The Human Rights Organization “B’Tselem”, published a report today entitled “By Hook and by Crook”. This report analyzes the mechanism used to gain Zionist control of land in the West Bank for building the settlements. In fact, the settlement enterprise has, since its inception, treated international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law in a cynical manner. All this comes in order to facilitate the control of large tracts of land as much as possible.
The report is based on official Zionist data and documents, including Zionist army and Civil Administration maps, state comptroller’s reports, and Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel’s database.
“B’Tselem” said, “For years, the Government of the entity has declared that it is building settlements only on state land and not on private Palestinian land”. However, by cross-referencing Civil Administration data with aerial photographs of the settlements taken in 2009, B’Tselem found that over one-fifth (about 21percent) of the settlements’ built-up areas lies on land that Israel recognizes as private Palestinian land. Yet, about 66 percent of the settlements’ built-up areas are “state land”.
It added, “Officially, in the framework of the Road Map, the entity’s Government committed itself to freeze construction in the settlements. In practice, since 2004 until the end of 2009, the number of settlers in the West grew by 28 percent, from 235.263 to 301.200 (not including East Jerusalem)”. It also pointed out that the annual growth rate of settlers in 2008 was almost three times greater than the growth rate of Israel’s population - 5.1 percent compared with 1.8 percent. Moreover, since the beginning of the Oslo process, the number of settlers almost tripled.
It noted that the official argument used to justify the growth of construction in the settlements is that it is intended to meet the needs of natural growth of this population. However, the figures of the (Zionist) Central Bureau of Statistics for 2006 show that 20 percent of the population increase in the settlements resulted from migration from inside Israel. More than twice the migration rate is to Israel’s central region, in a time when the migration rate to all other regions was negative.
According to the report, “About half a million Israelis are now living in the West Bank: more than 300 thousand are living in 121 settlements and about one hundred illegal outposts are controlling about 42 percent of the land area of the West Bank. The rest are living in 12 settlements established by Israel on lands it annexed to the Jerusalem municipality.
It stated that the principal means used by Israel is declaring that the lands are “state lands”. This resulted in the seizure of 900 thousand acres, which constitute about 16 percent of the territories of the West Bank. Most of the declarations were made in 1979-1992. The interpretation that the State Attorney’s Office gave to the concept “State land” in the Ottoman Land Law clearly contradicted the provisions and judgments of the Mandatory Supreme Court. Without this false interpretation, Israel would not have been able to allocate such extensive areas of the West Bank for the settlements.
In addition, the settlements controlled private Palestinian lands, through crosschecking data of the Civil Administration, the settlements’ jurisdictional area, and the aerial photos of the settlements taken in 2009. In fact, B’Tselem found that 21 percent of the built-up area of the settlements is land that Israel recognizes as private property, owned by Palestinians.
It added that the establishment of the settlements violates the Palestinians’ right to an adequate standard of living. Israel has deliberately established the settlements in order to prevent the urban development of the Palestinian towns in the West Bank. The settlements also violate the right to freedom of movement. Many of the checkpoints and other obstructions imposed on the movement of the Palestinians aim at protecting the settlements and the settler’s traffic arteries. The settlements also violate the right to self-determination. The settlements cut off the Palestinian territorial contiguity, and create dozens of enclaves that prevent the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state.