Israel is working hard to silence “human rights defenders” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, limiting their work and slowly outlawing them, a senior UN official revealed in a report yesterday.
The report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, said: “The 50-year occupation has been profoundly corrosive of human rights and democratic values.”
During this time, Israel has perpetuated
an alien rule over almost five million people, against their fervent wishes, [which] inevitably requires the repression of rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the abrogation of international commitments, the imposition of deeply discriminatory practices, the hollowing out of well-accepted standards of military behaviour, the subjugation of the humanity of the Other, the denial of trends that are plainly evident, the embrace of illiberal politics and – the focus of this report – the scorning of those civil society organisations that raise the uncomfortable truths about the disfigured state of human rights under occupation.
Lynk accused Tel Aviv of humiliating the Palestinians and intensifying the crackdown on human rights activists. He presented his report to the UN Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Council during its latest session on Israel. Israeli and US diplomats boycotted the session.
“Human rights organisations and individuals have engaged in highly effective local, regional and international advocacy and litigation and acted as witnesses and ambassadors of conscience in reminding the world that the occupation is becoming ever more immutable,” Lynk’s report added.
As a result of their effectiveness, human rights defenders have been subject to a range of physical attacks, incarceration and threats to their lives and safety.
The report also criticised the Palestinian authorities for their violations, including unlawful killings and detentions. It comes after the resignation of the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Rima Khalaf, after her report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state was rejected by the international body under pressure from Israel and the US.
The US boycotted the debate on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in Geneva on Monday, claiming that the UN Human Rights Council is biased against Israel. The move came after the US administration announced in March that it would review its relationship with the Geneva-based council, in light of its strong focus on Israel, Washington’s ally.
The HRC regularly addresses many areas of tension, including Syria and North Korea. However, Israel is the only state regularly placed on a separate agenda item with numerous human rights reports.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner claimed in a statement from Washington that the discussion of the Monday session is an additional reminder of the long-standing bias of this body against Israel. “The continued existence of this item on the agenda is among the greatest threats to the council’s credibility,” he added.
Note: This item was amended on 7.14pm GMT March 24, 2017. The previous version of this page quoted Lynk as saying that Israel was the “most malignant in the world”, this was incorrect and we apologise for the error.