Sunday 15 May 2011, marks the 63rd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Palestinian ‘catastrophe’ of 1948), which is one of the largest ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in modern history. Hundreds of thousands Palestinians were forced to leave their houses and lands. Until today, they are deprived from their right to self-determinations in par with the peoples in the region, who were under foreign colonization at that time.
The 63rd anniversary of the Al Nakba comes as Israeli displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank continues. It comes this year as the collective punishment imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt); including the Gaza Strip, where the siege and closure continue. Israel has also returned to withholding Palestinian tax and customs monies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in accord with the international agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Moreover, the IOF has continued its systematic attacks against civilians and civilian objects throughout the oPt.
The Nakba comes this year weeks after the signing the Palestinian reconciliation agreement among Palestinian factions, which is expected to restore unity to the Palestinian political system and strengthen Palestinians strife for their rights to independence, self-determination, and statehood.
Israel’s closure and siege have caused very high rates of poverty and unemployment, which exacerbated the social and economic conditions in Gaza. With Israel’s withholding of PA monies, these problems are expected to exacerbate, as civil servants and their families will join the poor and hardship cases not receiving their monthly allowance from the government.
The documentation of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights indicates that Israeli attacks and policies that violate international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law (IHRL) deprive Palestinians from their basic rights. This includes preventing access to medical treatment; depriving fishermen from working due to imposing a three-nautical-mile fishing zone of; and depriving thousands of farmers from access to their land near the border fence between Gaza and Israel. The IOF has also escalated its attacks on Gaza, which affected civilian infrastructure, houses, education facilities, worship places, and other civilian objects.
According to Al Mezan's documentation, since 2000 the IOF destroyed and damaged 18,987 houses, affecting 183,237 (90,881 children), who were displaced. In addition, IOF leveled an area of 40,077 dumans (One dunam equals 1,000 square meters) of cultivated land, including 2,300 dunams that had been leveled more than once. The IOF destroyed 2,556 commercial and industrial facilities, 1,015 public facilities, and 1,235 vehicles. The IOF also killed 580 persons (118 children) since May 2005.
In the West Bank, the construction of the Separation Wall by Israel does not only alter the character of in the oPt; but also undermines any possibility for establishing an independent Palestinian state. It has already inflicted serious harm upon Palestinian civilians and their property. The IOF keeps the majority of Palestinian land in the West Bank under its full control and has already seized more than 165,000 dunams of land. In practice, the IOF has fragmented the West Bank into separate cantons that separate villages from their land and towns from each others. The Wall causes harm to about 875,000 Palestinians, seizes water sources, and prevents thousands from accessing adequate medical care and education.
In Jerusalem, the IOF has intensified its acts in the eastern parts of the city; including forced evictions and house demolitions, and use of occupied Palestinian lands to build public facilities. These acts have displaced thousands of Palestinians while, at the same time, Jewish families are encouraged to reside in Palestinian houses and Jewish-only settlements.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the continuous Israeli crimes which blatantly violate international law and shows disregard to Israel’s legal obligations. Al Mezan calls on the international community to swiftly intervene as the Palestinian cause is a cause of human rights; rights guaranteed by international law. The United Nations (UN) and its member states bear special responsibility towards the Question of Palestine and should act accordingly. Al Mezan also calls on the international community to end its policy of silence, to uphold its legal obligations to end the continuous Israeli violations and to promptly provide protection for Palestinians in oPt as a step towards implementing UN resolutions related to the conflict in the region, particularly the Palestinians right to return, reparation, and self-determination.
Al Mezan views the new Israeli acts in Jerusalem as an escalation aimed at forcibly evicting Palestinians from it. Al Mezan strongly condemns these violations, as well as Israel’s continued disregard to the Palestinian people’s rights to freedom, self-determination, return, and statehood.
Al Mezan asserts that decades-long grave violations of IHRL and IHL committed by IOF constitute grave breaches of international law and their perpetrators must be held accountable.
Al Mezan also emphasizes that ending this conflict cannot be achieved without founding a peaceful settlement on a strong basis of justice and respect for human rights and international law.
Al Mezan therefore calls upon the international community to stop sacrificing human rights in the pursuit of a peaceful settlement. The past decades indicate that this approach is doomed: it ensures neither peace nor respect for human rights and dignity.
Further, Al Mezan calls on the all peoples to enhance the solidarity with the Palestinian people and its struggle for freedom, self-determination, and statehood. Al Mezan calls on them to exert pressure on their governments to take effective steps to confront the ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.