Article 49 applies between states – ie so-called ‘High Contracting Parties’. It forbids a sovereign state from “deporting or transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. Earlier on the Article describes such transfers as “forcible transfers”. The purpose of the Article, according to the International Red Cross guidance (see www.icrc.org
, cited by the Israeli Foreign Ministry), has always been to protect civilian populations from being forcibly relocated against their will by their own country into the territory of a state which had been conquered.
The West Bank is not a ‘High Contracting State’: Firstly, the territory to which the settlers have moved is, as we explained the response to argument 2 above, not sovereign Palestinian territory, but “disputed territory” whose final status has still to be decided by agreement. The Geneva Convention applies to the territory of High Contracting States – ie recognised sovereign states. It is highly questionable whether the Fourth Geneva Convention applies even in principle to such territory.
It is forcible transfers of civilian populations to occupied territory, not voluntary settlement, which is made unlawful: Even if the Geneva Convention does apply, Article 49 was enacted to prevent an occupying power from forcibly moving part of its own population against their will to another sovereign territory. Germany had done this repeatedly before and during the Second World War, when it carried out forced population transfers of German nationals into occupied Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Article 49 was designed to render such acts illegal in the future. But the Israeli settlers move voluntarily – they have not been coerced into doing so.
The Article applies to the movement of a civilian population into genuinely alien territory, not territory from which they were criminally expelled: Article 49 does not render illegal the return of civilian populations to places from which they were criminally ousted in the first place (eg Jews re-establishing a presence in Kfar Etzion or in Hebron)
There has been no displacement of Palestinians as a result of settlements as such: It is implicit in Article 49 that the forcible transfer needs to force out parts of the previously present population, and replace them with the alien population. But Palestinians have not been forcibly displaced as a result of Jewish settlements. The Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank has soared during the 42 years that Israel has been present in the territories, as has Palestinian Arab life expectancy. There has been no replacement of the Palestinian Arabs by the Jews, nor forced expulsion.
The establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is thus not a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention. Article 49, properly read and interpreted, has no application to the Jewish settlements. It was enacted for a completely different purpose.