August 9, 2012
Palestinian group BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights, has now made available on its website their published written and oral statements to the UN Human Rights Council during its 20th Session last month.
The organisation submitted both written and oral statements attesting to the extent of the Israeli occupation and its denial of their human rights.
Their written statement argues that the policy of settling Israeli Jews on Palestinian land is 'a policy that amounts to forced population transferí
Notably, the statement reads:
"The widespread and systematic forcible internal displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli Occupying Power and the ongoing denial of Palestinian refugees right to repatriation for the purpose of acquiring land and altering the demographic composition of the territory amounts to a forcible transfer of population"
Pointing to the punitive consequences of committing such acts the statement continues the statement continues, "Forced population transfer is prohibited under international humanitarian law, a violation of customary international law, is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and may amount to a war crime pursuant to the Rome Statute."
The statement cites the methods used to commit forced population transfer, including but not limited to "home demolitions, deportation of civilians, land expropriation, evictions by settlers, in combination with several government incentives to encourage settler implantation in the OPT"
The demolition of homes by military order displaced over a thousand Palestinians in 2011, which was an 80% increase of the previous year.
The effect of the settler movement's population transfer is most pronounced in the East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. In the former case Israel has sanctioned Settler violence being used to drive Palestinians from their homes in addition to discriminatory permit policies aimed at maintaining legal ownership of land close to impossible for Palestinians living there.
The consequences of the settlement enterprise are perhaps the worst in the Jordan Valley where the Palestinian population has been dramatically reduced from 320,000 in 1967 to just 56,000 today. The Israeli government has declared most of the valley to be State land and has established settlements in the area as well as moving military brigades in to establish bases there.
BADILís statement said that the Israeli government offers rich financial incentives for settlers to move to the OPT, including but not limited to 'generous loans from the Ministry of Housing, lower prices to lease land from the Israeli Land Authority, incentives for teachers, grants from the Ministry of Industry & Trade, and tax breaks from the Ministry of Finance."
BADIL urged the UN to take further steps to protect the rights of Palestinians who are facing being uprooted from their homes. Amongst such steps are the recognition of the legal status of East Jerusalem and the illegality of Israelís annexation of it. BADIL also requested the UN set up a commission to examine whether Israelí policies of settlement expansion fall under the legal category of forceful population transfer.
In an oral testimony Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights representative Ms. Rania Madi called on the UN to frame a holistic resolution to the conflict on the basis of human rights. She stated "a sincere human rights based approach must take into consideration all Palestinians who have fallen victim to Israelís International law violations and should not base itself on the forced fragmentation of the Palestinian people."
Madi also called for the International community to pay attention to the living conditions of the Palestinians residing in camps both in the OPT and outside of it. The individuals living in camps face "high levels of unemployment, poverty and discrimination as well as inadequate health and education infrastructure" she said.
Continuing, Madi noted that "the position of Palestinian refugees is precarious and has been for 64 years" as they have been victim to the ongoing human rights violations carried out by the State of Israel "and its persistent denial of the internationally recognised right of return".
She concluded that 'In light of this only a holistic approach will be able to bring about a long overdue solution, the internationally recognised right to self-determination of the Palestinian people in conjunction with the implementation of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees in their homes and places of origin" reiterating that "it is of vital importance to recognize that forcible transfer predates 1948 and continues to this day."
The session drew fierd criticism from both the Unites States and Israel. The following day the U.S State Department issues a decidedly negative response to the session's hearings. The State Department accused the UN of pursuing a 'biased Israel-specific agendaí and announced their strict opposition to the creation of a fact-finding mission to investigate the illegal settlement enterprise stating "as reflected by our vote against this measure at the March session, the United States strongly opposed the creation of the Fact Finding Mission."
In an opaque move the Office Spokesman for the State Department reported, "Though much work remains, in particular ending the Councilís disproportionate focus on Israel, U.S. engagement since joining the Human Rights Council has made it a more effective and credible multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights."
It is unclear what they intend to do towards 'ending the Councilís disproportionate focus on Israelí but it should be clear that the US has made a point of shielding Israel from criticism at the United Nations.
The US has long blocked Security Council resolutions condemning Israelís illegal settlement activity, which is currently engulfing the West Bank, and has in fact funded the enterprise through aid money and weapons sales to the IDF who protect the settlements.
A major diplomatic and strategic ally, Israel receives more than US 3 billion dollars per year in aid from the US making it the highest recipient of US aid money out of any country.
The Fact Finding Mission announced in March of this year was met predictably with criticism from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The Ministry released a statement describing the creation of a fact finding mission as 'another surreal decision from the workshop of a Council that is instrumentalized as a tool to push for one-sided politicized moves instead of promoting human rights"
The blame was laid upon Palestinians who were said to be undermining the chances of negotiating a peaceful resolution to the conflict by asking the UN to investigate the settlements. The Foreign Ministry continued in the press release: "The Palestinians must understand that they canít have it both ways: they canít enjoy cooperation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in international fora."
Seeking assistance from UN was ridiculed as "nothing but a destructive strategy that the international community should firmly reject"
The UN Fact Finding Mission that promises to examine the extent of the settlement enterprise was set to commence in this month and have a completed report to be presented to the UN by September, however the Israeli Government has not complied in any meaningful sense and has threatened to deny access to any UN officials who are part of the team.
The Mission will not be granted access to the settlements themselves and will have to gather evidence through secondary sources, such as media and through interviews. This jeopardizes the investigation by drastically limiting its scope and potential.
The Mission will seek to continue although its capacity as of yet is uncertain.