Ongoing Forced Displacement of the Palestinian Population on Both Sides of the “Green Line”

Human Rights Council Third Universal Periodic Review Session on 8 December 2008: Review of the State of Israel

 This is the revised version of the joint submission which was submitted in July 2008 by Badil Resource Center, Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Arab Human Rights Association, Association for the defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced, Housing & Land Rights Network, and Zochrot in Cooperation with Ittijah.*

 BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, the Arab Human Rights Association (HRA), the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID), the Housing and Land Rights Network-Habitat International Coalition and Zochrot in cooperation with Ittijah – Union of Arab Community-based Association, welcome this opportunity to submit information to the UN Human Rights Council in advance of its Universal Periodic Review of Israel. Four of the seven organizations party to this submission (BADIL, HIC, HRA and ITTIJAH) are in Consultative Status with ECOSOC.

 This report seeks to highlight the scope of the reoccurring and pervasive phenomena of the forcible internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian population in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), on the grounds of their nationality, ethnicity, race and religion. We hope this information assists the Council members in its UPR of Israel.

  I. Introduction

 1. While this year the United Nations is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Palestinian people are commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe); the systematic ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 indigenous Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of their villages. As a result, the Palestinian People are still denied the right to self-determination, justice and equality by the State of Israel.

 2. Today, 70 percent of the Palestinian people are refugees and internally displaced persons. The Palestinian refugee plight constitutes the largest and longest unresolved refugee case in the world. There are approximately 7 million Palestinian refugees (including circa 2.7 million children), and more than 450,000 internally displaced Palestinians in Israel and the OPT.[1]

 3. Israel has induced more ongoing forcible internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian population on both sides of the “Green Line”, namely Israel and the OPT, on the ground of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion. For six decades, the State of Israel has prevented the Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons from returning to their homes of origin.

 4. Institutionalized racism and discrimination on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion are root causes of the ongoing forcible internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.

 II. Institutionalized Racial Discrimination

 5. The principles of equality and prohibition of discrimination are not guaranteed in Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which serves as Israel's Bill of Rights. As a result, and in conjunction with Israel's self-identification as a Jewish and democratic state, the Palestinian citizens of Israel are afforded no constitutional protection against racial discrimination. By this Israel is failing to comply with its obligations under international human rights law.

6. Nationality and Citizenship - Institutionalized racism and racial discrimination is reflected in the Israeli legal system, which makes a distinction between “nationality” and “citizenship”. The Law of Return (1950), entitles all Jews and Jews only to the rights of nationals, namely the right to enter “Eretz Israel” (Israel and the OPT), and to immediately enjoy full legal and political rights. This law of nationality excludes non-Jewish citizens of Israel from nationality rights and includes Jewish citizens of other countries, who, if they wish to immigrate to Israel, automatically become citizens. The Citizenship Law (1952) regulates the acquisition of Israeli citizenship by Jews and non-Jews. Thus, this legal framework creates a discriminatory dualistic arrangement whereby Jews hold nationality and citizenship, and non-Jews (Palestinians) hold only citizenship. Under Israeli law the status of Jewish nationality is accompanied with first-class rights and benefits which are not granted to non-Jews (Palestinian citizens of Israel).[2]

 7. Discrimination in Land and Housing - While the above laws create the legal basis for differential treatment of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel on prohibited grounds, the enactment of other laws, provide legal mechanisms to enforce the preferential treatment of Jews in the fields of land and housing. These laws provide, inter alia, para-statal status to Zionist organizations such as the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency (JA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which all cater to the exclusive benefit of the "Jewish nationals" under their mandates.[3] These organizations carry out various public functions on behalf of the State, including development projects, planning, funding and the establishments of Jewish-only settlements, managing the property and land in both Israel and the OPT.[4] As a result, Palestinians who are not and can never be Jewish nationals, are subject to racial discrimination in the field of housing and land allocation. Thus, for instance, the State of Israel has not established any new Palestinian towns/communities since 1948, whereas Jewish-only settlements continue to increase and expand in Israel and the OPT.

 8. Since 1967 the State of Israel has extended its regime of racial discrimination to the OPT. Irrespective of the fact that Israel, as a temporary occupying power, is bound by international law to end its occupation, Israel has not done so for 41 years. The State, moreover, argues that it is not bound by and does not apply international human rights law in the OPT. It rather applies to different sets of laws: the Israeli domestic (civil and criminal) law to Jewish settlers (nationals) on the one hand, and a repressive military regime to the IHL-protected Palestinian civilian population, on the other hand. This two-fold legal system has institutionalized the racial discrimination against the Palestinian population in the OPT.

 9. With regard to movement, major roads in the OPT are reserved exclusively for Jewish settlers/nationals. The latter are also entitled to enter the “closed zones” between the Wall and the Green Line without permits, whereas Palestinians require permits to enter and reside in their own homes if these are located in the closed zones. In addition, house demolitions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are carried out in a fashion that discriminates against Palestinians on the ground of their nationality, ethnicity, race and religion. Moreover, building rights, use of resources, including water, and the military orders governing the right to enter the country and family reunification discriminate against Palestinians on the abovementioned prohibited grounds.

 10. The ongoing forcible internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the IHL-protected Palestinian civilian population of the OPT, are also the result of the same regime of institutionalized racial discrimination, including laws, policies and practices employed by the State of Israel.

 III. Ongoing Internal Forced Displacement in Israel

 11. First Waves of Internal Displacement – in Israel there are approximately 338,000 internally displaced Palestinians, citizens of Israel and their descendants, who were displaced in the 1948 war and its immediate aftermath.[5] To date, the State of Israel continues to block these Palestinian communities from returning and repossessing their property, irrespective of the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court has recognized the right of several internally displaced Palestinian communities (e.g. Iqrit, Kfar Bir'im and Al-Gha'bsiyeh in the Galilee) to return to their villages of origin[6]. The State of Israel has confiscated the land of these displaced communities and transferred it to nearby Jewish settlements for use as grazing fields or otherwise.

 12. Israel's Supreme Court has been complicit in institutionalized racial discrimination. In 2003, for example, it reversed its previous decision pertaining to the village of Iqrit and ruled that the internally displaced Palestinian community cannot return and repossess their properties since this would set a legal precedent for millions of Palestinian refugees whose claims are to be resolved in future political negotiations.

 13. Ongoing forced displacement – the legal regime applicable in Israel forms the basis for large-scale expropriation of Palestinian-owned land by the State. Official development policies and plans, such as current plans to increase the Jewish population in the Naqab (Negev) and the Galilee until 2015, discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in resource allocation.[7] While all Palestinian communities in Israel are vulnerable to forced displacement on the ground of their nationality, ethnicity, race and religion, the Palestinian Bedouins (the herding communities) and Palestinians in the “mixed population-cities” are particularly at risk.

 14. Bedouin in Israel are part of the indigenous Palestinian people. Over 100,000 Bedouin, Palestinian citizens of Israel, live in so-called “unrecognized villages” which are deprived of all basic services, including water, electricity, health clinics and state funded education, and face difficulties in obtaining building permits. These communities face the ongoing threat of displacement as the State of Israel aims to collect the Bedouin of the Naqab in seven “concentration areas” (in Hebrew: rikuzim) and confiscate what remains of their traditional ancestral land. As a result, tens of thousands of Bedouin's homes and property in the Naqab are slated for demolition.[8]

 15. With reference to the mixed-population cities, for instance, in the historic Palestinian town of Jaffa, some 3,000 Palestinian inhabitants of this town were recently issued 500 demolition orders, because they are considered squatters in their own homes.[9] Similar discriminatory practices are implemented by the state of Israel in the mixed-cities Lod, Ramla and Acre.

 IV. Ongoing Forced Internal Displacement in the OPT

 16. As a continuation of Israel's discriminatory policies and practices towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel, forcible internal displacement in the OPT has accelerated in recent years. More than 115,000 Palestinians are estimated to have been internally displaced during the last four decades of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territory.[10] In the Gaza Strip, Israeli military operations caused the temporary forced displacement of over 50,000 between 2000 and 2004 alone.[11]

 17. Areas at Risk – Palestinian communities at imminent risk live in occupied East Jerusalem, where – following the illegal annexation of occupied territory – the State of Israel segregates and discriminates against Palestinians in the guise of development planning.[12] At imminent risk are also rural areas of the West Bank (Area C), mainly in the closed areas between the Wall and the Green Line, in enclaves east of the Wall, in western Bethlehem, the Jordan Valley and south of Hebron. Also at risk are the center of the town of Hebron (H2) and the buffer zone in the Gaza Strip. So far, the ad hoc and limited international response has failed to prevent and effectively respond to the ongoing forcible internal displacement of Palestinians. The continued forced displacement and dispossession are a result of, inter alia, the following measures:

 18. Home Demolition – Israel has demolished almost 19,000 houses in the OPT between 1967 and 2007.[13] Between January and June 2008, 245 Palestinian structures were demolished by Israeli authorities, while 112 of these were residential and led to the displacement of 715 Palestinians, including an estimated 368 children.[14] Between January 2000 and September 2007, more than 1,600 Palestinian buildings were demolished in Area C, whereas over 3,000 houses are at risk of demolition.[15] In Gaza Strip, over 4,000 houses were demolished between 2000 and 2004.[16]

 19. Land Confiscation and Colonization – Israel occupies the entire surface of the West Bank (some 5,860 km2) and has confiscated or de facto annexed more than 3,350 km2 for the exclusive benefit of its Jewish population.[17] The lands confiscated from Palestinians are turned over to the use of Jewish settlers and to building and expanding the Jewish-only colonies (settlements) and related infrastructure. Since Annapolis Summit, Israeli tenders and plans announced for construction in the OPT amount to almost 30,000 Jewish-only housing units.[18] By March 2008, constructions were under way in over 100 colonies and 58 “outposts”, including 16 new outposts/settlements. In occupied East Jerusalem alone, new plans and tenders have been announced for construction of almost 14,000 housing units since December 2007.[19]

 20. Israel's belligerent occupation has become a system of institutionalized racial discrimination employed by the State of Israel, in order to assert control over as much “de-Palestinized” land as possible by forcibly displacing the Palestinian owners and users and subsequently to build and expand Jewish-only colonies on these lands.

 21. The Closure Regime including the Wall and its Associated Regime – There is also clear evidence of internal displacement as a result of lack of access to essential services because of the ‘closure regime’, which is making the situation of Palestinians, especially those in enclaves, untenable. Freedom of movement is systematically denied through an elaborate regime of Israeli military checkpoints and obstacles (678 as of 12 April 2008), bypass roads and infrastructure dividing the OPT.

 22. Violence and Harassment by Jewish Settlers – internal displacement of Palestinians is also a result of the harassment and attacks by the Jewish settlers who prevent Palestinians from accessing their land. In 2006, over 275 incidents of settler violence were recorded, ranging from uprooting trees to seizing land and shooting children. The Israeli authorities have failed to protect Palestinian residents and enforce the law against the settlers.[20]

 23. Israel's protracted military occupation cannot be considered an interim measure that maintains law and order in a territory following armed conflict, but rather an oppressive and racist regime of a colonizing power under the guise of occupation. This regime includes many of the worst features of apartheid, such as: the fragmentation of the OPT to Jewish and Palestinian areas, the construction of the Wall and its associated regime, system of separate roads, closure and permits which restricts freedom of movement on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion.[21]

 V. Conclusions

 24. The severity and consistency of the forcible internal displacement of Palestinians by the State of Israel amounts to a policy of population transfer for the purpose of acquiring land and altering the demographic composition of the territory under Israel’s control.

 25. Internal forcible internal displacement and dispossession of Palestinians have been largely ignored by the international community. Rarely do UN bodies stress upon the population transfer that is taking place in Israel and the OPT despite the manifest displacement that is occurring daily. In a context of siege against the people of the Gaza Strip, ongoing construction of the Wall, house demolition, settlement expansion and settler violence, Israel's policy ad practices of forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians must be scrutinized and proper action must be taken in accordance with international law.

 26. In this context, we call upon the Human Rights Council to address Israel's regime of institutionalized racial discrimination, which is a root cause of the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and to urge Israel to revoke and annul its discriminatory laws, policies and practices, and ensure just and effective reparation of the Palestinian victims, including return and restitution of their land and properties.[22]

 27. Israel's policy and practice of applying a similar regime of institutionalized racial discrimination against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line effectively erases the internationally recognised borders of the State of Israel, asserts Israel’s control over maximum amount of land with a minimum number of the indigenous Palestinians, and renders unfeasible a two-state solution of the protracted conflict.


* This is a revised version of the joint submission which was submitted in 1 December for the UPR of Israel which reflects the updated displacement data.

[1] BADIL Resource Center, Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2006-2007, March 2007.

[2] Roselle Tekiner, "Race and the Issue of National Identity in Israel", In. J. Middle East Stud, 23 (1991), 39 - 55.

[3] See for example: World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency (Status) Law (1952); Keren Kayemet Le-Israel Law (1953). Also the Basic Law: Israel Lands (1960); Basic Law: The Knesset (1958), Amendment 9 (1985); Agricultural Settlement Law (1967).

[4] The 1971 covenant between the State of Israel and the WZO and the reconstituted JA (note 9) regulate the activities of the JA and the WZO inside Israel and the post-1967 occupied territory respectively. Uri Daris, Apartheid Israel Possibilities for the Struggle Within (London: Zet, 2003).

[5] This number does not include the recent waves of the forcible internal displacement in the Galilee, Naqab and the mixed-population cities. BADIL Resource Center, Survey 2006-2007. The figure is an estimate for lack of surveys and systematic analysis. According to other resources, the number of 1948 IDPs is up to 420,000. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2007, April 2008.

[6] See, for example, H.C. 220/51, Aslaan et. al. v. The Military Governor in the Galilee (30 November 1951); H.C. 195/51, Ibrahim et. al. v. The Minister of Defense et. al ( 18/01/1952); H.C. 64/51, Mbada v. The Minister of Defense, (31 July 1951).

[7] BADIL, Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2006-2007; Human Rights Watch, Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages, March 2008; Isabelle Humphries “Bringing Life to the Desert”: Israel’s Master Plan for Dispossession in the Negev, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 15 March 2008.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Arab Association for Human Rights, Uprooted Citizens, 7 May 2008.

[10] BADIL Resource Center, Survey 2006-2007.

[11] Human Rights Watch, Razing Rafah: Mass House Demolitions in the Gaza Strip, October 2004.

[12] The Outline Plan Jerusalem 2000 (2004, 2006) outlines measures, including special segregation, in order to preserve a 70:30 percent ratio of Jewish vs. Palestinian population (the so-called “demographic balance”) in line with previous government decisions. See the UPR Submissions of Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) and al-Haq for more details on Israel's policies and practices in occupied East Jerusalem (July 2008).

[13] Out of the demolitions overall, 11% are punitive demolitions; 33% are administrative demolitions (in Area C and East Jerusalem); and 56% are a result of military demolitions. Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Statistics on House Demolitions (1967 – 2007). It should be noted that the Palestinians in Area C and Occupied East Jerusalem have no choice but to build without construction permits since the Israeli occupying power refuses to grant them such permits on a discriminatory bases.

[14] Save the Children, Child Rights Fact Sheet, October 2008.

[15] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Lack of Permit” Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C, May 2008.

[16] Human Rights Watch, Razing Rafah: Mass House Demolitions in the Gaza Strip, October 2004.

[17] BADIL Resource Center, Survey 2006-2007.

[18] Applied Research Institute -Jerusalem (ARIJ), Press Release, 18 July 2008.

[19] Ibid. In March 2008 it was reported that tenders for 745 housing units and plans for over 3,600 housing units since December 2007. Peace Now, “The Death of the Settlement Freeze – 4 Months since Annapolis”, March 2008

[20] The temporary success of Jewish settlers to ethnically cleanse the small village of Yanoun, near Nablus, in 2002 is an example of the impunity that these settlers enjoy. See also: BADIL Resource Center, Survey 2006-2007.

[21] UN Special Rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories A/HRC/7/17 (January 2008).

[22] Recommendations in this regard have been issued since 1998 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).