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MORNING - Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israel Has Imposed upon Palestine an Apartheid Reality in a Post-Apartheid World

Meeting Summaries

 

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; heard the High Commissioner for Human Rights present reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner on its agenda item seven on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories; and then held a general debate on the agenda item.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, said the report addressed the question as to whether Israel’s acquisitive and repressive practices over the course of its 55-year-old regime had curdled from an endless occupation into something darker, harsher and more ominous. He had concluded that the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory satisfied the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid. First, an institutionalised regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination has been established. Second, this system of alien rule had been established with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another. And third, the imposition of this system of institutionalised discrimination with the intent of permanent domination had been built upon the regular practice of inhuman(e) acts. This was apartheid. With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel had imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world.

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor at a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said that the apartheid laws approved by the Israeli Knesset, such as the Nationality Law, the Citizenship Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Planning and Building Law, in addition to the Settlement Law and dozens of other laws, constituted a discriminatory legal system. The Israeli Head of Government and most of his Ministers had declared that they were against the establishment of the State of Palestine, they rejected any political negotiations and worked to continue and consolidate the de facto rule, which constituted an apartheid regime. This was a crime against humanity as stipulated in international humanitarian law, as well in the Rome Statute and in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers said that since the occupation, Israel’s apartheid regime had been evident in its practices, such as land grabs and settlement establishment, with illegal demographic changes and strategic fragmentation of the territory. The occupying power continued to enjoy impunity. Israel had flagrantly violated its obligations under international law, depriving the Palestinian people from enjoying their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return. Israel was committing the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territory, and this apartheid regime must be dismantled through all legal means. It was the duty of the international community to bring this deplorable situation to an end. The Palestinian people had the right to an independent, free and sovereign State, established as per the 1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, then presented three reports under the Council’s agenda item seven concerning the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. She began with the fourteenth periodic report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1. This report addressed recurring violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups, as well as further violations of international human rights law by Israel, the State of Palestine and the de facto authorities in Gaza. The second report, on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan noted that the expansion of settlements persisted. The third report on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan was based on information received from Member States. As a whole, the reports described the persistence of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan, with a concerning lack of accountability.

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said it was evident that the occupying power’s human rights violations had continued, namely house demolitions and attempts to expel people from various areas. There was continuous targeting of Palestinian civilians and children. These constituted extra-judicial killings, and there were daily attacks on demonstrators, abuse at checkpoints, and denial of movement for those requiring medical treatment.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said the illegal settlement activities constituted the main source of many human rights violations: the occupying entity continued to expand settlements, confiscate lands, take natural resources, and install different populations in areas, in total contradiction of its international obligations, seeking to change the demographic make-up of the occupied Syrian Golan. Syria condemned the discriminatory practices of the Israeli occupation, and the violations of the basic rights of the people in the occupied Golan.

In the general debate under agenda item seven on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, speakers said any attempts to undermine the agenda item would further erode the reliability of the United Nations system and normalise occupation in international norms. Israel’s continued policies and practices had resulted in flagrant human rights violations and abuses, including brutalisation of children, torture, forcible transfers, and colonisation of land. Israel had no interest in achieving a just peace, and committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of apartheid. There should be an immediate lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The Human Rights Council had the ethical and legal obligation to act ethically and legally to protect the Palestinian people and address the situation as it strove to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. A fully independent Palestinian State, with the pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital, must be installed.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Morocco (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Qatar, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Namibia, China, Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Mauritania, South Africa, Bangladesh, Turkey, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tunisia, Algeria, Timor-Leste, Jordan and Iran.

Also speaking were Amnesty International, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Institute for NGO Research, Ingenieurs du monde, Norwegian Refugee Council, Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Al Meezaan Centre for Human Rights, and Palestine Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

Speaking in the general debate were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Côte d'Ivoire (on behalf of Group of African States) Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Morocco (on behalf of Group of Arab States), Qatar China, Venezuela, Cuba, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Namibia, Senegal, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Mauritania, Sudan, Mexico, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Brunei Darussalam, Iraq, Nigeria, Djibouti and Maldives.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue the general debate under agenda item seven followed by the general debate under agenda item eight on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967

Documentation

The Council has before it the report (A/HRC/49/87) of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 .

Presentation of Report

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said the past six years had been momentous with regards to developments in the occupied Palestinian territory. Alas, most of these developments had been disheartening and an affront to international human rights standards. There had been several periods of intense and destructive violence – with great loss of life and property – against the Palestinians under occupation by the Israeli military, particularly in Gaza during the Great March of Return in 2018, and the short explosive war on Gaza in May 2021. The Israeli occupation – now in its fifty-fifth year with its end nowhere in sight – had become ever more entrenched and repressive. In terms of Palestinian deaths at the hands of the Israeli military, 2021 was the deadliest year since 2014. The instances of settler violence towards Palestinians in 2021 was the highest level of recorded attacks since statistics were first assembled in 2012. And the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military has also been spiking continuously upwards. The Special Rapporteur said all must also recognise and condemn the deaths of innocent Israel civilians during this period – too much bloodshed on all sides of this occupation had been shed.

The dedicated theme of the report addressed the question as to whether Israel’s acquisitive and repressive practices over the course of its 55-year-old regime had curdled from an endless occupation into something darker, harsher and more ominous. Had this situation now transformed itself into apartheid? Applying the accepted three-part test taken from the 1973 United Nations Convention Against Apartheid, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Special Rapporteur had concluded that the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory satisfied the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid. First, an institutionalised regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination had been established. Second, this system of alien rule had been established with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another. And third, the imposition of this system of institutionalised discrimination with the intent of permanent domination had been built upon the regular practice of inhuman(e) acts. This was apartheid. With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel had imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world.

Mr. Lynk said the Israeli settlements were illegal. Annexation was illegal. The denial of Palestinian self-determination was illegal. Human rights abuses were rife. The Fourth Geneva Convention applied in full. None of the countless United Nations resolutions had been obeyed, and nothing had been imposed on Israel to bring it into compliance with the rules-based international order. International law was not meant to be an umbrella that folded up at the first hint of rain. Had the international community accompanied these resolutions with resolute accountability and consistency decades ago – in the same way that it was doing today with the invasion and occupation of Ukraine – then there would have likely been a just and durable resolution to the question of Palestine many years ago, and no one would have to be talking about apartheid today.

Statement by Country Concerned

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a country concerned.

Palestine , speaking as a country concerned, said that the report reviewed a number of daily and continuous violations by the occupying power. It also referred to the physical separation between the territories of the occupied State of Palestine; Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and briefly referred to the expropriation by the occupying power of natural resources and their use by settlers. Also mentioned were the racist laws that provided comprehensive rights and living conditions for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while imposing military rule and control on the Palestinians without any of the basic protections of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The apartheid laws approved by the Israeli Knesset, such as the Nationality Law, the Citizenship Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Planning and Building Law, in addition to the Settlement Law and dozens of other laws, constituted a discriminatory legal system.

The Israeli Head of Government and most of his Ministers had declared that they were against the establishment of the State of Palestine; they rejected any political negotiations and worked to continue and consolidate the de facto rule, which constituted an apartheid regime. This was a crime against humanity as stipulated in international humanitarian law, as well in the Rome Statute and in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Israel, with its practices, had gone beyond the classic concept of apartheid - by imposing a system of colonial settlement and complete apartheid, which required the international community to pressure the occupying power to end its occupation, dismantle the apartheid regime against the Palestinian people, and prevent the provision of military aid to Israel.

Discussion

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers said that since the occupation, Israel’s apartheid regime had been evident in its practices, such as land grabs and settlement establishment, with illegal demographic changes and strategic fragmentation of the territory. In the Gaza Strip, millions lived without access to health services. The occupying power continued to enjoy impunity. Israel had flagrantly violated its obligations under international law, depriving the Palestinian people from enjoying their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return. One of the most important examples of their policy was that since the occupation by Israel, the mass and grave expulsions, direct and secondary deportations and transfers of the population had continued, in violation of its obligations as an occupying power under international law.

Some speakers said that Israel was committing the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territory, and this apartheid regime must be dismantled through all legal means. The international community must hold Israel accountable, including through sanctions and supporting efforts to take Israel before the International Criminal Court. The continuing violations of the rights of Palestinian civilians was condemned, including structures of Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. The systematic oppression had led to the denial of the rights of millions. It was the duty of the international community to bring this deplorable situation to an end. The Palestinian people had the right to an independent, free and sovereign State, established as per the pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

All parties should implement the relevant United Nations resolutions. The violations of the rights of the Palestinian people showed Israel’s disregard for international law and international humanitarian law. Its imposition of the apartheid regime against the defenceless Palestinian people had been manifest through many policies, including home demolitions and expansion of settlements. The colonial approach not only undermined their basic rights, but imposed fragmentation of Palestinian lands and demographic change. The international community must condemn and act to stop the crime of apartheid and achieve justice for the Palestinian people in their just cause, recognising an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al Sharif as its capital. The amount of violence that Israel was using to maintain its colonisation was ever-growing. All were well aware of the long-term impacts of racism and discrimination upon a people. The international community, in particular the United Nations, must ensure the safeguarding of the rights of the Palestinian people. Those who stood on the side of an apartheid regime stood on the wrong side of history.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 , said the international community needed to develop a comprehensive list of accountability measures to apply to Israel until it complied with international law and terminated the occupation. If any peace process was to begin, it was to be based on five principles. Because of the vast asymmetry of power, an active international intervention was indispensable. Also, a rights-based approach was needed. The end goal should be the realisation of Palestinian self-determination and Israel needed to be designated as a bad faith occupier as this was not an honest policy that Israel had but rather a sustained show of defiance to preserve the fruits of the occupation. The recommendations in the report were clear.

Presentation of Reports Under Agenda Item Seven on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

Documentation

The Council has before it the report (A/HRC/49/83) of the High Commissioner on the implementation of HRC resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1 on the occupied Palestinian territory

Also before the Council is the report (A/HRC/49/84) of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan

The Council has before it the report (A/HRC/49/85) of the High Commissioner on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

Presentation of Reports

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented three reports under the Council’s agenda item seven on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. She began with the fourteenth periodic report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/HRC/49/83) pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1. This report addressed recurring violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups, as well as further violations of international human rights law by Israel, the State of Palestine and the de facto authorities in Gaza. The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory had deteriorated further, and violations of international humanitarian law had continued and increased. Israel had carried out arbitrary arrests and criminal prosecution of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders. The number of Palestinian children detained by Israel, and of administrative detainees, had also significantly increased. Disturbingly, gender-based violence, including online, remained prevalent in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and in Gaza. The report also detailed human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza.

Ms. Bachelet then presented the second report, on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/49/85 ), submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 46/26. The expansion of settlements persisted. Of particular concern was the continued advancement of settlements in and around East Jerusalem, further consolidating a ring of settlement blocs around the city. This seriously undermined the viability of a two-State solution and had severe impacts on the human rights of Palestinians. The establishment and expansion of settlements was a flagrant violation of international law. Israel had begun registration of land ownership in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinians remained at risk of forcible transfer. Alarmingly, settler violence continued to increase. The severity of attacks had also intensified. Almost total impunity persisted for these attacks. Israeli suppression of Palestinian protests against settlement activities was of grave concern.

The High Commissioner then presented the third report onhuman rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/49/84) , as requested by Human Rights Council resolution 46/24. As per usual practice, the report was based on information received from Member States. For this report, the Permanent Missions of Syria, as well as Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kenya and Kuwait had responded to the request to provide information.

In conclusion, the High Commissioner explained that the reports described the persistence of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan, with a concerning lack of accountability. She reiterated that the main driver of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory was the occupation and called for an immediate end to all human rights violations and abuses, and to all violations of international humanitarian law. A lack of accountability lay at the heart of the ongoing violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, sustaining a cycle of violence and deprivation which appeared to have no end.

Statements by Countries Concerned

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said it was evident that the occupying power’s human rights violations had continued, namely house demolitions and attempts to expel people from various areas. There was continuous targeting of Palestinian civilians and children. These constituted extra-judicial killings, and there were daily attacks on demonstrators, abuse at checkpoints, and denial of movement for those requiring medical treatment. The unjust blockade also continued, with attacks on public and private property, and theft of resources and funds allocated to the Palestinian State. The violations had cost the Palestinian economy a loss of nearly $ 70 billion. The report also referred to an entrenched, institutionalised colonial settlement policy, which was against international humanitarian law. All parties should take concrete measures to put an end to this, as, if continued, it would put an end to all Palestinian abilities to establish their own State. The suffering of Palestinian prisoners continued unabated, including women, children, and the sick. There was a need for commitment and implementation of the provisions of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. There should be respect for human rights, investigation of crimes, and prosecution of the perpetrators. Israel had been an occupation power for more than 55 years. He who wanted peace should begin with Palestine and restore the rights of the Palestinian people.

Syria , speaking as a country concerned, said the gross and systemic human rights violations committed by the Israeli authorities in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the deteriorating humanitarian conditions as a result of continuing attacks of the Israeli authorities and the blockade of the Gaza Strip, continued. The illegal settlement activities constituted the main source of many human rights violations: the occupying entity continued to expand settlements, confiscate lands, take natural resources, and install different populations in areas, in total contradiction of its international obligations, seeking to change the demographic make-up of the occupied Syrian Golan. Syria rejected the settlement plans announced last December - these coincided with the implementation of the second phase of the projects that continued to be implemented despite the protests of the inhabitants of the occupied Golan, the international community, and the environmental impacts thereof. Syria condemned the discriminatory practices of the Israeli occupation, and the violations of the basic rights of the people in the occupied Golan, including education and health, and subjecting them to discriminatory treatment in accessing water and electricity, whilst impeding the sale of the agricultural products that were the source of their livelihood. Some countries encouraged Israel to persist in its activities of aggression on Syrian territory, violating Security Council resolutions, and the agreements, constituting acts of aggression that would not have happened without this support. Syria was determined to confront these attacks and recover the entirety of the occupied Syrian Golan.

General Debate on Agenda Item Seven on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

In the general debate, speakers said any attempts to undermine the agenda item would further erode the reliability of the United Nations system and normalise occupation in international norms. Israel’s continued policies and practices had resulted in flagrant human rights violations and abuses, including brutalisation of children, torture, forcible transfers, and colonisation of land. Israel had no interest in achieving a just peace, and was committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of apartheid. There should be an immediate lifting of the blockade against the Gaza Strip. All collective punishment of the Palestinian people should cease immediately, and the international community should dismantle and eliminate the Israeli system of colonialism and apartheid, which ran counter to international law. There must be swift and full investigations into all violations of international law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the guilty should be punished to the fullest extent thereof.

The Human Rights Council had an ethical and legal obligation to act ethically and legally to protect the Palestinian people and address the situation as it should strive to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Israel must be held accountable for all its violations of international law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law in all Palestinian areas, including the occupied Syrian Golan. The occupying power should not go unpunished for its crimes and its disregard for the standards of the international community. Human rights were interconnected and indivisible in nature, and the right to self-determination was connected to the enjoyment of all other human rights.

Palestinian children in detention centres must be released, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was vital to support a solution for the Palestinian question, and the international community must work to find a solution, whilst Israel should re-join the negotiations. Israel should implement all recommendations contained within the reports and cease its attempts to create more settlements on the West Bank, which violated the Fourth Geneva Convention. Not to do so would undermine the possibilities to achieve the two-State solution and fail to promote and protect the rights of the Palestinian people.

Some speakers noted that some States were abstaining from the debate; this was a failure by those States to intervene in a grave situation of human rights violations. Palestinian villages and cities were experiencing repeated incursions by Israeli forces and settlements. Hundreds of Palestinian families were paying a price for this, as well as suffering from the siege of Gaza, where the people were living in squalid socio-economic conditions and were forced to flee their homes. The Palestinian authorities had been referred to as terrorists by the Israeli authorities, who refused to allow peaceful civil society organizations to operate. The displacement of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, and the grave and fundamental damage to civilian infrastructures were a grave violation of international humanitarian law, and they enjoyed the support of the Government of the United States.

The demolition of sites of worship was also condemned, as this was a violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and of all Muslims. It was deplorable that the occupying power had been encouraged by other States, which made it feel that it was above the law, encouraging other crimes to be committed. States should assume their ethical and moral obligation to protect the Palestinians, resolving the issue of refugees under the relevant Security Council resolutions. The Palestinian issue was of crucial importance for peace in the world, as well as justice. The ongoing blockade and the pandemic had made the socio-economic development of Palestinians ever more difficult, undermining the right to development to an ever-growing extent. The international community should continue to help Palestine to improve their economy, fight the pandemic, and improve peoples’ livelihood. Some speakers said that a fully independent Palestinian State, with the pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital, must be installed. It was time to settle the historic debt to Palestine and restore the rights of its people, including over their natural resources and their right to self-determination. A full settlement of the conflict was only possible in the context of internationally agreed-upon norms.

 

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HRC22.048E