BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — “The occupation is not temporary but prolonged and represents a continuance of the colonization of historic Palestine under the pretext of a ‘temporary’ belligerent occupation,” al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, said in a statement on Monday to mark the 50th year of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.
In June, Palestinians commemorate the “Naksa,” meaning “setback,” marking the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights that began on June 5, 1967 during the Six-Day War, displacing some 300,000 Palestinians, as well as thousands of Syrians, from their homes.
While the PA and the international community do not recognize the legality of the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank since 1967, many Palestinians consider that all historic Palestine has been occupied since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
Al-Haq highlighted the immediate action the Israeli army took in 1967 to depopulate Palestinian areas of its local residents, starting with the demolition of the entire Magharib Quarter — also known as the Moroccan Quarter — in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“With dynamite and bulldozers,” Israeli forces demolished 135 homes and forcibly displaced 650 residents, and “designated the entire area for ‘Jewish Quarter redevelopment.’”
The Moroccan Quarter was at least 770 years old.
Soon after, according to al-Haq, Israeli authorities expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem to include 28 villages in the West Bank, intended to take “a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs,” and issued a military order to expropriate 29 acres of land in the southern part of the Old City for “public purposes” the following year, where Jewish families were transferred in order to challenge the Old City’s Palestinian demography.
Israel’s settlement enterprise, which has continued to be condemned by the international community, made a head start 50 years ago when Israel constructed the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion in Hebron, and continued with settlements across the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea, according to al-Haq.
“By the end of 1967, Yigal Allon, the Head of Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Settlements began to plan an official settlement map for Jewish settlements in the Eastern part of the West Bank,” al-Haq added.
The group also pointed to historical evidence that since 1967, Israel has held the long term goal of annexing the entirety of the West Bank, using the occupation’s supposed temporality as a guise to do so.
Al-Haq noted that Theodor Meron, the legal adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time, had been well aware of the settlement’s illegality, and suggested “that settlements be carried out by military rather than civilian entities on a temporary basis” to avoid consequences on the international stage.
“While Israel’s colonizing plans in occupied territory were immediately apparent beginning in 1967, also immediately apparent was the international community’s failure to intervene to protect the occupied Palestinian population from the colonization,” the group said, noting that the international community had failed to take real action, such as economic sanctions, that could deter Israel’s illegal settlement expansion on Palestinian territory.
Israel has been “allowed to act for fifty years with impunity under the shield of a non-existent ‘peace process,’” al-Haq stated.
Last week, echoing statements made back in 1967, a number of right-wing members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called for the full annexation of the West Bank.
“Fifty years on, and there are those who say the (1967) victory only complicated things for us; that the ‘occupation’ corrupts our society,” Knesset speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said, before calling Israelis residing in illegal settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory “pioneers of our time.”
“We will continue to support the settlers, even when it is ‘complicated,’” Edelstein added.
MK Moti Yogev from the extreme right-wing Jewish Home party also called for the establishment of a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine.
“The people of Israel know that the land of Israel belongs to them, and the Israeli settlement in the land will continue forever,” Yogev said. “Its defensible eastern border will always be the Jordan River, and Jerusalem will not be divided.”
Since 1967, Israel has stood accused of committing major violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including excessive and deadly use of violence; forced displacement; the blockade of the Gaza Strip; unjustified restrictions on movement; and the expansion of illegal settlements.