While there are many factors that contribute to the lack of a just peace in Israel-Palestine, the major issue is the continued occupation that has been ongoing for the past forty-three years (since the 1967 war). Nearly every facet of Palestinian life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is controlled by Israeli military policies.
Read more about each of these topics by using the links in the text or the navigation menu to the right.
The Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands are a constant source of conflict and debate in Israel and around the world. The illegality of them according to international law, the underlying purpose of them, and the need for their restriction and eventual dismantling – all these are discussed in our website section “Settlements.”
The Separation Wall/Security Barrier
Currently, a high wall is being built by Israel to separate Israelis and Palestinians, in the hope of increasing the security of its citizens. But rather than following the legal borders of Israel, it is following a route that includes the settlements in Occupied Territory, on land expropriated from Palestinian families. In addition, the Wall greatly restricts the Palestinians’ freedom and increases their poverty by crippling their economy. There is much information and commentary to be found in our website section "The Separation Wall."
Taking Control of Land: Under international law, a permanent occupation of land taken in war is illegal, and Israel is required to return the land of the West Bank and Gaza to the complete control of the Palestinian people. However, as of 2010, more than 50% of their land has been taken by Israel, making the goal of a just peace between the two peoples unreachable until this land expropriation is reversed.
Splitting the West Bank: The result of Israel’s land grab is the division of Palestian territory into sections that are not connected and between which travel and transportation is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible. Creation of a viable, contiguous homeland for the Palestinians will not be a practical reality while this separation of their land continues.
Through severe Restriction of Movement, with hundreds of checkpoints, road blocks, “Israeli-only” roads, the Separation Wall, Palestinians are prohibited or extremely delayed in accomplishing the normal actions of daily life, be it going to work, visiting family members, or reaching a hospital.
Imposition of Siege is an even more severe restriction of movement. Israel has certain areas of the occupied Palestinian territory under permanent or occasional siege, prohibiting residents from leaving or entering, and isolating them from the rest of the territory. The most extreme case of siege has been applied to the Gaza Strip where today a humanitarian catastrophe exists – see more under Gaza.
Beatings and Abuse: there is much testimony about unjustified and sometimes extreme violence used by Israeli security forces. Many more incidents occur than are reported for the verbal and physical abuse has become the norm in Palestinian life.
Detainees: As a result of military control of the Palestinians, and the continued efforts of the Palestinians to resist the occupation, thousands of Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, and hundreds of those have been held without trial for months or years. Currently even children who are accused of stone-throwing are being arrested and detained, some for extended periods. Recent and frequent IDF practice has included coming to homes in the middle of the night, waking children, and arresting them.
Home Demolitions: In the years since the 1967-six-day war brought the widely contested Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have watched their homes destroyed and more than 30,000 have been left homeless. This destruction, part of the Israeli government policy, enables illegal building of Israeli settlements and by-pass roads over the lands of Palestinian families.
Medical Care: Israel’s severe restriction of movement often results in blocking Palestinians' access to necessary medical treatment. To reach East Jerusalem hospitals, Palestinians must have proof of an appointment as well as permits which expire within a couple of days and must be renewed. These measures make it Pregnant woman in labor, injured persons in need of emergency care, those with severe and chronic illnesses are among those who have been prohibited from reaching urgently needed medical care.
Palestinian Economy: Palestinians are living in extreme poverty and the simplest means of making a living are severely restricted or prohibited by Israel. Agricultural land is made inaccessible, goods cannot be moved over necessary routes, jobs are non-existent or lost because of siege and road blockages, and dependence on Israel as the only accessible market removes opportunity for economic development. Many Palestinians are now surviving only due to humanitarian aid; the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics cites that over 45% of Palestinians are living below the poverty line, which is approximately $650 per year.
Hebron Fruit Market, 1990
Hebron Fruit Market, 2007
Photo: International Committee of the Red Cross
Water Crisis: Israel controls the sources of water in the West Bank and ensures that they are kept primarily for Israeli use. It is estimated that Israelis now use 83% of the water available in the West Bank, with 17% remaining for all Palestinians there.
Additionally, untreated wastewater from the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is polluting Palestinian water and land and causing a serious and growing health risk.
The continued Occupation of Palestinian land results in Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes, land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of siege and of closure, the uprooting of ancient agricultural lands, denial of access to medical care, physical and verbal abuse on a daily basis, and denial of essential resources such as fresh water.
The Israeli's fierce repression of Palestinian efforts to "shake off" the occupation and the Palestinians' continued efforts through sometimes violent means and much nonviolent resistance are a never-ending cycle that has only one possible solution based on international law and rooted in justice. Lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians is only possible when the occupation has ended, at which time the motivation for Palestinian acts of violent resistance will have been abolished, and Israel will have no need to use military force to maintain illegal land possession.
Sources for topics throughout this section, The Occupation:
American Friends Service Committee:
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org
B’tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories:
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
Breaking Down the Walls: Report of the Middle East Study Committee to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – download the report at: www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace/pdf/middleeastpeace-fullreport.pdf
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions:
The Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2700.shtml