The history that created Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is not brief. The tensions can not be simply put as they require delicate unpacking and care. Until 1948, these three regions were all Palestine; following the Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1948, the land was divided between Jewish Israelis, whose ancestors began migrating to the area in the 1880s, and the Palestinian Arabs whose ancestors had lived in the region for hundreds of years. The dispute over ownership has since led to continued conflict.
Jewish Israelis lay claim to the land based on a promise from God for a safe haven from widespread hostility to their faith. Palestinian Arabs, whose majority are Muslim but also include Christians and Druze, contest that they are the rightful inhabitants due to the length of their ancestors existence on the land.
Palestinians have been displaced to two regions, Gaza and the West Bank. Under the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993, Gaza was turned over to the newly created Palestinian Authority, to form one wing of an emerging Palestinian state, along with the West Bank and a potential land corridor between them. But two different parties rule these two regions — the militant Hamas controlled Gaza and Fatah ruled the West Bank.
These tensions run deep, and conflict persists. The Israeli government continues to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian’s human rights, and Palestinian security forces continue to treat their own people with disrespect. Here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel.
10 Facts About Human Rights in Palestine/Israel
- The Israeli government restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to maintain a decade-long effective closure of Gaza, as does the region’s neighbor, Egypt. This imposed border imposes restrictions that limit the supply of water and medical care as well as educational and economic opportunities. These blockades restrict exports and cripple the economy leading to exacerbated and widespread poverty. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance.
- Israel’s parliament has given itself the ability to dispossess Palestinian’s of their land. In February of 2017, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the Regularization Law allowing Israel to take control of private Palestinian land on which they have profited from building settlements for Israeli settlers.
- Preferential treatment is given to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. In 2017, Israeli authorities destroyed homes and other property, and forcibly displaced hundreds of Palestinians while continuing to provide security, administrative services, housing, education and medical care for about 607,000 Israeli settlers residing in unlawful settlement housing built in the West Bank. The discriminatory practices also include the rejection of almost all building permit applications submitted by Palestinians.
- Feuds between Gaza’s two main governmental parties has led to periodic shutdowns of its only power plant. Disputes between Fatah and Hamas concerning responsibility for paying the plant’s fuel has led to frequent loss of electricity in Gaza. Power outages jeopardize water supply, interfere with sewage treatment and cripple hospital operations.
- Thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned, on what Israeli authorities call “security grounds,” without charge or trial. The majority of these prisoners are overwhelmingly Palestinian. As of November 1, 2017, Israeli authorities incarcerated 6,154 inmates. In April and May later that same year, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent 40 days on a hunger strike seeking better conditions.
- The two leading Palestinian political groups — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — have arrested and mistreated activists critical of their leaders, security forces and policies. The Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine received 205 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian Authority security forces and 193 similar complaints against Hamas security forces.
- Torture perpetrated by the Palestinian police and security forces remain common. In September 2018, a 16-year old boy and another detainee died in unclear circumstances in a Hamas-controlled detention center. Instances of torture have been carried out with impunity in both the West Bank and Gaza.
- Security forces use excessive force to disperse protests. Palestinian security forces have used excessive force to violently suppress peaceful protests in the West Bank. On March 12, 2018, at least 13 men and eight women were injured. Seventeen people were hospitalized during a protest outside of the Ramallah District Court. Despite the Prime Minister’s commitment to upholding recommendations made by a Fact-Finding Commission to follow government regulations on the dispersal of protests, none of the officers responsible for the violence were brought to justice.
- Women and girls continue to face discrimination is both law and practice. The violation of women’s human rights in Palestine is most clearly seen in the inadequate protection of women and girls against sexual and other gender-based violence including “honor” killings. In 2017, at least 28 women and girls were reported to have been killed by male relatives in honor fashion. Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code allows those who commit rape or sexual assault to escape punishment by marrying their victim.
- Capital punishment has been used in Gaza. Six people were executed in 2017 after civil and military courts sentenced them to death for their “collaboration with Israel” and other offenses. In May, Hamas executed three men in a public square in Gaza city after a trial that lasted only one week (consisted of four brief sessions).
Violence committed with impunity is a trait of no one creed but man; both Israelis and Palestinians violate the human rights of each other and themselves. These top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel and their total violation do little justice to what it is to live under the weight of so much hate.
“We are of one blood you and I.” This sentiment is as true between the people of Palestine and Israel as it is between those reading this and those suffering from the things discussed in this list. Showing indifference to hate allows it to flourish. Do not support representatives and policies that excuse indifference to crises such as what is happening in Palestine/Israel.
– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow