In March 1976, Israel ordered the confiscation of 2,000 hectares of land that belonged to Palestinian citizens of Israel. In response, on March 30 of the same year, Palestinians held demonstrations across Galilee in the north all the way to the Negev in the South. Six Palestinians were killed and more than a hundred were injured.
Following these horrific events, this day came to be known as Land Day or ‘Yom Al-Ard’, an annual observance in which Palestinians commemorate and demonstrate their commitment to the right and ownership of their land.
Israel’s land grab: ongoing devastation
Since 1967, Israel’s policy of constructing and expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land has continued unabated, and is one of the main driving forces behind the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation.
Over the past 50 years, Israel has:
demolished tens of thousands of Palestinian properties
displaced large swathes of the population to build homes and infrastructure to illegally settle its own population in the occupied territories
diverted Palestinian natural resources such as water and agricultural land for settlement use.
The very existence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories violates international humanitarian law and is a war crime. Despite multiple UN resolutions, Israel continues to appropriate Palestinian land and support at least 600,000 settlers living in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
On March 30, 2019, Palestinians across the world will observe the 43rd Land Day to protest continued home demolitions and seizure of land by Israel to build settlements.
Khan al-Ahmar: a village under constant threat
Khan al-Ahmar is just one of 46 Palestinian communities in the West Bank that Israel plans to forcibly transfer to make way for illegal Jewish-only settlements. The village has more than 160 structures, including a school, a mosque and a clinic.
On 24 May, 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of demolishing the village. Less than two weeks later, the army began forcibly evicting its residents, violently attacking them and solidarity activists ahead of the displacement of the entire community. In response, the Palestinian Ministry of Education was forced to begin the school year for Khan al-Ahmar two months early, sacrificing the students’ summer holiday to protest the school’s impending demolition in an attempt to protect it from the bulldozers.
Over the past 10 years, more than 25 homes in Khan al-Ahmar have been demolished by the Israeli authorities, and the daily threat of destruction continues.
Decades of indifference to war crimes
Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits:
the deportation or transfer of parts of the Occupying Power’s civilian population into the territory it occupies
the individual or mass forcible transfer and deportation of protected persons from occupied territory
the extensive appropriation and destruction of land and property.
These are all actions entailed by Israel’s illegal settlements.
On January 22, 2019, the United Nations Security Council conducted its annual meeting to discuss Israel/Palestine, and specifically, the illegal Israeli settlements.
“As 2019 begins, we should have no illusions about the dangerous dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continue to unfold before our eyes,” cautioned Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. He reported that during the last quarter of 2018 alone, Israeli authorities advanced, approved or tendered more than 3,100 housing units for settlements in Area C – nearly half of which are deep in the West Bank. Ongoing attempts to pass legislation that would directly apply Israeli law to occupied West Bank territory raise fears of future “annexation”, according to Mladenov.
There are now approximately 600,000 Israelis living in 250 settlements across the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). Since 1967, over 100,000 hectares of land have been appropriated by Israel. Over the past 50 years, 50,000 homes and structures have been demolished by Israel in the OPT. This has resulted in over 4.9 million Palestinians who face daily restrictions on their movement.
Land Day has become an annual opportunity to remind the international community that Israel’s land grab is ongoing and dangerous for the human rights situations for the Palestinian People. Forcible transfer of people under occupation is a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.
Destination: Occupation is part of Amnesty’s Occupation @50 campaign, which was launched in June 2017, the 50 year anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Occupation @50 calls on states to ban Israeli settlement goods from entering their markets, and to stop companies domiciled in their territories from operating in settlements or trading in their goods.
Destination: Occupation focuses on the online tourism industry and its role in helping maintain and grow illegal Israeli settlements. The report examines the operations of four international digital tourism companies: Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor. It exposes their activities related to Israeli settlements in the OPT and how these activities contribute to and benefit from Israel’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
As Palestinians mark the 43rd Land Day, we begin another year of the Israeli occupation and its relentless land grab and settlement expansion. Unless the international community takes a clear stand to show that it will no longer tolerate Israel’s illegal policies of annexation and settlement, both serious violations of international humanitarian law, Palestinian human rights will continue to be trampled on with impunity and UN resolutions will remain little more than empty gestures.
Tell the Canadian government to ban settlement products and stop its companies from operating in the settlements: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/06/israel-occupation-50-years-of-dispossession/