Israeli settlement construction more than doubled in 2013, the Israeli government's own Central Bureau of Statistics revealed Monday — a development that many say exposes the land grabs and brazen injustices that underlie the ongoing U.S.-brokered "Peace Process."
According to the CBS annual report, which provides an overview of Israeli housing markets, 2,534 new settlement housing units were started in 2013, compared to 1,133 units in 2012 — an increase of 123.7 percent. Growth in West Bank settlement construction far outpaced Israel's nation-wide growth, which increased 3.4 percent in 2013.
Yet, Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center told Common Dreams, "one cannot limit understanding of settlements to numbers or data. To understand the impact of settlement expansion one has to examine the physical, psychological and environmental landscape of occupied Palestine. Since Oslo, settlement expansion has been used to further terrorize, displace and control Palestinian movement, access to natural resources, and education."
More than half a million Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem despite their illegal status under international law. The over 100 settlements that slice through the West Bank—bolstered by Israeli checkpoints, soldiers, military outposts, and Israeli-only roads—cut off Palestinians from transportation networks, villages, water supply, agricultural land, and each other.
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"Imagine being surrounded by towering homes on stolen land in the highest peaks on the richest soil," said Kiswani. "Homes filled with settler-colonists insistent on reminding you day in and day out that you are less-than, not allowed to travel on their roads and not allowed to access your own land or resources, insisting that God is a real estate agent."
The CBS findings were released just hours ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Monday meeting with President Obama and in the midst of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) conference in Washington DC.
The findings follow a damning report by Richard Falk, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, charging that Israel's "systemic" oppression of Palestinians appears to constitute apartheid.
Said Kiswani: "Meetings with warmongers like the ones currently taking place between Netanyahu, U.S. corporations and government officials in the US, in the backdrop of a growing international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is a sign of the times and of the growing struggle against an ever more exposed Apartheid Israel."