Settlements in West Bank Raise Concern of Human Rights Violations

Chairwoman Hautala wrote to Ambassador of Israel to EU to raise express concern about the issue of illegal settlements in the West Bank. [:]


Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Head of Mission
Embassy of Israel to the European Union
Avenue de l’Observatoire 40
B- 1180 Brussels


10 February 2011


Your Excellency,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament to raise our deepest distress about the issue of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

This matter has been presented to the European Parliament on several occasions, and it is seriously troubling that the information brought before us repeatedly indicates violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

I am aware that since 1995 Palestinians living in cities partially or entirely pertaining to Area C – which according to the 1995 Oslo Accords is fully under control of your government – have been denied permit to build beyond the already build-up area, necessary to accommodate the expanding population. They have also been prevented from building schools and hospitals. As any building/reparation activity undertaken without the authorisation is subject to demolition, your government’s statistics reveal that from 2000 to 2007 for every building permit given to Palestinians in Area C, 18 Palestinian structures were demolished and orders to demolish 55 more were given. It has been reported that in case of Palestinian-owned olive groves close to a settlement, Palestinians have access to cultivate their land limited to twice or three times a year. Particularly, residents from BIL’IN and NI’LIN villages have brought to our attention the increasing impediments for having access and cultivating their land, in despite of peaceful weekly manifestations since 2006.

At the same time, it is widely known that the Israeli government has actively encouraged Jewish settlers to occupy Area C by granting them control over confiscated lands, providing infrastructure and security services to settlements, in addition to a variety of financial incentives to those interested in living there. While supported by your government’s authority, Jewish settlers have had greater access to natural resources and have used them intensively for agriculture, while many thousands of Palestinians in Area C lack running water and are forced to buy it from water tankers at very high prices.

While there is an ongoing conflict amongst the Palestinian Authority and Israel, settlements by an occupying power breach article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. This understanding has been further reinforced by the International Court of Justice and widely condemned by UN General Assembly Resolutions. The ICJ has also confirmed that international humanitarian law and human rights law are not mutually exclusive, therefore your government has also the duty to protect the human rights of Palestinians living in Area C, in addition to provide them with basic services (as set by the 1995 Oslo Accords). Confiscating land in Area C and subsequently granting control to Jewish settlers of these areas further constitute violation of humanitarian and human rights law, under which confiscation of private property can be solely based on urgent military needs or if carried out in a proportionate manner, to be followed by adequate compensation.

Preventing Palestinian villagers in Area C from having access to basic services such as wells and water cisterns, and from enhancing or building houses, schools and health clinics is in clear violation of their right to an adequate standard of living. Bearing in mind the ongoing conflict, I believe not providing running water cannot be justified on any security grounds. Likewise, impeding Palestinians in Area C to circulate freely to cultivate their lands constitutes disproportional restriction on their freedom of movement with direct consequences on other human rights as well.

The European Parliament has adopted several resolutions on the Middle East peace process in which it clearly condemns the expansion of settlements. The Parliament has called on “Israeli authorities immediately to halt any expansion of settlements and the building of the security fence beyond Israel’s 1967 borders, actions which are contrary to international law” (P6_TA(2008)0571 20.11.2008). In addition to the illegality of the settlements, the construction of the wall and the demolishing of Palestinian houses, this Parliament considers such acts as provocative and an obstacle to achieving permanent peace in the region. It has also repeatedly raised the importance of the adequate distribution of water.

For the abovementioned reasons, I would like to ask you to provide clarifications on these accounts and your government’s intents on this matter. While the European Parliament acknowledges the EU-Israel partnership as strategic, it is also highly assertive that human rights are core values of the European Union and cannot be bypassed. This Parliament has a longstanding stance on respect for international law and deeply regrets your governments dismiss of these issues.


Yours sincerely,

Heidi Hautala