Statement by Ms. Nadya Rasheed, First Counsellor, before the Third Committee, Agenda item 70 (a): Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, 70TH Session of the UNGA, New York, 4 November 2015

As this Committee discusses the important issue of the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Palestinian people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continue to suffer from an increased level of all of the above.  Mr. Chair, since 1967, the occupying Power has institutionalized racism and discrimination in its most barbaric form, which is a prolonged foreign military occupation with elements of colonialism and apartheid.  The most glaring example of this has been the occupying Power’s illegal attempt to Judaize the Occupied West Bank, in particular in East Jerusalem, by transferring nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers to over 150 Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which classifies settlement building as a war crime.

Mr. Chair,

The report by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” confirmed that many of Israel’s policies related to settlements activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory amount to “de facto segregation”. This includes cases of inequality and separation between Palestinians and Israeli settlers related to the use of roads and infrastructure or access to basic services and water resources. Such separation is concretized by the implementation of a complex combination of movement restrictions consisting of the Wall, roadblocks, the obligation to use separate roads and a permit regime that only impacts the Palestinian population.  Moreover, the report notes that a legal regime of segregation is operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, enabling the establishment and the consolidation of settlements, whereby Israeli laws applied personally to Israelis in the West Bank give them preferential legal status over Palestinians.

It should be mentioned that the Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) censured Israel in connection with its general recommendation 19 (1995) concerning segregation and apartheid, as prohibited by article 3 of the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and urged Israel to take immediate measures to prohibit and eradicate policies or practices of racial segregation and apartheid, which “severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population” as it violates Palestinians’ rights to non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Israel’s persistent violation of CERD as well as the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973, which criminalizes actions taken by one group “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them,” is ample proof of Israel’s intention to continue its apartheid-like policies at the expense of an entire people, and ultimately at the expense of peace.

Mr. Chair, Israel’s de facto segregation is particularly disconcerting due to the spike in racist and xenophobic acts, manifestations and discourse, especially by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. Israeli settlers who are responsible for attacking Palestinians and their property enjoy a high degree of impunity. This occurs despite the fact that settler attacks and intimidation regularly take place during daylight hours; the identities of perpetrators are well known, or could easily be identified; there is usually video and photographic footage of the incident; and the frequent presence of Israeli occupying forces at the scene during such incidents. However, when acts of violence are committed by Palestinians against settlers, they are swiftly and effectively addressed.  Thus, another form of institutionalized discrimination is noted in addressing the issue of violence. One only needs to take a look at the statistics in this regard with over 99% of cases in the military courts end in conviction for Palestinians where as 91 percent of investigations into settler attacks against Palestinians and their property are closed without indictments.  Clearly, this has only reinforced the dangerous culture of impunity that already exists among the settlers.

The rise in settlers attacks come amidst an outburst of virulent anti-Arab racism in Israel, fueled by the direct incitement and declarations by Israeli government officials against the Palestinian people, which has been ever so apparent over the past month during Israel’s most recent aggression against Palestinian civilians in which more than 70 Palestinians have been killed. In this connection, Israeli government officials are openly calling on Israelis to take up arms and inciting Israelis  “not to hesitate, even when an incident just starts, shooting to kill is the right thing to do.” The same culture of hate and incitement has resulted in Israeli settlers committing heinous terrorist attacks such as burning families alive, babies and toddlers, while sleeping in their homes without fear of punishment.  It has emboldened Israeli occupying forces to execute Palestinians, leave them on the ground to bleed refusing them medical care, and in more than one incident allowing settlers to kick their lifeless bodies. And it has also emboldened Israeli occupying forces to declare through loud speakers in the Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem just last week “ If you throw stones, we will hit you with gas until you die. The children, the youth and the old people, all of you-we wont spare any of you.” Sadly, examples such as these are the norm and we recall the comments made by Israel’s own President in which he stated that Israel is suffering from an epidemic of violence that must be treated and stated, “It is time to honestly admit that Israeli society is sick-and it is our duty to treat this disease.”

Mr. Chair, I would be remiss if I didn’t express our grave concern that the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who constitute one-fifth of the Israeli population, continue to be targeted by a barrage of racist laws making them second and third class citizens in their own land.  Currently, there are more than 60 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures. The following are just a few examples of Israel’s racist laws against Palestinian citizens of Israel:

  • More than seventy Palestinian villages and communities in Israel, some of which pre-date the establishment of the state, are unrecognized by the government, receive no services, and are not even listed on official maps. Many other towns with a majority Palestinian population lack basic services and receive significantly less government funding than do majority-Jewish towns.
  • Government funding for Arab schools is far below that of Jewish schools. According to data, the government provides three times as much funding to Jewish students than it does to Arab students.
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel are prohibited from granting residency or citizenship status to their spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), by Israel’s 1952 Nationality Law.
  • As of 2014, Palestinian citizens of Israel hold 17 of 120 seats in Israeli Parliament even though they constitute 21% of Israel’s population

Mr. Chair, the epidemic of violence among the Israeli occupying forces, the settler population as well as some groups and individuals in Israeli society must be condemned and stopped. An important step in the right direction would be for the international community to step up its efforts and finally take the necessary steps to bring an end to all Israeli violations and pursue accountability and justice for its crimes against the Palestinian civilian population. Moreover, Israel, the occupying Power, must fulfill its obligations under international law and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions and end its occupation which began in 1967 and allow for the Palestinian people to live in freedom in their independent State of Palestine. Thank you, Mr.Chair.