Settlements - Introduction

Since 1967 – the year Israel invaded and occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem – Jews have been illegally colonizing the occupied territories.

Settlements are illegal under international law – namely the Fourth Geneva Convention – and they violate several United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 242 and Resolution 465, which requires Israel to dismantle the settlements in the West Bank.

To date, more than 300,000 colonizers live in 132 illegal settlements and about 100 ‘outposts.’ These settlements range from an assortment of shacks to small cities and together they take up about 42 percent of the West Bank, according to the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem.

Not only do these settlements aim to displace the indigenous Palestinian people, but they violate Palestinians’ rights to housing, safety and personal security, livelihood, and movement.

A further 200,000 Jews reside illegally in settlements still being constructed in East Jerusalem,  near the Al Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims. Despite the settlement freeze promised in November 2009 to U.S. President Barack Obama by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the construction of housing units in East Jerusalem – built after the eviction of Palestinian families from homes they’ve held in many cases for generations – continued unabated.

Consider these statistics provided by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and analyzed by the Israeli human rights group, Peace Now:

  • There was a 33 percent rise in construction starts in the illegal settlements and a 300 percent jump in government-initiated construction plans in the settlements in the fourth quarter 2009.
  • About 390 building foundations were laid, though construction wasn’t started.
  • Of those 390 foundations, at least 170 were fake. However, they would still constitute ongoing construction and therefore be exempt from the freeze.
  • Construction in the illegal colonial outposts continued and increased.
  • Even something as transient as a trailer parked on confiscated Palestinian land could constitute ‘ongoing’ construction plans, thereby exempting that land from the freeze.
  • Six of those plans call for building Jewish-only compounds in the middle of Arab neighborhoods.

Adding insult to injury, recent reports indicate that tax-exempt ‘charity’ organizations in the United States are supporting settlement construction through their tax-exempted donations.

In fact, at least 40 American groups have raised more than $200 million in tax-exempt funds that go to support illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, according to an article in the New York Times.

The illegal settlers, especially the ultra-Orthodox residents of the illegal outposts, frequently resort to violent actions against Palestinians. They set fire to fields and orchards, pelt school children with stones and even shoot at them.  The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported 290 settler attacks against Palestinians in 2008, up from 243 the year before

Settler attacks – even those resulting in injury or death – are rarely investigated. Settlers are not held accountable for their crimes against Palestinians. 

- American Muslims for Palestine, 2010