As we reach the 50 year milestone of Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the AJDS is devastated by the realities of the ongoing military occupation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. It is both painful and tragic because we believe it can end. In presenting the historical background and detailing the ongoing devastation we acknowledge the Palestinian dispossession and hope to shift the narrative, one that has not shifted enough in 50 years. In the context of our own history it is incumbent on us to shout ENOUGH. We refuse to stay silent or participate , not in our name, we are witnesses who choose not to be bystanders.
Whilst the dispossession of Palestinians from their lands did not begin with the results of the 6 Day War – which is called the Naksa in Arabic, the Setback – the war played a significant role in emboldening messianic expansionist elements in Israeli society and amongst Zionists throughout the world, which has strongly impacted settlement expansion throughout the occupied territories, and ensured that years of “negotiations” have resulted in neither justice nor peace for Palestinians, or Israelis. While what is commonly termed ‘the Occupation’ began fifty years ago, we recognise that the history of violence against Palestinians in Israel and Palestine has its roots long before 1967. What is known in a Zionist narrative as the War of Independence of the State of Israel, is known to Palestinians and others as the Nakba, or Catastrophe in Arabic. It saw the mass dislocation of Palestinians from their land, with up to 800,000 Palestinians being forced to flee their homes and land and refused the right to return.
As a result of the occupation, every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled by Israeli administration: through checkpoints, refusal to grant development permits, home demolitions, arbitrary military arrests, curfews, collective punishment, tightened control of economic and development opportunities, and innumerable other practices. In Gaza, which has been described as an open air prison, Israel controls the entry and exit of all goods. A 2015 UN Conference on Trade and Development reported that at current trends Gaza may become unlivable by 2020. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, life is controlled at a minute level, and everyday extreme violence is enacted in order to remove Palestinians from their land. The Occupation, and those who enforce it, is incredibly creative and resilient, always able to find and invent new ways to hinder Palestinian life and work against Palestinian resistance (even as that resistance resolutely continues). The Israeli military industry and its global arms sales, relies on the Occupation. The Israeli economy is completely bound up in the Occupation.
Sadly, Israel’s policies have made it a pariah state in world opinion, with increasing international pressure to pursue action to end the occupation, including from a growing number of Jews and Jewish organisations outside Israel, who can no longer align their identities with a state for the Jewish people which repeatedly and systematically acts against their ethics and values.
The occupation which has occurred since 1967 is a continuation of a systemic dislocation of one people for the sake of another. It is an occupation which has always been, and continues to be, carried out by all levels of Israeli society. It is an occupation which has been widely condemned by the international community. It is an occupation involving the construction of Jewish Israeli settlements which are deemed illegal according to International law and have created a clear obstacle to peace and justice. It is an occupation which relies on a conscription army and a national population who refuse to see, or interact with, Palestinians as fellow humans.
As hopelessness intensifies in the face of what seems like an intractable situation, and as the international community repeatedly fails to bring about a just resolution, we encourage people to take action in their communities and within global movements, in coalition with, and led by Palestinians, to understand, educate and oppose the actions of the occupation and the broader dispossession of Palestinian people. As a Jewish organisation we stand resolutely against the policies of occupation, dispossession and oppression. Instead we highlight the Jewish and universal values which call us to stand against such injustice, and foster Jewish identities that contribute to a world in which such violence ceases to exist. We call on the Israeli government, and Israeli society, to show that there is a partner for peace who can meet with Palestinians in order to bring about a just peace in the region. We call on our Australian Jewish communities to join us in refusing to support the ongoing occupation, in order to be part of a global movement which will ensure that there is not another 50 years of such violence.
Some brief facts on the occupation (there are many more, of course. The occupation is dynamic, flexible, and comprehensive)
- In 2011 the World Bank projected that the Palestinian GDP could have increased by $3.4 billion a year if it weren’t for restrictions Israel imposes in area C of the West Bank.
- The Palestinian Authority, the governing body of Palestinians in areas A and B of the West Bank requires the consent of Israeli authorities on all decisions.
- The West Bank is littered with Israeli checkpoints controlling the movement of Palestinians. Each Palestinian town or village in the West Bank has a barrier at every entrance which the Israeli military can close without warning. The entire Palestinian society in the West Bank can be prevented from moving around within twenty minutes.
- A military court system applied in West Bank, which tries thousands of Palestinians every year.
- Israel restricts development and access to land in the West Bank, denying building permits and enacting home demolitions
- Whilst the figure of 2% is often spouted as the amount of land taken up by settlements, this does not take into account the infrastructure and adjacent lands seized to accommodate the settlements, and the lands that fall under settlement regional land management authorities, amounting to around 36% of the West Bank (according to B’Tselem). Lands which do not have settlements on them are still controlled by settlers and the settlement regime: there are roads throughout the West Bank on which only settlers can drive, and the army – together with settlers – will forcibly remove Palestinians from areas around settlements.
- The army regularly declares public spaces, and private homes, Closed Military Zones, in order to close off Palestinian access to spaces.
- Jewish settlements built in East Jerusalem (which is cut off from the rest of the West Bank) surround the Palestinian region.
- In East Jerusalem Palestinians are forcibly removed from their homes for Jews to move in.
- Israel controls who can travel in and out of the occupied territories, as well as controlling travel in between villages in some instances.
- A 2015 UN Conference on Trade and Development reported that at current trends Gaza may become unliveable by 2020.
- Since June 2007 Israel has maintained control of all border crossings except Rafah in Egypt, which is not suitable for transport of goods, only people. Israel also controls sea and air space, forbidding Palestinians to build air or sea ports, and bans almost all export out of Gaza.
- 95% of water is non-potable
- residents receive electricity for a few hours each day.
- Since 2007 three wars have been launched on the besieged population of Gaza with thousands of casualties and a large civilian death toll.
Community Organiser, Australian Jewish Democratic Society