Israel has been expanding its border in Palestine, violating international laws and conventions. According to the report of the Peace Now (2019), an Israeli human rights organisation, 32 new settlement outposts, of which 21 are farms, have been established since 2012 in the West Bank. Moreover, by constructing a wall through the West Bank, Israel disconnected a large part of Palestinian territories from the rest of the West Bank. Sheikh Jarrah is the latest example of the expansion of the Israeli occupation.
Additionally, the pandemic period witnessed increasing Israeli settlers’ attack on Palestinian civilians. For example, March and April 2020, the time of the outbreak of COVID-19, witnessed around 40 attacks in a month, resulting in either casualty or property damage. The settlers enjoy a climate of impunity to unleash violence against the Palestinians. According to the report of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, out of 273 Police investigations, only 25 (9%) resulted in the prosecution of offenders, and 248 files closed without an indictment. Moreover, in many cases, Palestinians do not file a complaint due to the lack of trust in the Israeli legal authorities. According to Oxfam, only less than half of the victims file complaints on settler violence. Since the complaints have to be filed in an Israeli police station, Palestinians consider it dangerous due to the presence of the Israeli Defence Force soldiers or settlers in the office. Many Palestinians are afraid that if they file a criminal complaint against the settlers, they or their relatives will not get permission for entering Israeli land for work. It will result in the loss of their income. Due to widespread unemployment in the West bank, this fear is sufficient to deter Palestinians from complaint against the settler violence.
The ongoing demolitions of the Palestinian home and confiscation of assets by the Israeli government, along with the settlers’ unchecked violence, cause forced displacement of Palestinians and de facto annexation of the Palestinian land. It is also followed by the threat of De jure annexation. During his election campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the annexation of a large part of the West Bank. Sheikh Jarrah illustrates the Israeli policy of annexation.
The settlement and annexation plans, including settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, violate international humanitarian laws. Transferring civilians to the occupied territories violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. Moreover, the Israeli plan to annex the occupied territories is a threat to international norms. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) calls both de facto or de jure annexation attempts of Israel from the parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as null and void under international law. Additionally, according to ICJ, such annexation does not change the protections of the international humanitarian law to the Palestinians living there.
The annexation violates many human rights of Palestinians. It will restrict the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement in the West Bank. The permission of Israel will be required to travel from one side of the West Bank to the other. Additionally, the expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land violates property rights. The loss of farms affects the income source of Palestinians. It will cause further expansion of the settlement. There is also a threat of house demolitions and expulsion in communities unrecognised by Israel. The status of Palestinians in the annexed territories, whether it is permanent citizenship or not, is another concern. The control of Israel over the natural resources of the annexed territory also will affect the economy of Palestine.
In addition to the violation of human rights, the annexation also has international implications. Since it is a violation of international law, it undermines the legitimacy of international institutions and laws. So, the annexation, settlement and other forms of human rights violations pose threats to international laws and institutions. Above all, the COCID-19 pandemic worsens its humanitarian impacts. So, the international community must take urgent steps to solve the crisis.