In March 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the establishment of an international fact finding mission to investigate the effects the settlements have on the “civil, political, economic, social and cultural” rights of the Palestinian people living in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.
In November of that same year, Yesh Din submitted a position paper on this subject to the committee, which decidedly determined that Israeli settlements are a major cause of severe infringements of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There are many layers of infringement and they include almost every basic human right. Yesh Din claims that every settlement in the West Bank is illegal. Their very establishment constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of a population from the occupying power to the occupied territory.
This position paper specifies that there is a destructive and widespread pattern of ideologically motivated crimes against Palestinians across the West Bank. Such crimes are committed on a daily basis, and the Israeli government consistently breaches its obligation to protect the Palestinian population when it fails to prevent these crimes as well as to investigate them after the fact.
The position paper also claims that the settlement enterprise inflicts severe damage to Palestinian property, caused by Israeli civilians – who bar Palestinians from accessing their land, vandalize fields and Palestinian property, and raid and take over Palestinian agricultural lands – as well as by the authorities, who allocate land for settlements, fail to enforce the law with Israeli civilians who invade Palestinian land or cause damage to Palestinian property, and take over additional Palestinian land for the settlements’ security purposes.
Settlements also constitute a cause for the severe infringement of freedom of movement for Palestinian residents. Some of the restrictions imposed on Palestinians stem from “private initiatives” by settlers, and some are “formal” ones enforced by the authorities through military orders. These restrictions, some of which were designed for settler security and some to help take over more Palestinian land, hurt freedom of movement of Palestinian residents across large swaths of the West Bank.
The West Bank’s natural resources also suffer. International law recognizes the exclusive right of nations to utilize natural resources that belong to them. However, providing mining rights to Israeli companies who outsource their mining to the West Bank hurts the collective rights of the Palestinian people and prevents them from developing their economy as they see fit and benefiting from the profits.