26 April 2021 – Escalating Israeli Violations in Occupied Palestine – including East Jerusalem

Excellency,

I must urgently draw the international community’s attention to the critical facing the Palestinian people as Israel, the occupying Power, escalates its illegal policies and practices in tandem with the rising lawlessness and impunity it has cultivated among the most extreme elements of its population, particularly the settlers it has illegally transferred to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Abetted and emboldened by the government, Israeli occupying forces and mobs of extremists have intensified their systemic, violent and racist attacks and incitement against Palestinians in ongoing attempts to entrench the occupation and de facto annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in East Jerusalem. These acts of aggression have become a nightly occurrence since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, with hundreds of Palestinians injured and arrested by Israeli occupying forces.

The massive deployment of occupation forces in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, the prevention of the right to worship, including to access Al-Haram Al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and ongoing eviction campaigns against Palestinian families in the City are the latest violations to add to Israel’s long list of grave breaches of international law and Security Council resolutions. In addition to these provocative measures, Palestinians in Jerusalem are reeling from nights of organized incitement and terror by extremist groups that included violent marches through city by hundreds of Jewish extremists chanting anti-Palestinian slogans and threats, including “Death to Arabs” and “May Palestinian villages burn.”

Emboldened by the routine incitement spouted by many extremist politicians, including in the latest Israeli election campaign, youth assailants belonging to the “Lehava” Jewish supremacist group set up roadblocks to violently intercept Palestinian vehicles as Israeli forces stood idly by. Such state-sponsored incitement and violence openly contradict the defamatory remarks made by the Israeli representative against Palestinian families and their children during last week’s Security Council debate on the Palestine question. Such hateful and racist comments against an entire nation of people – a method long used by Israel to dehumanize and demean the Palestinian people it is occupying and oppressing – have no place in the Security Council or in any civilized discourse and must be condemned and rejected.

Furthermore, directly linked to this culture of impunity and supremacy fostered by the occupation, are the rampant acts of settler violence throughout Occupied Palestine, including intimidation, harassment and attacks on civilians, seizure of Palestinian homes and destruction of crops, along with the deliberate demolition of homes, military raids by the occupying army, which have intensified in recent weeks. In a statement on 14 April, UN Special Rapporteurs warned that settler violence has increased dramatically in recent months without Israeli occupation forces taking necessary steps to stem the violence and uphold international law, including the obligation to protect the occupied population.

The UN Special Rapporteurs stressed, inter alia, “We are deeply worried by the atmosphere of impunity in which these attacks are taking place. In many cases, the Israeli military has been present, or nearby, and has not taken sufficient steps to protect the Palestinians from this violence. This amounts to a discriminatory two-tier approach to military protection and policing in the West Bank.” For instance, in one incident highlighted by the Special Rapporteurs which took place in Al-Khalil (Hebron) on 13 March, a Palestinian family – parents and their eight children – were attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of them armed. The injured parents were treated at a medical facility and the children left traumatized.

As spring brings key economic and cultural importance for Palestinians to harvest, settler attacks on agricultural fields and farmlands have also soared. On 12 April, Israeli settlers used heavy machinery to raze agricultural fields belonging to Palestinian families in the village of Jaloud, near Nablus. On 19 April, settlers bulldozed farmlands belonging to the Bedouin community of Khirbet al-Hamma. This latest attack is another attempt by settlers to uproot the Palestinian residents with the aim of replacing them with illegal settler outposts. On 21 April, occupying forces once again escorted extremist Israeli settlers as they stormed the archeological site of Sebastiya, near Nablus, also damaging nearby fields and preventing Palestinian farmers from accessing lands.

Israel’s systematic policy of forced displacement through home demolitions and forced evictions also persists unabated as the occupation accelerates its colonial settlement and annexation drive absent any attempts to stop them as the international community continues to fail to uphold its responsibilities and obligations in this regard, as per international law and the relevant UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).

On 12 April, Israeli occupation forces demolished a Palestinian home in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. On the same day, occupation forces destroyed residential tents and seized electric generators in Masafer Yatta, a collection of almost 19 hamlets near Al-Khalil, which rely heavily on farming and livestock as the main sources of livelihood. On 20 April, a Palestinian family in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem was forced to self-demolish their home to avoid the heavy demolition fees punitively imposed by the occupation. On the same day, occupation authorities issued demolition orders against 13 Palestinian homes in Qabalan, near Nablus.

Palestinian homes and 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. Moreover, according to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, since 1967, Israeli occupation authorities demolished more than 26,000 Palestinian-owned homes and structures.

Palestinian children have also endured rising waves of attacks by Israeli occupation forces, which regularly resort to excessive use of lethal force against an unarmed civilian population. On 9 April, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy lost his eye after Israeli soldiers indiscriminately fired rubber-tipped steel bullets onto a crowd in Al-Khalil. In a video widely shared on news networks and social media, the boy, Izz al-Din Al-Batsh, can be seen standing in a vegetable shop with his cousin as he was struck in the eye. With a metal core surrounded by a rubber coating, the projectiles are “less lethal” than live fire, but possess the capability to kill, maim, cripple, and blind, as detailed in the tragic case of Izz al-Din, who will suffer life-long disability like so many other Palestinian children and adults wounded by the occupation army’s cruelty and recklessness.

Israel also persists with its torture and ill-treatment of the Palestinians it is holding captive in its prisons and detention centers. While this has seemingly been normalized by the occupying Power, this 54-year-old policy and practice of mass arbitrary arrests and extreme abuse of the Palestinian civilian population, particularly males and including children, must be addressed as the grave violations of international law they constitute.

Palestinians face a more than 99 percent conviction rate in Israeli military courts, which is a central mechanism designed to dehumanize the Palestinian people, criminalize their presence on their land and their legitimate struggle for right to self-determination. As of today, more than 4,400 Palestinians are being arbitrarily held in Israeli jails, including 37 women and 140 children, as well as 440 who are being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial based on “evidence” that is not accessible either to the detainees or their lawyers.

In this regard, I must bring your attention to the case of Mansour Shahateet, who was forcibly kept in solitary confinement during the majority of his unlawful 17-year sentence. Shahateet was released nearly three weeks ago and suffers from psychological and neurological diseases stemming from years of severe torture and beatings, which have prevented him from recognizing his family, not even his own mother. According to Palestinian NGO Addameer, there has never been any individual or agency held accountable for the well-documented crimes of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians at Israeli prisons and interrogation centers. Moreover, according to Amnesty International, to this day, torture is not criminalized in Israeli law, enabling the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli captivity.

Since the occupation began in 1967, Israel has held tens of thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention without charge or trial. Israel’s notorious policy of mass arbitrary detention is amongst many other illegal, inhumane, and immoral policies aimed to intimidate and repress the civilian population and entrench its colonial occupation. Human Rights Watch has noted: Israel’s regular use of administrative detention, at the least, inverts international law and turns the exception into the norm, at the cost of the fundamental right to due process.” In his first report to the General Assembly in 2017, Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk called on Israel to comply with international law and standards for detentions, underscoring that “Israel’s use of administrative detention is not in compliance with the extremely limited circumstances in which it is allowed under international humanitarian law, and deprives detainees of basic legal safeguards guaranteed by international human rights law.”

Such blatant and systematic violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, along with the repeated and documented violations of international humanitarian law, make ever more urgent the Security Council’s engagement on the Palestine question in a practical and proactive manner. Salvaging the potential for a future of peace, stability and justice depend on this. The cumulative effects of Israel’s 54-year belligerent occupation of Palestine and its decades of dispossession of Palestinians and denial of their rights, including the rights of the Palestine refugees to return and to restitution, have led to an unjust and coercive situation that the international community can no longer ignore and must not in any way assist in the maintenance of. Upholding international law and maintaining peace and security must be at the top of the Security Council’s agenda and Palestine must not be the exception. Until serious, concrete action is taken, Israel will remain unmoved, persisting with its crimes against our people with absolute impunity.

It is more urgent than ever to end the Security Council’s paralysis, which has allowed this illegal occupation to thrive rather than bringing it to an end, as repeatedly demanded by the international community in accordance with the rule of law and principles of human decency. International law and the Security Council’s mandate provide tools and mechanisms for measures to hold Israel accountable towards finally bringing an end to its occupation of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and promoting the realization of justice and peace, making them a reality, not only words in lofty statements.

It is well-known that the years and decades of inaction in this regard have not only gravely harmed the Palestinian people, but have also detrimentally impacted the very foundations of international law and the credibility of the Security Council, General Assembly and United Nations as a whole. What the world sees is that, despite clear and systematic violations of international law, Israel has not been held accountable. If anything, it has been rewarded and, increasingly emboldened by the status quo, Israel has believed it can commit evermore violations and pursue evermore criminal policies with zero cost to its international standing and relations. This obscenely unjust situation must end. The international community, including the Security Council, is not being asked to resort to extraordinary lengths to hold Israel accountable, but to simply have the will to respect and follow through on existing frameworks and rules of international law aimed at ending this historic injustice and longest belligerent occupation in modern history in line with international law and the relevant UN resolutions, most recently Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).

letter is in follow-up to our 711 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 14 April 2021 (A/ES-10/xxx-S/2021/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 this letter distributed as an official document of the 10th emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

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

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer