Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – AP is reporting that what it calls the Israeli “settler” population in the Palestinian West Bank has now exceeded 500,000, quoting an Israeli squatter organization. Later in the article AP admits that about 200,000 Israelis also live in East Jerusalem, but does not specify that their presence there is illegal, just as is that of the 500,000 in the rest of the Palestinian West Bank.
These Israelis are not “settlers,” which has a nice pioneering ring. They are squatters. Each and every parcel of land on which they live has Palestinian owners, who often can produce documentary evidence of their ownership. Palestinian land ownership, however, is disregarded by the Israeli government, which has arbitrarily stolen this land and then secretly sent in squatters to squat on it. The 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations and the 2002 Statute of Rome that charters the International Criminal Court strictly forbid occupying states from settling their own citizens in the occupied territory. Since Israel has carefully kept the Palestinians stateless, however, they have little chance of defending their property rights in any effective tribunal. Citizenship is the right to have rights. Palestinians as stateless people do not have the right to have rights in the brutal world of power politics.
In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and occupied it. Over the next few years, the Nazis killed 6 million Poles and they also sent in German squatters and expelled Poles, trying to turn Poland into a province of Germany. While what Israel is doing in the Palestinian West Bank is far less deadly than Germany’s Polish policy, it is only different in degree, not in kind. When Israel seized the West Bank in 1967, after having plotted to get hold of it for a decade, it locked on the order of 300,000 Palestinians out of the territory. These were people working abroad, or families that fled the Israeli invasion in 1967 to Jordan or elsewhere. Some of them were deliberately ethnically cleansed by Israeli forces, which destroyed villages. None were ever allowed to return to their homes in Palestine.
The United Nations concluded in 1971,
- “On the basis of the testimony placed before it or obtained by it in the course of its investigations, the Special Committee had been led to conclude that the Government of Israel is deliberately carrying out policies aimed at preventing the population of the occupied territories from returning to their homes and forcing those who are in their homes in the occupied territories to leave, either by direct means such as deportation or indirectly by attempts at undermining their morale or through the offer of special inducements, all with the ultimate object of annexing and settling the occupied territories. The Special Committee considers the acts of the Government of Israel in furtherance of these policies to be the most serious violation of human rights that has come to its attention. The evidence shows that this situation has deteriorated since the last mission of the Special Committee in 1970.”
Those 300,000 Palestinians would have swelled the numbers of Palestinian West Bank residents by now to far more than the 3 million Palestinians who presently live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Instead, their place has been taken by 733,000 Israeli squatters.
The European Union reported that at the end of 2020, a little over two years ago, there were 451,700 Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the Palestinian West Bank. It added, “According to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, there are around 230,000 Israelis living in 10 settlements constructed in East Jerusalem. An estimated 3,000 more settlers live in settler compounds inside nine Palestinian neighborhoods of the city.”
So that was 451,000 plus 233,000, for a total of 684,000. By now it is at least 733,000.
You see, East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian West Bank and no international body ever awarded it to Israel, which simply seized it as a booty of war in 1967 in direct contravention of the United Nations Charter, to which it is signatory. The Israeli parliament formally annexed this territory and added it to the Israeli district of Jerusalem, which is a war crime. It is no different than Mussolini declaring the French city of Nice to be part of Italy, which he actually did once Paris fell to his Nazi allies. The UN Charter was devised to prevent that sort of thing from happening.
The Israeli leaders who thought this steady building up of squatter compounds in the Palestinian West Bank was a good thing for Israel did not stop to think that the squatters would develop political power and their enterprises, enabled by their theft of Palestinian resources, would develop economic power. There is a squatter-industrial complex (h/t to Rashid Khalidi) that has gradually warped Israeli politics back in the metropole, pushing it in a Mussolini-like direction. So now we see the rise of militant Israeli fascism, which is determined to strengthen the 733,000 squatters and to grow their numbers rapidly.
Sooner or later there will be a paroxysm of violence, an outbreak of civil war in the Palestinian West Bank, which the Israelis may well make a pretext for another round of ethnic cleansing. The stability of Jordan, and the lull we have seen in Middle Eastern militant movements, would quickly be a thing of the past in that case.