Israel is certainly not the only violator of human rights in the world. Joining the BDS movement does not imply that there are no other worthy global struggles or other tactics to resolve a conflict. In the case of Israel, there is an existing call by Palestinians for international support of the BDS movement already being answered with resounding enthusiasm globally.
Israel has massively violated human rights and international law, as well as its own self-professed democratic principles. The essential impact of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is the denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people. Israel opposes Palestinian statehood within the United Nations, denying Palestine the right to create a stable government and a self-sustaining economy.
The abuses outlined below correspond to findings by the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. Numerous resolutions have been passed by the U.N. General Assembly, by overwhelming votes, condemning these illegal actions by Israel. Only the U.S. veto on the U.N. Security Council has prevented any U.N. sanctions from being invoked.
Israel has systematically rejected or ignored all of the judicial and agency findings and U.N. resolutions. Unless concerned communities around the world bring economic pressure to bear, Israel will continue to do what it wants, with impunity.
Violations committed by Israel
Since its inception in 1948, the State of Israel has progressively expropriated Palestinian land and resources, and repeatedly violated the fundamental human rights of Palestinian people. Thanks to U.S. funding and sharing of technology, Israel has one of the world’s most powerful and technologically advanced armed forces. It has an unacknowledged and therefore unregulated nuclear arsenal. It has an economy that is bolstered by resources stolen from Palestine, favorable trade arrangements with the U.S., and three to four billion U.S. dollars in aid every year. The “Israel Lobby” has the power to punish any U.S. politician who gives less than full-throated support to Israeli policy.
Expulsion of Palestinian Civilians from their Homes
Between 1948 and 1951, nearly 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their ancestral homelands at gunpoint and forbidden to return. They were forced into squalid refugee camps in neighboring Arab states while their abandoned homes were taken by Israeli Jews. The Israeli army massacred Palestinian civilians in Deir Yassin, Lydda, Ad Dawayima and other towns, terrorizing thousands into flight. The Palestinians refer to this episode as the Nakba (the Catastrophe). Israel’s “Nakba law” denies state funding to any institution that recognizes this day of mourning, including schools.
The Occupation of Palestinian Territory in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem
Over 450,000 Israelis live in more than 120 illegal settlements in Palestinian territory (map). Although illegal under Israeli law, the appropriation and occupation of Palestinian territory by armed settlers is subsidized by the Israeli government. The settlers are protected by the Israeli army and shielded from the law when they commit acts of violence and destruction. Palestinians are left with only a small percentage of the land granted them by UN Resolution 181. Israel builds and enforces separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians between settlements and into Israel. The area left to the Palestinians is fragmented and divided.
Destruction of Palestinian Agriculture
The land appropriated by Israel includes the most arable areas. Since 1987 alone, more than half a million Palestinian trees, most of which are olive trees – some over 1000 years old – have been destroyed or confiscated by the Israeli military and settlers, most on the pretext of providing “security” for illegal settlements, building settler-only roads, and construction of the Wall. Olive production is a cornerstone of the Palestinian diet, culture, and economy. Water resources have been diverted from Palestinian communities to Israeli ones. Israel consumes 82% of the aquifer it shares with the West Bank and prevents Palestinians from drilling new wells into the aquifer. Pesticides and inadequately treated sewage water used by Israelis have also contaminated the aquifer.
Expropriation of Resources
Major Israeli corporations are based in and profit from illegal settlements, including:
- Agrexco (liquidated in 2011) – Israel’s largest food exporter, 50%-owned by Israeli government. Agrexco sells products containing produce grown in settlements, labeling them all as produced in Israel.
- Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories – 44%-owned by two Israeli settlements. Manufactures products in Mitzpe Shalem settlement, and exploits natural resources in Palestinian territory.
- SodaStream – Company’s main manufacturing facility is located in Mishor Edomim settlement in the West Bank.
- Africa-Israel Investments – Owns several companies that build illegal settlements, including Leader Management & Development and Danya Cebus.
Much of Israel’s food exports are grown in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.
Israel has demolished nearly 25,000 Palestinian homes since 1967, displacing whole families, destroying their economic security, and destabilizing their communities. Israel does not demolish Israeli homes constructed without permits in illegal settlements, but it regularly demolishes Palestinian homes built without permits, while maintaining a policy of denying Palestinians permits to build new houses.
Israel is building a 470-mile long, 30-foot high separation wall on Palestinian territory. This wall extends into farms, orchards, grazing fields and residences, dividing communities and families and depriving thousands of their means of livelihood. If completed, the wall will give Israel control over 46% of Palestinian land in the West Bank. Currently it surrounds and isolates over 300,000 Palestinians in 80 communities, requiring many to acquire permits from Israel to live in their own homes.
The Siege and Blockade of Gaza
Since 2006, 1.5 million people have lived under blockade and been deprived of many of the necessities of life—adequate food, cooking oil, medicine, spare parts, dialysis fluid, school material, and more. Palestinians cannot leave or enter Gaza. Commercial exports are barred. The blockade cuts residents off from international trade and resources necessary to support an economy and provide a basic standard of living.
Lethal gunfire enforces a no-mans-land strip extending one kilometer into Gaza’s valuable agricultural fields. Building materials are nearly impossible to bring in, preventing Palestinians from rebuilding their homes after the Israeli military bombed and bulldozed them. With access denied to the sea, the fishing industry is destroyed. Most of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated. A lack of reliable electricity adds to the suffering of Gazans.
Between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009, Israel attacked Gaza by land, sea and air in “Operation Cast Lead.” Approximately 1,400 Palestinians died, including over 300 children. Thousands more were injured. Israeli losses were 13. Four of those 13 were by friendly fire. This military campaign violated many international laws, including the use of prohibited weaponry such as white phosphorus and the collective punishment of civilians.
Restrictions on Free Movement & Workers’ Rights
Palestinians suffer discrimination as a direct result of Israeli policies that deny them the basic rights that Jewish Israeli citizens enjoy. Israel operates around 100 border checkpoints and hundreds of other obstacles that directly prevent Palestinians from exercising self-help and self-responsibility by denying them the right to free movement within their territory. Israel cuts off travel and commerce between Gaza and the West Bank, prevents thousands of Palestinians from reliable access to work, and creates frequently fatal delays in receipt of emergency medical care.
Palestinians are denied permits to seek work in Israel, forcing many to work illegally and exposing them to terrific exploitation under threat of deportation. Those with work permits must pay monthly fees of up to $500 whether or not they are able to obtain a job.
Attacks on Unarmed Supply Ships in International Waters
Nine unarmed civilians aboard the Mavi Marmara, part of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, were killed and imprisoned by Israeli officers in international waters.