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Israel’s serious human rights abuses, in particular those committed against Palestinians, have worsened since its last Universal Periodic Review in 2018. In April 2021, Human Rights Watch concluded in a 213-page report that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians. Human Rights Watch reached this determination based on a finding of an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory), and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the OPT, including East Jerusalem.

Major Israeli, Palestinian, and other international human rights groups have also found that Israeli authorities are committing apartheid against Palestinians, as has the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other UN experts and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, among others. Indeed, Israel’s apartheid is a matter of consensus today in the global human rights movement. More and more other voices, from the former Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and ex-UN Secretary General to the governments of South Africa and Namibia and foreign ministers of Luxemburg and France, have also referenced apartheid in relation to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

This submission covers six clusters of grave human rights abuses carried out by Israeli authorities as part of their crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians: (1) illegal settlements and widespread confiscation of land from Palestinians; (2) sweeping movement restrictions against Palestinians; (3) unlawful killings and war crimes without accountability; (4) suspension of basic civil rights for millions of Palestinians and abusive detention practices; (5) forcible displacement and denial of residency rights to Palestinians; and (6) escalating attacks on human rights defenders.

Illegal Settlements and Widespread Confiscation of Land from Palestinians

In its last UPR review of Israel in 2018, a number of states recommended that Israeli authorities cease building settlements in the occupied West Bank. However, Israeli authorities have continued to methodically expand settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to facilitate the transfer of Israeli citizens into the settlements in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power’s transfer of its civilians to occupied territory. Human Rights Watch’s submission to the UPR ahead of the January 2018 review noted the presence of approximately 580,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank;[1] as of October 2022, there are about 700,000.[2]

Settlement expansion has continued unabated, despite changes in the composition of the Israeli government. According to the Israeli group Peace Now, the coalition government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid advanced plans for 7,292 housing units in settlements in the year between taking office and late June 2022, a 26 percent increase as compared to the annual average during the period of the Netanyahu governments between 2012 and 2020.[3]

To establish and expand its settlement enterprise, Israeli authorities have unlawfully confiscated much of the land in the West Bank from Palestinians. The Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Kerem Navot have found that Israeli authorities have confiscated more than 2 million dunams of land, making up more than one-third of the West Bank, including tens of thousands of dunams that they acknowledge are privately owned by Palestinians.[4]

Israeli authorities have used several different legal instruments to confiscate land, as Human Rights Watch has documented.[5] One common tactic they have used is to declare territory, including privately-owned Palestinian land, as “state land.” Peace Now estimates that the Israeli government has designated about 1.4 million dunams of land, or about a quarter of the West Bank, as state land.[6] The group has also found that more than 30 percent of the land used for settlements is acknowledged by the Israeli government as having been privately owned by Palestinians.[7] Of the more than 675,000 dunams of state land that Israeli authorities have allocated for use by third parties in the West Bank, they have earmarked more than 99 percent for use by Israeli civilians, according to government data.[8] Land grabs for settlements and the infrastructure that primarily serves settlers effectively concentrate Palestinians in the West Bank, according to B’Tselem, into “165 non-contiguous ‘territorial islands.’”[9]

Settlements lie at the hearts of Israeli authorities’ crimes of apartheid and persecution. Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that it does not extend to Palestinians living in the same territory, who are subject to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services.


  • Cease construction and expansion of settlements, dismantle existing settlements, and bring Israeli citizens inhabiting settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, back within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.
  • Accept that human rights prohibitions against discrimination, including with regard to the rights to housing, education, medical care, freedom of movement, access to water, and other rights, apply to Israel’s actions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and fully respect the human rights of Palestinians in the OPT, as well as the protections owed them as an occupied population under international humanitarian law
  • Dismantle all forms of systematic oppression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians and otherwise systematically violate Palestinian rights in order to ensure the dominance of Jewish Israelis, and end the persecution of Palestinians and afford Palestinians treatment that is at least equal to that afforded to settlers, as well as the protections owed to them as an occupied population
  • Cease providing financial incentives, including subsidies for development costs in settlements and lower tax rates, to Israeli and international businesses located in the occupied West Bank.

Sweeping Movement Restrictions Against Palestinians

Several states also during Israel’s last UPR review called on Israeli authorities to permit freedom of movement for Palestinians in the OPT and to lift the closure of Gaza. Israeli authorities, however, continue to impose sweeping restrictions on the movement of the more than 4.8 million Palestinians in the OPT that fail any reasonable test of balancing Israel’s security against the human right to freedom of movement.

Closure of Gaza

For the last 25 years, Israel has increasingly restricted the movement of Gaza residents. Since 2007, the year that Hamas seized effective political control over the Strip from the Fatah-led PA, Israel has imposed a generalized travel ban on movement in and out of the small territory with few exceptions. The Israeli army since 2007 has limited travel through the Erez Crossing, the passenger crossing from Gaza to the other part of the OPT, the West Bank, and abroad, as well as to Israel. Israel has limited passage to cases presenting what it deems “exceptional humanitarian circumstances,” meaning mainly those needing vital medical treatment outside Gaza and their companions, although authorities also grant permits each year to hundreds of Gaza residents eligible on other grounds, such as businesspeople and laborers.[10]

Israel has restricted movement even for those seeking to travel under these narrow exceptions to Israel’s closure policy.[11] More than one-third of those seeking to travel for urgent medical care outside of Gaza were not approved in a timely manner during the first half of 2022, according to OCHA.[12] The World Health Organization reported that 839 Palestinians in Gaza died between 2008 and 2021 while waiting for a response to their permit requests.[13]

Most Gaza residents do not fit within these exemptions. For the five-year period between January 2015 and December 2019, before the onset of Covid-19 restrictions, an average of about 373 Palestinians exited Gaza via Erez each day, less than 1.5 percent of the daily average of 26,000 in September 2000, before the closure, according to the Israeli rights group Gisha.[14] After tightening the closure amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the monthly averages have increased in 2022, driven by permits issued for thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to work in construction and agriculture, but remain less than 5 percent of the daily average in September 2000.[15] Most Palestinians who grew up under this closure have never exited the 40-by-9 km (25-by-7 mile) Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities have also for more than two decades sharply restricted the use by Palestinians of Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters. Authorities blocked the reopening of an airport that Palestinians once operated there, and prohibited the building of a seaport, leaving Palestinians dependent on leaving Gaza by land in order to travel abroad.[16] Egypt has contributed to the closure by restricting movement and at times fully sealing its border crossing with Gaza, Gaza’s only outlet aside from Erez to the outside world.

Israel restricts all travel between Gaza and the West Bank, despite its having recognized the two to be part of a single territorial unit,[17] even when the travel takes place via the circuitous route through Egypt and Jordan rather than through Israeli territory. The closure deprives Gaza residents of opportunities to better their lives and contributes to violations of other rights, including the right to family reunification, and the rights to access healthcare, education, and economic opportunities.[18]

Israeli authorities also sharply restrict the entry and exit of goods, which has devastated the economy in Gaza.[19] About 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.1 million residents rely on humanitarian aid, according to UNRWA.[20]

According to a Save the Children report from June 2022, four out of five of the children they interviewed in Gaza reported living with depression, grief, and fear after 15 years of closure.[21]

Israeli authorities often justify the closure on security grounds. Authorities have said in particular that they want to minimize travel between Gaza and the West Bank to prevent transferring “a human terrorist network” from Gaza to the West Bank, the latter of which has a porous border with Israel and is home to hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers.[22]

These restrictions violate the rights of Palestinians to freedom of movement and residence, in particular within the OPT, and the right to leave one own’s country, which Israel can restrict only in response to concrete, specific security threats. Israel’s policy, though, presumptively denies free movement to people in Gaza, with narrow exceptions, irrespective of any individualized assessment of the security risk a person may pose. These restrictions on the right to freedom of movement do not meet the requirement of being strictly necessary and proportionate to achieve a lawful objective. Israel has had years and many opportunities to develop more narrowly tailored responses to security threats that minimize restrictions on rights.

Permit Regime in the West Bank

Israeli authorities have also imposed onerous restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank, it says for “substantive security reasons” given that “Palestinian residents from the region carried out… hundreds of deadly terrorist attacks.”[23] Israeli policies, however, restrict movement of all Palestinians, not just those whom authorities deem to present a security threat. The army requires Palestinian ID holders, with narrow exemptions, to apply to the Israeli army for time-limited permits to enter significant parts of the West Bank, [24] including East Jerusalem, the “seam zone” between the separation barrier and the Green Line which covers more than 184,000 dunams,[25] and areas controlled by settlements and the army, while allowing Israelis and foreigners to move freely between these areas, as well as to Israel, without permits. To obtain permits, Palestinians “face an arbitrary, entirely non-transparent bureaucratic system,” with “no way of assessing the chances that their applications will be approved or how soon,” according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.[26] “Many applications are denied without explanation, with no real avenue for appeal,” and “permits already granted are easily revoked, also without explanation,” B’Tselem adds. Those denied permits include many who have never been detained or convicted on security grounds.[27] The uncertainty discourages many Palestinians from applying for permits at all.

When it comes to travel abroad, Palestinians in the West Bank must travel via Jordan through the Israeli-controlled Allenby Crossing, unless they receive a difficult-to-secure permit to leave from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. But Israeli authorities sometimes ban them from using that crossing on unspecified security grounds.[28] Between 2015 and 2019, the Israeli rights group HaMoked filed administrative appeals against 797 Israeli-issued travel bans on Palestinians.[29]

While countries have wide latitude to restrict entry at their own borders, Israel largely restricts movement of the occupied population not only to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even when it does not take place through Israel, but also within the West Bank itself. Israeli authorities, for example, have erected nearly 600 permanent obstacles, such as checkpoints and roadblocks, within the West Bank, according to OCHA.[30] Palestinians also regularly face ad-hoc “flying” checkpoints across the West Bank—OCHA estimated that Israeli forces set up nearly 1,500 such checkpoints between April 2019 and March 2020 alone.[31] Israeli forces routinely turn away or humiliate and delay Palestinians at checkpoints without explanation, obstructing commutes to school, work, or appointments of all kinds.[32] The separation barrier, 85 percent of which falls within the West Bank rather than along the Green Line, further encumbers movement in the West Bank.[33]

The severe movement restrictions in the West Bank, in particular the permit regime and restrictions on movement within the OPT, restrict the rights of Palestinians to freedom of movement and residence.


  • End the generalized ban on travel to and from Gaza and permit the free movement of people to and from Gaza, and in particular between Gaza and the West Bank, and abroad, subject to, at most, individual screenings and physical searches for security purposes.
  • Permit Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to move freely into East Jerusalem, subject to, at most, individual screenings and physical searches for security purposes.
  • Halt construction of the Separation Barrier inside the West Bank and dismantle the segments of the barrier not built along the Green Line.


Unlawful killings and war crimes without accountability

The concluding recommendations to Israel’s 2018 UPR review called on authorities to stop using excessive force in policing operations and to ensure accountability for serious abuses. Israeli authorities, however, have continued their decades-long pattern of using excessive and vastly disproportionate force, at great cost to civilians, and failed to hold violators to account for wrongdoing.

Israeli forces stationed on the Israeli side of the fences separating Gaza and Israel responded with excessive lethal force to weekly demonstrations for Palestinian rights on the Gaza side that took place for much of 2018 and 2019. Snipers killed, according to OCHA, 214 Palestinian demonstrators, many of them more than one hundred meters away, and injured by live fire more than 8,000 more, including 156 whose limbs had to be amputated.[34] As a UN Commission of Inquiry put it, Israeli forces shot at “unarmed protesters, children and disabled persons, and at health workers and journalists performing their duties, knowing who they are.”[35] The commissioners concluded that, while demonstrations were “at times violent,” in 187 of the 189 killings that took place in 2018, protesters did not pose an imminent threat to life and Israel used “neither necessary nor proportional” force.[36] Snipers followed orders from senior officials that sanctioned using live ammunition on Palestinians who approached or attempted to cross or damage fences between Gaza and Israel regardless of whether they posed an imminent threat to life. Human Rights Watch did not investigate every case, but found that Israeli forces repeatedly fired on protesters who posed no imminent threat to life, pursuant to expansive open-fire orders from senior officials that contravene international human rights law standards.[37]

Israeli forces also continue to regularly use excessive force in policing contexts in the West Bank.[38] Israeli authorities had killed 88 Palestinians in the West Bank in 2022, including 18 children, as of September 30, according to OCHA, six-year-high.[39] In April, then Prime Minister Bennett declared that there would be “no restrictions” on Israeli forces' actions, following several attacks by Palestinians inside Israel the prior month.[40] In May, renowned Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla was shot to death during an Israeli raid in the northern West Bank. Multiple independent investigations point to Israeli forces having killed her.[41] Others killed during the review period include demonstrators, rock-throwers, suspected assailants, and bystanders, including an unarmed mother-of-six gunned down at a checkpoint.[42]

Israeli authorities have also engaged in several rounds of hostilities with Palestinian armed groups in Gaza in recent years. During the 11 days of hostilities that began on May 10, 2021, 260 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including at least 129 civilians and 66 children, according to UN figures.[43] Human Rights Watch documented during the escalation of war crimes, including Israeli strikes that killed scores of civilians - wiping out entire families - and destroyed four high-rise Gaza towers full of homes and businesses, with no evident military targets in the vicinity.[44] Most recently, three days of fighting in August 2022 resulted in the killing of 49 Palestinians, including 17 children.[45]

Despite the frequency of Gaza escalations and policing incidents over the years, Israeli authorities have failed to develop an approach to law enforcement or hostilities that comport with international human rights norms or hold perpetrators to account.

Israeli authorities have also consistently failed to credibly investigate abuses its forces carry out and to hold those responsible accountable.[46] Even in the high-profile killing of Shireen Abu Aqla, Israeli authorities, while acknowledging that an Israeli soldier likely killed her, said it was accidental and that there would be no criminal probe into the matter.[47]

Israeli authorities have also rarely held accountable Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, between 2005 and 2021, Israeli police closed 92 percent of investigations against settlers who attacked Palestinians without an indictment filed.[48]


  • Issue clear directives publicly and privately to all security forces that prohibit the use of lethal force except in situations where it is necessary to prevent an imminent threat to death or serious injury.
  • Refrain from indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians or use of excessive and disproportionate force during hostilities.  
  • Ensure adequate steps by law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians or their property.

Suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians and abusive detention practices

In year 55 of its occupation, Israeli authorities continue to deprive Palestinians in the OPT of their basic civil rights, including the rights to free assembly, association, and expression. In particular, authorities have targeted Palestinians for their anti-occupation speech, activism, and affiliations, jailing thousands, outlawing hundreds of political and non-government organizations, and shutting down dozens of media outlets.[49]

In the West Bank, the army continues to rely on draconian military orders issued in the early days of the occupation to criminalize non-violent political activity. Authorities, for example, continue to apply British Mandate-era regulations that allow them to declare unlawful groups that advocate “bringing into hatred or contempt of, or the exciting of disaffection against” local authorities and to arrest Palestinians for affiliation with such groups.[50] As of March 2020, the Israeli Defense Ministry maintained formal bans against 430 organizations, including the Palestine Liberation Organization with whom Israel signed a peace accord in 1993, its ruling Fatah party, and all the other major Palestinian political parties.[51] The army prosecuted 1,704 Palestinians in the West Bank for “membership and activity in an unlawful association” between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019, according to data it provided Human Rights Watch.[52] Israeli authorities try Palestinians in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, in military courts, which have a near 100-percent conviction rate and deprive Palestinians of basic due process.[53]

The army also regularly uses military orders permitting it to shut down unlicensed protests or to create closed military zones to suppress peaceful Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank and detain participants. One military order, for example, imposes prison terms of up to 10 years on civilians convicted by military courts for participating in a gathering of more than 10 people without a military permit on any issue “that could be construed as political” or displaying “flags or political symbols” without army approval. The Israeli army said that, in the five-year period between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019, it prosecuted 4,590 West Bank Palestinians for entering a “closed military zone,” a designation often used for protest sites, according to data Israeli authorities provided Human Rights Watch.[54]

The army has further cited the broad definition of incitement in its military laws, defined to include “praise, sympathy or support for a hostile organization” and “attempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public order,” to criminalize speech merely opposing its occupation.[55] The army acknowledged prosecuting 358 Palestinians in the West Bank for “incitement” between mid-2014 and mid-2019.[56]

These restrictions far exceed what international law permits. Israeli authorities have prosecuted journalists, human rights defenders, and others for protesting or disseminating publicly available information and opinions of legitimate interest absent a specific and imminent security threat. They have arrested Palestinians in instances where there is no call to violence or where they have equated opposition to its occupation with incitement to violence without showing that the expressive activity was meant to cause violence or was understood by others in that way, as Human Rights Watch has documented.[57]

Many states called on Israel during its 2018 UPR to end its widespread use of administrative detention, but Israeli authorities continue to hold hundreds of Palestinians in administrative detention without charge or trial based on secret evidence. As of October 1, Israeli authorities also held 798 Palestinians in administrative detention without charge or trial based on secret evidence, the highest number since 2008, according to Israeli Prison Services figures.[58] Among those held in administrative detention, as of October 10, is Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian human rights defender.[59]

While the law of occupation permits administrative detention as a temporary and exceptional measure, detaining hundreds of Palestinians, many for prolonged periods, with no end in sight far exceeds what the law authorizes.[60] Israeli authorities hold many Palestinian prisoners detained in the occupied West Bank and Gaza inside Israel, even though transferring residents from occupied territory violates international humanitarian law.[61]

Israeli authorities also routinely mistreat and torture Palestinians. The Israeli group Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) says that it receives every year “dozens of complaints… alleging severe torture employed by the ISA (Shin Bet) interrogators. Torture methods reported included painful shackling, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, threats, sexual harassment and religion-based humiliation.”[62] More than 1,300 complaints of torture, including of painful shackling, sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme temperatures, have been filed with Israel’s Justice Ministry since 2001, resulting in two criminal investigations and no indictments, according to PCATI. [63] Human Rights Watch has documented how Israeli forces physically abused Palestinian children detained in East Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied West Bank, often for stone-throwing.[64] The rights group Defense for Children International-Palestine has found mistreatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized.”[65]


  • Cease the widespread practice of holding Palestinians in administrative detention without trial or charge.
  • Treat all detainees with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity.

Forced displacement and Denial of Residency Rights to Palestinians

During its 2018 UPR review, states called on Israeli authorities to cease the demolition of homes and other policies that led to the forcible transfer and displacement of Palestinians. Israeli authorities, however, have doubled down on these policies. Between January 2018 and September 2022, Israeli authorities demolished 3,535 Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 4,353 people, according to OCHA.[66]

Most structures were demolished for lacking building permits, which authorities make nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control (Area C) and in East Jerusalem.[67] In Area C, for example, authorities approved less than 1.5 percent of applications by Palestinians to build between 2016 and 2018—21 in total—a figure 100 times smaller than the number of demolition orders it issued in the same period, according to official data.[68] These discriminatory measures effectively force Palestinians to leave their homes or to build at the risk of having their “unauthorized” structures bulldozed. Israeli authorities have also punitively demolished the homes of families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis, even though international humanitarian law prohibits such collective punishment.[69] International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from destroying property unless “absolutely necessary” for “military operations.”[70] In May, Israel’s High Court of Justice greenlighted the demolitions of the homes of more than 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, in the southern West Bank for being located in a closed firing zone for the Israeli army.[71]

Israeli authorities apply similarly discriminatory policies towards Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev region. Israeli authorities have refused to legally recognize 35 Palestinian Bedouin communities, making it impossible for their 90,000 or so residents to reside lawfully in the communities they have lived in for decades. Instead, authorities have sought to concentrate Bedouin communities in larger recognized townships in order, as expressed in governmental plans and statements by officials, to maximize the land available for Jewish communities. Israeli law considers all buildings in these unrecognized villages to be illegal, and authorities have refused to connect most to the national electricity or water grids or to provide even basic infrastructure such as paved roads or sewage systems. The communities do not appear on official maps, most have no educational facilities, and residents live under constant threat of having their homes demolished.[72] More than 10,000 Bedouin homes have been demolished in the Negev between 2013 and 2019, according to government data.[73] They have razed one unrecognized village that challenged the expropriation of its lands, al-Araqib, more than 200 times.[74]

Israeli authorities have also used their control over the population registry in the West Bank and Gaza—the list of Palestinians they consider lawful residents for purposes of issuing legal status and identity cards—to deny residency in the OPT to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, largely on the claim that they had been away for too long or when the occupation began in 1967. Israeli authorities have justified these actions by citing general security concerns, but have not conducted individual screenings or claimed that those excluded posed a threat themselves.[75]

Since 2003, Israeli authorities have also barred, with few exceptions, the granting of long-term legal status inside Israel to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who marry Israeli citizens or residents. Such a restriction, which has mostly been in place since 2003, does not exist for spouses of virtually any other nationality.[76]

Israel’s Interior Ministry has also revoked the legal status of almost 15,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1967, mostly for failing to prove a “center of life” in the city.[77] 

Israeli authorities deny the more than 700,000 Palestinians who resided in the territory that is now Israel before 1948 and who fled or were expelled during the events of 1948 and their descendants—who number more than 5.7 million today—to live in the areas they are from.[78] 


  • End discrimination in the application of planning, permit, and building laws and regulations that subject Palestinians to discriminatory permit refusals and demolition orders.
  • Provide equitable access to land, housing, and essential services for Palestinians.
  • Remove arbitrary restrictions on residency rights for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip and their families.
  • Recognize and honor the right of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in 1948 and their descendants to enter Israel and reside in the areas where they or their families once lived.

Escalating attacks on human rights defenders

During its previous UPR in 2018, a number of states recommended that Israeli authorities cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms and allow human rights defenders to carry out their work without hindrance. Israeli authorities, though, have targeted human rights defenders with increasing repression.  

Israeli authorities not only continued to block access to UN human rights experts and other mechanisms, but have refused since 2019 to issue visas for staff members of UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.[79] In November 2019, Israel expelled a Human Rights Watch official, a decision that the Supreme Court upheld, on the asserted ground that the organization’s call on businesses to stop operating in West Bank settlements constituted a boycott call and were thereby grounds for deportation under Israeli law.[80] Israeli authorities also for months prevented a Palestinian staff member of Amnesty International from traveling out of the Occupied West Bank for undisclosed “security reasons.”[81]

Palestinian human rights defenders have for years faced travel bans, army raids, and arrest, but have faced unprecedented repression in recent months.[82] In October 2021, Israeli authorities outlawed six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations by designating them as “terrorist” organizations under Israeli law and as “illegal” organizations under military law in the occupied West Bank, moves that permit closing their offices, seizing their assets, and jailing their staff and supporters.[83] In August 2022, Israeli authorities raided the offices of and issued closure orders against the groups.[84]


  • Reverse the decision to outlaw the six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations and allow them to continue their vital work.
  • Fully cooperate with UN bodies and human rights mechanisms and other international investigators, including by allowing them access to Israel and the OPT to carry out investigators, and heeding their recommendations to improve the human rights situation.

[1] Human Rights Watch, Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Israel: 29th session of the Universal Periodic Review, January 2018, June 29, 2017. 

[2] Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), “Localities (1) and Population, By Population Group, District, Sub-District and Natural Region,” (Hebrew and English), September 15, 2022; Peace Now, “Jerusalem,” (accessed October 10, 2022).

[3] Peace Now, “The government of unequivocal annexation: One year of the Bennett-Lapid Government,” June 23, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[4] B’Tselem and Kerem Navot, “This Is Ours – And This, Too: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank,” March 2021, (accessed March 23, 2021); Yotam Berger, “Israeli Settlers ‘Upgrade’ West Bank Springs to Usurp Palestinian Land,” Haaretz, May 31, 2019, (accessed May 2, 2020); “Settlements,” B’Tselem, updated January 16, 2019, (accessed June 4, 2020).

[5] Human Rights Watch, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, April 27, 2021.

[6] Peace Now, “State Land Allocation in the West Bank — For Israelis Only,” July 17, 2018, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[7] Steven Erlanger, “West Bank Sites on Private Land, Data Shows,” New York Times, March 14, 2007, (accessed May 2, 2020); Peace Now, “Breaking the Law in the West Bank, One Violation Leads to another: Israeli Settlement Building on Private Palestinian Property,” October 2006, (accessed May 2, 2020).

[8] Peace Now, “State Land Allocation in the West Bank-for Israelis Only.”

[9] B’Tselem, “Expel and Exploit, the Israeli Practice of Taking Over Rural Palestinian Land,” December 2016, (accessed May 2, 2020), p. 16.

[10] Human Rights Watch, Unwilling or Unable: Israeli Restrictions on Access to and from Gaza for Human Rights Workers, April 2, 2017,

[11] See, e.g., “Israel: Record-Low in Gaza Medical Permits,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 13, 2018,

[12] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Gaza Strip | The humanitarian impact of 15 years of the blockade - June 2022,” June 30, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[13] World Health Organization, “15 Years of Blockade and Health in Gaza,” July 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[14] Data from Gisha on file with Human Rights Watch.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Gisha, “Scale of Control,” pp. 12-14. In 2001, Israel bombed the airport that had operated briefly in Gaza and destroyed the site where construction of a seaport was to begin. (accessed September 2, 2020)

[17] The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II), September 28, 1995, art. 31.

[18] “Gaza: Israel’s ‘Open-Air Prison’ at 15,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 14, 2022,; B’Tselem and HaMoked, “So Near and Yet So Far: Implications of Israeli-Imposed Seclusion of the Gaza Strip on Palestinians’ Right to Family Life,” January 2014, (accessed September 2, 2020); Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), “Actual Strangulation and Deceptive Facilitation,” March 2016, (accessed September 2, 2020) pp. 31-33; Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “#Denied: Harassment of Palestinian Patients Applying for Exit Permits,” June 2015, (accessed September 2, 2020); Gisha, “Student Travel Between Gaza and the West Bank 101,” September 2012, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[19]  See Gisha, “A Costly Divide: Economic Repercussions of Separating Gaza and the West Bank,” February 2015, (accessed June 4, 2020).

[20] United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), “Where We Work: Gaza Strip,” (accessed October 10, 2022).

[21] Save the Children, “After 15 Years of Blockade, Four out of Five Children in Gaza Say They Are Living with Depression, Grief and Fear,” June 15, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[22] Kafarne v. Defense Minister, HCJ 495/12, State Response of August 16, 2012, para. 26 (Hebrew), (accessed May 2, 2020). Excerpts unofficially translated by Gisha are available at (accessed September 2, 2020).

[23] HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual v. The Government of Israel et al. HCJ 9961/03, January 1, 2004, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[24] Women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 55 can enter East Jerusalem and Israel, though not the “seam zone” and some other areas in the West Bank, without a permit. “HaMoked to the Military: Palestinians Over 50 Must Be Allowed to Freely Access West Bank Lands Trapped Behind the Barrier,” HaMoked, May 20, 2020, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[25] “Israel: Palestinians Cut off from Farmlands,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 5, 2012,

[26] B’Tselem, “Restrictions on Movement,” November 11, 2017, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[27]See for example, Omar Shakir, “Amnesty International Staffer Challenges Israel’s Travel Ban,” Commentary, Human Rights Watch dispatch, May 25, 2020,

[28] Ibid.

[29] Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, email to Human Rights Watch, June 3, 2020.

[30] OCHA, “Longstanding Access Restrictions Continue to Undermine the Living Conditions of West Bank Palestinians,” Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, March-May 2020, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[31] Ibid. Also see Umm Forat, “Flying Checkpoints and Traffic Jams: The Genius of the Israeli Occupation’s Architecture,” Haaretz, June 1, 2020, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[32]  B’Tselem, “Restrictions on Movement,” November 11, 2017, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[33] “Israel: Palestinians Cut off From Farmlands,” Human Rights Watch news release; International Court of Justice (ICJ), Advisory Opinion Concerning Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ICJ General List, No.131, ICJ Rep 136, July 9, 2004, (accessed October 10, 2020).

[34] “Two Years On: People Injured and Traumatized During ‘Great March of Return’ Still Struggling” April 6, 2020, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[35] “UN Commission urges Israel to review rules of engagement before Gaza protest anniversary,” UN HRC news release, March 18, 2019, (accessed September 2, 2020).

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Israel: Apparent War Crimes in Gaza,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 13, 2018,; “Israel: Gaza Killings Unlawful, Calculated,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 3, 2018,

[38] See, e.g., “Israel: Release Body of Slain Palestinian,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 14, 2020,

[39] UN OCHA, “Protection of Civilians Report | 13-26 September 2022,” September 30, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[40] “Bennett Says Tel Aviv Had Help, Vows ‘No Restrictions’ on Israeli Response,” Times of Israel, April 8, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[41] See, e.g., United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner, “Killing of Journalist in the occupied Palestinian Territory,” June 24, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[42] Tia Goldberg, “Israeli troops shoot dead unarmed Palestinian woman in West Bank amid rising tensions during Ramadan,” Associated Press, April 11, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[43] UN OCHA, “Response to the Escalation in the oPt | Situation Report No. 5 (18-24 June 2021),” June 25, 2021, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[44] “Gaza: Apparent War Crimes During May Fighting,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 27, 2021,; “Gaza: Israel’s May Airstrikes on High-Rises,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 23, 2018,

[45] UN OCHA, “Protection of Civilians Report | 2-15 August 2022,” August 19, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[46] See, e.g., B’Tselem, “Whitewash Protocol: The So-Called Investigation of Operation Protective Edge,” September 2016, (accessed June 4, 2020).

[47] Israeli Defense Forces, “Final Conclusions from the Investigation into the Shooting Incident which Resulted in the Death of Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” September 5, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[48] Yesh Din, “Law Enforcement on Israeli Civilians in the West Bank (Settler Violence): Yesh Din Figures 2005-2021,” December 2021, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[49] Human Rights Watch, Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank.

[50] The Defense (Emergency) Regulations, 1945, available at (accessed October 10, 2022).

[51] “List of Declarations and Orders of Terrorist Organizations and Unlawful Associations,” Ministry of Defense, (Hebrew) (accessed June 29, 2020).

[52] Human Rights Watch, Born Without Civil Rights.

[53] “Israel’s Other Justice System Has Rules of Its Own,” Haaretz, April 25, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[54] Human Rights Watch, Born Without Civil Rights

[55] Order regarding Security Provisions [Consolidated Version] (Judea and Samaria) (Military Order No. 1651), 5770-2009, available at (accessed October 25, 2019), adopted November 2009, entered into force May 2, 2010, Art. 251.

[56] Human Rights Watch, Born Without Civil Rights.

[57] Ibid.

[58] HaMoked, “4,623 "Security" Inmates are Held in Prisons inside Israel,” October 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[59] “Israel: Free French-Palestinian Rights Workers,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 10, 2022,

[60] Ibid.

[61] “Israel: Rules Curtail Gaza Family Visits to Prisoners,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 31, 2016,

[62] PCATI, “Torture in Israel Today,”, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[63] Ibid.

[64] “Palestine: Israeli Police Abusing Detained Children,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 11, 2016,

[65] DCIP, “Israeli Forces Burn Palestinian Child Detainee with Cigarette, Threaten to Shoot Another,” April 17, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[66] OCHA, “Breakdown of Data on Demolition and Displacement in the West Bank,” (accessed October 10, 2022).

[67] Human Rights Watch, A Threshold Crossed.

[68] Hagar Shezaf, “Israel Rejects Over 98 Percent of Palestinian Building Requests in the West Bank’s Area C,” Haaretz, January 21, 2020, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[69] B’Tselem, “House Demolitions: Demolition of houses as punishment,” (accessed October 10, 2022).

[70] Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention), adopted August 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287, entered into force October 21, 1950, art. 54.

[71] B’Tselem, “The international community must prevent the forcible transfer of Masafer Yatta communities, approved by Israel’s High court of Justice,” May 5, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022); OCHA, “Fact sheet: Masafer Yatta communities at risk of forcible transfer | June 2022,” July 6, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022). 

[72] B’Tselem, “The international community must prevent the forcible transfer of Masafer Yatta communities, approved by Israel’s High court of Justice,” May 5, 2012, (accessed October 10, 2022); OCHA, “Fact sheet: Masafer Yatta communities at risk of forcible transfer | June 2022,” July 6, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022). 

[73] Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, “On (In)Equality and Demolition of Homes and Structures in Arab Bedouin Communities in the Negev/Naqab,” July 2020, (accessed August 18, 2020), p. 14; Almog Ben Zikri, “Bedouin Home Demolitions in Israel Double in 2017,” Haaretz, March 28, 2018, (accessed May 3,2020); NCF, The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev (RCUV) and Alhuquq Center, “The Arab Bedouin indigenous people of the Negev/Naqab – A Short Background,” (accessed May 3, 2020).

[74] “Israel Demolishes Palestinian Village for the 204th Time,” Middle East Monitor, July 19, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[75] Human Rights Watch, “Forget About Him, He’s Not Here,”: Israel’s Control of Palestinian Residency in the West Bank and Gaza (New York: Human Rights Watch: 2012)

[76] Israel: Family Reunification Ruling Is Discriminatory,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 17, 2006,

[77] “Israel: Jerusalem Palestinians Stripped of Status,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 8, 2017,

[78] “Israel’s Refusal to Grant Palestinian Refugees Right to Return has Fuelled Seven Decades of Suffering,” Amnesty International, press release, May 15, 2019, (accessed May 3, 2020); UNRWA, “What We Do,” (accessed October 10, 2022).

[79] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Bachelet deplores Israel’s failure to grant visas for UN Human Rights staff in the occupied Palestinian territory,” August 30, 2022, (accessed October 10, 2022).

[80] “Israel Expels Human Rights Watch Director Today,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 25, 2019,

[81] Omar Shakir, “Amnesty International Staffer Challenges Israel’s Travel Ban.”

[82] See, e.g., Khulood Badawi, “Yet Another Military Trial in the Occupied Territories,” commentary, Human Rights Watch dispatch, July 16, 2017, 

[83] “Israel/Palestine: Designation of Palestinian Rights Groups as Terrorists,” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International news release, October 22, 2022,

[84] Omar Shakir, “Raising the Alarm: Israel’s All-Out Assault on Rights Defenders,” commentary, Human Rights Watch dispatch, August 19, 2022,

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