Immigration to Israeli-occupied territories hit a 10-year high in 2014

Palestinians holding the Palestinian flag during a protest against the Israeli apartheid wall and illegal Zionist settlements at Bilin Village, in Ramallah, West Bank on December 26, 2014. Anadolu/Issam Rimawi

Published Friday, January 2, 2015
The number of immigrants moving to Israeli-occupied territories leapt in 2014 to its highest figure in a decade, with western Europe leading the way, the Israeli immigration ministry said Wednesday.

Immigration hit a 10-year high, with the arrival of some 26,500 new settlers, according to a joint statement with the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organization tasked with encouraging Jews to move to Israel.

This marks a significant 32 percent increase over last year’s approximately 20,000 immigrants, the statement said.

This “was a year of record-breaking aliyah,” Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Occupied Palestine.

For the first time ever, France provided the biggest number, as more than 6,600 people moved to the Israeli-occupied territories. That was nearly twice the 3,400 who arrived in 2013.

Overall, immigration from Western Europe increased 88 percent, with the arrival of some 8,640 people, compared with 4,600 a year earlier.

Some 620 arrived from Britain, compared with 520 a year earlier, and the number from Italy doubled to 340. Around 240 arrived from Belgium, a slight decrease, and the number from Germany remained stable, at approximately 120.

Immigration from former Soviet Union countries saw a 50 percent increase, with the arrival of some 11,430 settlers, compared with 7,610 in 2013.

That was largely driven by an exodus from conflict-wracked Ukraine, where the number surged 190 percent to 5,840.

More than half of all people moving in 2014 were under 35, among them 5,300 children and some 8,200 adults aged between 18-34.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations “mandate” in 1922.

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.

More than three million Jews have immigrated to Israeli-occupied territories since the occupation of Palestine in 1948 — including one million from former Soviet states since 1990 — under the Law of Return, which offers citizenship and benefits to Jews from anywhere in the world.

As a result, some 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were forcibly expelled during the 1948 occupation, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers, soaring from 189,000 in 1989, live in settlements across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

Meanwhile, Israel has systematically tried to obliterate, annex and confiscate Palestinian land and possessions as it seeks to strip the land it occupies of its Palestinian identity.

Palestinians accuse Israel of heritage theft as Israeli authorities, besides taking over Palestinian lands and properties, deliberately target sites that have historical importance and provide evidence of Palestinian heritage and culture.

Following its expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, Israel rewrote maps, changed the names of Palestinian towns and streets, and tailored their own versions of history very early on in an attempt to oppress the Palestinian narrative.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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