Israel accused of discrimination in occupied areas

Tue, Dec 21, 2010, 00:00

ISRAEL IS discriminating against Palestinians living in the occupied territories by depriving them of water, electricity and roads while providing a luxurious lifestyle for Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

In a 166-page document entitled Separate and Unequal, Human Rights Watch describes the “two-tier system of laws, rules and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas of the West Bank [and East Jerusalem] under its exclusive control, which provide preferential services, development and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians.”

Human Rights Watch argues: “Such different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin” is “not tailored to meet national security goals” and “violates the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law”.

These discriminatory practices affect most profoundly the 490,000 Jewish settlers and 420,000 Palestinians living in areas under Israel’s total control, East Jerusalem and 60 per cent of the West Bank.

Between 2000-2007, 94 per cent of Palestinian requests for building permits there were rejected. Consequently, when Palestinians constructed, repaired or renovated homes, mosques, clinics, schools, animal pens, wells, cisterns, water pipes and electricity poles, the Israelis often issued stop work or demolition orders.

“In contrast,” the group states, “in several cases where Jewish settlers have built buildings, roads, and other infrastructure – and entire settlement outposts – without necessary permits, Israeli authorities did not demolish the buildings, but retroactively approved their construction.”

Human Rights Watch says more than 100 settlement outposts – in addition to 133 authorised settlements – have been built without the required permits but few have been dismantled.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli zoning regulations allocate 25 per cent of the land for Israeli settlements but only 13 per cent for Palestinian construction.

Jerusalem’s master plan provides for the maintenance of a 70-30 ratio of Jews to Palestinians in the city, but this had reached 65-35 in 2008 and was expected to become 60-40 in 2020. Therefore, it holds Israel plans to “alter the demographic balance in Jerusalem ... by lowering the number of the city’s Palestinian residents” by refusing building permits and cancelling residence permits.

The group says 31 per cent of Palestinians living in areas ruled exclusively by Israel have been displaced since 2000.

In the remaining 40 per cent of the West Bank, administered by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians live in isolated, disconnected enclaves where they are denied freedom of movement and access to their land and are not permitted to develop infrastructure needed to sustain their communities.

Since an occupying power is prohibited in international law from transferring its citizens into an occupied territory, Human Rights Watch argues that Israel should withdraw the settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It recommends that the US should deduct the amount spent on settlements, at least $1.4 billion a year, from the $2.75 billion in aid extended annually. The EU, a major market for settlement exports, is asked to ensure that settlement goods are not given preferential tariff treatment.