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From the field

2007 Annual Report: Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

December 2007, Summary

Since its founding, B’Tselem has published over one hundred reports documenting and analyzing various human rights violations committed by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These reports focused on a specific issue or a particular geographic area. For the first time in over a decade, in this report B’Tselem presents a broad survey of the spectrum of human rights issues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip throughout 2007, emphasizing those issues under direct Israeli control. 

This publication describes the prominent aspects of Israeli policy regarding each issue, presents key data, puts them in historical perspective and notes policy trends, whether positive or negative. The issues presented in this report in summary form are based primarily on dozens of investigations B’Tselem conducted in 2007 as well as those in previous years, and on data the organization regularly collects from various sources and maintains in its database. All the compiled data are available on B’Tselem’s website.

Reviewing the status of human rights in 2007 is especially important given two symbolic dates that were commemorated this year: forty years since the 1967 War and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and twenty years since the outbreak of the first intifada. Marking these two events offers a broader than usual perspective on the human-rights situation that has followed in their wake and an opportunity to learn lessons from it. 

Two clear themes characterize Israel’s policy in many of the issues surveyed in this report. The first is the almost automatic tendency to justify everything done in the Occupied Territories in the name of security, without scrutinizing these justifications and ensuring that they meet legal standards. There is no doubt that Israel faces serious security threats and is entitled, and even obligated, to do its utmost to protect its population. However, far too often, Israel fails to appropriately balance its security needs with other important values, including protecting the rights of Palestinians under its control. In addition, Israeli authorities often exploit security threats to advance prohibited political interests under the guise of security. This tendency is apparent regarding many of the hardships imposed on Palestinians, which severely infringe their human rights while actually serving the purpose of perpetuating settlements and effectively annexing them to Israel. 

The second theme that emerges from the report is the lack of accountability of Israeli security forces in all matters relating to human rights in the Occupied Territories. This is evident in the reluctance of the state to thoroughly investigate violations and to prosecute those responsible for them. The lack of accountability can also be seen in the denial of most Palestinians’ right to compensation when they are injured through no fault of their own by Israeli forces. The result of this lack of accountability is that many rights have effectively been rendered meaningless. In light of these worrisome trends and the spectrum of human rights violations surveyed in this report, and particularly given the forty-year Israeli occupation, the role of human rights organizations is more important now than ever.