-Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
2018 for millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza marked another year of brutal military occupation and siege, denial of civil and human rights, daily attacks by Isreali soldiers, police and settlers, home demolitions, increased poverty and deprivation, land confiscations, and high rates of incarceration.
Here are the facts from Occupied Palestine for the year that is gone, most of which did not draw attention, scrutiny or condemnation from the American media or government.
The Israeli occupation grinds on in 2019. So does resistance to it.
The Palestinian Dead & Injured
A total of 295 Palestinians were killed and more than 29,000 were injured in 2018 by Israeli forces, “the highest death toll in a single year since the Gaza conflict of 2014…,”
according to the United Nations. It is the highest number of injuries recorded since the international body started tracking casualties in 2005.
The toll of death and injuries was greatest in the context of Israel’s devastating attacks on unarmed protestors taking part in Gaza’s “Great March of Return”: 180 Palestinians killed and over 23,000 injured.
Across the occupied territories, “57 of the Palestinian fatalities and about 7,000 of the injuries were under 18 years of age.”
Poverty, Food Insecurity & Unemployment
The U.N. reported that:
“About 1.3 million people in Gaza, or 68 per cent of the population, were identified as food insecure in 2018, primarily due to poverty, up from 59 per cent in 2014, when a similar survey was conducted.
“The unemployment rate in Gaza reached an average of almost 53 per cent in the first three quarters of 2018, an all-time record, with youth unemployment at 69 percent.
“In the West Bank, 12 per cent of the Palestinians are food insecure,…while unemployment stood at an average of 18 percent.”
Demolitions & Displacements
Each month, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports on the number homes and other structures demolished by Israeli soldiers, police and bulldozers in the occupied West Bank, and on how many Palestinians were displaced or had their lives impacted.
Last December, for example, 39 Palestinian-owned structures were razed or confiscated by Israeli occupation authorities, the same as the 2018 monthly average. 56 people were made homeless and 270 others affected in some manner. Two demolitions were punitive; the rest were attributed to a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are virtually impossible to obtain if you have an Arab name.
Families that lose their homes can see their life savings drained quickly in the process, as they suffer huge fines prior to demolition and a large bill for the demolition itself. Palestinians, you see, must pay the occupier for the privilege of being rendered homeless.
Palestinian schools were also destroyed in December. On the 5th of the month, Israeli authorities dismantled two structures near Hebron, which were to be sites of education for 45 students. It is estimated that 50 West Bank schools, including 8 in occupied East Jerusalem, have been served demolition orders against all or part of their facilities.
Over the course of 2018, OCHA “documented the demolition or seizure of 460 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, a 10 per cent increase compared to 2017.” East Jerusalem saw a 25 percent increase compared to 2017.
Israel’s prisons and detention centers saw a steady stream of Palestinians in 2018, old and young, male and female. The Palestine Prisoners’ Centre says Israeli forces arrested 5,700 Palestinians – 175 were women and 980 were children (several under the age of ten; the youngest just 3 years old).
920 administrative detention orders were also issued by Israel’s military courts, permitting the government to hold these individuals for long periods without charge, access to a fair trial or even having been formally accused of a crime.
Attacks by Israeli Settlers
Israeli settlers continued to terrorize Palestinians with impunity. In 2018, OCHA recorded “265 incidents where Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property, marking a 69 per cent increase compared with 2017; as a result, one Palestinian woman was killed, and another 115 Palestinians were injured (another two Palestinian suspected perpetrators of attacks were killed by Israeli settlers). Palestinian property vandalized by settlers includes some 7,900 trees and about 540 vehicles.”