Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestinians: A Deep Dive Into How Israel Has Violated Humanitarian Laws And Justified Appropriation

On the 21st of May, a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine came into effect after 11 days of bloodshed that killed more than 232 Palestinians, including 65 children. 12 Israelis were killed including 2 children. The deadly violence in Gaza and Occupied East Jerusalem has been described by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, as ‘hell on earth for the children of Palestine. Amnesty International reported that Israel has displayed a shocking disregard of civilians, by carrying out airstrikes that target residential buildings, media towers, and health care centres without warning. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, 152 residential properties in Gaza have been destroyed since May 11. The UN has recorded more than 2,500 Palestinian as homeless and 38,000 as internally displaced.

a Palestinian man, who is the only living member of his family, told Amnesty International that after the Israeli missiles hit a three-story residential building  “I arrived at the house…I tried to find people, but I could not. Then the rescue team arrived to help and we eventually found my daughter, a mother of three, with her children, one of whom was a baby, under one of the cement pillars of the house; all of them were dead”. 

Entire Palestinian families have been buried beneath the rubble of their own homes, their only sanctuary amidst the cacophony of artillery bombardment. Now mourning the deaths of not just one family member but the end of entire family trees and future generations who were supposed to live long enough to witness peace and prosperity in Palestine.

What Caused The Violence?

The 11 days of bloodshed against Palestinians occurred in response to mass protests in Sheikh Jarrah in Occupied East Jerusalem against illegal appropriation and forceful eviction of Palestinian families from their homes by Israeli settler organisations. The Israeli Jerusalem District Court ordered the removal of at least 8 Palestinian families from their homes and has threatened more than a dozen with forced eviction. According to Amnesty International, forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah are carried out to make more room for Israeli settlers, therefore sustaining an Israeli majority in Jerusalem. Al Jazeera reported that in response to these protests, Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque and attacked Muslim Palestinian worshipers on the final Friday of Ramadan. Israeli security forces used skunk water, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and shock grenades to disperse worshipers.

UN and Amnesty International Response:

Israeli police claimed that they used force to ‘restore order. The UN human rights experts called on Israel to exercise full restraint in its policing and to respect the freedom of assembly, expression, and religious worship. The UN condemned Israel’s militarized response to civilian protests.

Amnesty International reported Israel had carried out brazen deadly attacks on residential homes without warning, killing hundreds of innocent families and children in the process. Israel has justified these attacks by claiming that they were only targeting Hamas military targets. However, Palestinian residents in Gaza told Amnesty International that at the time of the attacks there were no fighters or military objectives in the vicinity.  Amnesty International has concluded that this may constitute a crime against humanity. 

The UN human rights experts have emphasized that Israel has carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and their property, violating international humanitarian laws which constitute a war crime.

World-Wide Protests

Israel’s horrendous attacks and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians have caused worldwide condemnation. Demonstrations have taken place worldwide, marching in solidarity for Palestine. In Melbourne, Australia, 20,000 protesters from diverse nationalities marched from State Library to Parliament House, chanting ‘free, free Palestine’ and ‘Out, out Israel out’. Protesters unified on the steps of Parliament House to demand peace and justice for the Palestinian people.

Israel Violating International Human Rights Law

The Jerusalem District Court ordered  8 Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah to vacate their homes to make room for Israeli settler organisations. Forceful evictions have been occurring in Occupied East Jerusalem since 1972 where several settler organisations filed lawsuits against Palestinian families arguing that Occupied East Jerusalem originally belonged to the Jews. International humanitarian law deems Israel’s authority over Occupied East Jerusalem as void. In the fourth Geneva Convention  Relative To the Protection of Civilian Persons In the Time of War, article 49 highlights, ‘the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies. Article 49 also clearly states, ‘individual or mass forcible transfer of protected persons from occupied territories to the territories of the occupying power… are prohibited regardless of their motive’. The UN recognizes Occupied East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory where international law applies. Israel has been contravening the Geneva Convention, disrespecting human rights laws, and has continued to perpetuate the flames of violence by using excessive and disproportionate force on Palestinians.

Israel Justifying Forceful Evictions and Settler Occupation

Israel has claimed to justify settler-occupation and forceful illegal evictions on the grounds of two primary sources of Israeli law, the Absentee Property Law of 1950 and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. The Absentee Property Law justifies the transfer of Palestinian property to the state of Israel. Israel seeks to claim property belonging to Palestinians who were forced to flee or were deported during 1948. This Absentee Law has made it difficult for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem to claim their right over their own property and land. The Legal and Administrative Matters Law also justifies the appropriation of Palestinian homes because these homes were allegedly owned by Jews before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The UN high commissioner has stressed that Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from Occupied East Jerusalem may amount to war crimes. The high commissioner outlined that the Absentee Property and Legal Administrative Matter Law are applied in an inherently discriminatory manner based solely on the nationality or origin of the owner. Israel’s attempt to alter the status of Occupied East Jerusalem and their expropriation of land and properties from Palestinian territories is deemed to be null, void, and must be rescinded.

Israel’s strong military aggression in combination with discriminatory laws that justify illegal appropriation and forceful eviction of Palestinian’s from their homes, which are safeguarded by international law, is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel has been engaging in the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Occupied East Jerusalem. Israel’s actions need to be condemned. The OWP will continue to monitor the situation closely.