The entire area Israel controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. By geographically, demographically and physically engineering space, the regime enables Jews to live in a contiguous area with full rights, including self-determination, while Palestinians live in separate units and enjoy fewer rights. This qualifies as an apartheid regime, although Israel is commonly viewed as a democracy upholding a temporary occupation.
In 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors. In at least 11 cases, the forces fired unlawfully at Palestinians who posed no risk. Despite the pandemic, Israel ramped up demolitions in the West Bank, leaving 1,006 Palestinians, including 519 minors, homeless. This year, we documented 248 cases of settlers harming Palestinians or their property –with full state backing. This year, too, Palestinians were subjected to a daily, violent occupation routine of incursions, night raids, movement restrictions, and arrests.
On 24 Nov. 2020, several dozen Palestinians and Israelis held a demonstration in the northern Jordan Valley. One was hit in the abdomen by a “rubber” bullet and put in an ambulance. Soldiers immediately opened the doors and tried to drag him out. A few minutes later, an officer ordered them to let go and he was taken to hospital. The soldiers’ violent conduct and disruption of urgent medical care cannot be considered legal. Along with the suppression of the protest, it is part of the systemic oppression of Palestinians under occupation.
Throughout October 2020, the Israeli military harassed the residents of Sabastiya, a Palestinian town northwest of Nablus. Troops periodically blocked the town’s entrances and denied entry to outsiders. Soldiers raided a crowded recreation area, hurling dozens of stun grenades and tear gas canisters and firing “rubber” bullets. One bullet hit Adham a-Sha’er (29) in the head and he lost his eye, in a grave but predictable outcome of this prohibited collective punishment, which is part of an occupation routine of violence and uncertainty.
On 9 Oct. 2020, settlers attacked a home in Burin. Soldiers enabled the assault and fired tear gas and stun grenades at residents who came to the family’s defense. Two settlement security coordinators entered the village in their jeeps and chased four residents. When a young man passed by in his car, one of them attacked him, handcuffed him and “turned him in” to the soldiers.
On 13 Oct. 2020, Israeli bulldozers entered the Gaza Strip and razed 25 dunams of parsley, dill, zucchini, okra, and eggplant crops along the perimeter fence, as well as irrigation systems in these areas. These actions are illegal under international law, which prohibits the destruction of private property in any but exceptional circumstances, which do not apply in this case. These actions also expose the absurdity of Israel’s claim that Gaza is a separate “hostile state entity”, demonstrating that it still controls Gaza.
As part of normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates, Israel has decided not to officially annex the West Bank as yet. De facto, it annexed the West Bank long ago, treating the area as sovereign Israeli territory while acting unilaterally to establish and perpetuate control. The uproar over official annexation has subsided, but the reality remains unchanged: the international community has welcomed Israel back with open arms – legitimizing its continued policy of dispossession with no price.
In late August 2020, dozens of Israeli soldiers again raided the home of the extended Abu Hashhash family at night, assaulting several members. They severely beat father of four Iyad Abu Hashhash (45) and carried him away on a stretcher. His relatives later learned he had contracted the coronavirus in an ISA interrogation facility and been quarantined, and then put in administrative detention for four months. Raiding Palestinian homes at night and waking entire families, including young children, is part of the violent occupation routine.
On 1 Sep. 2020, during a Palestinian march against expropriation of land from the villages of Shufah and a-Ras to establish the Bustanei Hefetz industrial zone, a military officer pushed a protestor to the ground and kneeled on his neck. When other protestors got the man into a car, the officer smashed the driver’s window and threatened to shoot him. On Monday, 21 September 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., about 15 soldiers raided Khairi Hanun’s home and arrested him. As usual, the military justified this conduct, as part of Israel’s sweeping ban on Palestinians’ right to protest and its automatic backing of security forces’ violence against Palestinians.
On 23 June 2020, around midnight, soldiers stopped a car at a flying checkpoint outside Hebron and ordered the driver, Mu’tasem Qawasmeh, 24, and the two friends who were with him to get out and stand by the side of the road. They then assaulted Qawasmeh while keeping his friends from intervening. The assault ended when a military jeep arrived. Qawasmeh said: “I got home at 4:00 A.M. My wife and son were awake, waiting for me. I hugged my son and burst out crying. I was exhausted and felt helpless.”
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.