Archives for August 2020

6 August 2020 – Israeli Violations and Escalation of Settlement Activities

Excellency,

I write to you in follow-up to our recent communications regarding the grim situation being faced by the Palestinian people, including refugee community, in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, due to the continuing and escalating illegal policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, and its extremist military and settler forces, even in this time of global pandemic and rising cases of COVID-19 infection and the needs and instability this is causing.

As we have cautioned, most recently in our letter of 24 July, that Israel has ‘refrained’ from formally annexing parts of the West Bank on 1 July, as the Israeli Prime Minister and his cohorts have repeatedly threatened, should not distract the international community from the reality of what is being done on the ground by this illegal occupation. We reiterate the need for both vigilance and urgent, collective action to bring a halt to these crimes and to the terror being perpetrated daily against our people by the Israeli occupying forces and settlers.

As witnessed in recent days, the Israeli Prime Minister continues to push for and threaten annexation, insisting that “it’s [annexation] not off the table, the option still exists” and that the Israeli government is carrying on with its discussions with the United States to implement this illegal plan. Confiscation of Palestinian property, demolition of Palestinian homes, and other military orders and measures continue to be carried out by the occupying forces in preparation for annexation. This includes recent military orders for the demolition of homes, structures and water wells of a Palestinian village in north of West Bank, Farasin, west of Jenin, which, if carried out, would result in the dispossession and displacement of 200 people. Moreover, Israeli settler leaders and gangs continue their provocative demands for annexation and incitement against the Palestinian people, terrorizing them in their homes, places of worship, and all over their land.

Israeli settlement activities continue unabated, with the occupying Power advancing plans for the construction of 1,000 more settlement units in the illegal settlement of “Givat Hamatos” and in the so-called ‘E-1’ area, east of Occupied East Jerusalem. Moreover, the siege and relentless acts of dispossession in Silwan, Al-Issawiya and Wadi al-Joz neighborhoods of the City continue, with home demolitions and pending orders gravely impacting the lives of countless Palestinian families, including children, as Israel continues its attempts to ethnically cleanse the City. It is obvious that all such actions are being taken to consolidate Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem and further its plans to annex more Palestinian land, in grave breach of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the ICC.

We reiterate: any annexation – whether of the Jordan Valley, the ‘E-1’ area and/or the settlements, or of one or several so-called ‘settlement blocs’ – is illegal and must trigger consequences, including lawful countermeasures, i.e. sanctions, against the occupying Power. There is no other way to deter and bring a halt to such illegal actions and to reign in Israel’s impunity. There is no other way to compel compliance with international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016), and to salvage the internationally-endorsed two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders from Israel’s systematic attempts to destroy it. The Security Council and General Assembly must act and all States are required to uphold their legal obligations and responsibilities in this regard.

At the same time, absent accountability, the human cost of this illegal occupation also continues to rise. Palestinian civilians, including children, continue to be arrested, savagely interrogated, detained and imprisoned without charge. This includes the 22 July arrest of the Director of the Yabous Cultural Centre, Ms. Rania Elias, and her husband, the Director of the Jerusalem Society for Music Education, Mr. Suhail Khoury, and the raid of their home and premises in Occupied East Jerusalem and seizure of their passports, documents, computers, phones. Although they were released after interrogation, such actions attempt not only to intimidate Palestinians and mar reputations, but also to undermine efforts to preserve and sustain our cultural heritage in Occupied East Jerusalem, where dozens of Palestinian institutions and organizations have been closed by the occupying Power.

We must also draw attention to the recent detention of Mahmoud Nawajaa, the General Coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, who was arrested in an Israeli raid on his home near Ramallah on 30 July. Nawajaa was blindfolded, seized and taken away from his wife and three young children in the middle of the night and remains in captivity without charge, along with the thousands of other Palestinians being unlawfully imprisoned, who must be released by the occupying Power, which remains responsible for their safety and well-being, including in this time of pandemic.

Palestinians also continue to be killed and injured by the occupying forces and the bodies of those killed continue to be held by Israel, preventing families from honoring them with a dignified burial. This includes Ahmed Erekat, who was murdered by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint on 23 June and whose body remains in captivity along with the bodies of 63 other Palestinians slain by the occupying forces and whose families continue to grieve their loss and their inability to lay them to rest.

Palestinian freedom of movement also continues to be violated by Israel’s racist and discriminatory permit regime and by its network of illegal settlements, the wall and bypass roads, along with other arbitrary restrictions on movement, affecting access to health care, even in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, to education, to food and water, and to livelihoods. This form of violation even includes the prevention of travel of newborn babies with their mothers across borders. This illegitimate occupation further persists with its collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population in innumerable other ways, none more inhumane than the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has now entered its 14th year and continues to gravely impact every single aspect of the lives of the two million Palestinian children, women and men who live there. This is compounding the already-dire humanitarian crisis, making ever more urgent the need for support to UNRWA to enable the continuity of its lifesaving assistance to the Palestinian refugee community there, which comprises the majority of the population, along with the vital aid being provided by other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations.

Added to all this is the constant harassment, intimidation and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers across Palestinian towns and villages. This terror campaign is escalating as extremists have been emboldened by the Israeli government’s constant annexation threats and the support for annexation by the US plan. Incidents of arson, vandalism, damage to trees and theft of agricultural produce are on the rise, in addition to attacks on Palestinians civilians, including women, children and farmers. Among many incidents include those that occurred in Al-Bireh and Battir which reflect these dangerous trends and the stoking of religious tensions by the occupying Power.

On 27 July, part of a mosque in the city of Al-Bireh, located adjacent to Ramallah, was set on fire in an attack by extremist Israeli settlers. Flammable liquid was poured through a smashed window and the fire charred walls and other property inside and mosque’s walls were vandalized with graffiti which included derogatory language such as “Siege for Arabs, not for Jews” and “the Land of Israel for the people of Israel”. Days earlier, 12 cars in the nearby village of As-Sawiya were also vandalized and the words “The nation of Israel lives” was graffitied on a nearby wall along with a Star of David.

In the village of Battir, which is located south of Occupied East Jerusalem and known for its ancient agricultural terraces and which has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and on the World Heritage in Danger List in 2014, and in nearby Beit Jala as well, armed settlers are carrying out incursions, attempting to seize Palestinian land. Armed with weapons and dogs, settlers have erected tents – an act typically signifying the establishment of a so-called ‘settlement outpost’. According to the Israeli NGO “Kerem Navot”, settlers have established 37 such outposts in this way across the West Bank in just the past five years. Moreover, settlers continually harass village residents, including women and children, and have been swimming in water cisterns that provide drinking water for the town, as well as pounding on the doors of the residents of Battir and demanding they present land ownership documents. As reported by Israeli media, the extremist settler leading these incursions is on record as declaring: “I want all of Battir to go to hell… the State of Israel belongs to the Jewish people”.

The settlers clearly seek to take over this land due to its elevation overlooking the area and because its seizure would separate two Palestinian villages (Battir and al-Walajeh), while creating geographic continuity instead between the illegal settlement of Har Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim) and Jerusalem. In this way, settlers are literally and physically trying to clear a path for the colonization and annexation of this land, creating facts on the ground and risking wider confrontation, all with the protection and support of the occupying forces and all in breach of international law.

As these aggressions on their lands, homes and their very existence in their homeland persist, the Palestinian people, while having little means to repel such attacks, remain steadfast. While relying on this resilience for decades to withstand and survive this oppressive and violent occupation, their main hope lies in the power of international law to bring an end to the crimes being perpetrated against them, to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade of their land, to bring an end to this grave injustice.

On behalf of the Palestinian people and their leadership, we thus call once again upon the international community, including the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations, to uphold international law and to act now to ensure accountability and ensure the protection of the Palestinian people and their rights and land from this illegal occupation. We implore you to act now to stop colonization and annexation and to salvage the prospects for a just solution, in accordance with the international consensus based on the relevant resolutions, that fulfills the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the Palestine refugees, allowing them to finally realize the freedom, justice and peace they have been for so long unjustly and cruelly denied.

This letter is in follow-up to our 690 letters regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes the territory of the State of Palestine.  These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 24 July 2020 (A/ES-10/xxx-S/2019/xxx) constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, acts of State terrorism and systematic human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. 

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter made available to the members of the Security Council for their immediate, valuable consideration and also distributed as an official document of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer