Unprecedented poverty for Palestinians after 40-year occupation — Amnesty

LONDON (AFP) — Israel has plunged the Palestinians into unprecedented levels of poverty and despair through 40 years of occupation, yet failed to ensure its own security, Amnesty International said Monday.

While acknowledging Israel’s “legitimate security concerns,” the London-based human rights group said the Jewish state could not justify building its security barrier inside parts of the West Bank and condemned its settlement policies.

If Israel just wanted to keep out suicide bombers, Amnesty added, it would have only built the barrier along the Green Line that marked its boundary with the West Bank until Israeli forces invaded in the June 1967 war.

“Yet, the reality is that most of it is being built on Palestinian land,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme director Malcolm Smart said in a statement.

He said the Israeli barrier defies the International Court of Justice and separates Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank.

His organisation said Palestinians are also restricted by more than 500 checkpoints and blockades as well as a network of roads reserved solely for settlers and linking settlements with Israel proper.

The policies are aimed at benefiting “continuously expanding but unlawful Israeli settlements” while causing the “virtual collapse of the Palestinian economy”, the human rights group charged.

They are also “exacerbating the increasingly fragile conditions in which Palestinians live and work — resulting in levels of despair, poverty and food insecurity never before seen in the territories”, he said.

“Most Palestinians are now relying on aid for subsistence, with families reducing the quality and quantity of the food they consume and selling assets essential for their livelihoods,” he added.

Israeli actions, Amnesty said, have “resulted in widespread human rights abuses and have also failed to bring security to the Israeli and Palestinian civilian populations”. Amnesty called on Israel to lift the blockades and other restrictions on Palestinians and ensure its actions target specific security threats rather than punish entire communities.

It also urged the Jewish state to stop building the barrier inside the West Bank, remove the parts it has already built there, gradually scrap all its settlements, and end its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

The organisation also repeated demands on Palestinian armed groups to stop attacking Israeli civilians and called on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that they do and to prosecute those responsible for such attacks.

It also urged the United Nations or another body to deploy an “international human rights monitoring mechanism” to get both Israel and the Palestinians to comply with their obligations under international law.

“This must be backed up with a commitment to investigate and prosecute, through the exercise of universal jurisdiction, those who commit war crimes or other crimes under international law,” Amnesty said.

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