15 May marks the anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) of the Palestinian people, in which the crimes of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing were perpetrated against Palestinians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and lands. This ongoing crime undermines the very foundations of the international system established after World War II, including peace, justice, accountability and respect for human rights. The international community laid out well-established rules to maintain international peace and security and promote human rights, including the prohibition of forcible seizure of land and displacement of indigenous people and people’s right to self-determination.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Israeli forces controlled 774 Palestinian towns and villages and destroyed 531 during al-Nakba in 1948. Al-Nakba resulted in the forced displacement of 800,000 Palestinians out of 1.4 million who lived in historic Palestine in 1948. Since al-Nakba, the number of Palestinians in the world has reached 13.7 million by the end of 2020, with more than half of them (ca. 6.9 million) living in historic Palestine, including the 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. In January 2020, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) records showed that the total number of Palestinian refugees was around 6.3 million, 28.4% of whom live in 58 refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
74 years after the beginning of al-Nakba, Israeli authorities continue to seize large portions of the Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, build new illegal settlements and expand existing ones, and attack Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem. In the Gaza Strip, Israel has been enforcing a brutal illegal closure and blockade that will mark its 15th anniversary in June. All the policies and actions that have accompanied al-Nakba and that are still ongoing are blatant attempts to undermine the collective rights of Palestinians, particularly their inalienable right to self-determination.
These ongoing abuses continue unabated; on 4 May 2022, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected a petition filed by the residents of Masafer Yatta, a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills (occupied West Bank), against the plan to forcibly displace its residents. The Israeli authorities plan to turn the village into a military zone and completely close the area and expel its residents. This decision reflects the role of the Israeli judiciary in providing legal cover for grave and systematic Israeli violations, even though the forcible transfer of population amounts to a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as a grave breach under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Furthermore, forced displacement denies Palestinians their right to self-determination and violates several UN General Assembly resolutions, in particular Resolution 3236, which affirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty. The effects resulting from displacement also constitute a violation of international human rights law, including the right to protection of private property, the right to life, freedom of movement and personal liberty.
Accordingly, on the 74th anniversary of al-Nakba, Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations vis-à-vis the protected Palestinian people, take all effective measures to apply UN General Assembly resolutions related to the Palestinian people, work to end Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime, activate accountability mechanisms, and provide redress to the victims affected by the crime of forced displacement and other crimes, including apartheid.
 Data issued by PCBS on 10 May 2021.