The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and partner organization CIDSE, an international family of Catholic social justice organizations based in Brussels, convened a meeting for 25 diplomats and representatives of international organizations in Jerusalem on 26 October 2017, to raise awareness of forced displacement of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. Mary Lucas of CAFOD, a UK development agency that is a member of CIDSE, presented CIDSE’s report, ‘No Place Like Home.’ The CIDSE report examines the forced displacement of Palestinians as a central issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exacerbating the deterioration of social and economic conditions and the isolation of Palestinian communities.
“Forced displacement and its effects are a central challenge to protecting the rights of Palestinians and promoting the development of their communities in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel,” Mary Lucas, said. “Urgent action is needed by the international community, including the EU and its member states, in order to redress the damage done to Palestinian communities. As the primary duty bearer, Israel must uphold its duties under both international humanitarian and human rights law.”
Attorney Suhad Bishara, the director of Adalah’s Land and Planning Unit, presented at the meeting about the phenomenon of Israel’s attempt to displace Bedouin communities in the southern Naqab (Negev) desert, and drew parallels between Israeli forced displacement policies on both sides of the Green Line. Specifically, she spoke about the test case of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab, where the government is demolishing homes and seeking to evict 500 residents, and to build a town to be called “Hiran”, which is open solely to Israeli Jewish residents.
Attorney Bishara also spoke about the Israeli government’s ‘land grab’ of the OPT, including the Settlements Regularization Law, which is being challenged before the Israeli Supreme Court, and a series of proposed bills that seek to annex parts of the West Bank. She emphasized that the state’s response to the Settlements Regularization Law petition provides the best insight into the government’s position regarding the West Bank. According to the state’s response, it is a “natural right” for many Israelis to settle in the West Bank and that “Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel [including the West Bank] … is a Zionist value of the highest order.”
JLAC Director Issam Aruri noted: “The existing expansionist trend by Israel echoes that of years prior, creating a major challenge for the international community following UN Security Council Resolution 2334 [reaffirming the illegality of the settlements]. For the unprecedented escalation in settlement expansion indicates the current governing coalition’s effort to destroy the viability of a two-state solution, and their intention to ultimately and alternatively create an apartheid regime which discriminates based on national belonging through its actions and legislation.” He went on to call upon the participants to “pressure their governments to support the steadfastness of marginalized Palestinian communities through the continuation of humanitarian and developmental aid, support of human rights defenders, and protection of Palestinians from indirect pressures by not yielding to the false accusations of the NGO Monitor and other Israeli GNGOs.”
The forcible transfer of Bedouin communities has been identified as a “red-line” trigger for further European Union (EU) action. EU statements and diplomatic interventions call for restraint. Yet, the prevalent approach taken by the EU and international community towards the displacement of Palestinians fails to protect their rights, as there are no concrete consequences for the persistence of unlawful practices on the ground and no consensus on the measures necessary to ensure Israel’s respect for international law.
JLAC and Adalah offered the following recommendations to the EU/international community:
1. Respect international human rights and humanitarian law
The EU/international community should advocate strongly and consistently for the respect of IHL and IHRL, end any acquiescence to violations and take measures to protect communities at risk in OPT and in Israel, as well as promote accountability and redress.
2. Ensure Implementation of UN Resolutions, especially on the illegality of the settlements
Since 1967, the UN Security Council has adopted more than 40 resolutions that directly or indirectly condemn Israeli occupation and settlement policy. However, none of them has been implemented. We urge the European Union and the international community to take all reasonable steps to ensure the implementation of UN Resolution 2334.
3. Call on Israel to cease its forcible displacement policies
The EU/international community should call on Israel to cease home demolitions, evictions and the forcible dispossession and displacement of Bedouin communities in Area C and in the Naqab/Negev. Land claims must be resolved in a just manner with the full participation and consent of the affected community. Regarding Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab, the EU/international community should speak out against the state’s racist policies to demolish/evict a Bedouin village for the sole purpose of building a town solely for Jewish citizens.
4. Continue Humanitarian Aid to Area “C”
Palestinian residents of Area C are the prime targets of Israel’s expansionist projects. To support them in trying to defend their land, we call on the European Union to maintain and increase humanitarian aid to the residents of Area “C”, who are denied basic services, infrastructure and resources.
5. Continue Supporting the Human Rights Sector
Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society have been under constant Israeli attack. Israel uses administrative detention (incarceration without charges or trial) and other intimidation tactics to silence HRDs. Palestinian HRDs and civil society organizaitons on the forefront of resisting Israel’s occupation and the escalation in human rights violations should be supported, funded, and protected. Further, Palestinian HRDs, who work to uphold the rule of law within oPt, and are intimidated and arrested by the PA should be supported and protected.