This year marks 50 years of occupation – a significant period, not only for Palestinians living inside historical Palestine, but indeed first and foremost for them. It means an accumulation of 50 years of dispossession, displacement and oppression, 50 years under threat of being evicted, of losing their fields, springs, orchards and homes. 50 years without political and civil rights, without a future for themselves and their offspring. 50 years of despair and shattered hopes.
During the six days of the June 1967 war Israeli troops took control of the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai desert from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel continues to hold most of these territories and refuses to consider relinquishing them. On the contrary, even in 1967 Israel began to change the social and demographic fabric of the conquered territories and to appropriate its land and natural resources. Immediately after the war the Mughrabi neighborhood in the Old City of Jerusalem was destroyed and its inhabitants displaced to make room for a wide plaza in front of the Western Wall.
Very soon after this the first Israeli settlements were established, at first in the newly occupied eastern parts of Jerusalem, then later in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, considered by the 1947 UN partition plan to be a “corpus separatum” where people of all nations and faiths should enjoy rights, was annexed and incorporated into Israel and declared its undivided and eternal capital. The Palestinian inhabitants were granted only very limited rights and insecure residency status in their own home.
In 1993, through the Oslo Peace process, Israel and the PLO recognized each other, Palestinians were granted limited autonomy in parts of the occupied territories and the Palestinian National Authority was formed under the leadership of PLO head Yasser Arafat. A Palestinian state beside Israel seemed within reach. But instead of giving Palestinians more freedom and withdrawing gradually from the occupied territory, Israel entrenched the occupation, multiplied the number of settlers, erected checkpoints and barriers and divided the West Bank and Gaza into separate parts. Palestinians responded with attacks on Israeli civilians and military personnel.
Israeli reprisals were vicious, merciless and often disproportionate. The peace process collapsed and the occupation grew ever more oppressive. Meanwhile 50 years have passed. Generations have grown up in Palestine without knowing freedom, stability, democratic participation and economic prosperity. In this issue of Perspectives we provide a glimpse on life under occupation during these 50 years through a collection of articles, pictures, infographics, maps and a graphic novel. Issam Younis, the general director of the Gazabased Al Mezan Center for Human Rights outlines what these 50 years of prolonged occupation mean from a legal point of view and how International Law has been breached. Legal expert Dr. Susan Power, from the Ramallah-based human rights organization, Al- Haq, follows with an account on how Israel is colonizing the economic space of Palestine.
Senior diplomat Majed Bamya, founder and current head of the International Law and Treaties Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, directs his attention to current questions: Where are Palestinians headed? What kind of state do they want? How do they try to reach their goals? Political scientist Daniel Meier, member of the research team of the EUBORDERSCAPES program, writes on the dire situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Mahmoud Muna, co-owner of the famous Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem, takes a look at Palestinian culture in Jerusalem and Rula Abu Duhou, researcher and lecturer at Birzeit University in Ramallah, writes about the struggle of female Palestinian prisoners. The editor of this issue of Perspectives, Carol Khoury, will test your knowledge on 50 years of occupation with her Quiz – and no answers provided. Infographics were provided by the team of the Jordanian satirical magazine Al-Hudood. The centerfold photos depict the 1967 war and its immediate aftermath.