The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA) has published a report detailing the ramifications of Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank city of Hebron. The statistics provided, as well as details of the violations by the Israeli military and the illegal settler population, illustrate a relentless persecution of the Palestinians. The report reaches a conclusion which is based upon obligations under international law. However, it is clear that Israel’s refusal to abide by such legislation makes a radical change in accountability imperative if Palestinian rights are to be truly protected.
“Policies and practices implemented by the Israeli authorities, citing security concerns, have resulted in the forcible transfer of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron City, reducing a once thriving area into a ‘ghost town’,” summarises the report. The main obstacle, it said, is the restriction of freedom of movement which is a key strategy of Israel’s persistent forced displacement of the Palestinians. It is also one of the main discriminatory practices in comparison to the colonial-settler population’s freedom to claim Palestinian territory as its own. When this discrepancy is compounded by the protection of settlers guilty of violent acts, it is not difficult to perceive the intent to displace Palestinians by relying upon a multitude of punitive measures that keep the indigenous population preoccupied with survival, as opposed to claiming their collective and individual rights.
When Israel decides to give a temporary alleviation which comes across as a careful and generous privilege, the Israeli media is careful to frame the decision within a purportedly humanitarian context. On Monday, the Jerusalem Post, for example, reported that “some Palestinians” were allowed to drive a car for the first time in three years “on part of Othman bin-Affan Street.” The spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Ministry, Walid Wahdan, validated the narrative propagated by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) by stating that the move should help to “alleviate the suffering of the people there.”
Between OCHA’s report and the rhetorical conspiracy of the IDF and the PA, Palestinian rights continue to be lost and ridiculed. The international community’s penchant for reports and carefully structured conclusions that isolate international law from the entities responsible for its upholding has not changed despite decades of Israel’s colonial violence. Likewise, the PA seeks opportunities to align itself with Israel’s state institutions at the slightest concession which does not eliminate the fact that freedom of movement is not a right to be granted at intervals and withheld at random.
The credibility of institutions regarding Palestine has always been questionable. The PA and OCHA are both exhibiting reliance upon Israel to address violations, which is tantamount to exchanging Palestinian rights for their respective institution’s convenience. Hence, a report, or a calculated propaganda charade, are given far more importance than the Palestinian people whose lives are affected daily by Israeli settler and military oppression. One question to ask, rather than embark upon internationally-accepted conclusions which only yield contempt, is where to place humanitarian value. Until institutions reverse their complacency which views Palestinians as fodder for reports or publicity material, there is little point in speaking about rights withheld by Israel when the same process is being replicated under the auspices of international law.