Members of the UN Human Rights Committee quizzed an Israeli delegation on Monday about Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestine’s Quds Net News Agency reported.
Among the issues reviewed were “price-tag attacks,” access to water, housing demolitions, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land.
The committee members also posed questions to the Israeli delegation about the expansion of illegal settlements, including the Gva’ot project, which involved the appropriation of 400 hectares of Palestinian land in the Gush Etzion settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Regarding housing demolitions, Yuji Iwasawa, a panel expert from Japan, said the resumption of a policy of punitive demolishing houses is a concern.
“We have reports of Palestinians and Bedouin compelled to give consent to demolition in a coercive environment and as a result of [Jewish] settlers’ harassment and violence,” Quds Net quoted Iwasawa as saying.
He added: “We have information that Palestinians have been evicted from their agricultural lands, which impacts their livelihood and access to food.”
In response to the questioning about housing demolitions, the head of the International Law Department for the Israeli occupation army, Colonel Noam Neuman, said: “Since 2013, there have been an increasing number of militant actions by Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.”
“Israel’s policy of using housing demolitions for the purpose of deterrence is implemented only in exceptional circumstances,” he noted.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eviatar Manor said: “Israel places great importance on respect for human rights.” But he told the committee that Israel’s security needs often strained the balance between its protection of human rights and protection of the lives of its citizens.
Manor did not mention anything related to Israel’s latest war on Gaza, which claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including 500 children, and wounded more than 11,000 others, mostly civilians. He also ignored that Israeli settlers killed a five-year-old Palestinian child on Sunday.
Regarding the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails, the committee heavily criticised the Israeli Security Agency Shin Bet for not having an outside investigation of complaints by Palestinians that their interrogators tortured or abused them.
Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper reported that during the review, the Israeli delegation had claimed that, “a major human rights treaty was not applicable to its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza”.
However, the chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee, Nigel Rodley, replied: “No, [Israel] is not responsible for those violations that are committed by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas… But it is responsible for those violations that are outside the control of the administrating Palestinian authorities and Hamas but are within the control of the state party.”
After the review, the Israeli delegation expressed relief that the committee did not question it extensively regarding the latest Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.
The Jerusalem Post quoted the director-general of the Israeli Justice Ministry, Emi Palmor, as saying “It is an achievement that this did not happen.”