On 15th of May Palestinians worldwide will commemorate the ongoing Palestinian Nakba.
Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are the largest and longest-standing case of displaced persons in the world today. There are at least 7.5 million displaced Palestinians including 360,000 IDPs in Israel, representing 66 percent of the entire Palestinian population (11.4 million) worldwide. Among them are 5.0 million who are registered with and assisted by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
A symbol for this ongoing forcible displacement is the Israeli Annexation Wall with a total planned route of 708 km. Its construction began in 2002 and continues to this day. Its path is not restricted to the 1949 Armistice Line (internationally recognized as the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution), but instead strays deep into the West Bank, effectively annexing Jewish-Israeli colonies while entrapping Palestinian towns.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled by a majority of 14:1 that, as its path regularly strays into occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and the surrounding area, the Wall “…and its associated regime, are contrary to international law.” In addition, the ruling highlighted Israel’s “…obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall…to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto.” More than ten years have passed since this judgment was made, yet Israel refuses to act upon any of these internationally-recognized obligations. To the contrary, Israel’s construction of the Wall continues steadily, and its associated regime of discriminatory legislation and practices remain firmly in place. The path of the Wall has resulted in the de-facto annexation of 9.4 percent of the West Bank.
The Wall is yet another tool deployed by Israel to continue the process of colonizing Mandate Palestine (the geographical area which was ruled by the British Mandate, until its withdrawal in May 1948: today the state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory). Simply put, the Israeli endeavour aims at emptying Mandate Palestine from its indigenous inhabitants, including areas that lie today within the borders of Israel proper. The intentionally designed displacement of Palestinians serves a parallel objective of relentlessly campaigning to settle Jewish-Israelis in colonies, illegal according to international law. In other words, Israel aims to colonize Palestine with Jewish immigrants (colonists) at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians, ultimately seeking to create a predominantly Jewish entity there as best described by Yosef Weitz, former director of the Land Department of the Jewish National Fund:
Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country… There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.
The colonization of Palestine is the ultimate objective of the Zionist project– the nationalist ideology of Israel. Zionism is defined through the formation of a “national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.” As such, the Zionist enterprise combined the Jewish nationalism which it had aimed to create and foster, with the colonialism of transplanting people, mostly from Europe, into Palestine with the support of European imperial powers. Jewish history was interpreted towards constructing a specific Jewish national identity in order to justify the colonization of Palestine. As Ilan Pappe rightly concludes, “Zionism was not… the only case in history in which a colonialist project was pursued in the name of national or otherwise non-colonialist ideals. Zionists relocated to Palestine at the end of a century in which Europeans controlled much of Africa, the Caribbean, and other places in the name of ‘progress’ or idealism…” 
This colonization, today, is carried out by Israel, in the form of the overall policy of ‘silent’ transfer, and not by the mass deportations witnessed in 1948 or 1967. It is silent in the sense that Israel carries it out while trying to avoid international attention, displacing small numbers of people on a weekly basis. It is to be distinguished from the more overt transfer achieved under the veneer of warfare in 1948. Here it is important to note that Israel’s transfer policy is neither limited by Israel’s geographical boundaries nor those of the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Israeli policy of silent transfer is evident in the State’s laws, policies and practices. Israel uses its power to discriminate, expropriate and ultimately effect the forcible displacement of the indigenous non-Jewish population from the area of Mandate Palestine. For instance, the Israeli land-planning and zoning system has forced 93,000 Palestinians in East-Jerusalem to build without proper construction permits because 87 percent of that area is off-limits to Palestinian use, and most of the remaining 13 percent is already built up. Since the Palestinian population of Jerusalem is growing steadily, it has had to expand into areas not zoned for Palestinian residence by the State of Israel. All those homes are now under the constant threat of being demolished by the Israeli army or police, which will leave their inhabitants homeless and displaced.
Another example is the government-approved Prawer Plan, which calls for the forcible displacement of 30,000 – 70,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel due to an Israeli allocation policy which has not recognized over thirty-five Palestinian villages located in the Naqab (Negev). Israel deems the inhabitants of those villages as illegal trespassers and squatters, and as such, they face the imminent threat of displacement. This is despite the fact that in many cases, these communities predate the State of Israel itself.
The Israeli Supreme Court bolstered the Zionist objective of clearing Palestine of its indigenous population in its 2012 decision prohibiting family unification between Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and their counterparts across and beyond the 1949 Armistice Line. The effect of this ruling has been that Palestinians with different residency statuses -such as Israeli citizen, Jerusalem ID, West Bank ID or Gaza ID which all are issued by Israel- cannot legally live together on either side of the 1949 Armistice Line. They are thus faced with a choice of living abroad, living apart from one another, or taking the risk of living together illegally. Such a system is used as a further means of forcibly displacing Palestinians and thereby changing the demography of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in favor of a predominantly Jewish population. This demographic intention is reflected in the Court’s reasoning for its decision, where it stated that “…human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.” This reasoning was further emphasized by Knesset-member Otniel Schneller who stated that “The decision articulates the rationale of separation between the [two] peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority…and character…”. This illustrates once more the Israeli state’s self-image as a Jewish State with a different set of rights for its Jewish and non-Jewish, mainly Palestinian, inhabitants.
Separation and conquest
The Zionist enterprise of colonizing Palestine is deeply rooted in the principle of separation and conquest. The idea of “constructing a Wall” started with the first Zionist colonists groups entering Palestine in the beginning of the 20th Century. Kibbutzim were the first form of creating “little fortresses” in an unknown and hostile environment as seen by the Zionist colonists. The kibbutz, a collective community, was formed by European Jews to conquest Palestinian land and to separate the conquered land from its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants in order to establish a territory for the Jewish people. In this regard, Kibbutzim even “rejected” the exploitation of cheap Arab labor and used instead Yemenite Jewish agricultural workers.  This politics of separation and conquest is still visible today in various aspects and throughout all of Mandate Palestine. Israeli cities in the Galilee or Israeli colonies in the West Bank resemble the architecture of “fortresses”. They are created on hilltops, completely encapsulated with only one or two streets leading to them, and their surroundings resemble a moat of trees and stones and impenetrable passages. It is also visible in Jerusalem where Palestinian neighborhoods are denied proper infrastructure or development contrary to Israeli Jewish colonies in Jerusalem: although the Palestinian community in Jerusalem represents 35 percent of the city’s population, and pays higher taxes than their Jewish Israeli counterparts, they receive less than 10 percent of the municipal budget. Another example is the Palestinian city of Jericho where the city is encircled by an invisible Israeli wall which prohibits the city of its natural growth. The city’s outskirts are part of the Area C of the West Bank where Israel virtually eliminates the possibility for further construction and development; and therefore separates the city from its own environment.
Israel’s commission of internationally-sanctioned crimes, namely apartheid and colonization are intended to create an unbearable situation in order to drive the indigenous population out. This continuous and calculated strangulation of the Palestinian people must be properly challenged by the international community by codifying that state’s actions and policies into elements of an international crime against humanity. Israel’s regime must be judged accordingly and its impunity must be brought to an end because the silence, if not complicity, of powerful members of the international community, in the face of practices and policies that violate fundamental rights and laws further entrenches politics, to the detriment of law.
1. Ilan Pappe, “Zionism as Colonialism: A Comparative View of Diluted Colonialism in Asia and Africa”, South Atlantic Quarterly 107:4 (Fall 2008), pp. 611-633, p. 612.
2. See Uri Ram, The Changing Agenda of Israeli Sociology: Theory, Ideology, and Identity, SUNY Press, 2012.