For Palestinians, life under Israeli occupation is marked by restriction of movement, loss of property and lack access to productive means, divided families and communities, and a disproportionately violent response to the inevitable protests. Those who break curfew risk death at the end of a sniper's bullet. Access to medical care is denied without impossible-to-obtain permits. Palestinians are enclosed in small enclaves, essentially ghettoized. Unemployment is sky-high and families struggle to survive. Children who are able to finish school despite enormous odds have almost no hope for a job. Many Israelis isolate themselves from the surrounding Arab population, those who wish to extend the hand of friendship are denied access to Palestine by Israeli state policies.
The Wall, Checkpoints, Restriction of Movement
The dominating feature of Palestinian life today is a wall twice the height of the Berlin Wall, much of which the state of Israel has built inside the 1948 Armistice line, effectively annexing millions of acres of Palestinian land. To move beyond the wall, Palestinians must pass through checkpoints. Watch this short video to get a glimpse of the checkpoint experience.
After passing through an initial identification check and turnstile, persons who wish to move from, for instance, Bethlehem to Jerusalem, are herded into a warehouse and forced to line up next to another turnstile. Guards lock and release the turnstiles according to their whims, sometimes separating parents from their children and frequently causing such extensive delays that it becomes difficult for Palestinians to retain jobs. Once through the turnstile, people and their belongings pass through X-ray machines. Muslim women are frequently forced to remove their robes and young Arab boys required to lift their shirts in order to prove they are not carrying weapons. Passing through the checkpoint can take twenty minutes, or fours hours. But even when permits are in order, the Israeli guards can deny access to anyone, with or without a reason.
Hundreds of fixed and "flying" checkpoints divide the West Bank into three zones. Area A is fully controlled by Palestine, but movement in and out of these areas is controlled by Israel. In area B, Palestine has civil jurisdiction and Israel retains security control. Palestinians in area B have no police protection or civil representation, and their access to resources like roads and water is limited. Area C is under complete Israeli control. These zones create a "Swiss cheese state" where Palestinians wishing to move from one Palestinian area to another must obtain elusive permits before facing dozens of checkpoints. A journey of a few miles can take an entire day or may be impossible.
Settlements and Home Demolitions
The Israeli government offers financial incentives for foreign-born Jews to relocate to illegal settlements in the West Bank. Though politicians and diplomats call these settlements "obstacles to peace," they are quite simply illegal and their construction must be halted, or peace will never come to the region. Why are these settlements illegal? According to the UN, an occupying power cannot transplant its citizens into the occupied territory, but that is just what Israel is doing. In fact, more than half a million Israelis now live in illegal settlements in Palestine. The settlements dominate Palestinian hilltops, and the Israeli government confiscates additional Palestinian land to build bypass roads for the exclusive use of Israeli citizens.
When talking about Palestinian land, it is important to bear in mind that the land can be farmland, critical to a family's survival, but Palestinian homes and businesses are also confiscated and destroyed. Since 1967, more than 11,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the state of Israel within the West Bank and Gaza. Soldiers and settlers also raze mosques and churches, farms, and destroy wells (including by dumping sewage into them), the primary source of water for many Palestinians.
The U.S. has promoted unilateral political support of Israel, including shipments of arms and vast sums of money (Israel receives more foreign aid from the U.S. than any other nation, and is the only government to which U.S. citizens can give tax-deductible donations). Americans have financed and equipped apartheid-like policies in Palestine.
Intifadas and Suicide Bombings
There have been two Palestinian intifada's (uprisings), the first in 1987 and the second in 2002. Both were marked by intense, prolonged violence, including Palestinian suicide bombers who targeted civilians and an iron-handed Israeli response. Boys who threw stones at tanks were gunned down. The intifadas were brutally crushed and widely condemned.
Many Palestinians now embrace the principles of non-violence, and there are non-violent protests happening every Friday in the West Bank. Even these non-violent protests are met with violence, however. Palestinian protestors are frequently arrested. Israeli soldiers use sound grenades, tear gas, and razor wire to disperse peaceful protests.