Palestinians have taken to the streets to demonstrate against nearly 50 years of military rule and the denial of their freedom at the hands of Israel. These protests come after the death of the peace process, the election of a right-wing Israeli government that has stated it has no intention of granting Palestinians their rights, and growing discontent with the unelected Palestinian Authority (PA).
The protests have also been fueled by repeated Israeli announcements of settlement expansion; settler attacks on Palestinian lives, property, and holy places; and the Israeli government’s decision to allow right-wing extremists who seek the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to enter the Haram al-Sharif compound while simultaneously denying Palestinians access to their holy sites.
Seeking to quell the unrest, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his government would undertake more stringent measures to suppress Palestinian protests, including the use of live rounds against demonstrators and the immediate demolition of residences belonging to Palestinians involved in violence. Palestinians are not safe, not even in their own homes. Israel is also threatening to remove Palestinians from Jerusalem, rendering them stateless.
The figures speak for themselves. By mid-October, at least 40 Palestinians and seven Israelis had been killed throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and at least 1,990 Palestinians and 67 Israelis had been injured. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Israel’s “extrajudicial killings” and “deliberate” use of live fire against Palestinians.
And while the mainstream Western media focus heavily on the loss of Israeli lives, Palestinian deaths are often treated as mere numbers and statistics. More importantly, lost in the media coverage of the violence from “both sides” is the fact that only one side is occupying the other.
In this climate, a new framework is needed that places civilians and their rights at the fore. With no end to Israel’s military rule in sight, it is time for an international protection mechanism to be created. Here’s why:
First, as the occupying party, Israel is required under international law to ensure the protection of the civilians under its rule. Instead, Israel has, during its 48-year occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, done exactly the opposite.
Two Palestinian generations have grown up entirely under Israel’s military control. By 2014, more than 800,000 Palestinians had been imprisoned by Israel, including 8,000 children under the age of 18 arrested since 2000. Currently, there are 5,621 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. And almost everyone in the Gaza Strip is imprisoned: Israel withdrew its settlers and military in 2005 but maintained its occupation and strengthened its siege after Hamas won elections in 2006; that stranglehold is now also maintained by Egypt’s military dictatorship. Israel’s siege of Gaza is visible; its many sieges against West Bank cities and East Jerusalem are less so. In fact, most Palestinians are confined to one or more towns or villages in the West Bank, and the majority cannot go to Jerusalem. Gaza is almost completely sealed off to Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem.