The tragedy of the Palestinians has hung like a black cloud over the Arab world for almost 65 years.

It is inconceivable that a people should be corralled like animals in their own country by a dominant, nuclear-armed neighbor, backed, through thick and thin, by a superpower.

Yet that is what Israelis have done to the Palestinians. Moreover, there has been systematic theft of Arab land in the Occupied Territories, as a way of imprisoning the luckless Palestinians still further.

A report just issued by Oxfam details the enormity of what the Israelis are doing. Oxfam’s findings show that illegal Israel settlement activity is emasculating the Palestinian economy. It states that restrictions on the use of land, water and movements effectively deprive the Palestinians of $ 1.5 billion a year.

Some half-million Jews now live in more than 100 different settlements built in contravention of international law on the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The continued expansion of settlement activity, says Oxfam, coupled with the tough restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, is destroying the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Oxfam concludes its report by pointing out that the European Union is both Israel’s largest trading partner and also the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It therefore calls on Brussels to insist that Israel stop illegal settlements and ceases its destruction of what is left of the Palestinian economy.

The Israeli reaction to Oxfam’s conclusions has been as predictable as it is sickening. Israel has accused the charity of putting “political above humanitarian” considerations. It also has the gall to warn that any attempt by aid agencies to act directly with the Palestinians will be “irresponsible and inflammatory” and would undermine a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

— Arab News, Jeddah,

Saudi Arabia, July 6

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