Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel should end settler impunity for violence

February 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) have deplored Israel’s ongoing violations against Palestinians and called for an immediate halt to Israeli disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law.

In her presentation during a panel discussion on human rights violations in the occupied Palestine territories and the Middle East, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-Wha Kang affirmed the necessity to respect human rights and international humanitarian law throughout occupied Palestine.

The UN official spoke about the continuous settler violence during the olive harvest and the destruction of Palestinian-owned olive trees. “Such attacks have a seriously detrimental impact on Palestinian livelihoods, as agriculture is a critical source of income for many communities in the West Bank,” she asserted. “It is Israel’s legal obligation to protect Palestinians from such violence and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Almost all members who attended the panel discussion criticised Israel’s human rights violations, and added that there is an urgent need to look at what Israel is doing against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They called for the lifting of the siege imposed on the territory since 2006.

The violence of Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was an issue of particular concern to India, whose delegate also warned about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on Israel to lift the blockade and facilitate the movement of people and goods. Speaking on behalf of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum, the Indian delegate affirmed that Israel’s “occupation is the main cause of human rights violations in Palestine”.

Norway described settler violence as “particularly alarming”; it must be stopped because “Israel is responsible as an occupying power to protect Palestinian civilians against forced displacements and destruction of poverty”.

The Tunisian delegate condemned all violations of the rights of the Palestinian people through the blockade, illegal settlements and land grab. Many of the Palestinians being held in Israeli jails are there because of their activism against such illegal activities, alleged the delegate, whose government is preparing to host an international conference on the issue of Palestinian prisoners. “Tunisia is concerned about the inhumane conditions in Israeli prisons and the health of the prisoners, particularly those who went on hunger strike in protest against their imprisonment and torture.”

Although there was a lot of criticism of Israel for its violations of human rights and calls to bring it to justice, there was no representative of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government present. Israel has boycotted the UNHRC since the adoption of the Goldstone Report on the war against the Gaza Strip in 2008/9. Its absence was criticised severely as it was considered to be unwilling to comply with human rights conventions and international law.

According to Cuba, the continued lack of cooperation by Israel with international legal mechanisms indicated the failure of the government in Tel Aviv to uphold and fulfil its legal obligations. Such non-participation, Egypt reminded the panel, does not absolve Israel of its obligations.

Speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Cuba said: “The international community must hold accountable the perpetrators of crimes and bring to an end Israel’s impunity and defiance of the law and grave and systematic violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Syrian Golan [Heights].” The delegate from Havana reiterated the call for the reconvening of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.