For the average Palestinian living in the West Bank life is a daily ordeal. Surrounded by settlements which now are more like small cities or large towns, there are two rules of law; one part of the community live under civil law, the other military law, governed by an occupying force that is showing no signs of loosening their grip even after 50 years.
The day starts with lines of laborers queueing to get to work early in the morning. Street vendors make their best sales of the day as the line to cross the border shuffles along. There is stress even in this. Building sites arrange to pick up workers on the Israeli side. If the line is slow and workers miss the bus, they need to catch a taxi which eats into their wages, making the day’s work almost for nothing.
School children walking the kilometer from their homes to school are provided an escort. Which adult in their right mind would harass a child on the way to school?But it is occurs frequently enough that the Israeli government provides the military escort daily. Pestering school children smacks of bullying, but on the list of now internationally recognized violations of human rights, this is the least of the Palestinian’s problems.
Watching the situation
Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch both watch the situation in the West Bank closely. They speak of entrenched and institutionalized discrimination.
The international community long ago understood the need for security, but what happens now goes beyond any reasonable test for security.
Violations of International Human Rights law
Amnesty International talks of excessive force, and Human Rights Watch names five violations of international law. Some of them are so transparent, the most obvious being forced displacement followed by the development of Israeli settlements. Palestinians are sometimes allowed back to see where their homes were. That is an admission of displacement and it is an acknowledgment that these people were ousted.
Abusive and arbitrary detention, often without trial, means people experience their loved ones being ‘disappeared’. By February 2017, 453 detainees were held without charge often for prolonged periods with the evidence against them deemed secret. International law requires they should be held in Palestine and not Israel. The border makes it difficult for families to visit.
Both sides have inflicted similar numbers of casualties on the other, and no perpetrators have been called to account by either.
As of February 2017, there were over half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank, some in the areas which are under exclusive Israeli control others in more mixed regions. Building permits are issued in East Jerusalem, but never to Palestinians in the wider West Bank. Structures built by Palestinians are always at risk of being bulldozed. Technically they are illegal, practically, what else can the Palestinians do.
Both sides are entrenched but now the plight of the oppressed Palestinian is receiving more attention. The situation cannot be allowed to continue and the international community is beginning to see that point of view.