Monday, July 13, 2020


Article Index

Israel_  the occupied territories [Palestinians]

Although not a numerical minority, Palestinians faced targeted violence and discrimination from Israeli actors in the occupied territories (see also sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.f., and2.d.).

The Jerusalem Legal Aid Society and Human Rights Center and other NGOs reported an increase in attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their property in the West Bank. The attacks included direct violence against Palestinian residents. Unnamed settlers killed at least two Palestinians during the year, including 17-year-old Fakhri Yousef Akhlaiel, a resident of Khirbat Safa, on January 18. Akhlaiel was reportedly harvesting grapes on his family's land at the time of the shooting. News reported that police investigated the incident, but there were no reports of arrests or indictments.

Some Israeli settlers reportedly used violence against Palestinians as a means of harassment and to keep them away from land that settlers sought to expropriate. In the Palestinian village of al-Baqa'a, NGOs reported that settler violence drove out significant portions of the Palestinian population, with no intervention from the IDF or the Israeli national police. On December 5, Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement kidnapped and subsequently released Salim Jamil Shehadeh, a 60-year-old shepherd, from Orif village. The settlers also stole 50 of Shehadeh's sheep. There was no information about an investigation at year's end.

Other violence was in retaliation for killings of Israelis. On March 12 and 13, for example, following the killing of five Israeli settlers in Itamar (see section 1.a), settlers conducted widespread retaliatory attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank governorates of Nablus, Salfit, Qalqilya, Hebron, and Ramallah. Settlers threw stones at Palestinian vehicles at 16 separate locations in the West Bank, and there were multiple reports of settlers kidnapping and beating Palestinians before releasing them. Settlers also attacked PA emergency medical responders.

Various human rights groups continued to claim that settler violence was insufficiently investigated and rarely prosecuted. Some groups in part attributed this to the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Civil Administration's neglect of Palestinian complaints and also to Palestinian residents who were often reluctant to report incidents, fearing settler retaliation. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported in 2010 that more than 90 percent of investigations into offenses against Palestinians carried out by Israeli in the West Bank were unsuccessful.

Settlers also exploited religious tensions to harass Palestinian villages by vandalizing, breaking into, or burning 10 mosques. UNOCHA reported a 150 percent increase in attacks on mosques during the year.

Access to social and commercial services, including housing, education, and health care, in Israeli settlements in the West Bank was available only to Israelis. Israeli officials discriminated against Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem regarding access to employment and legal housing by denying Palestinians access to registration paperwork. In both the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israeli authorities placed often insurmountable hurdles on Palestinian applicants for construction permits, including the requirement that they document land ownership in the absence of a uniform post-1967 land registration process, high application fees, and requirements that new housing be connected to often unavailable municipal works. According to B'Tselem, since 2000 Israel has curtailed the Palestinian population registry, denying paperwork to Palestinians and effectively declaring Palestinians illegal residents. Some Palestinians defined as illegal residents faced harassment, arrest, or deportation to the Gaza Strip.

The World Bank reported that Palestinians suffered water shortages, noting that approximately half of the domestic water supply for Palestinians was purchased from Israel. The Palestinian Water Authority claimed that Israel controls 90 percent of the shared water resources of the Mountain Aquifer, which underlies the West Bank and Israel. According to Amnesty International (AI), Palestinians received on average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization's standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security. The PA's ability to improve water network management and efficiency was limited by political constraints, including the requirement for Israeli approval to implement water-related projects and the PA's lack of authority in Area C to prevent theft from the network, as well as by the PA's own management challenges. Between January and July, according to the UN, the Israeli military destroyed 20 water cisterns, some of which were funded by donor countries for humanitarian purposes. The Israeli military also destroyed unlicensed Palestinian agricultural wells, claiming they depleted aquifer resources. During the year the two sides partially resolved a long-standing dispute on the rehabilitation of licensed Palestinian wells, with Israel allowing Palestinian farmers to rehabilitate 57 licensed wells in the Eastern Basin of the Mountain Aquifer, increasing water supply in the largely agricultural Jordan Valley of the West Bank.

In the West Bank, some NGOs reported an increase in settler expropriation of natural water springs located on privately owned Palestinian land. Yesh Din documented settler expropriation of 26 springs and their conversion into recreational "nature parks." Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers, access to the springs. AI estimated that the settler population in the West Bank used as much water as the entire Palestinian population.

NGOs claimed that Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies aimed at decreasing the number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Government-sponsored construction of new Israeli housing units continued, while building permits were difficult to obtain for Arab residents of East Jerusalem, and homes built by Arab residents without legal permit were subject to demolition. The Israeli NGOs Bimkom and IrAmim claimed that Palestinians in East Jerusalem continued to face barriers to purchasing property or obtaining building permits. Land owned or populated by Arabs (including Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) was generally zoned for low residential growth. Approximately 30 percent of East Jerusalem was designated for Israeli residents. Palestinians were able in some cases to rent Israeli-owned property, but were generally unable to purchase property in an Israeli neighborhood. Israeli NGOs claimed that of all land designated for housing in West Jerusalem and in the Israeli neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, at least 79 percent was unavailable for Arab construction.

The Jerusalem Municipality and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem made efforts to increase Israeli property ownership or underscore Jewish history in predominately Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality advocated increased Israeli influence and property ownership in East Jerusalem's Kidron Valley.

Although Israeli law entitles Arab residents of East Jerusalem to full and equal services provided by the municipality and other Israeli authorities, in practice the Jerusalem Municipality failed to provide sufficient social services, infrastructure, emergency planning, and postal service for Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents constituted 35 percent of Jerusalem's population but received only 10-15 percent of municipal spending. The ACRI reported that this resulted in Palestinian residents' lack of access to running water, crowded classrooms in substandard buildings, and poor sewage infrastructure, among other problems. Many Jerusalem municipal forms were not available in Arabic. Bus services in Jerusalem were largely segregated in practice.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law