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The Occupied Palestinian Territories and Jewish Settlements

In the period that followed the Six-Day War, Israel began to build settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli leadership was motivated by the fact that the Territories were important in a military sense for defence of the country. The high ground of the Golan Heights provided a natural strongpoint to defend against any Syrian threat, while occupation of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula provided a territorial buffer against attacks from Egypt. Possession of the West Bank countered the threat posed by the armed forces of Jordan, which previously had been within a short march of Israel’s coastline. Jordan's armed forces were a threat to Israel as they potentially were able to cut the country in half and isolate important population, industrial, and strategic centres.

In addition to military considerations, the establishment of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were consistent with the Zionist ideology that all of the Palestinian lands were meant to be incorporated into Israel. Many of the settlers (also sometimes referred to as “pioneers”) felt that they were on the front lines of a holy struggle, performing a religious duty. At the same time, under Israel's “law of return” anyone in the world who can claim Jewish ancestry has the right to claim Israeli citizenship and become a settler.

To many Palestinians the establishment of Israeli settlements is an ongoing effort to remove Palestinians from the land. The settlements have been carried out with the bulldozing of Arab homes, confiscation of land, and the diversion of water away from Palestinians.

Many representatives from organizations like the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross identify human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These violations include the demolition of houses, severe restriction of movement, and failing to provide basic security for those under occupation.

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