By Huda Julie Webb-Pullman
On 24 March The Human Rights Council held a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, in a meeting at which four reports on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories were presented.
The Secretary-General’s report again confirmed continued flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the reports highlighted the issue of settlements, which, together with settler violence, were at the core of many of the human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Despite repeated calls on Israel to cease settlement activity, their construction continued with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians. Ms. Pillay also expressed deep concern at the situation in Gaza.
In the general debate that followed, speakers noted that the overall situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had not improved and therefore remained a matter of proper concern to the Human Rights Council. Despite many calls and efforts by the international community, including the Council, the grave violations and aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people continued in a culture of impunity.
Saudi Arabia said that it was deplorable that Israel had boycotted this extremely important meeting, and this showed how much disregard it had for the international community’s efforts.
Cuba said the Special Rapporteur’s report clearly set out violations of the human rights of the people of Palestine by the Government of Israel, and also demonstrated that the Israeli Government continued its aggressive policy towards the occupied Palestinian territories; its actions showed a distinct lack of respect for the Human Rights Council. Israel was applying a policy of genocide to the people of Palestine. It continued to use armed force against the civilian population, including women, children and the elderly.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said since 1967 Israel had demolished nearly 29,000 Palestinian homes, businesses and livestock. The motivation to demolish those homes was purely political and racially informed, to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether – “the quiet transfer” – or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights welcomed the emphasis in the report on apartheid and segregation and said that the Council should investigate the practices and policies of Israel aiming at apartheid and segregation and take practical measures for the implementation of the Palestinian right to self-determination.
International Commission of Jurists said 10 years after the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territories was unlawful; States and international organizations had failed to take effective measures to hold Israel accountable. Israel must dismantle the wall and provide reparation to victims.
Ms. Pillay outlined some of key concerns and recommendations and said that all the reports presented today highlighted the issue of settlements which, together with settler violence, were at the core of many of the violations of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Despite repeated calls on Israel to cease settlement activity, their construction and settler violence continued with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians.
The continued construction of settlements in Palestinian territory and the policies of dispossession, eviction and construction of the separation wall on occupied land were illegal under international law and were damaging efforts to reach peace.
Turkey said that the status quo in Palestine today was simply not sustainable. Despite outright condemnation, illegal settlement activities, which impaired the territorial integrity and contiguity of the State of Palestine, continued. These activities also involved the issue of impunity of Israeli settlers.
Palestine said that the international community should understand what was happening in Israel, for example the assassination in Ramallah of three young Palestinians after an attack had been carried out by settlers.
The situation of Palestinian prisoners was of great concern for many speakers, who noted the inhuman conditions under which they were held, especially vulnerable groups such as women and children.
The African Group expressed grave concern about the inhuman conditions under which Palestinian political prisoners were being held.
Commission of the Churches on International Affairs spoke with concern about the 20 per cent of the Palestinian population living in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel who had been held in Israeli prisons at one point in their lives. It raised the plight of children, minors, people in administrative detention and detainees who were seriously ill without access to medical care.
Bahrain stressed the violations committed against Palestinian children, saying all United Nations bodies had confirmed the legal responsibility of the occupying power concerning children and the application of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but that Palestinian children had been suffering in the detention centres of Israel.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, called for a Commission of Inquiry into the arrest and imprisonment by Israel of some 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967.
Jerusalem and Al Aqsa
Jordan said Israel continued its human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in particular Jerusalem, which was confronted with ongoing attempts to Judaize the city. Buildings had been destroyed, and monuments and religious vestiges – both Christian and Muslim – had been attacked. Israel persistently flouted all instruments and covenants related to the matter.
Morocco said the reports tabled at the meeting made it clear that violations were occurring and detailed measures were being adopted in and around Jerusalem to eradicate its religious and historical background.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the city of Beit-ul-Moqaddas (Jerusalem) was one of the holiest places respected by all Abrahamic religions. The organization rejected the new United States’ plan of replacing Jordan with international forces in Eastern Beit-ul-Moqaddas. The mandate should be given to Islamic States under the presidency of Palestine.
The High Commissioner remained deeply concerned by the situation in Gaza where violence was on the increase, and where the continuing Israeli blockade, coupled with the recent destruction of most of the tunnel network with Egypt, had led to a significant deterioration of economic and social rights in Gaza.
Brazil, speaking on behalf of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum, said that the economic and social conditions of the population of Gaza were of great concern and Israel should lift the blockade immediately.
Kuwait said that in Gaza measures for collective punishment were being taken which exacerbated the situation of the Palestinian population. These violations and practices were illegal under international humanitarian and human rights law and served as a major stumbling block to peace in the region.
Qatar condemned the persistence of the Israeli occupation, its crimes against humanity and the unjust blockade of the Gaza Strip. This was against moral and humane standards and was a violation of international law and custom. Women, children and elderly persons were dying due to lack of medicine and food products. The international community was called upon to put an end to this illegal blockade.
Sri Lanka reiterated the call on Israel to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip in the framework of Security Council resolution 1860 of 2000.
Press Emblem Campaign denounced harassment of media workers in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. There had been an unprecedented escalation of violations against journalists by the Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. Press Emblem Campaign also strongly condemned the growing number of violations against women journalists in the West Bank and Gaza.
Many countries noted that despite many calls and efforts by the international community, including the Council, the grave violations and aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people continued in a culture of impunity.
“If the persecutor was not Israel but some other State, the international community would without hesitation label its actions not only crimes against humanity but ethnic cleansing. Israel must not be further encouraged to continue its violations,” Malaysia noted.