In recent weeks, a largely horrified world has watched disturbing television footage of the Israeli military’s lethal response to a series of peaceful demonstrations held by Palestinian residents of Gaza every Friday, leading up to the 70th anniversary of their Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, which is today.
The catastrophe in question refers to the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Ever since, and as legitimised by UN Declaration 194, their descendants, now numbering 3.7 million, have been calling for their right of return. The right of return notwithstanding, at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict also lies the question of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since the war of 1967, which include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
The occupation has dramatically shrunk the territory available to the Palestinians. It has also deleteriously affected almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. Palestinians can’t live free of the Israeli military presence. The occupied areas are constantly patrolled and controlled by the Israeli military. These armed soldiers have been accused of beating, detaining and torturing Palestinians. The Israeli blockade of Gaza prevents imports of medical supplies, building materials and energy supplies and the export of foodstuffs grown in Gaza. Electricity is usually not available.
Palestinians can’t control their access to water in the occupied territories. The majority of the water from the area’s two main sources goes to Israel. There are frequent water shortages in the West Bank and poor water quality in Gaza.
Palestinians can’t access certain life-saving health care. Due to the blockade, in Gaza many hospitals lack critical equipment and resources. In the West Bank, delays caused by Israeli checkpoints have resulted in death or, quite often, roadside births.
Palestinian land in the West Bank is constantly being taken for new, ever-expanding and illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli-only super highways that connect them to major cities.
Most Palestinians can’t enjoy the rights of citizenship. They are effectively a stateless people, who mostly lack rights to citizenship in any sovereign nation. Palestinians don’t have the same due process and civil rights as Israelis. They can be imprisoned without charge for a period of up to six months under the Israeli policy of “administrative detention.” After that expires, Israeli officials are allowed to renew the detention indefinitely. Military checkpoints are scattered throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, seriously restricting travel by Palestinians. The Separation Wall has seized thousands of hectares of Palestinian land, separates families, and cuts many farmers off from their land.
Palestinians aren’t equally protected by labour laws. Curfews are regularly imposed. Sometimes the consequences are very serious, making it impossible to shop for life’s necessities, and sometimes they are life threatening as access to hospitals is denied.
To add insult to injury, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take place this month, which coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. An unnecessary and very cruel move, as East Jerusalem is claimed by Palestine as its future capital.
How long will the world accept the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people? The silence of major and minor powers is nothing more than complicity.