Saturday, August 2, 2008
Mechanisms of Israeli rule in the West Bank include control of the movement of populations along roads through checkpoints, random arrests and detainments, and home demolitions. The occupation also takes on a civilian aspect, as Israeli settlers move into Palestinian areas, a practice that began in 1967 and now amounts to 450,000 settlers in 149 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While settling civilians into occupied terrorities is contrary to international law, the settlement population continues to grow at a rate of more than double that of the population expansion in Israel; growth rate averages at 5.5% a year between 1987 and 2004 (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), 2007b).
The now more than 149 Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank are an integral component of the Israeli closure policies and practices. Despite the 4th Geneva Convention prohibition on moving civilian populations into occupied territories, the settlement population in Palestine increased by almost 150% between 1987 and 2004, now totaling 450,000 (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), 2007b). The United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice have declared the continued establishment of settlements illegal. These settlements are linked to each other through a comprehensive network of roads and tunnels, on which Palestinians are not allowed to travel.
In the time between last summer and this summer, settlements in the West Bank appear to have increased. In a recent trip with the mobile clinic, I saw many road signs with the Arabic either crossed out or covered with stickers advertising settlements.
News of settler violence has increased sharply. Ha’aretz ran a story this morning about a settler who threw a brick through the car of a Palestinian woman and her smal child. In the evening, Ma’an News reported that Israeli settlers attacked a wedding partyi in Al Khalil (Hebron), and pushed a 15 year old Palestinian boy from his roof, breaking ihis back. (http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=30999)
On the 25th of July Ma’an News reported “three Israeli settlers, one masked and wielding a stick, pursued 14 Palestinian children who were on their way to a summer camp.” Although there had been an arrangement that Israeli military would excort the children, military personeel never arrived to do so. A few days later, there were reports that American solidarity workers from Christian Peacemakers who arrived to escort the children had been attacked by settlers so severely that one had to be taken to the hospital to treat a head injury he sustained. (http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=30855)
In all sorts of settings in Palestine, acts of violence are often extreme and sudden-house invasions, arrests, beatings. But there is another sort of violence that is slower, often more deliberate, and sustained over time. Through research we’ve been working on this summer we’ve heard many stories from women about the unrelenting stressors of occupation that rarely make the news. Settlements, perched on hills surrounding Palestinian villages, connected by roads accessible only to Israelis, suffocate both the tangible resources in Palestine and the ability of one’s mind to relax and simply enjoy a view. There was only one village in Palestine where I had the pleasure of looking at simple hills of Palestine. It’s a valuable and rare memory...sitting on a roof, eating watermelon, imagining what it must have been like before all of this...