Human Rights Violations in Palestine and How to Enforce Accountability in Israel

The crimes are direct human rights violations according to the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

In May 2021, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict escalated immensely. The Israeli military shot multiple airstrikes in the region of Gaza. The recent conflict is just one out of the numerous confrontations of violence between the state of Israel and Palestine in the past century.[1] The tense conflict is due to the illegal occupation and disenfranchisement of Palestinian territory and their people. The Israeli military acquired high-technological weapons and surveillance that came from foreign sources. The UK government is involved in an arms trade with Israel, which was utilised to oppress the people of Palestine. The UK government has to take responsibility for its involvement in civilian casualties in Palestine. Additionally, the UK government has the responsibility to pressure Israel to cease military violence and address the injustice committed to the Palestinians. This article will address the history of Israeli occupation, the crimes that resulted from the illegal settlements, and the British involvement with the deadly conflicts committed in Gaza. The crimes are direct human rights violations according to the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).[2] It is with most urgency that the UK presses Israel to adhere to international law and cease the injustice towards Palestine.

Historical Aspect

In 1922, the League of Nations established a British mandate for Palestine. Along with the mandate, a Jewish state would be established to accommodate Jewish migrants. At the time, “Palestinian Arabs demanded that the British government halt Jewish emigration to Palestine, but the British government ignored the demand”[3]. Jewish settlements began to take form, despite the opposition of Arabs. After WWI and WWII, the settlements increased as European Jews searched for a new home free from religious persecution and violence. However, this was met with violent clashes with Palestinians resulting in multiple wars. In 1947, the UN voted to split the land between Israel and Palestine.[4] The 1947 vote “was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented”.[5] Jerusalem was established as an international zone. In 1948, the state of Israel was officially established.[6]

Occupation

For the past century, the occupation of Palestine has caused displacement and casualties in between conflicts. Since 1978, Israel has occupied nearly 78% of Palestinian land, and it is expected to increase more in the coming time.[7] Checkpoints and the separation wall restrict Palestinian movement. Even with the presence of strict border surveillance, the Israeli government encourages Israeli citizens to settle illegally in established Palestinian territory, preventing the formation of a Palestinian state. One of the major provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention regarding occupation is Article 49, which prohibits the transfer by the Occupying Power of its own nationals into the territory it occupies.[8] Hence, the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory are violative of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention.[9] The urgent issue is the competition of water sources in the West Bank. The Israeli occupation and “its policies have been rooted in preserving the water rights of the Jewish state at the expense of Palestine”.[10] Palestinians need the water source for their survival as drinking and irrigating crops are core aspects that they need to sustain themselves. However, Israeli settlements are claiming the water sources only for themselves. If the Israeli settlements occupy the water sources, then Palestinians are left with no water resources to survive and sustain their lives and livelihoods.

Jerusalem is at the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jerusalem was divided into West and East Jerusalem. In the centre, there are the 4 quarters, including the Jewish and Muslim quarters. However, forced evictions have taken place in Palestinian households. The most prevalent course case is the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. The Israeli military forcefully evicted Palestinian families from their own homes to accommodate Israeli citizens.[11] The defense from the Israeli state is that the Palestinian families never requested permission to build and inhabit their homes, so they become public property that was sold by an unknown owner. The forced evictions violate Articles 12 and 17 of the UDHR.[12] The Palestinian residents have taken into the Israeli justice system to demand their homes to be returned. However, with the power imbalance between them, the families have low hopes to regain their life and livelihoods especially their homes.

Violence in Gaza

Gaza has been under Israeli sanctions since 2007, which block any access to medicine.[13] In the last decade, Israel launched 4 separate wars in Gaza, resulting in thousands of deaths. The wars caused the displacement of 1.5 million Palestinian refugees. During the May conflicts, Israel claimed their use of airstrikes as self-defence against Hamas.[14] The Israeli blockade and violence violate Article 13 of the UDHR. The Gaza airstrikes are contributing to the massacre and displacement of the Palestinian people. The military assaults required possession of military equipment that is assumed to be traceable to the United Kingdom through authorised arms trades.

The UK Government and the Arms Trade

In a 2018 parliamentary motion, it was addressed that the UK has granted licenses in the last two years to export high-tech military weapons with the Israeli state.[15] It is very likely that the weapons provided by British exporters were used during the Gaza attacks in the last few years. An intensive investigation must be conducted to confirm if British military weapons were utilised for oppression.[16] However, the UK government is doing the minimum to address this problem and its approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The UK government is lenient towards a two-state solution to alleviate the tensions in the nations.[17] However, with the current violence between the two nations, the two-state solution is just not practical and less likely to succeed in the present scenario and on this stage. The UK has to take a more confrontational approach to pressure Israel to cease the unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians.

Protests

The War on Want and the Campaign against Arms Trade are pressurising the UK government to take responsibility and pressure the government of Israel. The current demand is to cease any arms trade with the Israeli government. The accessibility and export of military weapons to the Israeli government are actively contributing to the killing and assault of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

It is without mention that even if the arms trade with Israel ceases, the internalised system to disenfranchise Palestinians would still be in place. The UK government must demand the Israeli government to recognise the previously agreed borders and the Palestinian nation.

Conclusion

The recent conflicts clearly highlighted the purpose of the Israeli government of their clear intent to harm and kill innocent Palestinian children and families, by hiding it under the claim to stop Hamas. However, the arms trade is encouraging Israel to continue its deadly impact on Palestine, disregarding the death count of Palestinian families, the forced evictions, and the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. As such, the UK government must cease the arms trade and enforce accountability on Israel’s violations of human rights.

REFERENCES


[1] Adams, P. (2021) Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah: The land dispute in the eye of a storm.  

[2] United Nations (1949) Geneva Convention.

[3] University of Central Arkansas (2021) 9 British Palestine (1917-1948).

[4] BBC (2021) Israel-Gaza violence: The conflict explained.

[5] BBC (2021) Israel-Gaza violence: The conflict explained.

[6] University of Central Arkansas (2021) . British Palestine (1917-1948)

[7] Haddad, M. (2021) Mapping Israeli occupation.

[8] Israeli occupation and international humanitarian law – Conf. of High Contracting Parties to 4th Geneva (2021).

[9] Amnesty International, 2021; United Nations, 1949, p. 185

[10] Godlewski, A. (2010) ‘“Damming” the Peace Process: Water Politics and its Impact on the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 30:2, 153-166, DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2010.494068.

[11] Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem: The full story (2021).

[12] United Nations (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[13] Haddad, M. (2021) Mapping Israeli occupation.

[14] VICE News (2021) Life Inside Gaza After Nearly 2 Weeks of Bombings.

[15] UK Parliament (2018) UK Arms Exports To Israel.

[16] Campaign Against Arms Trade (2021) CAAT Call For Investigation Into If UK Arms Have Been Used In The Bombing Of Gaza.  

[17] UK Parliament (2015) Israeli-Palestinian conflict: what hope of a solution?

Shantall is an undergraduate student in Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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