A report published by UK-based Oxfam International reveals the fragility of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley to be the direct result of illegal Israeli settlements.On Thursday Oxfam International, a UK-based non-governmental organization dedicated to confronting poverty, published a lengthy report detailing the economic and environmental degradation of the Jordan Valley. The report, titled “On the Brink: Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley”, documents the inhospitable environment created as a direct result of the Israeli occupation and the continued illegal construction of settlements inside the West Bank.
The report states that the severe restrictions on movement, construction, and land development imposed by the Israeli occupation “have made life extremely difficult for Palestinian communities”. It goes on to show how such hardship is not only keeping the Palestinian people impoverished, it is also severely undermining the future viability of a Palestinian state.
Many Palestinian organizations, led by The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), have published authoritative studies arriving at similar conclusions to those drawn by Oxfam. These research bodies have concluded that Israeli land exploitation in the Jordan Valley, and the simultaneous restriction of Palestinian land use, is imposing poverty on what should be a sustainable and profitable region of the West Bank.
Oxfam shows in its detailed analysis that the 66,000 Palestinians living in the region could generate $1.5 billion in annual economic output if not for Israeli interference. The area of the Jordan Valley covered by the report is also home to 9,500 Israeli settlers – the presence of such settlers is in violation of international law in accordance with the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem believes that Israeli policy in the region is intended to make prosperity impossible for Palestinians, reports the BBC.
Palestinians in the Jordan Valley have access to less than 6 percent of the region’s arable land. Israelis settlers, living illegally in the West Bank, have access to 86 percent of the arable land. The rest is controlled by the Israeli military or used for infrastructure.
The Oxfam report also reveals Israel to be in near complete control of regional water resources. Preferential access to water is given to settlers for purposes ranging from irrigation to recreation, reports the BBC. Palestinians, meanwhile, are often forced to go days or weeks without water and have zero control over the wells, springs, and aquifers located on their own land.
Various sources have reported that Israeli government officials denounced Oxfam as politically motivated, calling their report a misrepresentation. According to the Palestine News Network, such disregard is the standard response of the Israeli government to research-based criticism of its occupation and settlement policies in Palestine.
The final conclusion of the report is of course that Israeli occupation and exploitation policies are jeopardizing any future Palestine could have as an independent state. Without freedom of movement or access to resources the community has been left in disrepair and lacking the economic foundation for eventual growth, reports the BBC. Oxfam advises EU member states to pressure the Israeli government toward adopting mutually sustainable practices in the Jordan Valley. This advice has been repeatedly ignored in the past, much to the detriment of the Palestinian people.