BY MOHAMMAD QAYUM
When homes are destroyed, construction rights are denied, and a fatwa is issued declaring a school to be illegal property, you can assume that Palestinian terrorists are at work, right? Wrong, all of these actions are currently being taken by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people.
In a recent ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that a Palestinian public school located in the Khan al-Ahmar region of the West Bank would be subject to demolition for not obtaining the proper permits from the Israeli government prior to construction. The school, known as the Itarat School, currently serves 200 students and was built with the help of Italian non-governmental organization Terra di Vento. But now, as a result of this decision, every Palestinian student that receives an education there faces the threat of having the very place they learn from, destroyed.
The Palestinians in the West Bank have faced threats such as these since the Oslo Accords — officially, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — were signed. Signed by the Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat, the Oslo Accords were supposed to pave a path towards peace and equity for the Palestinian people by dividing the disputed territory into two states: one for the Israelis, and the other for the Palestinians. The deal established a framework in which the Palestinians would receive control over a defined border that included the Gaza strip and the West Bank. The agreement split the territory into three areas: Area A territories gave Palestinians full security and civil control, Area B territories gave Palestinians and Israelis mixed control, and Area C territories allowed Israel to maintain full control. While all the areas are considered Palestinian land, provisions, such as Area C, ensure that Israel maintains control over a large portion of the territory.
At face value, this agreement appears reasonable, seeing as two of the three areas granted Palestinians a greater degree of autonomy. However, a near two-thirds majority of the West Bank, meaning 60 percent, is considered Area C. This means the majority of the territory given to Palestinians under this deal, is subject to Israeli control. This is inherently unfair, as it gives a foreign government control over a territory that belongs to another state. Imagine if circa 1776, Britain offered the United States the entirety of the thirteen colonies, but in order for the United States to develop anything on half of its new land, they had to receive permission from the British Crown. Subjugation of this form is a reality for the people of Palestine today.
In 2008, a Palestinian man by the name of Bassam Suleiman was subject to the destruction of his house as a result of it being built without a permit. The same logic used for destroying Mr. Suleiman’s home can be used today, as the laws requiring permits for development have not really changed. The Israeli government was willing to destroy Mr. Suleiman’s home through their permit system, although it is seemingly trivial to demolish Palestinian-owned buildings, has the legal backing to hold it up. While this may seem like an isolated incident, according to the Guardian, 94 percent of permit applications from Palestinians were denied between 200 and 2007. In 2014, only nine permits were granted out of 440 applications; in 2015, only seven out of 385 were granted. The year 2016 seemed to change, as 37 permits were approved in six months; unfortunately, 35 of those were not even submitted by Palestinians, instead they were submitted by Israel’s Civil Administration Subcommittee for Planning and Licensing. This was simply an effort to pave the way for an expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement. In addition to this, the Israeli government continues to approve the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.
The Israeli government has claimed that the occupied territory and settlements will only be temporary establishments. However, this claim was rejected in 2004 by the International Court of Justice which noted that the walls built by Israel to “protect its borders” were designed to include a majority of Israeli settlers within Area C. Moreover, the court rejected Israel’s claim that the territories are disputed rather than occupied. Even though Palestinians were promised a land, the provisions in Oslo have allowed for Israel, a foreign power, to continually exert control over Palestinian territories.
For the sake of peace between Israel and Palestine, a two-state solution, in which both groups can exercise full sovereignty within their own land, is necessary. However, any deal that does not provide an equal opportunity for both states to control their own territory is inherently inequitable. Throughout history, states have existed by might; might which has allowed them to defend their territory. Today, Israel maintains the might and power to continue to defend their borders and exist regardless of outside threats. However, in a modern society, where most states are widely defined and established, Israel rightly understands that openly ridding the land of Palestinians is unacceptable. This is why, if Israel wants a nation-state for the Jewish people, they must pursue a deal that establishes an equal state for the Palestinian people. A deal cannot and should not be reached unless the Palestinian side receives the justice it deserves.