This pamphlet provides an overview of the three main parts of Palestinian society, those living in

the Occupied Palestinian Territory, those who remain refugees, and those who live as citizens of
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1 Where is Palestine? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.1 Location 7
1.2 Modern Boundaries 7
1.3 Further Reading 8
2 The West Bank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.1 Settlements 9
2.2 Facts & Figures 10
2.3 Legal Status 11
2.4 Settler Violence 12
3 East Jerusalem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
3.1 Legal Status 15
3.2 Facts & Figures 15
3.3 The ‘Judaization’ of East Jerusalem 16
3.4 Denial of Freedom of Worship 17
4 Restrictions on Palestinian Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
4.1 The Apartheid Wall 19
4.2 Facts & Figures 20
4.3 Roadblocks and Checkpoints 21
5 Destruction of Property . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
5.1 Home Demolitions 23
5.2 Theft & Destruction Of Natural Resources 24
5.2.1 Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
5.2.2 Destruction of Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
6 Prisoners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
6.1 Background 27
6.2 Torture & Abuse 28
6.3 Administrative Detention 29
6.4 Child Prisoners 29
7 The Apartheid Analogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
7.1 General Definition 31
7.2 Evidence 31
7.3 South African Opinions 32
7.4 Critics 32
8 Gaza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
8.1 Gaza Under Occupation 33
8.1.1 International Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
8.1.2 Restrictions on movement near border farmland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
8.1.3 Restrictions on Fishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
8.1.4 Economic Strangulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
8.1.5 Humanitarian Crisis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
9 Assaults on Gaza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.1 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead 39
9.1.1 The Assault . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.1.2 Facts & Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
9.1.3 Evidence of War Crimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
9.2 2012 - Operation Pillar of Cloud 42
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge 42
9.3.1 Children Killed & Injured By Israel’s Latest Assault . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
9.3.2 Children Traumatized . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
9.3.3 Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
9.3.4 Statements by Major Human Rights Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
10 Refugees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
10.1 The Nakba 51
10.2 Facts about The Right of Return & Palestinian Refugees 51
10.2.1 Palestinian Refugees: Facts & Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
10.2.2 Responsibility for the Palestinian Refugee Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
11 Palestinians in Israel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
11.1 Background 55
11.2 Institutionalized discrimination 55
11.3 Trends of Intolerance inside Israel 57
11.4 Discrimination in the Educational Sector 58
11.4.1 Discriminatory legal structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
11.4.2 Willful discrimination against Palestinians: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
11.4.3 Academic support for violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
12 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Modern Boundaries
Further Reading
1. Where is Palestine?
A Nakba survivor stands in front of her former lands in Iqrit.
1.1 Location
Palestine is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and forms a land bridge connecting the
continents of Africa and Asia. One of the longest continuously inhabited areas of the world,
Palestine has been recognized as a distinct geographical region since the Greek and Roman eras.
(The name derives from the Philistines, a sea-faring people who invaded and settled the area in
ancient times. The Arabic name for the country is still Filasteen.)
More recently, Palestine has been used to refer to the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip,
areas administered by the Palestinian Authority while being militarily occupied by the state of
Israel. However, these territories represent less than a quarter of former Palestine.
1.2 Modern Boundaries
The modern boundaries of Palestine were drawn by the British, following their conquest of
the region from the Ottoman Turks during World War I. Against the explicit wishes of the
native Palestinian Arabs, the British were granted a "mandate" over Palestine after the war
("mandates" were granted by the League of Nations to Britain and France over former Ottoman
provinces to assist their peoples toward eventual national independence). Originally the mandate
included what is today the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but the British split off Jordan for
autonomous governance in 1921. The British ruled Palestine directly through an appointed High
Commissioner from the end of World War I to 1948. The terms "Historic Palestine" or "Mandate
Palestine" are sometimes used to denote this entity, which was about the size of Vermont.
The mandate ended on May 14, 1948, when British troops withdrew from Palestine. The
previous November 29, the United Nations General Assembly had recommended the partition of
Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with an internationalized status for Jerusalem.
War broke out almost immediately. Better-armed and trained Jewish forces began to expand out
of the areas allocated to the Jewish state, pushing many Palestinians into exile.
8 Chapter 1. Where is Palestine?
By the time of Israel’s Declaration of Independence the day after British withdrawal, on
May 15, 1948, roughly 750,000 Palestinians had fled or been forced out of their homes. When
armistice agreements were concluded in 1949, Israeli military forces controlled 78% of Mandate
Palestine. The remaining 22 percent, comprised of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, fell under
Jordanian and Egyptian administrations, respectively. By then, roughly three quarters of a
million Palestinians had become refugees. In 1967, Israel invaded and occupied the remaining
Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (as well as Syria’s Golan Heights). The military
occupation of these lands continues today.
Thus, Palestinian society has been split into three parts: one part living under occupation in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, one part made refugees in 1948, and one part remaining inside
Israel’s borders. This pamphlet addresses each population in the pages that follow.
1.3 Further Reading
More extensive reading on the history of and present circumstances in Palestine includes the
following titles:
• Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood.
Beacon Press, 2007.
• Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Conscious-
ness. Columbia University Press, 2013.
• Makdisi, Saree. Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. WW Norton & Company,
• Pappe, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld Publications, 2007.
• Pappe, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 2006.
• Said, Edward W. The Question of Palestine. New York: Vintage Books, 1980.
• Sayigh, Rosemary. Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries: A People’s History.
London: Zed Press, 1979.
Facts & Figures
Legal Status
Settler Violence
2. The West Bank
A boy walks to a checkpoint on his way to school in Hebron, West Bank.
2.1 Settlements
A map of settlements (the colored regions) in the occupied West Bank (UN, 2012)
Almost immediately after the 1967 War ended, Israel began to colonize the occupied territo-
ries in violation of international law, with Jewish-only “settlements.” The settlement enterprise
was established with the purpose of creating irreversible “facts on the ground,” thereby solidify-
ing Israeli control over the occupied territories and ensuring that under any future diplomatic
agreement Israel would retain possession of vast and strategically important tracts of Palestinian
10 Chapter 2. The West Bank
The settlement enterprise was also intended to ensure that a genuinely sovereign Palestinian
state would never emerge in the occupied territories. In the words of Henry Siegman, Executive
Director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994 and former Senior Fellow at the
Council on Foreign Relations:
“A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a
helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon [the former
Israeli prime minister and defense minister and godfather of Israel’s settlement
enterprise]. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations
of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon
assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.”
In 2011, respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem noted:
“The extreme change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any
real possibility to establish an independent, viable Palestinian state in the framework
of exercising the right to self-determination.”
2.2 Facts & Figures
As of 2012, there are more than half a million Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank
and East Jerusalem. Of those, upwards of 300,000 live in the expanded boundaries of East
Jerusalem. In addition, approximately 20,000 settlers live in settlements in the occupied Syrian
Golan Heights.
• As of 2012 there were some 130 official settlements and more than 110 “outposts” (nascent
settlements built without official government approval) in the occupied West Bank and
East Jerusalem.
• According to Human Rights Watch: "Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely
because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water,
schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided
benefits. . . While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a
time warp - not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands
and out of their homes."
• From 1993 to 2000, as Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiated
what came to be known as the Oslo Accords, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied
West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubled, from 110,900 to 190,206 according
to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied
East Jerusalem, which are mostly built and expanded before 1993, are harder to find, but
as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according
to B’Tselem.
• Settlements and related infrastructure (including Israeli-only roads, army bases, the sepa-
ration wall, closed military zones, and checkpoints) cover approximately 42% of the West
• In a 2012 report entitled “Torpedoing The Two State Solution,” Peace Now, the leading
experts on Israel’s settlement enterprise, documented a 20% rise in construction starts in
the West Bank in 2011 over the previous year.
See The Nation:
See B’Tselem:
See Human Rights Watch:
See the report:
2.3 Legal Status 11
• Israel withdrew its soldiers and 8000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, however Gaza
remains under Israeli occupation according to international law as Israel continues to
control all entry in and out of the territory, as well as its coastline and airspace.
• In 2004, Dov Weisglass, a top advisor to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that the
withdrawal of settlers from Gaza (the “disengagement” plan) was intended to “freeze” the
peace process, by alleviating international pressure on Israel to take further action, stating,
“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian
state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.
Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails,
has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and
permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of
The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formalde-
hyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”
2.3 Legal Status
The pre-amble of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed shortly after the 1967
War, in November 1967, stresses “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The
text of Resolution 242, which is the cornerstone of the two-state solution and international efforts
to make peace in the region for more than two decades, calls for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed
forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons
in Time of War states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own
civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
The Hague Convention also forbids occupying powers from making permanent changes in
the occupied territory unless it is a military necessity.
In its 2004 advisory opinion that deemed the wall that Israel is building in the West Bank
illegal, all 15 judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also found Israeli settlements in
the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, to be in contravention of international law.
Successive Israeli governments have argued that settlement building does not violate inter-
national law, however a formerly classified document dated September 1967 shows that the
legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, advised the government of Prime
Minister Levi Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the
explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention." Disregarding the opinion, in September
1967, Eshkol’s Labor government authorized the establishment of the first civilian settlement,
Kfar Etzion, on the outskirts of Hebron in the West Bank.
See Ha’aretz:
See the Resolution:
See Article 49: 385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5
See The Hague:
See the opinion:
See The New York Times:
12 Chapter 2. The West Bank
International human rights organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross,
Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned Israel’s settlement enter-
prise as illegal.
Numerous United Nations resolutions have also affirmed that Israel’s colonization of Pales-
tinian land in the occupied territories is a violation of international law. In 1979, the Security
Council passed Resolution 446, which states: “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing
settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity
and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the
Middle East.”
2.4 Settler Violence
Aftermath of a “price tag" attack on Palestinian Christians. (Photo via Middle East Monitor.)
Many settlements like Yitzhar, Kiryat Arba, and Itamar, are home to heavily armed religious
extremists who frequently attack Palestinians and their property, including physical assaults and
murder, graffiti and arson attacks against mosques, and the destruction of olive trees and other
In March 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported that senior European Union officials had
drafted a confidential report concluding that Jewish settlers are engaged in a systematic and
growing campaign of violence against Palestinians and that "settler violence enjoys the tacit
support of the state of Israel.”
Also in 2012, the US State Department listed settler violence
against Palestinians as a form of terror.
Under Israel’s occupation regime, Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to the
civilian laws of Israel, with the attendant legal rights and protections, while Palestinians are
subject to Israeli military law, and are granted virtually no legal rights or protections.
See The Resolution:
See The Guardian:
See the Guardian:
2.4 Settler Violence 13
According to a 2012 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
• The weekly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property
damage increased by 32% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 144% compared to
• In 2011, approximately 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, primarily olive trees, were dam-
aged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly undermining the livelihoods of hundreds
of families.
• In 2011, 139 Palestinians were displaced due to settler attacks.
• Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with
the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment.
• There are 80 communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 Palestinians
vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 who are at high-risk.
The most notorious instance of settler violence was carried out by an Israeli-American settler,
Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed in Hebron’s
Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. More than 100 others were wounded in the attack. In the unrest that
followed, another 25 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers. Just over a month after the Cave
of the Patriarchs massacre, Hamas launched its first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians.
A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers
to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers
have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on
private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having "systematically
failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any
effective remedy.”
In recent years, settlers have begun so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians and their
property in response to Israeli government actions that displease them, such as the dismantling
of settlement outposts. The price tag campaign has included a string of more than a dozen
arson attacks against, and desecrations of, West Bank mosques. In two cases, mosques inside of
Israel’s internationally recognized borders were also torched.
See the report:
See the report:
Legal Status
Facts & Figures
The ‘Judaization’ of East Jerusalem
Denial of Freedom of Worship
3. East Jerusalem
A woman presents an ID card to soldiers in an attempt to reach East Jerusalem for Friday prayers.
3.1 Legal Status
Following the 1967 War, Israel unilaterally expanded East Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries
and formally annexed it. Neither move has been recognized by the international community,
including the United States.
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has been repeatedly rejected by the international com-
munity through a series of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 252, 267,
471, 476 and 478. Resolution 252 (1968) states that the Security Council “[c]onsiders that
all. . . actions taken by Israel. . . which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and
cannot change that status.”
Although Israel has attempted to make a distinction between them, according to international
law, there is no legal difference between East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.
As such, Israel has no internationally recognized legal claim to any part of East Jerusalem,
including the Old City and its holy sites.
Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court has begun recognizing as legitimate legal claims from
Jews to properties in East Jerusalem that were allegedly owned by Jews prior to Israel’s creation
in 1948. As a result, at least three Palestinian families and one shop owner have been evicted
in recent months to make way for Jewish settlers who claimed ownership of the land pre-1948.
At the same time, the Supreme Court refuses to recognize legal claims by Palestinian Arabs to
properties owned in what became Israel in 1948.
3.2 Facts & Figures
Following its capture in 1967, Israel expanded the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem,
which comprised about four square miles, annexing an additional 45 square miles (more than
17,000 acres) of the occupied West Bank to the city.
16 Chapter 3. East Jerusalem
• Since 1967, Israel has expropriated approximately 5776 acres of Palestinian land in East
• Palestinian residents of Jerusalem contribute around 40% of the city’s taxes but only
receive 8% of municipal spending.
• In an attempt to separate and isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West
Bank, Israel has built a ring of settlements around its outskirts. This ring has been
reinforced by the wall Israel is constructing, which also separates Israeli settlements in
and near East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
• Since 1993, Israel has prohibited non-Jerusalemite Palestinians from entering the city
unless they obtain an Israeli-issued permit, which is rarely granted. As a result, over four
million Palestinians are denied access to their holy places in Jerusalem, are prohibited
from studying in East Jerusalem, and are denied certain medical treatments that are only
available in East Jerusalem hospitals.
• The State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011 noted:
“Restricted access to East Jerusalem had a negative impact on patients and
medical staff trying to reach the six Palestinian hospitals there that offered
specialized care unavailable in the West Bank. IDF soldiers at checkpoints
subjected Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances from the West
Bank to violence and delays, or refused entry into Jerusalem even in emergency
cases. . . The PRCS reported hundreds of violations against its teams and
humanitarian services during the year. Most incidents included blocking access
to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers, or
maintaining delays on checkpoints for periods sometimes lasting up to two
3.3 The ‘Judaization’ of East Jerusalem
According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “Many
of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the
non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem:
“Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, the government of Israel’s primary goal
in Jerusalem has been to create a demographic and geographic situation that will
thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city. To achieve
this goal, the government has been taking actions to increase the number of Jews,
and reduce the number of Palestinians, living in the city.”
Methods used by Israel as part of an effort to “Judaize” or alter the religious composition of
Jerusalem by increasing the number of Jews while decreasing the number of Palestinians, include:
• Revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians who stay abroad for at least
seven years, or who are unable to prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem. Since
1967, Israel has revoked the residency rights of about 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians,
of which more than 4,500 were revoked in 2008.
See B’Tselem:
See B’Tselem:
See the report:
See B’Tselem:
3.4 Denial of Freedom of Worship 17
• The encouragement of Jewish settlement in historically Palestinian-Arab areas. While
severely restricting the expansion of Palestinian residential areas and revoking Palestinian
residency rights, the Israeli government, through official and unofficial organizations,
encourages Jews to move to settlements in East Jerusalem.
• Systematic discrimination in municipal planning and in the allocation of services and
building permits. According to a 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs:
“Since 1967, Israel has failed to provide Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem
with the necessary planning framework to meet their basic housing and infras-
tructure needs. Only 13 percent of the annexed municipal area is currently
zoned by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction, much of which
is already built-up. It is only within this area that Palestinians can apply for
building permits, but the number of permits granted per year to Palestinians
does not begin to meet the existing demand for housing and the requirements
related to formal land registration prevent many from applying. As a result,
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves confronting a serious
shortage in housing and other basic infrastructure. Many residents have been
left with no choice other than to build structures “illegally” and therefore risk
demolition and displacement.”
• Demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures built without difficult to obtain permission
from Israeli authorities. Since 1967, approximately 2000 Palestinian homes have been
demolished in East Jerusalem. According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008
Israel demolished more than 670 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of
outstanding demolition orders is estimated to be as high as 20,000.
• According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
“Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were
built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for
Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning
process available only to settlers grants new construction permits much more
3.4 Denial of Freedom of Worship
Since 1993, Palestinians living in the West Bank have been forbidden by Israel to enter East
Jerusalem without a difficult to obtain permit. As a result, millions of Palestinian Muslims and
Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza are prevented from accessing their holy sites in
According to the 2010 State Department International Religious Freedom Report:
“[Israel’s] strict closure policies and the separation barrier constructed by the Israeli
government severely restricted the ability of Palestinian Muslims and Christians
to reach places of worship and to practice their religious rites, particularly in
The report also noted:
See the report:
18 Chapter 3. East Jerusalem
“The Government of Israel’s construction of a separation barrier, begun in 2002 due
to stated security concerns, has severely limited access to holy sites and seriously
impeded the work of religious organizations that provide education, healthcare, and
other humanitarian relief and social services to Palestinians, particularly in and
around East Jerusalem.”
See the report:
The Apartheid Wall
Facts & Figures
Roadblocks and Checkpoints
4. Restrictions on Palestinian Movement
Palestinians queue to pass through a checkpoint alongside the wall in order to reach jobs inside Israel.
4.1 The Apartheid Wall
In June 2002, under the pretext of security, the Israeli government began unilaterally constructing
a wall, much of it on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank. (Since 1994, the Gaza
Strip has been surrounded by an Israeli wall that cuts off the 1.6 million Palestinians living there
from the rest of the world. See section on Gaza restrictions.)
In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion deeming
the West Bank wall to be in violation of international law. It considered the wall to be part of a
process of illegal annexation of occupied land, and denied the claims that it could be justified by
security or military needs. The court concluded that the wall must be dismantled, and ordered
Israel to compensate Palestinians harmed by its construction. It also called on third-party states
to ensure Israel’s compliance with the judgment.
While the ICJ’s decision was an advisory opinion, and therefore not binding on the parties, it
is an authoritative statement of the status of the wall in international law.
See the opinion here:
20 Chapter 4. Restrictions on Palestinian Movement
Section from 2011 UN map of the wall, focused on the Jerusalem area. The green line is the internationally recognized
border of Israel, while the red and black represent the current and planned construction of the wall inside of
Palestinian territory. The red shaded areas indicate Palestinian towns that now exist between Israel and the wall,
cut off from the rest of the West Bank. The colored X symbols indicate checkpoints and other gates and barriers to
4.2 Facts & Figures
• As of May 2012, more than 325 miles of the wall have been built, at a cost of $2.6 billion
(US). Once completed, the full length of the wall is projected to be between 420 and 440
miles (according to the Israeli Defense Ministry and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem,
respectively), more than twice the actual length of Israel’s border with the West Bank.
• Eighty-five percent of the wall will be built not along Israel’s internationally recognized
pre-1967 border, but on Palestinian land inside the occupied West Bank.
• When finished, the wall, along with the settlements, Israeli-only highways and closed
military zones, are projected to cover 46% of the West Bank, effectively annexing it to
• Critics have accused Israeli authorities of designing the wall’s route to envelop as much
Palestinian land and as many Israeli settlements as possible on the western, or Israeli side,
while placing as many Palestinians as possible on the eastern side. In total, about 98% of
the Israeli settler population is expected to end up on the Israeli side of the wall.
• The wall also surrounds much of occupied East Jerusalem, cutting its more than 200,000
Palestinian residents off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
• During construction of the wall, Israel has destroyed large amounts of Palestinian farmland
and usurped water supplies, including the biggest aquifer in the West Bank.
See 972 Magazine:
4.3 Roadblocks and Checkpoints 21
4.3 Roadblocks and Checkpoints
The notorious Ephraim Gate checkpoint in the northern West Bank. A Palestinian man was crushed to death
here in January, 2014. Photo via Mondoweiss.
At any given time, there are upwards of 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers
to Palestinian movement inside the West Bank - an area smaller than Delaware - hindering
Palestinians from moving between their own towns and cities and the outside world. Palestinians
are prohibited from driving on the vast network of settler roads built inside the West Bank, which
are restricted to Israeli citizens. In addition to limiting movement of individual Palestinians,
Israeli restrictions also impede the flow of commercial goods and commerce, with adverse effects
on the Palestinian economy and development.
According to a September 2011 report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
• 522 roadblocks and checkpoints obstruct Palestinian movement in the West Bank, com-
pared to 503 in July 2010.
• 200,000 people from 70 villages are forced to use detours between two to five times longer
than the direct route to their closest city due to movement restrictions.
• One or more of the main entrances are blocked to Palestinian traffic in ten out of eleven
major West Bank cities.
• Four of the five roads into the Jordan Valley are not accessible to most Palestinian vehicles.
• Almost 80 percent of land in the Jordan Valley is off-limits to Palestinians, with the land
designated for Israeli settlements’ ‘firing zones’ and ‘nature reserves.’ (See here for 2012
UN map)
• Palestinian access to their private land around approximately 55 Israeli settlements is
highly restricted.
See the report:
Home Demolitions
Theft & Destruction Of Natural Resources
Destruction of Agriculture
5. Destruction of Property
A man in Hebron, West Bank, watches as his home is demolished using a Caterpillar bulldozer.
5.1 Home Demolitions
Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:
“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging
individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public
authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where
such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
Israel has demolished approximately 24,800 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories since
Demolitions are carried out for three stated reasons: military purposes; “administrative”
reasons (i.e. a home or structure is built without difficult to obtain permission from Israel); and
to deter or punish militants and their families, a violation of provisions of international law that
prohibit collective punishment.
According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
“Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built
without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians
to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas, whereas a separate planning process available
only to settlers grants new construction permits much more readily.”
Since 1967, some 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in occupied East Jerusalem.
According to official Israeli statistics, from 2000 to 2008 Israel demolished more than 670
Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The number of outstanding demolition orders is estimated
at up to 20,000. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are often forced to choose between demolishing
their own homes and paying for Israeli authorities to do it.
See Article 53:
See the report:
24 Chapter 5. Destruction of Property
5.2 Theft & Destruction Of Natural Resources
After taking control of the occupied territories in 1967, Israel began to exploit their natural
resources. Most critically in the semi-arid region, Israel began to exploit aquifers and other water
According to international law, including Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, an occupying
power is prohibited from using an occupied territory’s natural resources for its own benefit.
occupying power may only use resources in an occupied territory for military necessity or for
the benefit of the occupied population. Thus, Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian resources such
as water for use in Jewish settlements and inside Israel proper is a clear breach of international
law, a position supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
Despite this clear prohibition, in December 2011, in response to a petition filed by Israeli
human rights organization Yesh Din, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli companies
could continue exploiting Palestinian resources in the occupied territories.
5.2.1 Water
Amnesty International report on water access restrictions for Palestinians.
While Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill swimming pools, Palestinians living nearby
often cannot access an adequate amount of water for drinking, cooking, or proper hygiene. In the
West Bank, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times the amount of water as Palestinians.
In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter
the total amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, some
See Article 55:
See Human Rights Watch:
5.2 Theft & Destruction Of Natural Resources 25
2.5 million people.
A 2012 UN report documented the rising use of threats, violence and intimidation by settlers
to deny Palestinians access to their water resources in the West Bank. It found that Israeli settlers
have been acting systematically to gain control of some 56 springs, most of which are located on
private Palestinian land. The report also criticized Israeli authorities for having “systematically
failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any
effective remedy.”
According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, 60,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the
West Bank (which is under full Israeli control) lack access to running water, and must pay high
prices – up to one-sixth of their income – to bring in water tankers, which in turn require special
permits from Israel.
A 2009 Amnesty International report entitled “Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water”
“In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the
Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does
not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.
Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of
material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure
have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which
has reached [a] crisis point.”
According to Amnesty International, 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. In addition to water and arable land, Israel also exploits Palestinian resources such
as minerals, including from the Dead Sea.
5.2.2 Destruction of Agriculture
Since the start of the occupation in 1967, Israel has destroyed vast amounts of Palestinian
agricultural land in order to construct settlements and attendant infrastructure such as roads and
military bases, and for the separation wall. In addition, vast amounts of farmland have been
destroyed in Israeli military operations and by rampaging Jewish settlers, who frequently set fire
to Palestinian farmland, uproot olive trees, and even kill livestock.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied
Palestinian territories, in 2011 alone some 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, mostly olive trees,
were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly undermining the livelihoods of
hundreds of West Bank families.
Between 2000 and 2007, more than half a million Palestinian olive trees were destroyed by
Israel for the construction of the separation wall or by settlers.
See Human Rights Watch:
See the report:
Torture & Abuse
Administrative Detention
Child Prisoners
6. Prisoners
The family of Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for over 200 days, holds his photograph
6.1 Background
According to the Israel Prison Service, there were about 4424 Palestinian prisoners and security
detainees being held in Israeli prisons as of the end of April 2012. According to prisoners’ rights
organization Addameer, there were 4653 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as of May 1, 2012.
Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned upwards of 700,000 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza,
and East Jerusalem, or about 20% of the total population of the occupied territories.
who are charged are subjected to Israeli military courts that human rights organizations have
criticized for failing to meet the minimum standards required for a fair trial.
According to Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied
Palestinian Territories:
“Palestinians in the [occupied territories] subject to Israel’s military justice system
continued to face a wide range of abuses of their right to a fair trial. They are
routinely interrogated without a lawyer and, although they are civilians, are tried
before military not ordinary courts.”
According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report:
‘Israeli military justice authorities arbitrarily detained Palestinians who advocated
non-violent protest against Israeli settlements and the route of the separation barrier.
In January a military appeals court increased the prison sentence of Abdallah Abu
Rahme, from the village of Bil’in, to 16 months in prison on charges of inciting
violence and organizing illegal demonstrations, largely on the basis of coerced
statements of children.’
See Addameer:
See Addameer:
See the report:
See the report:
28 Chapter 6. Prisoners
Sign at a protest for Hana Shalabi, who went on a 43 day hunger strike to protest her administrative detention.
She was released, but exiled to the Gaza Strip for 3 years.
6.2 Torture & Abuse
Until 1999, the use of torture by Israeli military and security forces was both widespread and
officially condoned under the euphemism of “moderate physical pressure.” Methods included
beatings, forcing prisoners into painful physical positions for long periods of time, and sleep
• In 2000 it was revealed that between 1988 and 1992 Israel’s internal security force, the
Shin Bet, had systematically tortured Palestinians during the first, mostly nonviolent,
uprising against Israel’s occupation, using methods that went beyond what was allowable
under government guidelines for “moderate physical pressure.” These methods included
violent shaking, tying prisoners into painful positions for long periods, subjecting them to
extreme heat or cold, and severe beatings, including kicking. At least 10 Palestinians died
and hundreds of others were maimed as a result.
• In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the use of “moderate physical pressure” was
illegal, however reports of torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners continued unabated.
Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian
Territories states: “Consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including
of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were
beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected
to painful stress positions for long periods. Confessions allegedly obtained under duress
were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts.”
• Other abusive practices employed by Israel against Palestinian prisoners include the use of
solitary confinement, denial of family visits, and forcing prisoners to live in unsanitary
living conditions.
The harsh conditions endured by Palestinians in Israeli prisons prompted a series of hunger
strikes, including a mass hunger strike by more than 1500 prisoners in early 2012 leading to
some concessions from Israel. The concessions reportedly included an end to the use of solitary
confinement as a punitive measure and allowing family visits for prisoners from Gaza.
See The Guardian:
See the report:
6.3 Administrative Detention 29
6.3 Administrative Detention
Israel uses a procedure known as administrative detention to imprison Palestinians without
charge or trial for months or even years. Administrative detention orders are normally issued for
six-month periods, which can be extended indefinitely.
• Administrative detention was first instituted by the British during the Mandate era in 1945,
prior to the creation of Israel.
• There are currently as of May 29, 2012, approximately 308 Palestinians being held in
administrative detention.
• Since 1967, some 100,000 administrative detention orders have been issued by Israel.
• Although there are none currently being held in administrative detention, Israeli authorities
have in the past used the procedure against Palestinian children as well as adults.
• Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention has been condemned by human rights
organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Israeli
human rights groups like B’Tselem.
• An end to the use of administrative detention was one of the main demands of a recent
wave of hunger strikes by Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
• In May 2012, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch implicitly admitted
that Israel uses administrative detention for reasons other than stated urgent "security"
concerns, urging authorities to "use it only if there’s a need."
6.4 Child Prisoners
As of April 2012, there were 220 Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons.
• Since September 2000, Israel has arrested and imprisoned more than 7000 Palestinian
• Like all Palestinians from the occupied territories, Palestinian children are subject to Israeli
military tribunals.
• Palestinian minors are frequently arrested in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers,
taken away without their parents and harshly interrogated without a guardian or lawyer
According to a recent report by the Israeli NGO No Legal Frontiers, which followed the cases of
71 Palestinian children as they made their way through the Israeli military court system:
• The most common offense was throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. In most cases the
object was not actually thrown, did not hit a target, or cause any damage. In no case was
serious harm caused.
• In 94% of cases the children were held in pre-trial detention and not released on bail.
• In 100% of cases, the children were convicted of an offense.
• 87% of them were subjected to some form of physical violence while in custody.
See The Jerusalem Post:
See Ha’aretz:
See the report:
30 Chapter 6. Prisoners
Under pressure from human rights organizations and children’s rights advocates, the Israeli army
announced in 2011 that it would raise the age that Palestinians are treated as adults from 16 to 18
years of age, however, critics complain that they are still subject to the same unjust and abusive
treatment accorded Palestinian adults.
General Definition
South African Opinions
7. The Apartheid Analogy
Women protest the pass system in South Africa, which is analogous to today’s checkpoint system in the West Bank.
7.1 General Definition
The United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of
Apartheid (1973) defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing
and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons
and systematically oppressing them.”
7.2 Evidence
Over the entirety of its 64-year existence, there has been a period of only about one year (1966-67)
that Israel has not ruled over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted no political rights
simply because they are not Jewish. Prior to the start of the occupation in 1967, Palestinians who
remained inside what became Israel in 1948 were ruled by martial law for all but one year, not
unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories have been for the past 45 years.
According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report entitled “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s
Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories":
"Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity,
and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads,
while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits. . . While
Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp -
not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and
out of their homes."
One of the first people to use the word “apartheid” in relation to Israel was Israel’s first prime min-
ister, David Ben Gurion, who warned following the 1967 War of Israel becoming an “apartheid
state” if it retained control of the occupied territories. In 1999, then-Israeli prime minister and
current defense minister Ehud Barak stated:
See the definition:
See the report:
32 Chapter 7. The Apartheid Analogy
"Every attempt to keep hold of [Israel and the occupied territories] as one political
entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because
if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an
apartheid state.”
In 2010, Barak repeated the apartheid comparison, stating:
"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity
called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. . . If this bloc of
millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
In 2006, former US President Jimmy Carter published a book entitled, “Palestine Peace Not
Apartheid” comparing Israel’s regime in the occupied territories to South African apartheid.
In 2007, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Israel would face a civil rights
struggle similar to the one mounted against apartheid in South Africa if it did not relinquish the
occupied territories. Although he later claimed not to have made the remarks, US Secretary of
State was quoted at a private event warning that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state if it
did not end the occupation quickly.
7.3 South African Opinions
Many veterans of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa also consider Israel’s treatment
of Palestinians to be a form of apartheid. One of the most outspoken voices has been that of
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the struggle against South African
apartheid, who has repeatedly made the comparison. In 2012, Archbishop Tutu wrote that
Israel’s version of apartheid is actually worse than South Africa’s, stating: “Not only is this
group of people [Palestinians] being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever
dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated.”
7.4 Critics
Some critics assert that Israel’s occupation regime cannot be compared to apartheid because
it was not meant to be permanent. Proponents of the apartheid analogy counter that whatever
Israel’s intentions, the occupation has been in place for nearly half a century and the Bantustan-
like arrangement is so entrenched due to the construction of settlements and the wall, and other
unilateral Israeli actions, as to make it irreversible and therefore, de facto, permanent.
See The New York Times:
See The Guardian:
Gaza Under Occupation
International Law
Restrictions on movement near border
Restrictions on Fishing
Economic Strangulation
Humanitarian Crisis
8. Gaza
Palestinian children travel to an UNRWA school to seek shelter after evacuating their homes near the border in Gaza
City on July 13, 2014. (UN/Shareef Sarhan)
8.1 Gaza Under Occupation
Since the early 1990s, Israel has restricted passage to and from occupied Gaza, but in 2006,
following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections, Israel tightened its restrictions severely and
imposed a total naval blockade on the tiny coastal enclave.
2011 Map of Gaza, provided by Israeli human rights organization GISHA
34 Chapter 8. Gaza
8.1.1 International Law
Israel’s siege and naval blockade of Gaza are acts of collective punishment, which is illegal
under international law, and is considered as such by the United Nations and human rights
organizations such as Amnesty International.
A 2009 Amnesty International report following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating
military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, stated:
‘The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in place for some 18
months before the current fighting began, amounts to collective punishment of its
entire population.
‘The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits collective punishment. Its
Article 33 provides: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or
she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of
intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”’
In 2011, the UN released the so-called Palmer Report on Israel’s attack against the Freedom
Flotilla in May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists (one of them a US citizen). The report
deemed Israel’s blockade legal, however it was widely considered a politicized whitewash,
containing the important caveat that “its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either
fact or law." Shortly after the Palmer Report was released, an independent UN panel of experts
released a report concluding that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does violate international law, stating
that it amounts to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights
and humanitarian law."
The International Committee of the Red Cross and a UN fact-finding
mission into Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla reached the same conclusion in 2010.
Israeli officials have admitted that the siege is not motivated primarily by security concerns,
but is part of a strategy of "economic warfare" against the people of Gaza. In 2006, senior advisor
to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said the goal of the Gaza siege was to put
the 1.6 million people of Gaza “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
Despite the fact that Israel loosened restrictions under international pressure following the
assault on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, the siege and blockade continue to strangle Gaza
economically. According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report:
“Israel’s punitive closure of the Gaza Strip, tightened after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza
in June 2007, continued to have severe humanitarian and economic consequences
for the civilian population...Gaza’s economy grew rapidly, but the World Bank said
the growth depended on international assistance. The economy had not returned to
pre-closure levels; daily wages, for instance, had declined 23 percent since 2007.
Israel’s near-total restrictions on exports from Gaza hindered economic recovery.
Due to low per capita income, 51 percent of the population was unable to buy
sufficient food, according to UN aid agencies.”
See the report:
See the report:
See the report:
8.1 Gaza Under Occupation 35
8.1.2 Restrictions on movement near border farmland
In May 2010, Israel declared “no-go” zones within 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall that
surrounds Gaza. In practice, however, the UN has concluded that the no-go zone is actually 500
meters (546 yards). Palestinians who venture into this area risk being shot by Israeli soldiers
without warning. Numerous Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, have been
wounded and killed in these areas.
Human rights organizations such as B’Tselem have documented dozens of cases of cases in
which Israeli soldiers opened fire at people who posed no threat and were much farther than 300
meters (328 yards) from the wall - up to 1,500 meters (1640 yards) away.
According to UN
statistics, the area of the official no-go zones, together with the area in which entry is effectively
restricted due to a real risk of gunfire, covers about 39 square miles, or 17% of the total area of
Gaza. The no-go zones affect some 113,000 Palestinians (7.5% of Gaza’s population), causing
harm to their homes, land, workplaces, and schools. Seven schools are located in these areas.
8.1.3 Restrictions on Fishing
Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of Gaza. Photo by Max Blumenthal.
In the Interim Agreement signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization as part
of the Oslo Accords during the 1990s, Israel agreed to allow fishing boats from Gaza to travel
some 20 nautical miles from shore, except for several buffer zones near the borders with Israel
and Egypt to which they were denied entry altogether. But according to a 2011 report from
B’Tselem: “In practice, however, Israel did not issue permits to all the fishermen who requested
them, and allowed fishing up to a distance of 12 nautical miles.”
Since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of
2008-9, the Israeli navy has reduced that limit to three nautical miles.
According to the aforementioned 2011 B’Tselem report:
See B’Tselem:
36 Chapter 8. Gaza
“In addition to the harsh restrictions on fishing, B’Tselem has documented cases in
which naval forces have attacked and harassed fishermen. The documented cases
include, for example, gunfire, detention, delay, and confiscation of boats and fishing
‘The prohibition on entering deep waters and the danger now inherent to every
excursion to sea deny fishermen access to areas abundant with fish, limiting their
catches [to] small fish of poor quality. As a result, it is extremely hard to earn a
living from fishing, or even cover fishing expenses. Given the lack of other sources
of income in the Gaza Strip, some fishermen are left no option but to violate the
prohibition and endanger their lives.”
8.1.4 Economic Strangulation
Export of Palestinian goods, the import of raw materials and access to Gaza’s natural resources
have been severely restricted, devastating Gazan businesses and the ability of the region to be
self-sufficient, thereby rendering it dependent on international aid. For example:
• Economic output per capita has fallen by 40 percent of 1994 levels.
• 95 percent of Gaza’s 3,900 industrial businesses are closed or have suspended work. The
other five percent are operating at 20 to 50 percent of capacity. This has cost between
100,000 and 120,000 jobs.
• Israeli restrictions block access to 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land and fishermen
are forbidden to fish beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore. In 2010, employment in
agriculture fell from 14,900 to 10,100.
• While Gaza needs 670,000 truckloads of construction material, an average of 715 enter
per month, at 11 percent of pre-blockade levels. The construction industry now has 10,000
workers, 42 percent of pre-blockade levels.
• Unemployment is at 45.2 percent, with only 40.3 percent of working-age Gazans in the
labor force. Youth unemployment is at more than 47 percent.
• 290 truckloads of exports were allowed out of Gaza between November 2010 and May
2011. Before the siege, more than 960 truckloads a month exited Gaza. This is only five
percent of pre-blockade levels.
• In 2011, a weekly average of 900 truckloads of goods entered Gaza. Before the siege,
2,807 truckloads entered weekly.
• On March 2, 2011, Israel closed the Karni crossing, forcing importers and exporters to use
the Kerem Shalom crossing. For wheat exporters, this increased transport costs by 235
percent and for wheat importers by 30 percent.
• Between June 2010 and March 2011, the cost of wheat flour increased by 50 percent and
vegetable oil increased by 40 percent. Meanwhile, the average wage has decreased by
more than 25 percent since 2007.
• Gazan households spend 56 percent of their expenditures on food, with 52.5 percent eating
lower quality food and 67 percent buying food on credit as a result of high food costs.
8.1.5 Humanitarian Crisis
The amount of goods allowed into Gaza by Israel falls far short of the minimum required to avoid
malnutrition, poverty, and prevent or treat a variety of illnesses. The United Nations’ fact-finding
mission regarding Israel’s attack on the 2010 humanitarian flotilla found that "a deplorable
See the IMEU’s Factsheet on Gaza:
8.1 Gaza Under Occupation 37
situation exists in Gaza" that "is totally intolerable and unacceptable in the twenty-first century.
It is amazing that anyone could characterize the condition of the people there as satisfying the
most basic standards."
Consider the following statistics:
• 54 percent of households face food insecurity, defined as inadequate physical, social or
economic access to food. An additional 12 percent are considered vulnerable to food
insecurity. Only 20 percent of Gazan households are food secure.
• 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
• Since the blockade began, the number of Palestinian refugees completely unable to secure
access to food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap,
school stationery and safe drinking water (’abject poverty’) has tripled to 300,000.
• 75 percent of households polled by the World Food Programme in the Gaza Strip received
outside aid.
• Gaza’s hospitals are at "zero stock levels" for 178 of 480 essential medications, with
another 69 at low stock. Of 700 essential medical supplies, 190 are at "zero stock levels"
and another 70 at low stock.
• Due to lack of fuel, the Gaza Power Plant runs at 45 percent capacity, leading to daily
blackouts of eight to twelve hours. Given this fuel shortage, 90 percent of private cars
are no longer driven and of public services, only 15 percent are operational. (Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights, The Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective Punishment of
the Civilian Population, December 10, 2010)
• In the Gaza Strip, 95 percent of water sources are unfit for drinking. Water-borne diseases
cause 26 percent of illnesses in Gaza.
• Because of lack of treatment capacity and electricity, Gaza authorities must release around
80,000 cubic meters of sewage into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.
• The construction of 86,000 houses is required to meet natural growth and recover from
previous Israeli invasions.
See the IMEU’s Factsheet on Gaza:
2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead
The Assault
Facts & Figures
Evidence of War Crimes
2012 - Operation Pillar of Cloud
2014 - Operation Protective Edge
Children Killed & Injured By Israel’s Latest
Children Traumatized
Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure
Statements by Major Human Rights Orga-
9. Assaults on Gaza
Palestinians in Gaza inspect an unexploded missile launched by Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
9.1 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a massive, 22-day military assault
on the Gaza Strip. The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old
conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, killing some 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
In the aftermath of the offensive, a UN-appointed fact finding mission found strong evidence
of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both the Israeli military and Palestinian
Investigations by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch came to the same conclusion.
9.1.1 The Assault
Six months before Cast Lead, Israel negotiated a ceasefire with Hamas and other Palestinian
armed groups in Gaza. Under the agreement, which went into effect on June 19, 2008, both sides
agreed to stop hostilities across the Green Line, the de facto border between Israel and the Gaza
Despite a number of violations by both sides, the truce was largely successful.
Hamas negotiators claim that Israel agreed to end its closure of Gaza’s border crossings as
part of the ceasefire agreement, however Israeli officials dispute this. While Israel did resume
operations at one border crossing, the overall policy of closure did not change. Two months after
the truce began, the UN reported that the number of goods allowed into Gaza actually decreased.
Nevertheless, overall, a situation of relative quiet prevailed in and around Gaza until Novem-
ber 4, when Israeli soldiers staged a raid into the Strip, killing six members of Hamas. The
attack, which took place on the eve of the US presidential elections, ended the ceasefire and led
See the report:
40 Chapter 9. Assaults on Gaza
to an escalation of hostilities culminating in Cast Lead the following month.
Cast Lead proceeded in two phases: a week of intense aerial bombing followed by two weeks
of a joint air and land assault and invasion. The surprise attack began at 11:30 a.m. on December
27, 2008, with Israeli F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and unmanned drones striking more
than 100 locations across the tiny, crowded Gaza Strip within a matter of minutes.
Among the targets were four Palestinian police stations, including the central police head-
quarters in Gaza City, where a graduation ceremony for new officers was underway. Ninety-nine
police personnel and 9 members of the public were killed in the first minutes of the attack. By
the end of the first day at least 230 Palestinians had been killed.
The massive bombardment continued until January 3, 2009, when the Israeli army invaded
the Strip from the north and east. Israel’s navy also shelled Gaza from offshore.
On January 18, 2009, under enormous international pressure and just two days before Barack
Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and
withdrew its forces from Gaza. Palestinian armed groups followed with a separate unilateral
9.1.2 Facts & Figures
• According to investigations by independent Israeli and Palestinian human rights organiza-
tions, between 1,385 and 1,419 Palestinians were killed during Cast Lead, a majority of
them civilians, including at least 308 minors under the age of 18. More than 5000 more
were wounded. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, including 3 civilians. (See below for a
more detailed breakdown of casualties)
• According to the UN, 3,540 housing units were completely destroyed, with another 2,870
sustaining severe damage.
• More than 20,000 people - many of them already refugees, some two or three times over -
were made homeless.
• Attacks on Gaza’s electricity infrastructure caused an estimated $10 million in damage,
according to the Israeli advocacy group Gisha.
• 268 private businesses were destroyed, and another 432 damaged, at an estimated cost of
more than $139 million, according to an assessment by the Private Sector Coordination
Council, a Palestinian economic group. A separate report found that 324 factories and
workshops were damaged during the war.
• According to the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides services to Pales-
tinian refugees, the offensive damaged almost 20,000 meters (approx. 12 miles) of water
pipes, four water reservoirs, 11 wells, and sewage networks and pumping stations. Israeli
shelling also damaged 107 UNRWA installations.
• Eighteen schools, including 8 kindergartens, were destroyed, and at least 262 others
damaged. Numerous Palestinian government buildings, including police stations, the
headquarters of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and part of Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas’ compound, were also destroyed.
• After an investigation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, Human Rights
Watch accused the Israeli military of violating the international ban on "wanton destruc-
tion" found in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
9.1 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead 41
9.1.3 Evidence of War Crimes
In April 2009, following international outrage at the carnage caused by Cast Lead, the UN
Human Rights Council established a Fact Finding Mission to investigate possible violations
of international law committed during the conflict. Leading the mission was Justice Richard
Goldstone, a former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and war crimes prosecutor
for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
The four members of the mission visited Gaza in late May and early June 2009, holding
hearings there and in Geneva. They conducted 188 interviews and reviewed more than 10,000
pages of documents, more than 30 videos, and 1,200 photographs.
Israel refused to cooperate with the inquiry, denying the mission the opportunity to meet
with Israeli officials or visit the West Bank.
As a result of its investigation, the mission issued the so-called "Goldstone Report," a 575-
page document detailing alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the
Israeli military. The report also accused Palestinian armed groups of war crimes as a result of
indiscriminate rockets attacks on Israeli civilians living near Gaza.
The Goldstone Report documented 36 specific cases and incidents where Israeli forces
allegedly violated international laws during the Gaza offensive. These include:
• Samouni family massacre: In perhaps the most infamous incident of the war, Israeli
soldiers ordered around 100 members of the Samouni family into a single building in the
Zaytoun area of Gaza City. Soldiers held the family in the building for 24 hours before
shelling the building on January 4, 2009. Twenty-one members of the family, all civilians,
were killed.
• Al-Daya family massacre: On January 6, an Israeli F-16 jet fired a missile at the home
of the Al-Daya family, also in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, killing 22 family
members, most of them women and children.
• White flag killings: The UN mission and human rights groups also documented several
cases in which witnesses saw Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians who were fleeing while
carrying makeshift white flags to indicate their status as civilians. In one case, a soldier
shot and killed two women, Majda and Rayya Hajjaj (aged 37 and 65 respectively) who
were fleeing with their families while carrying a white flag in the town of Johr Ad-Dik.
In August 2012, in a plea deal with prosecutors, a solider was sentenced to just 45 days
in prison for their deaths. To date he’s the only person to face serious charges stemming
from Cast Lead.
• Use of white phosphorus in populated areas: Rights groups, journalists, and the UN
mission in Gaza also documented numerous instances of the use of white phosphorus, an
incendiary substance that is illegal when used in populated areas. Israeli forces used white
phosphorus in attacks on at least two hospitals (Al-Quds Hospital and Al-Wafa Hospital),
as well as the central UN compound in Gaza City. Numerous civilian casualties were
caused by white phosphorus in the small, densely populated Strip.
42 Chapter 9. Assaults on Gaza
In addition to the Goldstone Report, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch issued reports of their own documenting numerous allegations of war
crimes being committed by Israeli forces.
9.2 2012 - Operation Pillar of Cloud
In November of 2012, Israel broke a ceasefire with Hamas, returning the area to its largest
conflict since Operation Cast Lead. As documented by the New York Times, the assault began
when Israel assassinated the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, who had been
in charge of negotiating cease-fires with Israel. By the end of the operation, 160 Palestinians
had died, 105 of whom were civilians, and 30 of whom were children. 971 Palestinians were
wounded. 6 Israelis (4 civilian) were killed during the fighting. Israel has repeatedly violated the
November 21 ceasefire that ended the conflict, killing and injuring several Gazans.
Human Rights Watch accused Israel of committing possible war crimes through the knowing
targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. One example of this is the shelling of the
Al-Dalu family home, which resulted in the deaths of 10 family members. Human Rights Watch
condemned the attack as an example of Israel blatantly targeting civilians. Other accusations of
potential war crimes surround the known targeting of Palestinian media and journalists.
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge
The last moments of Gazan children who had been playing soccer on the beach near Shaati refugee camp. This
image shows them running from Israeli shelling moments before they were killed.
According to the United Nations, between July 7 and August 26, at least 2131 Palestinians
were killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge.”
According to both the
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 2168
Palestinians were killed.
See the IMEU Factsheet on Cast Lead:
See a timeline:
See the UN’s report:
See: and
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge 43
According to the UN, at least 1473 of the dead were civilians, including 501 children and 257
women, with another 379 individuals yet to be identified. According to PCHR, 1662 civilians
were killed, including 519 children and 297 women, while Al Mezan reported that 1666 of the
dead were civilians, including 521 children and 297 women.
According to the UN, at least 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members killed in a
single Israeli attack, for a total of 739 fatalities (see here for more), and up to 1500 children were
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 11,100 Palestinians were wounded, includ-
ing 3374 children, 2088 women, and 410 elderly people. The UN estimates that 1000 of the
injured children will suffer a lifelong disability.
During the same period, 71 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, including 66 soldiers and
four civilians, as well as one foreign worker from Thailand.
In its August 21 daily Gaza emergency update, the UN noted:
“Human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns regarding incidents
where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, in
circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in
the close vicinity. Such cases raise concerns about the targeting of civilians, in
violation of the principle of distinction.”
“Of particular concern is the alarming number of incidents since the onset of the
emergency in which multiple members of the same family have been killed.”
9.3.1 Children Killed & Injured By Israel’s Latest Assault
According to the United Nations, between July 7 and August 25 the Israeli military killed at least
495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The Al Mezan Center for
Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it
at 519. All three figures exceed the number of Palestinian children killed in the last two major
Israeli assaults on Gaza combined, approximately 350 during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-9
and 35 in November 2012. The number of children killed also exceeds the total number of
Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, between July 7 and August 20, 3106 Pales-
tinian children were injured by the Israeli military in Gaza.
Of the more than 3100 children wounded, the UN estimates that 1000 of them will suffer
a permanent disability as a result of their injury. Thousands of unexploded bombs and shells
pose a danger to civilians returning to areas they fled from during the fighting, putting children
at particular risk.
9.3.2 Children Traumatized
The UN estimates that 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support
(PSS), while all of Gaza’s approximately 900,000 children have been affected by the war and
need some level of psychosocial support. On July 28, UNICEF released a statement entitled “No
44 Chapter 9. Assaults on Gaza
safe place for children in Gaza.”
In it, the head of the organization’s Gaza field office, Pernille
Ironside, declared: “The physical and psychological toll that the violence is having on people is
almost indescribable. . . We see children killed, injured, mutilated and burnt, in addition to being
terrified to their core.”
Symptoms of trauma being evidenced by children include wetting of the bed, clinging to
parents, and nightmares.
At least one Palestinian minor, a 16-year-old boy (now 17) named Ahmad Abu Raida, was
held hostage for five days by invading Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield during their
search for tunnels near his home near Khan Younis in southern Gaza, according to an investiga-
tion carried out by Defence for Children International - Palestine.
Most children six and older in Gaza have lived through three major Israeli military assaults
during their short lifetimes: the first in the winter of 2008-9, and the second in November 2012.
9.3.3 Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure
Term papers litter the area around the bombed Islamic University of Gaza. This paper is from an assignment to
"Explain the image of women in T.S. Eliot’s work." Photo by Refaat Alareer.
Israeli attacks caused widespread damage to Gaza’s already frail and dilapidated electrical
grid, run down and in disrepair after seven years of siege and blockade. Most notably, on July 29
Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant,
knocking it out of commission indefinitely, prompting
Amnesty International to condemn the attack as an act of "collective punishment” against the
entire population.
(Israel previously bombed the plant during assaults in 2006 and 2008-09.)
According to the UN, even following repairs to what remains of the electrical grid, most areas of
Gaza continue to endure up to 18 hours of electrical outages a day.
Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s power plant caused the shutdown of water treatment plants,
while Israeli tank fire put Gaza’s largest sewage treatment plant out of commission.
Israeli attacks did extensive damage to Gaza’s water and sewage systems, also already in critical
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge 45
condition due to the siege and previous Israeli assaults, leading to the release of raw sewage
into open pools, farmland, and the Mediterranean Sea, causing health concerns and affecting
fishermen. On August 5, Oxfam warned that Israeli attacks damaging wells, pipelines, and
reservoirs had caused the contamination of fresh water supplies, already heavily contaminated
before the assault, and that 15,000 tons of solid waste had leaked into the streets of Gaza.
According to the September 4 UN Gaza crisis report, 450,000 people were unable to access
municipal water systems due to infrastructure damage and/or low water pressure and on average,
20% to 30% of Gaza’s water and wastewater systems remain significantly damaged.
Israeli attacks damaged 24 hospitals
and reportedly killed 16 medical workers.
addition, according to the UN, 22 schools were destroyed and 118 damaged, and at least six
teachers killed. As a result of the ongoing violence, schools being damaged and destroyed, and
displaced people taking refuge in schools, nearly half a million children had the start of their
school year delayed, from August 24 to September 14. As the UN noted in its September 4 Gaza
crisis report:
“The education sector was already overstretched prior to the crisis, suffering from
a shortage of almost 200 schools, with classes running in double shifts. . . When
schools open, children will face even more acute over-crowding and under-resourcing
as a result of the collateral damage suffered.
“Additionally, with hundreds of thousands of children in need of psychosocial support
(PSS), teachers and educational staff (many of whom have also experienced acute
trauma) will be stretched to provide the appropriate support required to ease children
back in to school and to provide ongoing support throughout the school year.”
9.3.4 Statements by Major Human Rights Organizations
The newsmedia and major human rights organizations have documented attacks on civilians,
civilian structures, hospitals, mosques, and schools. The United Nations has commissioned
an investigation similar to 2009’s Goldstone Report which will investigate such incidents as
evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, human rights monitors
have issued the following statements:
• On July 21, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section issued a statement
entitled “Death toll of Palestinian children spirals as Israel expands Gaza offensive”
which detailed several Israeli attacks that killed children, noting that: “Israel’s military
offensive on the Gaza Strip has been characterized by the direct targeting of civilian homes
and infrastructure, and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, which constitutes a war
• Also on July 21, ten Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, The Associa-
tion for Civil Rights in Israel, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Physicians
for Human Rights – Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights, expressed alarm at the “high
rate of civilian casualties,” which “raises concerns about grave violations of international
humanitarian law.” The accompanying press release noted:
46 Chapter 9. Assaults on Gaza
“The organizations emphasize that sending alerts or providing warnings to resi-
dents does not transform them, or their homes, into legitimate military targets,
and does not exempt the army from its duty to avoid executing indiscriminate
attacks in the area. ‘In the absence of a protected area for residents that provides
shelter and an answer to their humanitarian needs, military commanders can
not claim that they have taken sufficient precautions to avoid causing injury.”’
• On July 21, Amnesty International USA issued a statement entitled “Attacks on Medical
Facilities and Civilians Add to War Crime Allegations.”
Documenting large scale
destruction of civilian areas such as the Shejaiya neighborhood, and the escalating number
of civilian casualties, Amnesty noted, “Issuing warnings to evacuate entire areas does
not absolve Israeli forces of their obligations to protect civilians under international
humanitarian law.” A Human Rights Watch statement that followed the next day found
that, “In many, if not all, of these cases [that it investigated], Human Rights Watch found
no evidence of a military target. Israeli forces’ failure to direct attacks at a military target
violates the laws of war. Israeli forces may also have knowingly or recklessly attacked
people who were clearly civilians, such as young boys, and civilian structures, including a
hospital – laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes.”
United Nations Works and Relief Agency Director Chris Gunness breaks down during an interview about the
civilian casualties of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza
Degree of Civilian Suffering
On August 1, Oxfam released a statement entitled, “Gaza crisis spiraling out of control,” which
documented the degree of suffering in Gaza:
“The crisis in Gaza is fast spiraling out of control with water supplies critically
low and a public health crisis imminent. . . The collapse of the latest brief ceasefire
announcement means many more lives will be at risk.
“Conditions are increasingly desperate in overcrowded schools and buildings where
up to 450,000 people are sheltering. Many people are getting as little as three
litres of safe water a day, far below international emergency standards. Massive
destruction of water and sewage systems and electricity supplies has reduced water
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge 47
supply to Gaza’s entire population of 1.8 million people. Spills of raw sewage
threaten to contaminate water sources and the threat of disease is rising. There are
already reports of 30 cases of meningitis, as well as skin diseases among children
and cases of gastroenteritis.”
“The destruction of Gaza’s only power plant earlier this week has plunged much
of Gaza into darkness and left vital water pumps struggling to keep going. Three
of Gaza’s four main power supplies have now been completely destroyed or exten-
sively damaged by the violence of the past few weeks, cutting off more than 80
percent of Gaza’s power. Most municipal water supplies have now stopped running.”
“‘The outrageous level of destruction is much worse than anything we have seen in
previous military operations and the situation is getting worse by the hour. Tens of
thousands of families have fled but are trapped with nowhere safe to escape, shel-
tering in horrific conditions and terrified to move. The international community’s
response to such suffering has so far been shamefully weak. Every day that this
goes on is putting many more civilian lives at risk,’ said Nishant Pandey, head of
Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.”
“Hospitals that Oxfam works with are struggling to cope. Six of the nine busiest
hospitals in Gaza have been directly hit or badly damaged, with three of them now
closed. Another four Oxfam-supported health clinics and many others have been
damaged or shut. Many health facilities are running short of fuel to keep life-saving
operations going.”
“‘Oxfam condemns the rockets that continue to be fired from Gaza towards Israel,
but this does not justify Israel’s outrageously disproportionate use of force which
has killed so many civilians and destroyed so much of Gaza. All civilians, whether
Palestinian or Israeli, have the right to live in security, but military operations that
bring such levels of death and destruction will not make anyone safer in the long
term,’ said Pandey.
“Oxfam said the international community must do much more to ensure an urgent
and permanent ceasefire, but that lasting peace will only be possible with an end
to the ongoing blockade of Gaza. For the past seven years people in Gaza have
been living under an Israeli blockade which prevents the free flow of goods and
people in and out of Gaza, devastating the economy and severely restricting people’s
Israeli Claims
Israeli government officials have claimed that they warned civilians sufficiently and that Pales-
tinians were using civilians as human shields. These claims are directly contradicted by human
rights monitors. Amnesty International wrote on July 25th,
“Israeli forces have carried out attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, using
precision weaponry such as drone-fired missiles, as well as munitions such as ar-
tillery, which cannot be precisely targeted, on very densely populated residential
48 Chapter 9. Assaults on Gaza
areas, such as Shuja’iyyeh. They have also directly attacked thousands of homes. Is-
rael appears to consider the homes of people associated with Hamas to be legitimate
military targets, a stance that does not conform to international humanitarian law."
“Although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent
pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an ‘effective warning’ under
international humanitarian law. Israeli attacks have also caused mass displacement
of Palestinian civilians within the Gaza Strip.”
“Effective advance warning to civilians is only one of the prescribed precautions in
attack aimed at minimizing harm to civilians. When Israeli forces have given warn-
ing in many cases key elements of effective warning have been missing, including
timeliness, informing civilians where it is safe to flee, and providing safe passage
and sufficient time to flee before an attack. There also have been reports of lethal
strikes launched too soon after a warning to spare civilians. In any event, issuing
a warning does not absolve an attacking force of its obligations to spare civilians,
including by taking all other necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties
and damage to civilian structures. Israel’s continuing military blockade on the Gaza
Strip and the closure of the Rafah crossing by the Egyptian authorities since the
hostilities began mean that civilians in Gaza cannot flee to neighbouring countries.”
Amnesty also disputed claims of human shields, stating, “Amnesty International is moni-
toring and investigating such reports, but does not have evidence at this point that Palestinian
civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current
hostilities to ‘shield’ specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks.”
International Criminal Court
Amnesty International responded to Operation Protective Edge by releasing a statement entitled,
“International Criminal Court key to breaking cycle of injustice for war crimes,” which read in
“The UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to take effective action to respond
to violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories or hold perpetrators
accountable, in large part because of opposition from the USA, which has repeatedly
vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. On some occasions the USA has been the sole
voice against all other members of the Council.”
“Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities
to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the
ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court.
“In particular, the organization calls on the Palestinian Authority to submit a declara-
tion accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law committed
since 1 July 2002, when the Court was established. Amnesty International also calls
on the Palestinian Authority to become a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that
established the ICC.”
9.3 2014 - Operation Protective Edge 49
“The Palestinian Authority has been consistently pressured by the USA, Israel,
Canada, the UK and other EU Member States not to take steps to grant the ICC
jurisdiction; such pressure has included threats to withdraw financial assistance on
which the Palestinian Authority depends.”
Human Rights Watch has joined Amnesty International in strongly recommending the
intervention of the International Criminal Court.
Arms Embargo
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both taken strong positions in favor of
ending military transfers to Israel and Gaza pending adherence to international law. Amnesty
International’s July statement read in part, “Amnesty International is also calling on the UN to
immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed
groups with the aim of preventing further serious violations of international humanitarian law and
human rights by the parties to the conflict. Pending such an embargo, all states must immediately
suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to the parties, which have
failed to properly investigate violations committed in previous conflicts or bring those responsible
to justice.”
Human Rights Watch joined this call on August 11th. The Executive Director of its Middle
East Division, Sarah Leah Whitson, wrote to US State Department, urging it to “help bring an
end to these [human rights] violations” by:
• Suspending the provision of weapons to Israel that have been documented or credibly
alleged to have been used in the commission of war crimes or other serious laws-of-
war violations, as well as funding and support for such materiel. Implementing human
rights vetting, as per the provisions of the Leahy Law, to include vetting of military
equipment allocated to Israel under the Foreign Military Financing account, to ensure
that no equipment reaches Israeli military units credibly alleged to have committed gross
violations of international human rights or humanitarian law and to sanction units that are
found to have committed such violations.
• Contributing to the effectiveness of the fact-finding mission that the UN Human Rights
Council established on July 23 – despite the sole US “no” vote – by urging all parties
to cooperate with and provide access to the mission; by urging the mission to report on
laws-of-war violations by all parties to the conflict; and by supporting the mission as a
step toward holding all parties accountable.
• Ending opposition to, and the encouragement of other governments to oppose, Palestinian
initiatives to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exercise jurisdiction over
serious international crimes committed on and from Palestinian territory by all parties to
the conflict.
• Calling on Israel and Egypt to end their unlawful blockade of Gaza and allow the passage
of civilian goods and people, with restrictions limited only to the import of military
equipment that has been used to violate the laws of war.
The Nakba
Facts about The Right of Return & Pales-
tinian Refugees
Palestinian Refugees: Facts & Figures
Responsibility for the Palestinian Refugee
10. Refugees
An elderly Palestinian refugee holds his old ID card in the Shatila refugee camp in the southern suburbs of Beirut
10.1 The Nakba
While Israelis look back at May 15th, 1948 as a day of independence and take their celebrations
to the streets, Palestinians look back at that very same day and see an entirely different story. 65
years ago, over 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes and most of their possessions, their land
and their businesses, and watched as their towns and villages were erased off the map by Israeli
forces. Jewish militias seeking to create a state with a Jewish majority in Palestine, and later,
the Israeli army, drove out nearly a million Palestinians and moved Jews into the newly-emptied
Palestinian homes. Al-Nakba, or The Catastrophe, will be remembered by Palestinians as the
day their society was destroyed and their homeland was taken over, creating the refugee crisis
that persists today.
10.2 Facts about The Right of Return & Palestinian Refugees
• All refugees have a right to return to areas from which they have fled or were forced,
to receive compensation for damages, and to either regain their properties or receive
compensation and support for voluntary resettlement. This right derives from a number
of legal sources, including customary international law, international humanitarian law
governing rights of civilians during war, and human rights law. The United Nations’
Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 13(2) that "[e]veryone has the
right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his own country." This is an
individual right and cannot be unilaterally abrogated by third parties.
• In December 1948, following Israel’s establishment and the attendant displacement of
approximately 750,000 Palestinians from areas that fell within its control, the UN General
Assembly passed Resolution 194, which states,
"[R]efugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neigh-
bours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compen-
sation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss
See the Declaration:
52 Chapter 10. Refugees
of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity,
should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."
• The Palestinian right of return has been confirmed repeatedly by the UN General Assembly,
including through Resolution 3236, which "Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the
Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced
and uprooted, and calls for their return."
• The Palestinian right of return has also been recognized by major human rights organi-
zations such as Amnesty International, which issued a policy statement on the subject in
2001. It concluded:
“Amnesty International calls for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel,
the West Bank or Gaza Strip, along with those of their descendants who have
maintained genuine links with the area, to be able to exercise their right to return.
Palestinians who were expelled from what is now Israel, and then from the West
Bank or Gaza Strip, may be able to show that they have genuine links to both places.
If so, they should be free to choose between returning to Israel, the West Bank or
Gaza Strip.
’Palestinians who have genuine links to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, but
who are currently living in other host states, may also have genuine links to their
host state. This should not diminish or reduce their right to return to Israel, the West
Bank or Gaza Strip.”
According to a statement issued by Human Rights Watch in 2000:
“HRW urges Israel to recognize the right to return for those Palestinians, and their
descendants, who fled from territory that is now within the State of Israel, and who
have maintained appropriate links with that territory. This is a right that persists
even when sovereignty over the territory is contested or has changed hands.”
• The U.S. government supported Resolution 194, and consistently voted to affirm it until
1993, when the administration of President Bill Clinton began to refer to Palestinian
refugee rights as a matter to be negotiated between the two parties in a final peace
agreement. In recent years, the U.S. has supported the right of refugees to return to places
like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and East Timor.
10.2.1 Palestinian Refugees: Facts & Figures
• Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest-standing population of displaced persons
in the world. Reliable figures on their numbers are hard to find, as there is no centralized
agency or institution charged with maintaining this information. However, a survey
released in 2010 by BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee
Rights, found the refugee and displaced population to be at least 7.1 million, made up of
6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons. It also found that refugees
comprised 67% of the Palestinian population as a whole.
• Most Palestinian refugees are Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled from
their homes in the parts of historic Palestine that were incorporated into the newly created
See the Resolution:
10.2 Facts about The Right of Return & Palestinian Refugees 53
state of Israel in 1948. Other Palestinian refugee categories include Palestinians who
fled their homes but remained internally displaced in areas that became Israel in 1948;
Palestinians who were displaced for the first time after Israel occupied the West Bank, East
Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 War; Palestinians who left the occupied territories
since 1967 and have been prevented by Israel from returning due to revocation of residency
rights, denial of family reunification, or deportation; and Palestinians internally displaced
in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since 1967.
• Most Palestinian refugees live in camps in the occupied territories and neighboring Arab
countries, with 1.9 million in Jordan, 1.1 million in Gaza, some 779,000 in the West Bank,
427,000 in Syria, and 425,000 in Lebanon. Throughout the region, many Palestinians rely
on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
(UNRWA) to survive.
10.2.2 Responsibility for the Palestinian Refugee Problem
Palestinians flee Jaffa by boat during the Nakba.
• During the creation of Israel (1947-9), approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled
by Zionist militias and Israeli government forces seeking to create a Jewish-majority
state in historic Palestine, where the indigenous Palestinian Arab population was the
overwhelming majority (approximately 67% in 1947). Palestinians call this the "Nakba,"
Arabic for "catastrophe" or "disaster."
• By the time of the declaration of the state of Israel in May 1948 and the entry of neighboring
Arab countries into the conflict, more than 200 Palestinian towns had already been emptied
as people fled in fear or were driven out by Zionist paramilitaries.
• By the end of 1948, some three-quarters of the Palestinian Arab population had been
expelled. It’s estimated that more than half were driven out under direct military assault.
Others fled as news spread of massacres committed by Zionist forces in Palestinian cities
and towns such as Deir Yassin, Ad Dawayima, Eilaboun, Saliha, and Lydda.
• More than 400 Palestinian cities and towns would be systematically destroyed by Zionist
and Israeli forces. In dwellings that weren’t destroyed, Israel rapidly moved Jews, many of
them recently arrived immigrants from Europe, into the newly emptied Palestinian homes.
Institutionalized discrimination
Trends of Intolerance inside Israel
Discrimination in the Educational Sector
Discriminatory legal structure
Willful discrimination against Palestinians:
Academic support for violence
11. Palestinians in Israel
Palestinian children dance at a summer camp held in the destroyed village of Iqrit, in Israel
11.1 Background
Palestinian citizens of Israel are those Palestinians who remained behind in what became the
state of Israel following the Nakba (1947-9), or "catastrophe," when approximately 750,000
Palestinians were expelled from their homes and land by Zionist forces in order to make way for
a Jewish-majority state.
Between 1948 (when Israel declared independence) and 1966, Palestinians living in Israel
were granted no political rights and were subject to Israeli military rule. After 1966, they
were granted the right to vote and other civil rights, but to this day they continue to suffer
from widespread, systematic and institutionalized discrimination affecting everything from
land ownership and employment opportunities to family reunification rights. Today, there are
approximately 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, about 20% of the population.
11.2 Institutionalized discrimination
• There are more than 30 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. directly
or indirectly, based solely on their ethnicity, rendering them second or third class citizens
in their own homeland.
• 93% of the land in Israel is owned either by the state or by quasi-governmental agencies,
such as the Jewish National Fund, that discriminate against non-Jews. Palestinian citizens
of Israel face significant legal obstacles in gaining access to this land for agriculture,
residence, or commercial development.
• More than seventy Palestinian villages and communities in Israel, some of which pre-date
the establishment of the state, are unrecognized by the government, receive no services,
and are not even listed on official maps. Many other towns with a majority Palestinian
population lack basic services and receive significantly less government funding than do
majority-Jewish towns.
See Adalah:
56 Chapter 11. Palestinians in Israel
• Since Israel’s founding in 1948, more than 600 Jewish municipalities have been established,
while not a single new Arab town or community has been recognized by the state.
• Israeli government resources are disproportionately directed to Jews and not to Arabs, one
factor in causing the Palestinians of Israel to suffer the lowest living standards in Israeli
society by all socio-economic indicators.
• Government funding for Arab schools is far below that of Jewish schools. According to
data published in 2004, the government provides three times as much funding to Jewish
students than it does to Arab students.
• According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report,
“Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or
diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
• The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law prevents Palestinians from the occupied territo-
ries who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel from gaining residency or citizenship
status. The law forces thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel to either leave Israel or
live apart from their families.
• In October 2010, the Knesset approved a bill allowing smaller Israeli towns to reject
residents who do not suit "the community’s fundamental outlook", based on sex, religion,
and socioeconomic status. Critics slammed the move as an attempt to allow Jewish towns
to keep Arabs and other non-Jews out.
• The so-called "Nakba Bill" bans state funding for groups that commemorate the tragedy
that befell Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948, when approx. 750,000 Palestinian
Arabs were ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish majority state.
• The British Mandate-era Land (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance law allows
the Finance Minster to confiscate land for "public purposes.” The state has used this law
extensively, in conjunction with other laws such as the Land Acquisition Law and the
Absentees’ Property Law, to confiscate Palestinian land in Israel. A new amendment,
which was adopted in February 2010, confirms state ownership of land confiscated under
this law, even where it has not been used to serve the original confiscation purpose. The
amendment was designed to prevent Arab citizens from submitting lawsuits to reclaim
confiscated land.
• Over the entirety of its 63-year existence, there has been a period of only about one year
(1966-1967) that Israel did not rule over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted
no political rights.
• Former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have both warned that a
continuation of the occupation will lead to Israel becoming an "apartheid" state. Barak
stated: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political
entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. . . If this bloc of
millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
• Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, heroes of the struggle against apartheid
in South Africa, have both compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid.
• Today, there is a virtual caste system within the territories that Israel controls between the
Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, with Israeli Jews at the top and Muslim and Christian
Palestinians in the occupied territories at the bottom. In between are Palestinians with
Israeli citizenship and Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem.
See the report:
See Adalah:
See Ha’aretz:
11.3 Trends of Intolerance inside Israel 57
• During Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli Professor who expressed sympathy for
Palestinians and Israelis was the target of intense national criticism and was publicly
rebuked by his university.
• Also during Operation Protective Edge, Right wing citizens created lists of leftists who
post criticism of the war on their social media accounts and launched a coordinated effort
to get them fired from their jobs.
• Similarly, many workplaces disciplined or fired Palestinian citizens of Israel who spoke
out against the war.
11.3 Trends of Intolerance inside Israel
• In September 2011 a survey found that a third of Israeli Jews don’t consider Arab citizens
to be real Israelis.
• According to a February 2011 survey, 52% of Israeli Jews would be willing to limit press
freedoms to protect the state’s image, while 55% would accept limits on the right to oppose
the government’s "defense policy.”
• A poll done by the Israel Democracy Institute and released in January 2011 found that
nearly half of Israeli Jews don’t want to live next door to an Arab.
• In November 2010 the chief rabbi of the town of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, issued a ruling
forbidding Jews from renting property to Arabs. Eliyahu had previously advocated hanging
the children of terrorists.
• In December 2010, dozens of municipal chief rabbis on the government payroll signed a
letter supporting Eliyahu and his decree prohibiting Jews from renting property to non-
Jews. One of the signatories, Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, head of the Ashdod Yeshiva (religious
school), stated, "Racism originated in the Torah. . . The land of Israel is designated for the
people of Israel."
• In December 2010, the wives of 30 prominent rabbis signed an open letter calling on
Jewish women not to date or work with Arabs. The letter stated: "For your sake, for the
sake of future generations, and so you don’t undergo horrible suffering, we turn to you
with a request, a plea, a prayer. Don’t date non-Jews, don’t work at places that non-Jews
frequent, and don’t do national service with non-Jews.”
• According to a September 2010 poll, half of Israeli Jewish students don’t want Arabs in
their classrooms, while an earlier survey found about the same number oppose equal rights
for Arabs.
• In August 2010, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, head of a state-funded religious school in the
West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, published a book that condoned the murder of non-
Jewish children on the grounds that they may grow up to pose a threat to the state, writing
that non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature" and attacks against them "curb their evil
See the LA Times:
See Ha’aretz:
See Ha’aretz:
See Ha’aretz:
58 Chapter 11. Palestinians in Israel
inclination.” Several other prominent rabbis subsequently endorsed the book.
• In July, 2009, Israel’s Housing Minister, Ariel Atlas, warned against the "spread" of Israel’s
Arab population and said that Arabs and Jews shouldn’t live together, stating: "if we go
on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are
spreading there. I don’t think that it is appropriate for [Jews and Arabs] to live together."
• In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating three-week military assault
against Gaza that killed more than 1300 Palestinians in the winter of 2008-9, the Israeli
daily Ha’aretz reported that Israeli army units had been printing t-shirts depicting dis-
turbing, violent images such as dead Palestinian babies, Palestinian mothers weeping
on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child, bombed-out mosques, and a pregnant
Palestinian woman with a target superimposed on her belly and the caption, “1 shot, 2
kills”. Another showed a Palestinian baby, growing into a boy and then an armed adult,
with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it."
• During Operation Protective Edge a number of examples of incitement to violence, hate
crimes, and instances of mob violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel were reported.
11.4 Discrimination in the Educational Sector
Although the Israeli university system is embedded in a state structure which discriminates
against its Palestinian minority, these universities also take independent actions which reinforce
the systematic discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel.
11.4.1 Discriminatory legal structure
State policies of inequality are applied to universities, which also makes them sectors of dis-
crimination. For example, the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law gives former soldiers
extensive benefit packages including tuition subsidies, free and preferential access to housing,
etc, on the basis of military service or residency in a priority area. Because Palestinian citizens
of Israel do not serve in the military, these types of laws appear facially neutral but their impact
is discriminatory in effect.
In a similar manner, when the Israeli government violates international law by building
in occupied territory, Israeli universities comply by expanding services to these areas. Israeli
universities, like Hebrew University, have illegally built parts of their campuses in the occupied
Ariel University is entirely built in the illegal settlement of Ariel, deep inside the
Occupied West Bank.
11.4.2 Willful discrimination against Palestinians:
• 20% of the Israeli population is Palestinian, yet only 11% of university students are
• Palestinian applicants to Israeli universities are three times more likely to be rejected than
Jewish applicants. 32% of Jewish applicants meeting minimal requirements are accepted
See and
universities.premium-1.471184(In the US, by contrast, which is no picnic for African Americans, the Black
population is 13.1%, while the Black student population in universities is 14%.)
11.4 Discrimination in the Educational Sector 59
into Israeli universities, while only 19% of Palestinian students meeting those requirements
are accepted.”
• Recently, the Carmel Academic Center in Haifa closed its accounting major because, as
one of its leaders was recorded saying, there were too many Arabs enrolling.
• In 2007, Tel Aviv University’s medical school created high age restrictions for student
enrollment, which does not affect Jewish students who spend the intervening time doing
required military service, but which bans Palestinians students who do not serve in the
army from enrolling. Instead, they are forced to either waste the intervening years, or go
abroad for medical school.
• Lastly, the Israeli Ministry of Health excludes Palestinian graduates from Al-Quds univer-
sity medical school by ruling that they are neither Israeli, nor foreign, and therefore do not
fit any of the categories of candidates who can sit for the qualifying exam.
• Haifa University conditioned living in the dorms on military service, and was allowed to
despite the clear disparate impact this has on Palestinian students.
• Haifa University banning of the Palestinian flag at protests
and the widespread silencing
of Palestinian student protests during Cast Lead (for “security reasons”).
In most of the admissions cases listed above, the university uses military service as a proxy
for race, creating a disparate impact that effectively excludes Palestinians without openly saying
so. This system of exclusion applies to Palestinians living under occupation as well, but is
performed in a more blatant manner. In addition to the more publicized ways that the Israeli
state denies access to education to Palestinians (roadblocks, denials of permits, etc), the Israeli
university system is also engaged in blatant exclusion of Palestinian students. Although they
have protested it, the universities currently allow the military to apply “non-security” criteria to
screen Palestinian applicants to Israeli universities. Undergraduates are totally excluded, and
only masters and PHD students can apply. Even after that, they can only be admitted under
extremely narrow circumstances.
11.4.3 Academic support for violence
• Technion university provides military research and testing used to produce army equipment
known to be used in violations of human rights and international law.
• Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies developed the military strategy
known as the Dahiya Doctrine.
This military strategy calls for the wholesale flattening
of a neighborhood as a “message” to the other side (a willful example of collective
punishment and targeting of civilians). Dahiya refers to a neighborhood in Lebanon that
was subjected to this strategy in 2006.
60 Chapter 11. Palestinians in Israel
• Israeli academics have provided advice to the government about how to preserve high
proportions of Jewish citizens relative to Palestinians inside Israel. The exemplar of this
work is Arnon Sofer, an academic who also advised the state on the route of the apartheid
• This blatant support for occupation is paralleled by widespread silence over injustices
committed against Palestinians. In 2008, activist scholars sent a petition for academic
freedom in the occupied territories to 9,000 fellow Israeli academics. It was signed by
only 4.5% of professors, 407 in total.
• During Cast Lead, an Israeli university, IDC Herzliya, went so far as to set up a “war
room” to produce and send propaganda in support of the assault.
• During Operation Protective Edge, Tel Aviv University issued statements of support for
the army and waived tuition costs for soldiers.
Similarly, Hebrew University declared
it was “joining the war effort" and asked individuals to donate to a scholarship fund for
soldiers serving in the attacks on Gaza.
12. Conclusion
Young Palestinians run in the street during an Israeli military assault in the Gaza Strip in January 1988 during the
First Intifada. Photo by Jean-Claude Coutausse.
This booklet is a humble attempt to introduce readers to the Question of Palestine. However,
it is by no means comprehensive, and readers are encouraged to continue to pursue topics such
as the situation of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East and around the world, the pre-Nakba
era of Mandate Palestine, the history of resistance movements and the PLO’s evolution over
time, the peace process, Palestinian culture, systematic inequalities facing Palestinians in Israel,
the rich history of Israeli resistance to the occupation, Palestinian protest movements and the
emerging movement for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, and the ongoing debates over the
future of the people living in and expelled from historic Palestine - whether through one state or
two. We urge readers to locate and focus on Palestinian narratives of their histories and struggles,
which are so often excluded from the voices we hear in the West.
Finally, and above all else, we hope that readers are motivated to act, in whatever way they
can, to support the freedom and liberation of the Palestinian people.