|Fact Sheet: Settlements
and Apartheid in the OPT
Since seizing the
Gaza strip and West Bank (including
east Jerusalem) in 1967, Israel has sought to colonise the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (OPT) through a policy of building
settlements on occupied land. The settlements are the cornerstone
of a system of de facto apartheid in the OPT, complete with
separate and unequal systems of roads, laws, and discriminatory
expropriation of natural resources.
In the Gaza strip, 1.2 million
Palestinians subsist on 60% of the land, yet most of the 42% of the
Gaza strip under Israeli military control is reserved for 6,000
Israeli settlers (.5% of the population; this also includes
non-settlement areas under Israeli military control, such as bases,
bypass roads, and some rural areas inhabited by Palestinians). Israeli settlers
in the Gaza strip have access to 699 times more land per capita than
refugee camp residents.
Israel diverts 88% of the renewable water resources of the OPT for
its own use or for the use of its settlements.
In the Gaza strip, Israel also forbids Palestinians from digging any
new agricultural wells, while settlers continue to dig wells at
will. As a result, annual per capita consumption of water among
settlers in the Gaza strip is 1,000
cubic metres, compared to 172 per Palestinian.
Israeli government subsidies make water available to settlers at
one-fourth the price of water for Palestinians in the Gaza strip,
despite the enormous income disparities.
Israelis who commit crimes in the OPT face
civil courts in Israel (even though Israeli domestic law should not
apply outside the country’s borders), while Palestinians from the
OPT arrested by Israel face military courts, which fail to meet
international standards for fair trials, and are likely to be
tortured. Moreover, proper investigations and
prosecutions of settler crimes against Palestinians are rare,
creating a culture of impunity amongst Israeli soldiers, settlers,
and police. Between 9 December 1987 and 1 April 2001, Israeli
settlers killed 119 Palestinians in the OPT, yet there were only 6
murder convictions in connection with these cases, and only 1 life
Settlers enjoy the full benefits and protections of citizenship yet
live on land that is under belligerent occupation and whose
inhabitants are mostly stateless.
movement. After the Oslo accords,
Israel built “bypass roads” (off-limits to Palestinians) to
link settlements to Israel, disrupting the contiguity of Palestinian
areas. At intersections with Palestinian roads, the Israeli army
sometimes stops all Palestinian traffic for Israeli motorists.
Moreover, Palestinian construction is prohibited in a buffer zone
along these roads. In the West Bank alone, there are 340.8km of
bypass roads, which, with buffer zones, cover 51 square kilometers.
Settlers can commute to and from Israel
with ease, while Palestinians must encounter checkpoints simply to
visit neighbouring communities.
settlements in the OPT are illegal
under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
This has been repeatedly affirmed by the UN and signatories of the Convention, except
Israel. Under international humanitarian law, it is illegal for an
occupying power to transfer parts of its own population into
territory it occupies, nor is it permissible to introduce any
permanent changes to an occupied territory that are not for the
benefit of the occupied population.
satellite imagery, there are some 308 Israeli built-up areas in the
OPT, excluding military sites, of which at least 26 are in the
Approximately 400,000 settlers live in the OPT, half of them in or
around east Jerusalem. Most settlers benefit from generous
government incentives, including tax breaks, grants and loans
for land and construction, subsidies for water and agriculture, free
schooling, and preference in government jobs. Yet despite the
burdens placed on the Israeli state budget for settlers, there is a
surplus of at least 4,000 housing units in the OPT.
Many settlers are also armed by the Israeli government.
are equally illegal. Those in
annexed east Jerusalem (often referred to as “Israeli
neighbourhoods” of Jerusalem) are no less illegal than other
settlements. Israel’s unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem has
not been recognised by any other government. Moreover, while the
Israeli government calls settlements established without its
explicit authorisation “illegal,” this distinction is meaningless;
all of the settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva
The Oslo accords
by deferring them to
“final status negotiations.” The Oslo accords did not require
Israel to withdraw from a single settlement in the OPT; rather,
Israel expanded its settlements at an unprecedented pace, increasing
the number of settlers by 72% from September 1993 to March 2001
(excluding east Jerusalem), with a peak in construction under Prime
Minister Ehud Barak. At least 25 new settlements were established
by the Israeli government in the West Bank alone between February
and October 2001. In implicitly accepting the legitimacy of the
Oslo accords violate the Fourth Geneva Convention,
which cannot be superseded by any special agreements.
[last updated 18 March 2002]