Archives for 22 January 2021

22 January 2021 – Illegal Israeli Settlement Colonization

Excellency,

I must again draw your attention to the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, due to the escalating illegal policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people.

As detailed in previous letters, Israel’s evident annexation intentions have reached new heights of violations with the Israeli Prime Minister announcing plans for further settlement construction and expansion on our occupied land. In addition to the 800 settlement units announced last week, Israel has issued tenders for 2,500 illegal units, with more than 450 to be built in settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem, constituting yet another blatant breach of international law and UN resolutions.

Such actions must be countered as a matter of obligation under international law and UN resolutions, but also because they continue to obstruct the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, an erga omnes right; to shred the Palestinian State’s contiguity; and to destroy the viability of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders as envisaged by the international consensus.

This cycle of settlement expansion and encroachment is not new to the Palestinian people, as year after year, Israel steals more of their land and forcibly displaces more Palestinian families, while disguising itself as a partner for peace. According to the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now, Israel advanced construction of over 12,000 settlement units in 2020 alone, the highest number in a single year since the group began recording statistics in 2012, construction that would illegally transfer hundreds of thousands more Israeli settlers to Occupied Palestine. How do such violations and destructive actions signal any intent for peace?

The international community must explicitly demand once again that Israel immediately cease all of its illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel must be abide by its legal obligations, including under the 4th Geneva Convention, as reaffirmed in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), or bear the consequences of its rogue behavior that has deliberately prolonged oppression and injustice and undermined the drive for peace and security.

Demolitions and forced evictions also continue apace as a central tool of this illegal occupation and its settlement colonization. UN OCHA reports that in 2020, Israeli occupation forces displaced nearly one thousand Palestinians, almost half of them children, as a result of demolition of Palestinian homes and forced evictions. As documented by OCHA, “The cumulative number of structures demolished or seized in 2020 (849) across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the number of Palestinians displaced as a result (996), are the largest since 2016. The number of donor-funded aid structures targeted in 2020 (156) is also the highest since 2016.

On 14 January, a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem had to self-demolish their home under pressure from the occupation’s demolition orders and threats. Abu Hamad, the homeowner, said that he had to demolish his home, built 10 years ago and inhabited by seven family members, and to remove the rubble to avoid the excessive costs and fines if demolished by the occupation authorities, who in a depraved system not only illegally and traumatically deprive people of their homes, but cruelly impose financial loss on them for those demolitions.

On 17 January, Israeli occupation forces also issued demolition orders to a primary school and a mosque in Masafer Yatta, south of Al-Khalil (Hebron). The school, which is funded by the European Union, expects to enroll 50 students in three marginalized Palestinian communities. On the same day, a separate demolition order was taking place in Anin, west of Jenin, where Israeli occupation forces bulldozed more than ten vendor stalls, affecting the livelihoods of many vulnerable families. On 18 January, occupation forces issued demolition orders to eight Palestinian families in the village of Duma, south of Nablus, whose homes were built to accommodate the village’s growing population.

It is widely known that Palestinian structures continue to be demolished and seized under the pretext of lacking occupation-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. According to the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, Israel has rejected nearly 99 percent of Palestinian building permit applications over the years. Whether it’s a home, school, house of worship, health center, or a donor-funded project, the occupation does not discriminate in its demolition policy as the objective is explicit: to uproot Palestinians from their lands and replaced them by fanatic Israeli settlers in ever-expanding and encroaching settlements.

The violence and harassment of those settlers against the Palestinian civilian population also persist unabated. On 17 January, settler mobs from the illegal settlements of “Eli” and “Shilo” attacked Palestinians near the village of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, damaging homes and properties. As usual, the attack occurred in full sight of Israeli soldiers who stood by as the settlers carried on with their State-backed violence, proving once again that accountability is the exception, not the rule, when it relates to the occupation.

Even in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israeli attacks and military raids have escalated. In a single night, Israeli occupation forces conducted 17 military raids across the West Bank, and arrested 41 Palestinians. Many of those arrested take part in weekly demonstrations against their lands being confiscated for the construction of illegal settlements and outposts, revealing the extent to which Israel rejects any form of civilian protest to its illegal occupation.

Further disregarding its legal obligations as an occupying Power, Israel’s exploitation of the pandemic is evident through its discriminatory vaccination campaign. Israeli and international human rights groups have criticized Israel’s vaccination campaign, pointing to the fact that hundreds of thousands of illegal settlers have clear access to the vaccine, while the millions of Palestinians living under its 53-year belligerent occupation are excluded, further exposing the occupation’s institutionalized discrimination in the West Bank and Gaza.

On 18 January, the World Health Organization office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory raised a number of public health concerns over Israel’s unequal distribution and access to vaccines. While Israel boasts about its vaccination campaign and success in acquiring millions of doses, its total disregard for international law vis-à-vis obligations must be given due and urgent attention. Israel must be demanded to respect its legal obligations. Article 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention specifically stipulates that an occupier has the duty of ensuring “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”

In this regard, we draw urgent attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoners, including children, who are being detained in occupation jails in the time of pandemic. On 16 January, Abdul Muizz Al-Jubeh, age 59, was transferred to a medical center due to complications resulting from contracting the coronavirus. On 21 January, Fo’ad Al-Shobaki, the eldest Palestinian political prisoner in occupation jails, contracted the virus after coming into contact with an Israeli prison guard. Like many Palestinian prisoners, Mr. Al-Shobaki has an intensive medical history, including prostate cancer and heart disease. Israel must heed the international community’s call and release vulnerable prisoners, particularly women, children, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions, and must release administrative detainees being held in Israeli prisons.

It is clear that the occupying Power has intensified its attacks and violations in recent weeks in preparation for yet another round of elections. Unfortunately, the current Israeli political landscape offers little to no hope for respite as officials and candidates cynically compete over who can do more harm to the Palestinian people and two-State solution. Impunity is delivered to the occupation through international inaction, resulting in Israel advancing its colonial project at the expense of Palestinian rights and deepening hardships. The cycle of violations suffered by the Palestinian people continues because Israel’s preference to maintain the status quo, or worse, has not been met with international action aimed to end the occupation and injustice.

As Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Likewise, the international community is obligated to hold Israel accountable through tangible action. The Security Council in specific bears Charter and moral duties and must implement its own resolutions to this end, including resolution 2334 (2016). Only such responsible action can help to end one of the gravest injustices of our time. The Palestinian people look to the Council, General Assembly and international community as a whole to give them hope in this new year by joining together to confront the harsh reality we face with concerted action to uphold the rule of law to protect human rights and ensure justice, the foundations of a just peace and security between Palestine and Israel.

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