Israel systematically stifles the development of Palestinian communities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem while fostering the growth of Jewish settlements on those lands, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report Sunday, urging the US to slash aid to Israel because of "blatantly discriminatory" practices.
No security rationale or other legitimate reason can explain the "vast scale of differential treatment," said the 166-page report, which compared several Palestinian communities with neighboring settlements.
"Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits," said Carroll Bogert, a spokeswoman for the group.
Israeli officials were reviewing the report and had no immediate comment.
As part of interim peace deals in the mid-1990s, Palestinians were given a say in administering 38 percent of the West Bank, while Israel retained exclusive control over the rest, known as "Area C."
The report examined policies in east Jerusalem and in Area C, where about 490,000 Israeli settlers and 420,000 Palestinians live.
In Area C, Palestinians can in practice only build without restrictions on 1 percent of the land, while much of the rest is set aside for Israeli settlements, nature reserves and military zones, according to the U.N.
Israel has razed nearly 2,800 Palestinian homes, shacks and animal shelters in Area C in the past 13 years, the UN says. Israel says the structures were illegally built.
Israeli officials note that previous governments proposed two final peace deals during that period that would have turned over between 90 percent and 94 percent of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, and some Israeli territory in exchange for areas where major settlement blocs stand. The Palestinians did not accept either plan or publicly counter with an alternative.
Human Rights Watch urged Israel to enable Palestinian communities to develop without restrictions.
It also asked the US to suspend aid to Israel in an amount equivalent to what Israel spends in support of settlements, which a 2003 study estimated at $1.4 billion, the group said.
Israel receives about $2.75 billion from the US a year.
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