Context: The West Bank
The West Bank, part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories bordering the Kingdom of Jordan, is about 2,270 square miles. In small areas, the Palestinian Authority (PA), exercises some governing responsibilities under the auspices of the Israeli military. Israel’s “separation wall” cuts off thousands of West Bank Palestinians from their farmlands and severely restricts their movement, affecting Palestinians’ access to employment, education, and medical care. (Source: IMEU).
In contrast to the Gaza Strip from which Israeli citizens were removed in 2005, Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank on Palestinian land, thus violating the laws of occupation as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and from transferring or displacing the population of an occupied territory within or outside the territory. (Source: HRW).
Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli authorities have promoted a two-fold goal of expanding the city’s Jewish population and reducing its Palestinian population. Palestinians who lived in East Jerusalem and were present when a June 1967 census was taken were considered “permanent residents” of the State of Israel. (East Jerusalem residents who were not present during the 1967 census lost the right to live there.) “Permanent residents” can lose this status if they are out of the country for six years, take the citizenship of another country, or cannot demonstrate that East Jerusalem is the “center” of their life. Many have been forced to move beyond Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries because Israel has routinely denied permits for the building of new homes in densely crowded East Jerusalem and destroyed homes it claims were built without proper permits.
Israel exploits West Bank land, its water, and other resources in additional ways. As Eyal Press describes in the New York Times, “There are roughly 1,000 factories in the chain of Israeli-administered ‘industrial zones’ strung across the West Bank. The geographic footprint of these commercial enterprises, together with shopping centers and agricultural projects, exceeds the built-up areas of settler housing.”
The European Union has attempted to help alleviate the water situation for Palestinians in the West Bank. The Israelis, however, have a history of demolishing EU-funded structures. On May 18, 2016, Israeli authorities delivered four demolition notices ordering several Palestinians to remove their EU-funded water tanks (which were part of a UN water development program). Nearly 7.4 acres of land is dependent on the tanks for irrigation. After Israeli authorities deliver a demolition order, the owners of the properties have seven days to remove the structures or they are charged for the demolition. (Source: Ma'an News).
The disparity and the cruelty of the Occupation can also be seen by comparing water consumption in the West Bank for Palestinians and for Israelis: The nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers use six times more water than the entire population of the West Bank (some 2.86 million people). Israel’s discriminatory water policies have undermined the West Bank economy, which was traditionally agricultural and dependent on water resources for the irrigation of crops.