Human Rights Watch: 50 Years Of Israeli Abuses

By HRW

At least five categories of major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law characterize the occupation: unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.

Unlawful Killings And War Crimes

Israeli troops killed well over 2,000 Palestinian civilians in the last three Gaza conflicts (2008-09, 2012, 2014) alone. Many of these attacks amount to violations of international humanitarian law due to a failure to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians. Some amount to war crimes, including the targeting of apparent civilian structures.

In the West Bank, Israeli security forces have routinely used excessive force in policing situations, killing or grievously wounding thousands of demonstrators, rock-throwers, suspected assailants, and others with live ammunition when lesser means could have averted a threat or maintained order.

Illegal Settlements

Israeli authorities have since 1967 facilitated the transfer of its civilians to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 1967, Israel established two settlements in the West Bank: Kfar Etzion and East Talpiot; by 2017, Israel had established 237 settlements there, housing approximately 580,000 settlers.

Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that are not extended to Palestinians living in the same territory who are subjected to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services.

Palestinian Loss of Land

Forced Displacement

Israeli authorities have expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land for settlements and their supporting infrastructure. Discriminatory burdens, including making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in East Jerusalem and in the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control (Area C), have effectively forced Palestinians to leave their homes or to build at the risk of seeing their “unauthorized” structures bulldozed.

For decades, Israeli authorities have demolished homes on the grounds that they lacked permits, even though the law of occupation prohibits destruction of property except for military necessity, or punitively as collective punishment against families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis.

Israel has also arbitrarily excluded hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from its population registry, restricting their ability to live in and travel from the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli authorities have justified these actions by citing general security concerns, but they have not conducted individual screenings or claimed that those excluded posed a threat themselves. Israel also revoked the residency of over 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 14,565 in East Jerusalem since 1967, largely on the basis that they had been away too long.

Movement Restrictions

For the last 25 years, Israel has tightened restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip in ways that far exceed any conceivable requirement of Israeli security. These restrictions affect nearly every aspect of everyday life, separating families, restricting access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities, and perpetuating unemployment and poverty. As of last year, Gaza’s GDP was 23 percent lower than in 1994. Seventy percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance.

Israel also has imposed onerous restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank, enforced at checkpoints within the West Bank and at its borders with Israel. Israel’s separation barrier, ostensibly solely built for security, in fact slices through the West Bank significantly more than it runs along the Green Line separating the West Bank from Israel, contrary to international humanitarian law, as confirmed by the International Court of Justice in July 2004.

Abusive Detention

Israeli authorities have incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since 1967, the majority after trials in military courts, which have a near-100 percent conviction rate. In addition, on average, hundreds every year have been placed in administrative detention based on secret evidence without charge or trial. Some were detained or imprisoned for engaging in nonviolent activism. Israel also jails West Bank and Gaza Palestinian detainees inside Israel, creating onerous restrictions on family visits and violating international law requiring that they be held within the occupied territory. Many detainees, including children, face harsh conditions and mistreatment.

The Palestinian Authority, since its creation in 1994, and Hamas, since becoming the de facto authority in Gaza in 2007, have arbitrarily detained dissidents, tortured and mistreated detainees, and, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, executed 41 people pursuant to death sentences after flawed trials.


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