The impact of Israeli settlements in the West Bank on the human rights of Palestinians – Report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967

The landscape of the West Bank is dotted with 132 official settlements and about 135 unofficial ones, known as unauthorized outposts (settlements that were not approved by the Government of Israel). Israel’s settlement enterprise has transformed the West Bank and its destructive, disastrous impact is felt in every aspect of life and at every level of the fundamental rights of the area’s Palestinian residents.

Hundreds of thousands of dunams of land have been stolen from Palestinians to build settlements, industrial zones, roads, farms, tourist attractions and more. In order to protect Israeli settlements, the Israeli military sets up checkpoints, imposes travel restrictions on Palestinians, reduces or denies their access to their own lands and maintains a large presence of forces on the ground. In addition, each settlement is a nucleus of a large field of influence over its vicinity, and many are a hub of violence and crime against Palestinians and their property.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, and their establishment constitutes a grave violation of IHL, which explicitly prohibits the transfer of the population of the occupying power to the occupied territory. Yesh Din also asserts that, in the case of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the dangers that the above-mentioned prohibition seeks to prevent are evident on the ground every moment of every day.

On the basis of our profound and protracted familiarity with the reality in the West Bank, Yesh Din unequivocally asserts that the presence of Israeli settlements is a key source of the grave violation of the human rights of the area’s Palestinian residents. This violation is multi-dimensional, relating to almost every basic human right and liberty recognized in international human rights law.

The report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied however, we will confine our review to the ramifications of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank on those human rights of Palestinian civilians that are relevant to Yesh Din’s activities and which we have investigated over the years. Yesh Din’s experience and research clearly indicate that actions by settlers, and the support they enjoy from the authorities by way of omission, and sometimes even by act, as well as the policies practiced by the government, the military and the Civil Administration with respect to settlement protection and persistent expansion, severely impair Palestinians’ right to life, liberty and security of person. Other rights violated include the right to property, freedom of movement, and equality, as well as the Palestinians’ collective right to their natural resources.

This document presents a concise review of the issues Yesh Din covers in-depth with references, for further reading, to our relevant reports, position papers, datasheets, databases and opinions that provide full information and analysis. All documents have been published and are accessible on the Yesh Din website.