Israeli border guard stand as Palestinian young girls walk on a street during clashes in Abu Dis, on the outskirts of east Jerusalem on October 4, 2015, as tensions mounted between Israelis and Palestinians a day after two separate attacks in Jerusalem’s walled Old City. (MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)

United States Must Stop ‘Propping Up’ Illegal, Israeli Settlements

By Eva Melnikova, member of the ‘Occupation @ 50’ Lead Team and Field Representative for Amnesty International USA and Edith Garwood, Country Specialist — Israel/OPT/Palestine, Amnesty International USA

Today, to mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, Amnesty International is calling on third party states across the world to prohibit goods produced in illegal, Israeli settlements located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, from their markets and to prevent their companies from operating in settlements or trading in settlement goods. This call is based on states’ existing obligation to not recognize or assist in an illegal situation.

Since the occupation first began in 1967, Israel has consolidated its repressive military rule of the Occupied Palestinian Territories through thousands of military orders. These orders have also been used to provide cover for widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including, but not limited to:

· the extensive appropriation of property, land and natural resources
· the demolition of homes and businesses
· arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
· the collective punishment of millions of Palestinians, including the 10 year old unlawful blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and its 2 million inhabitants; and
· scores of unlawful killings of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces over the years.

The fifty year old settlement enterprise being imposed by Israel flagrantly violates international law and constitutes a war crime. And, the multi-billion dollar settlement economy is a key driving force behind violations against Palestinians.

Profits from hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of settlement products exported internationally, including to U.S. markets, help sustain the inherently discriminatory policies in place in the occupied territories and the unlawful settlements themselves. The settlement economy relies on unlawfully appropriated Palestinian natural resources, such as water, fertile land, stone quarries and minerals seized for settlement use.

“The overwhelming majority of states have recognized Israeli settlements as unlawful but many, like the United States, continue to prop up settlements financially, undermining their own words and shirking their obligations to not recognize or assist an illegal situation,” said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

Over decades, multiple UN resolutions have confirmed that Israeli settlements violate international law. Most recently, a UN Security Council resolution was passed in December 2016 calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The resolution also called on all states to distinguish in all their dealings between the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. 
 
 Despite this, Israel has accelerated its expansion and support of settlements in recent months, announcing plans for thousands of new homes in existing settlements, as well as plans to build thousands more homes in two new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“Fifty years of empty words is enough. Concrete action is needed to stop the financing of the illegal settlements and end the violations against the Palestinians. A ban on settlement goods is not a radical step, but simply adhering to the legal obligations that already exist,” stated Margaret Huang.

By banning settlement products and stopping companies from operating and trading inside stolen land, states would not only be meeting their legal obligation, but could make a real difference in the lives of millions of Palestinians.