoming accustomed to the shocking level of oppression and humiliation that Palestinians face in their daily lives in the occupied territories. But how can countries continue to allow financial support of a settlement policy that is harsh, criminal and discriminatory in nature and that enables Israeli settlers to live on dispossessed land in irrigated green grassland and swimming pools, while depriving neighbouring Palestinian communities of access to clean water or sufficient electricity to meet their basic needs?" insisted Secretary General of Amnesty International.
He pointed out that "all States have the duty of ensuring respect for international humanitarian law. They should not also recognize the illegal situation created by Israel's settlement policy and should not help it in any way, but rather should use their influence to stop such violations."
Shetty added that "the states that proceed in helping the settlements in creating economic prosperity are blatantly undermining their international commitments and the policies they have pledged to respect. Under international law, it is the duty of the States to ensure that the actions and acts of their citizens do not recognize or provide assistance to illegal situations or acts."
He pointed out that "governments around the world are banning settlement products and enacting laws and regulations that prevent companies from operating in Israeli settlements. This gives them the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions of Palestinians who have suffered from injustice, humiliation and discrimination for decades."
He clarified also that "for decades, numerous United Nations resolutions have confirmed that Israeli settlements violate international law. In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council issued a resolution calling on Israel to halt settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. The resolution also called on all states to distinguish, in all its dealings, between the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories that are occupied since 1967. However, Israel has accelerated and supported settlement expansion in recent months and announced plans to build thousands of new houses in the already existent settlements, in addition to plans to build thousands of other houses in two new settlements in the occupied West Bank."
Tightening the Grip of the Military Rule
Secretary General of Amnesty International asserts that "since the 1967 occupation, Israel has been tightening the grip of its repressive military rule over the occupied Palestinian territory through thousands of military orders, many of which criminalize peaceful activities and place excessive restrictions on Palestinians, thus causing daily turmoil. Military orders have also been used to cover violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including the widespread seizure of property and natural resources, the demolition of houses and business institutions, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, as well as collective punishment of millions of Palestinians. For years, dozens of Palestinians have also been unlawfully killed by Israeli security forces."
Shetty concluded saying: "It is shocking that, since the beginning of the occupation 50 years ago, there has been total impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations that are committed in the occupied Palestinian territories for decades. The world has witnessed the 50 years of ignoring gross violations and the continued spread of settlements. It is therefore very important that other States take effective steps to put an end to such violations and to redress their victims. They must start with an international ban on settlement products."