50 years – A State without Borders

50 years – A State without Borders

People without Human Rights

Try drawing the borders of the State of Israel – what does your drawing look like?

 

It has become increasingly difficult to draw Israel’s borders since June 1967 – the start of Israel’s control over the occupied Palestinian territories. The policy has been one giant web of contradiction and concealment.

 

 

The ongoing blurring of the lines – here/there, ours/yours, occupation/annexation, incursion/withdrawal – has led to systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians for five decades.

 

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If you tried to draw the borders of the State of Israel, what would your drawing look like?

The fact is that since June 1967 it has become increasingly difficult to draw Israel’s borders; the policy in the occupied territories is one giant web of contradiction and concealment. The politicians declare that “Ariel is Israel,” but a military commander controls the area in which the settlement of Ariel is located in. The bumper-stickers announced, “The fate of Netzarim is the fate of Tel Aviv.” Yet Netzarim, a settlement in the Gaza Stip, was evacuated, while Israeli control of Gaza has not ceased. We are told that “Yesha [Judea and Samaria] is Here,” but most of the people who live “there” are not citizens “here.” And anyone driving through the streets of “United Jerusalem” knows all too well whether they are in the West or the East of Jerusalem.

Look at the picture we drew. Does it seem logical? The ongoing blurring of the lines – here/there, ours/yours, occupation/annexation, incursion/withdrawal – has led to systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians for fifty years. How much more suffering will be inflicted until we realize that a state without borders create a people without rights?

How a State without Borders</br>was Created
01

How a State without Borders
was Created

The Gaza Strip, the settlements, Areas A, B, and C, the Seam Zone of the separation barrier, Hebron’s H1 and H2 areas, annexed East Jerusalem and the Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the separation wall – all these territories are subject to different forms of control and legal systems.

The occupied territories are fragmented today more than ever before. They have undergone drastic changes over the past 50 years. So have Israel’s borders and regime.

 

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For the last five decades, since June 1967, the occupied territories have been fragmented into units controlled through various mechanisms and legal systems.

East Jerusalem was formally annexed by Israel in June 1967. The annexation was carried out in blatant violation of international law, and created a state of constant ambiguity regarding the territory and the status of the Palestinian residents, who today constitute 40 percent of the total population of Jerusalem.

Formally, Palestinians from East Jerusalem are permanent residents living inside the country’s borders. Yet they are not citizens of Israel and do not have voting rights in national elections. Although Israeli law was applied to East Jerusalem, in practice that part of the city suffers from severe neglect, oppression and abuse. Israeli law, which is meant to guarantee basic rights, is in fact ignored.

In the rest of the territories captured in 1967 Israel imposed a military occupation regime. The government refused to declare the area occupied territories as defined by International Humanitarian Law (“belligerent occupation”). At the same time, it declared that the army would operate in the territories in accordance with the humanitarian provisions of IHL applicable in occupied territories. Hence, the military commander is considered sovereign and is responsible for public order and security. He serves as a trustee of the local population, who are considered “protected persons,” and he is responsible for their welfare and wellbeing. The military occupation is considered temporary.

However, Israel’s annexation ambitions created an entirely different reality. Temporary military rule? Trustee of a protected population? Not really. The army was required to implement a government policy, which constitutes a direct breach of those international laws that form and regulate the military’s control over the territories.

The establishment of settlements, which violate the provisions of IHL, created “Israeli islands” inside the occupied territories. The settlements were connected to Israel through a network of roads and separate transportation systems. This blurred the separation between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories.

These moves were made possible through the creation of two separate legal systems, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians (see chapter 3). If there are two separate legal systems on the basis of nationality inside the territories that are under military control, and which carry out discrimination against the protected population, is this a form of occupation or sovereignty?

Instead of meeting its obligation toward the local population living under occupation, key components of the military’s mission in the territories are dedicated to defending and securing the settlers, to expanding the settlements and to taking steps toward annexation. Over the years, Israel has cordoned off entire areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where Palestinians’ ability to move freely and live their lives has been restricted, limited and even barred entirely. To many Israelis, these areas are no longer Palestinian but simply Israeli.

The separation barrier has entrenched this process. Since the route of the barrier does not coincide with the Green Line, it has created enclaves and areas west of the barrier that Palestinians are barred from entering. Palestinian access to this “Seam Zone” for residential or agricultural purposes has been reduced over the years. The barrier’s route in Jerusalem has cut off over a quarter of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents from the rest of the city. The Jerusalem Municipality and other Israeli authorities have evaded responsibility for their basic obligations to these residents – who are legally still part of the city.

A new “Israeli” territory was thus created between the Green Line and the route of the wall in the West Bank, where the Palestinian population is increasingly shrinking; a new “no man’s land”, where only Palestinians reside, was created between the official municipal boundary of annexed Jerusalem and the physical boundary the separation wall.

Israel’s method of control in the territories changed as a result of the establishment of the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords, which reduced the scope the military’s responsibilities. The offices of the Palestinian government are responsible for the daily lives of the population living in Areas A and B (about 40 percent of the West Bank) as well as some of the services provided to Palestinians in Area C.

However, Israel’s full control of Area C – approximately 60 percent of the West Bank – leaves Israel with the keys to the development of the land, the natural resources and the infrastructure throughout the entire West Bank. Israel’s obvious military dominance allows it to operate as it pleases in all parts of the West Bank, and to drive out Palestinians from strategic locations in Area C.

In the Gaza Strip, the post-1967 reality of military control and settlements changed dramatically following the disengagement and the evacuation of settlers in the summer of 2005 and the Hamas takeover shortly afterwards. The result is an acute divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which has become an open-air prison for two million people. Hamas control in Gaza led to a constant state of hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip and to three deadly wars.

Even after the disengagement, Israel maintains control of Gaza’s land and sea crossings, air space, customs tax and even the population registry. This system of control has dire consequences for Palestinian freedom of movement, their ability to realize their basic rights such as education and health, and on the opportunities for development, reconstruction and economic prosperity. While Israel claims it is no longer an occupying power in the Gaza Strip, human rights organizations still consider Israel responsible under international law for the forms of control and occupation it continues to administer.

The occupied territories are fragmented today more than ever before. The Gaza Strip, the settlements, Areas A, B, and C, the Seam Zone of the separation barriers, Hebron’s H1 and H2 areas, annexed East Jerusalem and the Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the separation wall – all these territories are subject to different forms of control and legal systems. The physical and legal fragmentation of the territories was made possible by blurring the borders of the State of Israel and weakening its democratic regime, and it has led to grave violations of individual and collective human rights of the Palestinian people.

Between the Green Line</br>and the Red Line
02

Between the Green Line
and the Red Line

Policies that are unthinkable in a democracy have long become the norm under occupation. Without real borders, the moral borders are ignored and red lines are crossed.

 

 

 

In order to maintain control over the territories, Israel has had to operate a violent and aggressive regime – one that has no place in a democracy but can develop in a borderless reality.

 

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During 50 years of occupation the Green Line, which separated Israel and the territories, has disappeared bit by bit, along with certain moral boundaries. In order to maintain control over the territories, Israel has had to operate a violent and aggressive regime – one that has no place in a democracy but can develop in a borderless reality.

The protracted occupation has exacted a heavy human toll. Thousands of Palestinians, Israelis and others have been murdered, killed and wounded. In a constant state of friction between Israeli soldiers and police and a civilian Palestinian population, innocent men, women and children are routinely hurt. Breaches to the open-fire regulations occur, as well as unlawful physical violence toward Palestinians. Police officers and soldiers are rarely put to trial for injuring Palestinians, including severe injuries and even those that result in death. During the trial of Elor Azaria, a soldier accused of shooting and killing a Palestinian in Hebron, Azaria’s lawyers and supporters were angered that he was forced to pay the price while charges were not pressed against other soldiers who had shot Palestinians. Settlers who are violent toward Palestinians and their property also evade punishment for their actions.

The red line is also crossed when Palestinians are imprisoned without trail. Hundreds of Palestinians are subject at any given moment to administrative detention – which means being put behind bars without being informed what they are suspected of or being given the chance to prove their innocence in court. A huge percentage of Palestinians have been imprisoned over the years. Among them are children and youth, who are forced to cope with arrests, interrogations and imprisonment without the protections and conditions appropriate for their young and vulnerable age. The army has determined in the past that the minority age for Palestinians ends at 16; a few years ago this was corrected to 18.

Limiting Palestinians from living on their lands and accessing them is carried out through legal means that blatantly cross red lines. The government directs the army to seize Palestinian land for the benefit of the settlements, conscious of the fact this is a breach of International Humanitarian Law, which the army is obligated to uphold. Lands in the territories are declared by the military as “State Land,” a term analogous to “land for public use” inside Israel. What country and what public does this refer to? Less than 1% of State Land in the territories is allocated to Palestinians, who constitute a majority of the population. When settlers take over land of their own volition and in contravention of the law, the army turns a blind eye or actively cooperates. The Land Expropriation Law (see chapter 4) gave the Knesset’s seal of approval to land expropriation in the West Bank.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords, direct Israeli responsibility for the basic, daily needs of the population concentrates in Area C, where Israel maintains full control (spread out across 60 percent of the West Bank). Israel’s interest in annexing Area C pushes aside the consideration of basic rights and humanitarian needs. Despite the fact that the army commander is legally obligated to oversee the welfare of the local population and its needs, the army prohibits many Palestinian villages in Area C from being connected to the water and electricity grid. In the 21st century, Palestinians are forced to pump and store water, many times at exorbitant costs, and to rely on generators and solar panels. They are not allowed to connect to water pipes and electricity lines that run in close proximity to their villages, which provide services to the settlements.

Israel’s policy of no planning and no development is designed to wear down the Palestinians living in Area C, effectively forcing them to move to the cities and towns in Areas A and B. This policy is systematically accompanied by the demolition of homes, structures and water wells; demolitions that have become a trademark of Israeli control of the Palestinians. In recent years the scope of demolitions has increased. Palestinians are also forced out through the declaration of firing zones and closed military zones.

A physical network of checkpoints, barriers and restrictions on freedom of movement make the daily lives of Palestinians untenable, preventing them from leading a normal life. This is orchestrated by an intricate bureaucratic system of permits that are difficult to attain, for the purpose of building a house, reaching medical treatment, uniting with family members; the list goes on and on.

Israeli control over the exits and entrances to the Gaza Strip, which prevents almost any freedom of movement whatsoever for its 2 million Palestinian inhabitants, has turned the Gaza Strip into an isolated, impoverished and unbearable place to live.

Policies that cannot dare take place in a democracy have long become the norm under occupation. Without real borders, the moral borders are ignored.

One territory – Two Legal Systems
03

One territory – Two Legal Systems

The intentional blurring of boundaries has created two distinct legal systems. Two populations, living in the same territory under a military regime, are subject to two distinct systems of laws and norms.

 

 

 

This system of institutionalized discrimination was anchored by military orders, parliamentary legislation, and by civil and military court rulings; they were implemented by the army, police and government ministries.

 

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Since the military assumed control of the territories in June 1967, it has developed military orders and a military court system to which Palestinians are subject. At the same time, the Knesset and the military commander have acted to apply Israeli law on the settlers, taking them out of the jurisdiction of military law regarding most aspects of life.

Israeli criminal law applies to Jewish residents of the West Bank (and even to Jewish residents of the settlements who are not Israeli citizens). It applies even when offenses are committed in the West Bank – in other words, in areas under military control. In addition, there are many laws legislated by the Knesset that apply to settlers and which do not necessarily apply to Israelis who reside outside the State’s territory. These include laws regarding national elections, public health services, national insurance, taxation, consumer protection and more.

The settlements themselves have been placed under the jurisdiction of a significant portion of Israeli civilian legislation, thereby creating a division between two types of communities in the West Bank: Palestinian cities and villages, which are subject to Jordanian law and military orders, and local and regional councils, in which Israeli residents necessarily live. The councils are subject to Israeli civil law, and as such enjoy benefits and budgets provided by Israeli legislation.

Legal segregation between Israelis and Palestinians who live in the same territory affects all aspects of life, from different traffic regulations to allowing freedom of speech to Israeli alone. This is not limited to specific issues, is not merely a technical distinction, nor is it implemented on a case-by-case basis. Rather, this is a system of institutionalized discrimination anchored by military orders and parliamentary legislation, and by civil and military court rulings, and implemented by the army, police and government ministries.

This is how an official, institutionalized legal system has emerged in which two populations who live in the same territory are subject to two distinct systems of laws and norms. Israeli citizens enjoy rights as citizens of a democratic country, despite living outside of it. Palestinian residents, on the other hand, do not enjoy these protections, but rather must face legislation that systematically violates their basic rights.

The intentional blurring of boundaries has created the two distinct legal systems. This state of affairs contradicts various treaties of international law and violates the laws of occupation and international human rights law.

ACRI report: One Rule, Two Legal Systems: Israel’s Regime of Laws in the West Bank

The Expropriation Law
04

The Expropriation Law

From military sovereign to the Knesset’s sovereignty

 

The Land Regularization Law, known also as the Expropriation Law, constitutes a turning point in the way Israel maintains control in the territories. The law was legislated by the Knesset in order to expropriate land from Palestinians on which settlements and outpost were built – in an area that is not considered part of the State of Israel.

 

 

 

When the Knesset passes legislation concerning a territory outside of its sovereignty, and violates the rights of people who do not live under its jurisdiction, it is de facto conducting illegal annexation.

 

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The Land Regulation Law, known also as the Expropriation Law, was legislated in February 2017 in order to expropriate private Palestinian land on which settlements and outpost were built. The legislation constitutes a turning point in the way Israel maintains control in the territories.

For five decades, Israeli Knesset legislation regarding the territories was individual and pertained only to the rights of Israeli citizens living in the settlements, such as legislation that enables them to vote and be elected to the parliament despite living outside the State’s borders. Now, after fifty years, Knesset members have decided to expand their authority, which is limited to the territory of the State of Israel. They seek to apply laws to territories under military control, harming Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens and do not live in its territory. Legislation concerning a territory outside the sovereignty and the jurisdiction of the State is an explicit application of sovereignty in the area – in other words, de facto illegal annexation.

The expropriation law limits the discretion of the military authorities. It compels them to violate Palestinians’ rights and to hold and make use of their private land for an unlimited amount of time for the purpose of settler use. In addition, the law does not allow landowners to appeal the expropriation proceedings.

The law constitutes a severe violation of the laws of occupation, which obligate the State of Israel to safeguard the rights of the occupied population and prohibit confiscation of property except if carried out for urgent security purposes.

Citizens and officers who are asked to implement the law, and members of Knesset who voted in favor of the law, are under threat of being accused of war crimes. The Knesset crossed the red line despite the explicit objection to the law expressed by the Attorney-General and the legal advisors of Knesset and the security establishment.

High Court petition submitted against Land Expropriation Law, March 2017

Military Occupation and</br>the Limitations of International Law
05

Military Occupation and
the Limitations of International Law

Israel made a conscious decision to blur the lines separating Israel and the territories, and in this process, to ignore the basic rights of the Palestinian population. Yet it had other possibilities at its disposal.

 

 

 

If Israel had decided to maintain a military occupation, and at the same time to truly uphold international law, the Palestinians would have had the protections, liberties and rights they do not have today.

 

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It is easy to forget, but things could have turned out differently.

After the end of the war in 1967, when Israel assumed control of the territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, Israel faced several possibilities. It could have chosen to completely withdraw from the territories, with a signed agreement or without one. It could have chosen to annex the territories and give citizenship to all the Palestinians living there. The choice Israel made was to blur the borders, creating an ambiguous status over the area and its residents.

A different possibility was to continue recognizing the Green Line as Israel’s sovereign border, while establishing a regime of military occupation in the territories. This would have created a significantly different reality to the one we are familiar with.

In such a reality, anyone living west of the Green Line (or east of the border in the case of the Gaza Strip) would be a citizen of a democratic state of Israel, and would have the right to participate in the general elections. Democratic laws would protect rights and freedoms for all.

The Palestinians living on the other side of the Green Line would have been considered “protected people” of an occupied territory under International Humanitarian Law. The military commander would have been required by law to ensure their safety and needs. The military occupation would have been defined as temporary, and Israel would not have been allowed to settle its own citizens or to exploit the land and the natural resources beyond the Green Line, as these belong to the local residents.

Clearly defined borders would not have guaranteed Palestinians a democratic country or regime. They would have still been subject to the rule of a foreign military occupation. But if Israel had decided to actually uphold international law – not to establish settlements, not to annex, not to exploit lands and resources – the Palestinians would have at least had protections, liberties and rights they do not have today. If International Humanitarian Law was fully applied, it is likely that the occupation as we know it would not have lasted 50 years but would have ended much earlier.

Instead, Israel ignored the principle of temporary occupation and turned its control of the territories into a permanent reality. This protracted policy has led to the physical, legal and administrative division of the territories in a way that profoundly violates the personal and collective rights of the Palestinian population.

The deliberate blurring of boundaries between Israel and the territories since 1967 deprives the Palestinians living under military occupation of the rights and protections they are entitled to according to international law; at the same time, it provides democratic rights to settlers even though they live in a territory under military occupation.

Between the Absence of Borders</br>and the Absence of Rights
06

Between the Absence of Borders
and the Absence of Rights

The Israeli government continues to talk about a national conflict and security risks that require a temporary military regime in the territories. Yet in practice, it continues to take premeditated steps to reinforce a new reality that dramatically changes the State’s borders and the basic definition of Israel as a democratic country that guarantees human rights to all those living within its borders.

 

For 50 years, under the auspices of the occupation-annexation obscurity, the boundaries of the State of Israel have been blurred, the red lines have been repeatedly crossed, and Palestinians’ rights have been systematically violated.

 

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Israeli government continues to talk about a national conflict and security risks that demand a temporary military regime in the territories. Yet in practice, Israel continues to take premeditated steps to reinforce a new reality that dramatically changes the State’s borders and the basic definition of Israel as a democratic country that guarantees human rights to all those living within its borders.

Whether residents of East Jerusalem living in the territory annexed to Israel, or residents of the Gaza Strip that Israel had disengaged from, Palestinians are confronted by policies of various levels of control and oppression that violate their human rights. A policy of occupation and expulsion violates the most basic codes of ethics. Those who try to raise public awareness about these issues are silenced and denounced.

A half-century of control – an unprecedented period of time in the modern era – has been made possible due to deliberate ambiguity: through creating a framework of temporary military occupation that falls in line with international law (and as such is considered a legitimate occupation), but which de facto promotes permanent control and annexation.

This ambiguity is slowly fading away. It has become evident that the temporary is in fact permanent; that the army is not the sovereign entity but rather the government or even the Knesset; and that the State of Israel’s obligation to International Humanitarian Law – the basis on which the world recognized the legitimacy of a military regime – is not a real commitment but rather lip service.

For 50 years, under the auspices of the occupation-annexation obscurity, the boundaries of the State of Israel have been blurred, the red lines have been repeatedly crossed, and Palestinians’ rights have been systematically violated.