Amnesty International launched a campaign Wednesday to press the international community to ban goods produced in Israeli West Bank settlements.
Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six Day War, the campaign also calls on states to stop their companies from operating in settlements.
“For decades, the world has stood by as Israel has destroyed Palestinians’ homes and plundered their land and natural resources for profit. While the Palestinian economy has been stunted by 50 years of abusive policies, a thriving multi-million dollar settlement enterprise has been built out of the systematic oppression of the Palestinian population,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.
Jewish settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines are viewed by most international leaders as illegal. Israel disputes this, as there was no legal sovereign there prior to its taking control, and claims a historical tie to the biblical Judea and Samaria.
“Fifty years on, merely condemning Israel’s settlement expansion is not enough. It’s time for states to take concrete international action to stop the financing of settlements which themselves flagrantly violate international law and constitute war crimes,” Shetty said.
He accused Israel of demolishing Palestinian homes, harnessing basic resources such as fertile land, water, stone quarries and minerals for the exclusive benefit of the settlements, preventing the Palestinians from moving around freely, and “locking two million people into an area just under half the size of New York City” through its blockade of Gaza.
Israel maintains a security blockade on Gaza to prevent Hamas, the Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weaponry. Hamas seized control of the Strip from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007, after Israel dismantled its settlements there and withdrew to the pre-1967 lines in 2005.
On Tuesday, an Israeli Defense Ministry committee helped push forward plans for 1,500 new housing units in the West Bank, according to the left-wing group Peace Now, which tracks settlement activity.
The plans include units for the first new official settlement in some 25 years — to be called Amichai.
Promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Amichai will house around 40 families who were evacuated by court order in February from the wildcat outpost of Amona.
West Bank construction in recent years has involved expanding existing settlements in the West Bank, with many countries warning it is gradually eating away at any chance of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.