29 October 2020 – Israeli-U.S. Agreement and Illegal Israeli Settlements

Excellency,

Israel, the occupying Power, continues its violations and aggressions against the Palestinian people, entrenching its illegal colonial occupation, causing immense human suffering, and destroying the prospects for a just peace. With every passing day, it is trampling international law, mocking the international consensus, and dismantling the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders. Regrettably this is being done with the full support and complicity of the current United States administration.

When it comes to the Palestine question, this US administration persists with its disrespect for international law and the resolutions and authority of the UN Security Council and absolute disregard for the rights of the Palestinian people. Following the provocative declaration made by the US Secretary of State in November 2019 that the Israeli settlements established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are “not per se inconsistent with international law”, and following the issuance by the US President of his so-called “Vision for Peace”, which, inter alia, attempts to legitimize Israel’s theft and colonization of the Palestinian land, the US and Israel yesterday signed agreements extending further US recognition and support to the illegal Israeli settlement regime and ongoing annexation attempts.

The agreements signed directly violate UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and all that preceded it, which affirmed the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and called upon all States not to recognize them as legitimate and not to render any assistance to the occupying Power in their maintenance. Moreover, this constitutes yet another step undermining the viability of the two-State solution and taking us yet farther away from the potential of a just, secure and lasting peace.

While being presented as mere “scientific cooperation” agreements, these agreements are cynically intended to bolster Israeli sovereignty claims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the  Occupied Syrian Golan, by specifically extending US-Israeli cooperation to include the Israeli settlements, which had been excluded from previous such agreements. Not hiding the unlawful intentions in this regard, Israeli Minister Zeev Elkin provocatively declared yesterday that the agreements were “a big achievement for Israel’s sovereignty” and “another step towards international recognition of our rights” in the West Bank.

In this regard, we remind that Israel is not the sovereign in any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, the annexation of which is illegal, null and void, and without any legitimacy. Israel is the occupying Power and it is bound by the rules of international law, including international humanitarian law and specifically as proscribed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, and by the relevant UN resolutions, which it is obligated to respect in accordance with the Charter.

We further recall in this regard the provisions of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), by which the Council, inter alia, unequivocally:

  • Reiterated “its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard”;
  • Underlined “that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations”;
  • Called upon States “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.

These are the demands of the Security Council, not simply the Palestinian narrative, and must be respected without exception. Moreover, these demands and the relevant resolutions remain at the core of the international consensus on the fundamental requirements and parameters for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as reaffirmed yet again by one State after another at the Security Council debate held on 26 October 2020.

Here, we recall the ultimate aim of the international community’s efforts and Security Council legislation on this matter, an aim that was reaffirmed in resolution 2334 and continues to be reaffirmed in all relevant resolutions: to bring an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions.

That objective is being gravely undermined every single day by the destructive policies and measures being enacted by Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinian people, including their inalienable right to self-determination, and by support being given to this illegal occupation, which only allows it to continue expanding and entrenching itself, only further delaying the realization of a just solution and the fulfilment of Palestinian rights and freedom.

We call on the international community, including the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations, to act on their legal obligations and responsibilities to bring an end to this injustice. We call on the Security Council to uphold its Charter duties and live up to its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its resolutions, including in regards to ongoing efforts to convene an international peace conference for this purpose. We also recall the Council’s determination, as affirmed in resolution 2334, “to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement”.

In this context, we stress that creating an environment conducive to peace requires respect for the law and accountability. We call on all States not to recognize the illegitimate situation imposed by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and not to render any aid or assistance in this regard. Moreover, we appeal for lawful countermeasures to ensure accountability. Only through consequences for the violation of the law and international consensus can we ever hope to bring a halt to these crimes and salvage the prospects for peace. We recall here the Human Rights Council’s database of businesses linked to the Israeli settlements, and reiterate our call for countries to, among other lawful measures, ban the import of settlement goods illegally produced in Occupied Palestine and with the exploitation of our natural resources.

We urge vigilance in regards of the obligation to differentiate between Israel and the territories it continues to occupy. Agreements signed between States and Israel must not cover any of the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. In this context, we also expect that the quarterly report of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 refer not only to steps taken in respect of this demand, but also in its violation. This is essential for ensuring an accurate reflection of the reality we are dealing with and ensuring the accountability that has been too long missing and that is a pillar of justice, without which peace is not possible.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter distributed as an official document of the tenth 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

15 October 2020 – Israeli Settlements and Other Violations

Excellency,

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

Most letters circulated in the recent period by the Security Council mention the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting its severe and multidimensional effects. The evolving situation has brought forth several important lessons which stress the principle of collectivity and shared humanity.

Regrettably, however, this is not the case in Palestine, where Israel, the occupying Power, continues to exploit the pandemic, aggressively advancing its settlement colonization and annexation schemes, entrenching its 53-year military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. As the international community focuses its collective efforts on mitigating the dire impact of the pandemic on people, societies and economies globally, Israel has instead seized it as an opportune moment to further trample the law and further harm the Palestinian civilian population under its illegal occupation. Despite Israel’s claim to desire peace and stability, such dangerous and illegal actions prove otherwise, clearly pointing to its true desire: more Palestinian land.

Just this week, on 14 and 15 October, the Israeli government approved the construction of another 5,000 settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, primarily in areas deep inside the West Bank. Such duplicity cannot be ignored as Israel persists with its violations and further undermines the two-State solution on the pre-1967 lines, paving way for an apartheid one-State reality, while it simultaneously disguises itself as a regional partner who believes in advancing peace and stability, attempting to promote its standing in the international community based on false credentials.

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. Settlement activities constitute a flagrant violation of international law amounting to grave breaches, i.e. war crimes. Israel must be demanded to  abide by its legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as reaffirmed in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), or suffer the consequences of its rogue behavior.

To Israel, “suspending” its annexation plans obviously does not mean that it intends to abide by international law as it continues to pursue all measures aimed at the colonization and annexation of our land. Annexation has not stopped, it is happening every single day with every settlement expanded, every home demolished and every Palestinian family forcibly displaced.

While many in the international community have directly called on Israel to permanently abandon its annexation plans, the occupying Power continues to ignore these calls, proceeding apace with its illegal schemes, swallowing up more Palestinian land by the day. The lack of accountability has undoubtedly enabled and emboldened such grave breaches, which are destroying the two-State solution and constitute the main obstacle to peace.

Home demolitions and forced evictions are continue to be everyday occurrences for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. According to OCHA, Israel demolished more than 500 Palestinian buildings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the start of 2020, with a total of 134 structures demolished in in East Jerusalem alone. Disregarding international law and the sensitive urgency of the pandemic, Israel has intensified its inhumane practice of home demolitions and forced evictions, rendering hundreds more Palestinians homeless.

Israel uses the pretext of ‘construction without a permit’ to justify its illegal policies. Yet, as repeatedly reported by UNSCO, Israel, breaching all of its legal obligations as the occupying Power, makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain such permits, as the objective is to deliberately restrict Palestinian development and dispossess Palestinian families, creating a coercive environment that forces them to leave their land. Moreover, as highlighted by Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov during his last Security Council briefing on the Question of Palestine, many Palestinians are actually forced to demolish their own homes in order to avoid the heavy demolition fees imposed by the Israeli government.

The fact is that while Israeli settlers enjoy the Israeli government’s full support for the illegal expansion and construction of settlements and outposts in occupied territory that facilitates the illegal transfer of these settlers to our land, Palestinian civilians cannot construct a single room or home in their own land without obtaining the nearly-impossible permit from Israeli authorities. Moreover, not only do Israeli occupation forces take part in attacks on Palestinian civilians through home demolitions, forced evictions, military raids, and other crimes, they also protect armed and fanatic settlers in carrying out attacks against Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Aided and abetted by the occupation forces, Israeli settler violence has escalated in the recent period, including the destruction of Palestinian-property, vandalism, uprooting trees, and direct attacks against civilians.

As October marks the start of the olive harvest season in Palestine, our people face the constant threat of settler violence. In the past week, Israeli settlers perpetrated numerous attacks against Palestinians and stole olive harvest across the West Bank. In the village of al-Jabaa settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed 300 trees in two attacks. More than 1 million productive trees have been destroyed by the Israel occupation since 2000, according to a 2019 UNCTAD report. Needless to say, the majority of the complaints against such attacks are rarely investigated by Israel.

Along with the spike settler violence, Palestinian access to farmlands continues to be undermined by the Israeli military’s severe restrictions on the freedom of movement, particularly due to the Wall, military checkpoints, and randomly erected roadblocks. Occupying forces routinely block agricultural roads to obstruct the movement of farmers during the olive harvest season, impairing the livelihoods of thousands of families. Furthermore, settler violence and military restrictions equally undermine the central role of olive harvest in Palestinian culture, society and history.

Israel’s inhumane policy of administrative detention also continues to endanger Palestinian, including children and women. Incarceration of civilians without trial and without charge is a routine practice by the occupying Power that has inflicted untold suffering on  the Palestinian people. At least 350 Palestinians are being administratively detained among the nearly 5,000 being imprisoned by Israel. Governments, human rights groups, and other international organizations have called for the release of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons without being charged, tried, or convicted.

The case of Maher al-Akhras, a 49-year old Palestinian man and father of six children who has been on a hunger strike for more than 80 days since his arrest and administrative detention by Israeli occupation forces in July, is one such case requiring immediate attention. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, al-Akhras is “on the verge of death” as he protests his unlawful incarceration.

As the occupying Power, Israel is responsible for the lives and wellbeing of prisoners, whether held in Israeli prisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or in Israel, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention due to the illegality of transferring prisoners outside of occupied territories. Given the pandemic’s impact and the increase in transmission rates in the region, 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, including Mr. al-Akras, whose life is in present danger.

Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, we once again sound the alarm about the deplorable humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions there due to Israel’s 13-year blockade that has inflicted such severe deprivation, hunger and misery on its two million inhabitants. Israel regularly bans the entry of fuel shipments, using punitive measures that endanger the livelihood of millions of vulnerable people. As previously stated by many States, United Nations agencies, and international organization, Gaza’s overburdened health care system cannot cope with additional suspensions or reductions of power sources while facing the threat of COVID-19. In this regard, according to a WHO report, COVID-19 cases in Gaza have risen by 84 percent, compounding the hardships and fears being faced by the Palestinian people, who are prevented by the occupation of accessing international tools and capabilities to deal with the challenges and consequences posed by the pandemic.

In this context, we must reiterate our appreciation for the assistance being extended to the Palestinian people from across the globe and in spite of the challenging circumstances facing countries in this era of COVID-19. This includes in particular the vital assistance being provided through UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground and direct assistance by the international donor community.

Considering Israel’s half century old occupation and incessant violations, the Palestinian people are sadly not surprised at the escalation of crimes and exploitation of this time of pandemic by the occupation. This is the direct result of lack of accountability for an occupation that has only expanded its territorial control by the day over the last 53 years. Given its complete departure from the two-State solution, Israel’s calls for “peace” should not be trusted until the international community sees a correlation in Israeli behavior with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, including resolution 2334, and the internationally-agreed parameters for a just solution, which remain at the core of the international consensus. Until then, the international community, including the Security Council, must hold the occupying Power accountable, rather than rewarding its dangerous behavior with silence and inaction, while ignoring the pain and suffering endured by the people living under its military rule.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter distributed as an official document of the tenth 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

17 September 2020 – Israeli Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

Excellency,

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

As the COVID-19 pandemic remains the most dangerous challenge affecting all of our countries and peoples and requiring an unprecedented global response, Israel insists instead on carrying on with its illegal policies and practices, compounding the vulnerability and needs of the Palestinian civilian population under its illegal occupation, compromising their ability to confront the pandemic, and further destabilizing the already-volatile situation on the ground. Violent attacks against Palestinian civilians, destruction and appropriation of property, forced evictions and displacement, expansion of illegal settlements, massive arrest campaigns, and acts of incitement and provocation, including at holy sites in Occupied East Jerusalem, continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis by the Israeli occupying forces and extremist Israeli settlers.

While some may have normalized these actions against our people and land, there is nothing normal or humane about them and all constitute grave breaches of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, and violations of Israel’s obligations under the relevant United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), which specifically calls for an end to Israel’s settlement activities and an end to all acts of violence, provocation and incitement and moreover an end to the Israeli occupation of our land since 1967, including of East Jerusalem.

While the international community focuses on mitigating the severe effects and consequences of COVID-19, the Israeli government is exploiting this period to escalate its violations to accelerate its settlement colonization and annexation schemes and further entrench its military occupation. Such unlawful and aggressive behavior is deepening the suffering of Palestinian civilians, including children, women and elderly, against the backdrop of the worries and fears caused by pandemic, and is taking us farther and farther away from the a viable and just solution to this grave injustice. Those who speak of peace and coexistence cannot continue to ignore the reality of all of these illegal actions that actually preclude the possibility of peace and coexistence and only perpetuate conflict and suffering.

The following are just some of the countless grave violations perpetrated by the occupying Power in the recent period:

On 19 August, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Damer Matar, was shot and detained by Israeli occupying forces in the occupied West Bank. The next day, 20 August, the occupying forces contacted Mohammed’s family informing them that he had been killed. While the circumstances in which the boy was killed remain unclear, his body has not been returned to his family and his remains are being held by the Israeli authorities at the Abu Kabir Forensic Medical Institute in Tel Aviv. This inhumane practice of necroviolence by which the occupying Power seizes and withholds the bodies of Palestinians it has murdered constitutes a blatantviolation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Israeli human rights organization and legal center Adalah reports that Israel is the only country in the world with such a policy of confiscating human remains. This cruel, immoral policy severely impacts the families of Palestinians killed by the occupying forces, tantamount to collective punishment as they are prohibited from burying their loved ones in accordance with cultural and religious rituals.

On 24 August, Israeli occupying forces demolished two Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem under the pretext of construction without a permit. Shortly after, occupying forces issued demolition orders to two Palestinian homes in Al-Maniya near Bethlehem under similar pretexts. As the occupying Power, and as repeatedly reported by UNSCO, Israel makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits, restricting and impeding the development and wellbeing of the occupied Palestinian population and using this as a pretext to continue the seizure and demolition of their homes. Israel’s punitive home demolitions and forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians is in flagrant violation of international law and has not ceased even in this time of pandemic, rendering hundreds more Palestinians homeless.

According to a report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 26 August, Israel has persisted with its demolition of Palestinian homes despite an announced “moratorium”. As per the report, home demolitions have risen nearly 40% above the 2019 monthly average. A total of 33 people were displaced as a result and over 350 others had their livelihoods or access to services affected. A total of 388 structures have been demolished or seized as of the end July 2020. According to a statement released by European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, a total number of 107 residential units and 46 other units (shops, storerooms etc.) were demolished in 2020 in East Jerusalem alone as of 31 August. Moreover, Israel forces Palestinians to destroy their own homes or risk hefty military demolition fees. As a result, poor and vulnerable Palestinian families resort to self-home demolitions, which highlights a new level of human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people.

In addition to punitive home demolitions, holy sites and houses of worship also remain in the crosshairs of Israel’s brutal policies and practices. An Israeli court issued a demolition order for the Qa’qa Bin Amr Mosque in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, again cynically citing lack of a construction permit. Not only is this a violation of international law, it is also a violation of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions which prohibit any attempts to alter the character, demographic composition and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and of the protections afforded by international law to religious sites.

Despite Israeli lockdown measures to halt spread of the coronavirus, violence perpetrated by extremist Israeli settlers has also continued unabated in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem. Under the watch of occupying forces, armed and fanatic settlers continue to attack defenseless Palestinian civilians across the occupied West Bank. OCHA has reported recent incidents of settler violence targeting Palestinian civilians and vandalizing Palestinian-owned property, including the uprooting or destruction of 650 trees and saplings and damage to at least 16 dunums of crops, harming the sustenance and livelihoods of Palestinian families. A 21-year-old Palestinian man also died during this period after being struck by a vehicle driven by an Israeli settler south of Tulkarem.

Such incitement, intimidation, harassment, provocation, vandalism, and other criminal acts are perpetrated daily by Israeli settlers in order to assert their illegal presence on, and control of, Palestinian land, with little to no interference from the occupying authorities. Settler violence is without doubt a crucial part of the occupation’s strategy to accelerate its displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people, paving way for Israel to exploit more land and resources, coupled with its dangerous desire and plans for annexation.

At the same time, Israel persists with all of its repressive measures against Palestinian civilians, including massive arrest campaigns and raids. On 8 September, Israeli occupation forces arrested more than 50 Palestinians in Al-Khalil area, including in Yatta, al-Dahriyeh, Bani Naim, Arroub refugee camp, Beit Ummar, Sair and Sourif. On 15 September, occupying forces arrested 15 Palestinians, including three children, in multiple raids in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya and al-Tur. On 16 September, occupying forces detained 12 Palestinians, including a mayor, from various parts of the occupied West Bank. More than 3,000 Palestinians have been arrested as of the start of 2020 until the end of August and continues to carry out violent military raids and arrest campaigns, with utter disregard for the state of emergency declared in the West Bank due to the pandemic and disregard for the well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under its full control, in grave violation of international humanitarian law.

On 13 September, the Israeli government approved the construction of nearly 1,000 new settlement units in the illegal settlement of “Efrat”, near Bethlehem. As reaffirmed by the UN Special Coordinator in briefings to the Security Council, and as detailed in our previous letters, Israeli settlement construction, expansion and annexation threats have continued unabated. Israel’s obsession with devouring Palestinian land for illegal settlement activities is in blatant violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and further shatters the contiguity of Palestinian land, destroying the viability of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders. This reality has to be confronted by those who profess commitment to the solution of two States on this land and requires immediate measures of accountability.

Simultaneously, the inhumane, illegal Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip continues to inflict misery on the Palestinian civilian population there. Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to completely shut down due to the occupying Power’s suspension of fuel shipments. The over 13-year blockade has forced Gaza’s two million inhabitants to live in deplorable humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions, with repeated military strikes and suffocating movement restrictions being Israel’s preferred policies. Coupled with an electricity crisis that provides a supply for only a few hours a day, Gaza’s overburdened health care system cannot cope with additional suspensions or reductions of power sources while facing the threat of COVID-19.

Preventing the passage of relief consignments, such as fuel and electricity, is a violation of international humanitarian law and further undermines Gaza’s medical facilities and the delivery of other vital civilian needs. As the occupying Power, Israel is obligated to ensure access to appropriate medical equipment and care to effectively address the needs of the millions of people under its control. Moreover, other punitive measures, such as closing down the fishing zone and repeated assaults, must be addressed as the occupying Power bears responsibility to adhere to international law without exception.

Faced with all of the above, we remain grateful for the assistance being extended to the Palestinian people from across the globe and in spite of the challenging circumstances facing countries in this era of COVID-19. This includes in particular the vital assistance being provided through UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground and by the international donor community.

Yet it remains the occupying Power’s obligation first and foremost to fully respect and abide by international law and international humanitarian law and to ensure the well-being of the occupied population. Regrettably, Israel has abandoned its legal obligations as an occupying Power and continues to exploit the pandemic by entrenching its 53-year brutal occupation and pursuing its evident annexation intentions. We reiterate our appeal to the international community to give this matter due and urgent attention and to act to ensure accountability.

The failure to hold Israel accountable has greatly emboldened its impunity, allowing the prolongation of this illegal, colonial foreign occupation for decades without upholding even the most basic tenets of international law. The negative, dangerous and dark trends created by the illegal occupation must be reversed through accountability to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, and to ultimately bring an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and an end to this historic injustice with a just resolution of the Palestine question in all its aspects in line with international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

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.

Signature_English

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer

17 August 2020 – Israeli Colonization and Human Rights Violations in Palestine

Excellency,

In light of recent developments, I must write once more to draw the international community’s attention to the countless crimes that continue to be perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, in Occupied Palestine. With absolute impunity, Israel carries on with its illegal colonization and annexation measures in our land and with its repression of the Palestinian people through measures of collective punishment, dispossession, displacement and other violations of their rights. That the status quo is unsustainable and highly volatile is an assessment the international community has long agreed on.

We are thus compelled to reiterate: Israel’s “suspension” of plans to annex parts of the West Bank should neither be cause for relief, nor applause, by the international community. It is perverse to reward “not committing the crime of annexation”, when respect for the law is obligatory upon all and, when in reality, the crime is being committed as we speak. This is reflected not only in the occupying Power’s ongoing rhetoric and declarations of intent, most vocally by the Israeli Prime Minister, but by the occupying Power’s actions on the ground, which indicate no sign of halting and reversing the seizure and colonization of Palestinian land, as repeatedly demanded by the international community, including the Security Council, most recently in its resolution 2334 (2016), and as obligated by international law.

What was stressed in the Security Council on 21 July in this regard bears repeating, “Refraining from de jure annexation must of course carry no reward; avoidance of criminality is normative not prize-worthy”. (Briefing by Daniel Levy)

Those who believe otherwise are mistaken and fail to understand that stopping colonization and annexation is not an end in itself. Rather it is a primary condition for bringing an end to this illegal occupation and realizing Palestinian self-determination, independence and sovereignty in their land, two central pillars for a just solution that can ultimately restore the rights of the Palestinian people, including the Palestine refugees, and serve as the cornerstone for true peace and security in our region.

This conviction has long been at the core of the international consensus on the matter, based on international law and recognition of the root of this conflict – the denial of an entire people, the Palestinian people, of their human, national and territorial rights – and what it will take to justly and sustainably resolve it. Occupation and colonization, oppression and apartheid must never be normalized.

The fact that Israel carries on with its colonization schemes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – systematically establishing facts on the ground blatantly aimed at annexing our territory, in grave breach of international law and rejection of the international consensus, based on international law and as enshrined in the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative – should be cause for concern and action, not complacency or complicity. Just a brief look at the developments of the past week since our last letter reaffirm this stark reality.

Absent accountability, Israel has forged ahead with its settlement plans in the so-called ‘E-1’ area to the east of Occupied East Jerusalem, seeking to build thousands of settlement units on the lands of al-Tur, Anata, al-Eizariya, Abu Dis and Hizma villages. If implemented, such measures would completely sever the eastern area of Jerusalem from its natural Palestinian environs; encircle and besiege these areas, where approximately 1 million Palestinians live and which constitute the only significant land reserve they have economic and urban development, with a ring of illegal settlements; and cut off the northern and southern West Bank. Such actions threaten the contiguity of the Palestinian State and the viability of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders and must be stopped.

These illegal actions have been accompanied by more demolition of Palestinian homes, displacing Palestinian families and seizing their lands. In just one example, on 10 August, occupying forces demolished three Palestinian homes and a water tank used by village residents for drinking and watering crops in the areas of Jenin and Bethlehem. In Occupied East Jerusalem, three Palestinian brothers and their families were rendered homeless after the occupation authorities demolished their three-apartment building in the Silwan neighborhood under the pretext of construction without permit. In the Sheikh Jarrah area of the City, two other Palestinian families were ordered to tear down their homes also for lack of permit, or otherwise be forced to pay high costs if the demolition was undertaken by the occupation authorities. These neighborhoods have been systematically and fiercely targeted by the occupation and so many other families are threatened by demolition orders and the revocation of residency rights.

Also, 20 Palestinian families in the northern village of Farasin have received demolition orders. This includes the Amarneh family, who have lived in a cave home for over a year after repeatedly failing to receive permits to build a home in Farasin. Now, this cruel occupation wants to evict Ahmed Amarneh and his family, including  a pregnant wife and young daughter, from their home because it has “allocated” this land for the construction of more illegal settlements. If not stopped, this family will be tragically added to the thousands of Palestinians rendered homeless and forcibly transferred from their lands by the Israeli occupation, which continues apace with its decades-long policy of displacing the Palestinian people from their land and replacing them with Israeli settlers, in other words ethnic cleansing.

At the same time, the Israeli occupying forces have continued their violent military raids of Palestinian cities, towns, villages and refugee camps, causing more civilian casualties. This includes the murder of a young woman in Jenin on Friday, 7 August. Dalia Samoudi, age 23 and a mother of two young children, was shot and killed insider her home as she ran to close the window to protect her children from the tear gas and ammunition being shot by Israeli occupying forces that had raided the area.

Israel also continues to launch airstrikes at the Gaza Strip, further terrorizing and traumatizing the 2 million Palestinians besieged there by Israel’s illegal and medieval blockade.  Israeli helicopter gunships and tanks attacked several sites in Gaza early on 12 August, causing destruction to infrastructure, including an UNRWA school, and agricultural lands. These strikes and repeated threats by Israeli officials for further attacks on Gaza are escalating tensions and deepening the fears of the civilian population of yet another barbaric military aggression by the occupying Power.

We urgently appeal to the international community to assume its responsibilities towards this unlawful situation and protracted protection crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The Security Council and General Assembly must uphold their Charter duties and all States must uphold their legal, political and moral obligations to bring an end to this injustice. That begins with holding Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people, foremost the violation of their right to self-determination through the continued imposition of this illegal occupation.

As repeatedly demanded by the international community, the Israeli occupation must be brought to an end and the Palestinian people must realize their right to self-determination and independence in their State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and all other of their inalienable rights, including to return. This is the key to justice, to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to the peace and security long sought in the Middle East.

This letter is in follow-up to our 691 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 6 August 2020 (A/ES-10/xxx-S/2020/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 tenth 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

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

24 July 2020 – Escalating Israeli violations in Occupied Palestine

As the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to deteriorate, I am compelled to write in follow-up of our recent letters regarding the crimes being perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, as it forges ahead with its expansionist policies in the West Bank, cementing its illegal occupation and escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people, their land and their rights.

That Israel “refrained” from formally annexing large parts of the West Bank on 1 July should not be cause for relief among the international community. As stressed by Mr. Daniel Levy, President of the US/Middle East Project, in his briefing to the Security Council on 21 July, “Refraining from de jure annexation must of course carry no reward; avoidance of criminality is normative not prize-worthy”.

It is clear the occupying Power has opted, for now, to go with its tried-and-tested colonization playbook and carry on with its incremental, yet persistent, confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land. The fact is that Israel’s decades-long colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has been – and continues to be – implemented gradually, in “installments”, with the aim of mitigating, or even silencing, international pushback, even as the occupation gravely breaches international law and shreds the prospects for a two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders as envisaged by the international consensus.

Since the occupation began, successive Israeli governments have pursued a strategy aimed at appropriating as much Palestinian geography with as little Palestinian demography as possible through a two-pronged approach of settling the land while expelling Palestinian civilians. This remains the case, and will continue to be so, unless the international community responds with consequences for such illegal actions.

We reiterate that whether annexation is implemented partially or totally, gradually or in one fell swoop, de facto or de jure, the international community must stay alert and take serious, tangible action, in respect of international law and relevant UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).

Here it is imperative to recall that, already in 2004, the International Court of Justice warned that “the construction of the wall and its associated régime create a ‘fait accompli’ on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case…it would be tantamount to a de facto annexation.” This 9 July marked 16 years since that finding; yet the Wall has only expanded in size, as have Israel’s illegal settlements in our land, which the Wall was clearly established to incorporate into Israel. This constitutes acquisition of territory by force, which is absolutely prohibited under international law.

In this period, Israel has continued to “prepare the ground” for annexation by escalating its settlement activities, destruction of Palestinian property, and forcible transfer of Palestinians residing in areas earmarked for annexation. On 6 July, Israeli occupying forces handed demolition orders against 30 Palestinian homes in the Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem. On the same day, Israel announced plans to build 164 units in the so-called “Neve Daniel” settlement in southern Bethlehem. The occupying Power also continues its harassment and intimidation of Palestinian officials, including the Governor of Jerusalem, Mr. Adnan Ghaith, who has been repeatedly arrested since assuming his functions and remains detained as of this writing.

Acts of settler violence have also risen. This includes the case of settlers trespassing the land of a Palestinian farmer and digging it up to build a swimming pool for themselves and the seizure of yet another hilltop and establishment of yet another settlement “outpost” north of the city of Nablus on land privately owned by Palestinians from the nearby town of Asira al-Shamaliya. All of this is being done under the watch, and with the direct protection and assistance, of the Israeli occupying forces, as part of the systematic theft and colonization of Palestinian land.

The occupying Power also continues its attempt to erase Palestinian presence, culture and heritage through the illegal appropriation and theft of heritage sites, particularly in the Old City of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, and in Al-Khalil (Hebron) at Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. This week witnessed the theft of baptismal font dating back to the Byzantine era from Bethlehem, adding to the long list of artifacts and heritage stolen by the occupation. Pillage is a war crime and Israel must be held accountable.

Awareness that Israel is forging ahead at full speed to destroy the two-State solution has led politicians, academics, think tanks, public figures, civil society actors, and people of conscience from around the world to warn about the dramatic consequences that the destruction of this solution would have. Below are excerpts of just some of the many recent statements in this regard:

On 29 June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated that “any attempt to annex any part of the occupied Palestinian territory will not only seriously damage efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region, it is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations that have characterized the conflict for decades. I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity. The existing two-tier system of law in the same territory will become embedded, with devastating impacts on the lives of Palestinians who have little or no access to legal remedy… The shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians.”

On 29 June, the World Council of Churches issued a statement warning that “the planned annexation of Palestinian territories by the Government of Israel would be a serious obstacle for the achievement of justice and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It will undermine even more the rights of Palestinians, reducing their mobility, their access to land and livelihoods, to adequate infrastructure and basic services. It will increase forced displacement, and it could prevent humanitarian organizations’ access in order to provide basic services and the necessary lifesaving interventions.”

On 2 July, Amnesty International warned that moves towards further annexation of Palestinian land “would mean a continuation of Israeli settlement expansion. It would also further entrench policies of institutionalized discrimination and mass human rights violations that Palestinians face in the OPT as a result of the occupation, including systematic denial of civil and political rights of Palestinians, as well as violations of other rights such as freedom of movement, equality and non-discrimination.”

On 9 July, Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din issued a legal opinion concluding that “Continued creeping legal annexation, let alone official annexation of a particular part of the West Bank through legislation that would apply Israeli law and administration there, … could mean strengthening the argument, which already is being heard, that the crime of Apartheid is not committed only in the West Bank. That the Israeli regime in its entirety is an apartheid regime. That Israel is an Apartheid state.”

As we have repeatedly cautioned, the absence of accountability has enabled Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestinian land, rapidly leading to its imposition of a one-State reality of apartheid that must be urgently averted. Israel’s crime spree in Occupied Palestine must be stopped, and only collective action can achieve this. It is high time for the international community to impose lawful, targeted and immediate sanctions on the occupying Power in response to its grave breaches of international law, to deter further violations against the Palestinian people, promote justice, and create the conditions for peace.

As sagely stated on 7 July in an open letter by Christian Clergy from the Bethlehem Area, “While support for a two-state solution among the international community remains strong in rhetoric, there has been no tangible or coordinated action to block steps toward de jure annexation of the West Bank, let alone gross violations of human rights that have paved the way to it over the past 53 years. In allowing Israel to use its control over Palestinians to separate people and land, and in failing to hold Israel accountable to human rights violations in the Occupied Territory, the international community has rendered the vision it is purportedly promoting an impossibility.”

We are grateful for the many reaffirmations from around the world on the need to end impunity and ensure accountability, including by the Belgian parliament on 26 June, the leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom on 27 June, thirteen members of the US Congress on 30 June, the Chilean Senate on 1 July, the Dutch parliament on 2 July, eleven European foreign ministers on 14 July, Mexican parliamentarians on 22 July, among many others.

In this regard, on 16 June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 also stressed “Should Israel proceed with any form of annexation after 1 July – even if it is ‘annexation-lite’, consisting of several settlement blocs instead of the announced 30 per cent of the West Bank – the European Union must lead the world in imposing accountability measures. Any amount of annexation is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations, and a fundamentally illegal act.”

Moreover, we welcome the letter signed by over 40 international women leaders on 1 July in response to an appeal by Palestinian women for action to stop annexation and end the Israeli occupation, as well as the principled voices of 1.6 million global citizens who signed an Avaaz petition entitled “Palestine must live”, standing against annexation and calling for justice and peace.

In this time of existential crisis, Palestinians, like the rest of the world, are also struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe health, social and economic impact. As of this date, the State of Palestine has confirmed 10,923 cases of the virus – 75 of which are in the illegally blockaded Gaza Strip – and 67 deaths as a result of the virus. Despite limited resources and severe restrictions and hardships imposed by the occupation, our national institutions are exerting all efforts to respond to this crisis.

Yet, Israel continues to hamper our efforts to combat the virus, making a severe crisis even worse. In Al-Khalil, one of the hardest hit areas in Palestine, the occupying Power once again destroyed a coronavirus testing clinic. Additionally, the occupying Power continues to jeopardize the lives of Palestinian prisoners, including children, who are being detained in its jails in this time of pandemic. We must draw urgent attention to the plight of a prisoner, Kamal Abu Waer, age 46, who suffers from cancer and has also been infected by the virus and is in critical health. The Palestinian leadership calls for the necessary medical treatment and for his immediate release. We hold Israel responsible for the well-being of all Palestinians being unlawfully held captive by the occupation and call for their release.

As our people continue to suffer this belligerent, illegal occupation in all its forms, we appeal once again to the international community, including the Security Council, to speak up and take responsible action. We appeal to all States to stand firmly in defense of international law and in respect of the resolutions adopted across the decades on the Palestine question, to protect human rights, to salvage the prospects for a just peace based on the two-State solution, and to preserve the international rules-based order that is under such serious threat. We are at a critical moment with so much at stake and the time for united action is now.

This letter is in follow-up to our 689 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 26 June 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

4 June 2020 – Escalating Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians and looming annexation

Excellency,

As we somberly commemorate the passage of 53 years since the onset of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories in 1967, I must write once again to draw the international community’s attention to the ongoing protection crisis and deterioration of conditions as Israel, the occupying Power, continues its depraved dehumanization of the Palestinian people and colonization of Palestinian land.

Since our last letter, Israeli occupation forces have murdered five Palestinian civilians, bringing to at least 22 the number of Palestinians, including children, killed since January in such senseless acts of violence.

On 13 May, Israeli soldiers raided Al-Fawwar refugee camp near Al-Khalil (Hebron) and shot dead Palestinian teenager Zaid Qaisiya, 17, while he stood with relatives on the rooftop of a building observing clashes on the street below. Zaid was shot in the head with live ammunition and four other Palestinians also sustained gunshots, including a 16-year-old boy who was shot in the thigh, breaking his leg.

On 14 May, Bahaeddin al-Awawda, 18, was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces outside the town of Beit Awwa in the vicinity of Al-Khalil. This was followed on 29 May by the killing of Fadi Samara Qaad, 37, a Palestinian who was on a motorcycle on his way to pick up his wife.

On 21 May, a 4-year old girl, Rafif Qara’een, was shot in the head by a stray M-16 bullet as she sat to break Ramadan fast with her family in their home in the Issawiya neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem, often the scene of incursions by the occupation forces, and tragically died of her wounds.

On 30 May, Iyad Hallak, 32, an autistic Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, was on his way to the special education school he attended and worked at near the Lion’s Gate, when Israeli police officers shot and killed him, firing 8 bullets into his body. Iyad, who was diagnosed as being on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum and who had trouble communicating with those around him, “didn’t even know there was such a thing as Jews and Arabs in this country,” according to his cousin. “He didn’t know what a policeman is. He didn’t absorb such things; he didn’t have the knowledge that there even was another side. He didn’t know what a soldier is or what a weapon is. He saw a stranger and fled, and then they shot him.”

The above are not isolated incidents – far from it. Israeli occupying forces have systematically brutalized defenseless Palestinian civilians, with extrajudicial killings amounting to war crimes having become an abhorrent habit. As found by Defense for Children International Palestine, “Israeli forces routinely shoot Palestinian children who pose no imminent threat with live ammunition.” Such disregard for human life is institutionalized and widespread. Since 2000, Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 2,116 Palestinian children. In 2019 alone, Israel killed 133 Palestinians, including 28 children.

In addition to these killings, the occupying Power has continued its routine violence against Palestinian civilians, including shooting a Palestinian man with Down Syndrome during a raid on Nabi Saleh village on 29 May; forcing the family of an elderly Palestinian woman who uses a wheelchair to demolish the home they had built in East Jerusalem to accommodate her disability; and assaulting Palestinian worshippers as they performed Eid prayers at the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem on 24 May.

These are just a few examples of the constant harassment, intimidation and gross human rights violations being perpetrated by this illegal and cruel occupation. It is not a coincidence that the escalation of Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians is happening in parallel with measures being taken on the ground by Israel to implement its annexation plan. That plan that would entail annexing large parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and land on which it has illegally established its settlements and wall, all in grave breach of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Fourth Geneva Convention and numerous relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Undeterred by the international community’s condemnation of annexation threats and calls for cessation, on 24 May the Israeli Prime Minister provocatively repeated that his 1 July deadline to proceed with formal annexation would not change. Against the backdrop of the permissive environment created by the US administration for Israeli violations, Prime Minister Netanyahu openly declared: Israel has “an opportunity we did not have since 1948” to annex Palestinian land in the West Bank and that “we will not let this opportunity pass by”.

Given these appalling circumstances, and the lack of concrete action to hold Israel accountable for its crimes, it should come as no surprise that land appropriation, home demolitions and other acts of colonial violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, have been on the rise.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) continues to report on demolitions of Palestinian property by Israeli occupying forces, including of homes. The escalation in demolitions, including of internationally-funded humanitarian structures, prompted European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah to issue a statement on 28 May urging Israel “in line with the EU’s long-standing position on Israel’s settlement policy—illegal under international law—and actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscation of homes” to halt demolitions.

In this regard, in addition to the destruction on 27 May of two tourist facilities in the Palestinian town of Sebastiya, which houses various historic sites including a Roman amphitheater, on 31 May, the occupying Power issued an order for the demolition of 200 structures, including restaurants, car repair shops and other facilities in the only Palestinian industrial area in Occupied East Jerusalem. These demolition orders are intended to clear the area for construction of an Israeli ‘tech area’ similar to ‘Silicon Valley’ and further illegally alter the City’s demographic composition and character.

Here we must again emphasize that Israel’s unilateral annexation plans, if allowed to proceed, will spell the demise of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders and result in a one-State apartheid system, with all of the attendant consequences of such a catastrophic scenario.

As cautioned by the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in its 15 May Communiqué on Israel’s illegal annexation plans, “if not averted, such plans will have far-reaching and devastating repercussions on the prospects for realizing the rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and independence; the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders; and just and lasting peace and security in accordance with the internationally-endorsed terms of reference and parameters for a peaceful solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles, including the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative.”

This was echoed in the 20 May briefing to the Security Council by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Maldenov, who reiterated that “the continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-State solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace and our broader efforts to maintain international peace and security.”

Such warnings have been made by an overwhelming number of politicians, academics, think tanks, public figures and civil society actors, who have recently weighed in on this critical matter. Below are excerpts from just some recent statements in this regard:

On 14 May, the European Council for Foreign Relations warned that “annexation– whether it starts with one settlement block or most of Area C – will cross a threshold which will be almost impossible to reverse back on. The full repercussions that such a move will trigger may be slow in coming, but they are real. This will challenge EU credibility and relevance. It will also undermine the fundamentals of the international rules-based order – in particular, the prohibition on the acquisition of territory through force. The formal demise of the Oslo-configured two-state peace process – which has been moribund for years – will also confront Israelis and Palestinians with a one-state reality in which Palestinians live under an increasingly explicit system of apartheid.”

On 22 May, 70 Italian parliamentarians called on their government to take action at the domestic and international levels against Israel’s illegal plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, which, they warned “would bury the Middle East peace process and the prospect of two peoples living side by side in two States in mutual peace and security.”

On 30 May, the New York Times Editorial Board published an article entitled “Annexing the West Bank is a Brazen Violation of International Law” in which it warned that “the annexation would render the West Bank into a patchwork of simmering, unstable Bantustans, forever threatening a new intifada.”

On 2 June, 58 former Canadian diplomats and politicians published a letter calling on their government to stand firmly against Israel’s annexation plans, stating that “territorial conquest and annexation are notorious for contributing to fateful results: war, political instability, economic ruin, systematic discrimination and human suffering.”

It is tragic that the Palestinian people are facing this imminent annexation as they mark the 72nd year of the Palestinian Nakba and the 53rd year of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Israel’s current annexation scheme brings into sharp focus the central objective and ultimate goal of its colonial occupation, beginning with the Nakba to the present day: usurping Palestinian land and resources while expelling or isolating as many Palestinians as possible. This intent has been expressed countless times by Israeli and Zionist leaders, and we must here remind the international community of the decades-long continuum of such provocative statements laden with colonial slurs:

“We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it, that governs it by the virtue of its language and savage culture.” Moshe Sharett, who later became second Prime Minister of Israel, 1914

“After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.”  David Ben Gurion, who later became first Prime Minister of Israel, to the Zionist Executive, 1937

“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many [Palestinian] hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Ariel Sharon, in his former role as Foreign Minister of Israel, in comments broadcast on Israeli radio, November 1998

“As you know we oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and we will fight with all our power against its establishment. As you know there is no such thing as Palestinian people so that there can be a Palestinian state. Not today, not tomorrow, not in this or that border, not by this name and not by other names…” Israeli Minister Bazelel Smotrich, Facebook, 17 February 2020

It is astounding that, despite these blatantly unlawful objectives and decades of dispossession, displacement and oppression of the Palestinian people, not only has the international community failed to mobilize genuine political will to redress this unlawful situation – from its root causes to the crises of today – but has allowed the situation to further deteriorate, with regression of both conditions on the ground and the prospects for a just solution. This has allowed Israel to entrench its occupation and colonial regime with impunity, with disastrous impact on the lives of millions of Palestinians and prospects for peace and security.

The Israeli occupation was not inevitable, nor is its continuation. Had it not been for the shielding of Israel from accountability by some, the course of Palestine’s history would have been different. Had Israel been treated like any other State – not a State above the law – accountable for its actions and penalized for its crimes, it would not have considered the idea of acquiring territory by force, let alone in broad daylight and with explicit statements to that end. Had it been treated as a State like all others, it would not have been allowed to continue expelling, besieging and killing Palestinian civilians, refusing the return of Palestine refugees, or inflicting institutionalized racism on the Palestinian population that it perceives as sub-human.

Israel will continue to act in this rogue manner and with absolute disregard for the law and Palestinian lives so long as it is exempted from legal and political accountability. The international community must realize that allowing such crimes to continue against the Palestinian people actually normalizes these crimes worldwide, undermining international norms and order and precluding peace and security. Beyond verbal censure, the international community must uphold its responsibilities and ensure respect for international law through concrete actions. Such action could include, inter alia, closing markets to Israeli settlement products, supporting the International Criminal Court in its consideration of the situation in Palestine, and imposing economic and diplomatic sanctions until the occupying Power abides by the law.

In this regard, we welcome the League of Arab States Ministerial resolution, NAM Communiqué, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Declaration recently adopted and the clear affirmations and calls they have made. We also welcome the call by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) on behalf of its 84 humanitarian, development and human rights member organizations, “on third States, the EU, and its member States, to devise and publish an exhaustive list of countermeasures to adopt in order to disincentivise Israel’s annexation policies in the occupied Palestinian territory to ensure the protection of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.” We also recognize the importance of the letter sent on 11 May by 51 anti-war groups to US presidential candidate Joe Biden, urging him to “use a combination of pressure and incentives, including leveraging the annual $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel” towards an agreement that upholds UN Security Council Resolutions and international law towards ending “Israel’s military occupation; disbanding Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; ending the Israeli military blockade of Gaza; and ending all attacks on civilians.”

We draw hope and strength from the constant messages of solidarity expressed by countries and peoples worldwide with Palestine’s cause for freedom, justice, return, as well as protection for the Palestinian people and accountability for Israel, including the publication of an open letter on 13 May by more than 500 international musicians, actors, film-makers and others, calling for an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza, and stating: “What happens in Gaza is a test for the conscience of humanity. We back Amnesty International’s call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law.”

As our people continue to suffer this illegal occupation, we appeal again to the international community, including the Security Council, to speak up and take responsible action. We appeal to you to stand firmly in defense of the Charter and international law and in respect of the countless United Nations resolutions adopted on the Palestine question. On this somber 53rd anniversary of the occupation, we appeal to you to act with urgency to protect human rights; to salvage the prospects for a just peace based on the two-State solution that you have advocated for and championed across decades; and to preserve the international rules- based order that you have so painstakingly created and which is now under serious threat.

This letter is in follow-up to our 687 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 13 May 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

of the State of Palestine to the United Nations

13 May 2020 – Impending annexation and escalating Israeli violations

Excellency,

As the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to deteriorate, I am compelled to write in follow-up of our recent letters regarding the crimes being perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people, even in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes illegal colonization and annexation measures that risk destroying the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders.

Since our last letter, not a day has passed where Israel has not cynically exploited the COVID-19 crisis, globally and locally, to forge ahead with its annexationist plans and in full coordination with the current US administration. Israeli officials have escalated inflammatory rhetoric boasting of such illegal intentions, in total contempt of international law and the appeals and warnings of the international community, human rights and civil society organizations, and leaders of conscience worldwide.

On 20 April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement according to which, starting 1 July, the parliament would be able to decide on the annexation of parts of the West Bank based on the US plan presented on 28 January. While Israel described this coalition agreement as the formation of a “national emergency government” aimed at fighting the pandemic, the reality is that this is an “annexation government”, formed with the cynical intention of perpetuating the permanent colonization of Palestinian land, in breach of the UN Charter and all other relevant provisions of international law, and in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016).

US support for annexation has emboldened Israeli impunity and “provided the Israeli government with a green light to annex all West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley and maintain its occupation in perpetuity, making a sovereign, independent and contiguous Palestinian state impossible,” as stressed in a recent letter by 32 US foreign policy professionals, including former national security officials. The permissive US attitude was reinforced on 22 April, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that annexation is “an Israeli decision to make”, as though grave breaches of international law are States’ exclusive “decisions” and no international norms guide and regulate the conduct of international relations. This was followed, on 6 May, by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is leading the joint US-Israel “committee” to “map out” areas of Palestinian land for illegal annexation, stating that the US is “ready” to recognize Israeli annexation of 30% of the occupied West Bank.

If allowed to proceed, these unlawful, unilateral plans will spell the demise of the two-State solution to the conflict and result in a one-State apartheid reality, with far-reaching consequences. This is not only Palestine’s view, but is shared by countless politicians, academics, public figures and civil society actors, who have recently reflected on the matter. Below are just a few examples in this regard:

 “Israeli officials have repeatedly stated their intention to annex Israeli settlements and other parts of the occupied West Bank. If implemented, such steps would not only constitute a serious violation of international law, but they would also effectively end the prospect of the two-State solution and close the door to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (March 2020 report on resolution 2334 (2016)

“Annexation would mean a fatal blow to the possibility of peace and the establishment of an Apartheid State. Democracy, equality and social justice all depend on a just peace and an end to the occupation.” – 56 former Members of the Israeli Knesset (17 April)

“The dangerous prospect of annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied West Bank is a growing threat. If such a move were implemented, it would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace. Moves to annex land and to accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the devastating impact of COVID-19 can ignite the situation and destroy any hope of peace.”- Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov (in his briefing to the Security Council on 23 April)

“The coming annexation will pull the rug from under the argument, currently prevalent in many circles, that while Apartheid, or at least an Apartheid-like regime, is currently practiced in the West Bank, the sovereign State of Israel is a democracy.” – Israeli NGO Yesh Din (Position Paper, April)

“A situation where Jewish communities in the West Bank live under Israeli civilian law, while neighbouring Palestinians live under Israeli military law, would inevitably prompt parallels with historical repressive and discriminatory regimes, including apartheid South Africa.” – The Elders (1 May)

Such a move would strip away the essence and objective of existing agreements between the Palestinian and Israeli governments, which are based on the realization of a viable two-State solution, a just peace and lasting security. As Israel destroys the possibility of achieving such a vision, the Palestinian leadership cannot be expected to uphold these agreements.

In addition to its devastating effects on the Palestinian people’s human rights and national aspirations and rights, Israel’s planned annexation would pose a severe threat to regional peace and the rules-based international order. Acquisition of territory by force is prohibited with no derogation permitted. If it goes unchallenged in the case of Israel, then the very core and relevance of international law to global peace and security will be at risk, sending a stark message that violators of the law, even war criminals, can do so at will without any consequences.

Here we echo the warnings by former UN Secretary-General, Deputy Chair of the Elders, Ban Ki-Moon: “The principles of international law are the bedrock of our global order. They provide a framework for defending rights and exercising power that is crucial to all global challenges. Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would not only be an act of aggressive folly, it would have a destructive influence on global rights and norms. I call on the whole world to speak out against this damaging agenda.”

In this regard, we recognize the many strong statements issued from all over the world – by Arab, European, African, Asian and Latin American States and organizations, as well as by Special Envoys of concerned States and by the UN – condemning and warning against Israeli annexation. These statements reflect a global and principled commitment to the standing and universal application of international law. They also reaffirm commitment and support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to freedom, sovereignty, and peace, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions, including 2334 (2016), 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) among many others. 

The Palestinian people and leadership are grateful for these principled positions, which are firmly anchored in our shared values of human rights and peace and security for all. But the years have proven that Israel has no regard for such principles, and that statements alone will not compel its respect for the law or avert its destruction of peace prospects as annexation unfolds on the ground at this time. Such impunity will persist should the political will to enact measures of accountability remain lacking.

As stated by Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk, “The looming annexation is a political litmus test for the international community. This annexation will not be reversed through rebukes, nor will the 53-year-old occupation die of old age… the international community should review its extensive menu of sanctions and countermeasures to stem this march towards further illegality. Settlement products should not enter the international marketplace. Agreements, existing and proposed, with Israel should be reviewed. The current investigations at the International Criminal Court should be supported. There has to be a cost to the defiance of international law. Only this can compel the Israeli political leadership to do the right thing.”

Other figures who have recognized the need for sanctions to deter annexation include 127 British politicians – former cabinet members, ministers and diplomats – who stated in a letter published on 1 May: “The government must now make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation will have severe consequences including sanctions. Words are not enough: Prime Minister Netanyahu has ignored our words. We need to prevent his government from setting this alarmingly dangerous precedent in international relations.”

On 7 May, a group of former Israeli officials also called upon the Government of Ireland to approve a draft bill that would ban settlement products from entering the Irish market, underscoring that: “Needless to say, unilateral annexation will lead to escalating crises in Palestine, Jordan, and the entire region, and runs the risk of turning Israel into an apartheid state…We firmly believe that now is the time for action from the international community to prevent Israel from proceeding with annexation, which will doom generations to come to more oppression, injustice and violence.”

If principled voices from around the world, including Israelis, are brave enough to oppose annexation call for sanctions, how can the international community perceive concrete action as anything but an imperative in the interest of both Palestinians and Israelis and the preservation of peace prospects? 

We urge that principled positions be backed by proactive, concrete steps to hold Israel accountable and deter further Israeli crimes, especially in view of the impending annexation, and to safeguard the rights of the Palestinian people. As stated by former Algerian Foreign Minister, UN diplomat and Elder Lakhdar Brahimi, “The world has overlooked its responsibility to the people of Palestine for too many decades. Silence now would be a bitter betrayal, and is certain to have dire consequences for all concerned.”

All States are obligated to ensure respect for peremptory norms of international law. The international community must not withhold action until it is too late and Israel deals the final blow to the chance for a just peace. It can and should immediately leverage its collective influence to chart a new and credible multilateral political, legal, and economic approach that stops Israel’s illegal, reckless actions from condemning Palestinians, Israelis and entire region to perpetual conflict. Accountability measures, including preventive action, must be urgently pursued denying Israel additional time to carry out its extraterritorial agenda.

We must also draw attention to the many other crimes and violations being perpetrated by the occupying Power violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, including its construction of settlements particularly in areas slated for annexation; its immoral and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip; its detention of thousands of Palestinians, including children, and countless other human rights violations. Below are just a few examples of recent Israeli illegal policies and actions:

On 21 April, Israel announced the confiscation of Islamic Waqf land belonging to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron) to construct a road for illegal settlers to reach the mosque area, a provocative action, violating international law and signed agreements and stoking religious sensitivities. This violation also reflects the occupying Power’s abject disregard of the status of Al-Khalil’s Old City as a World Heritage Site that must be protected from all acts of aggression, alteration and destruction.

On 6 May, Israel revealed plans for yet another war crime – the confiscation of 1,000 square kilometers of Palestinian land to construct 7,000 more illegal units in the so-called “Efrat” settlement in the Bethlehem district south of Jerusalem, in a move clearly intended to ‘prepare the ground’ for annexation, as reflected in the provocative statements of Israeli officials regarding this decision.

Meanwhile, Israel persists with its destruction of Palestinian property, including homes, animal shelters, and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. According to UN OCHA, Israel has demolished 69 structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 21 February, forcibly displacing 63 people and affecting 417 others. A third of the destroyed or seized structures consisted of humanitarian aid provided by the donor community. One of the affected Palestinian villages, Qarawat Bani Hassan, received 22 demolition and stop-work orders on 30 April alone, with the clear intent of forcibly displacing civilians to enable expansion and entrenchment of five surrounding settlements.

Settler violence targeting Palestinian communities has surged by over 80% since March. Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinians with firearms or with clubs, axes, stones, assault dogs, and electroshock weapons; torched cars; vandalized and uprooted olive trees; and stolen livestock—all under the consenting eye or with the active participation of Israeli occupation forces. As stated by Israeli NGO B’tselem, “These actions are part of a joint strategy by the settlers and Israeli authorities to systematically block Palestinian access to land – one acre, field, fertile plot, grove or pasture at a time – for decades on end, and take effective control of it. This way the state transfers the means of livelihood of Palestinians into the hands of Israelis. Settler violence is the state’s unofficial, privatized arm that serves to gradually achieve this goal.”

On 11 May, Israel extended a closure order it had issued on 20 November 2019 to censor the work of Palestine Television’s office in Occupied East Jerusalem for a further six months. This blatant infringement on the right to freedom of expression and of the press is aimed at silencing Palestinian media, and constitutes yet another attempt by the occupying Power to ban any event or activity organized by or in coordination with the Palestinian Authority in Occupied East Jerusalem. Under the same pretext, on 15 April, Israel arrested four volunteers who worked at, and shut down, a coronavirus testing clinic in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where healthcare needs have been cruelly neglected by the occupation, leading to Silwan harboring almost half of the known COVID-19 cases in Jerusalem.

Israel has also continued arresting Palestinian civilians and its cruel, illegal policies against the 5,000 Palestinians being held captive in its jails. On 22 April, Palestinian prisoner Jaber Al-Barghouthi, age 23, died in the Israeli Negev prison after occupation forces failed to provide him with medical aid. He is the 273rd Palestinian to have died in an Israeli prison since the occupation began in 1967. A group of concerned UN human rights experts issued a call on 24 April urging Israel, which released approximately 500 Israeli inmates from its jails to protect them from a possible virus outbreak, “not to discriminate against thousands of Palestinian prisoners facing high-risk exposure to COVID-19 and to release the most vulnerable – particularly women, children, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions.”

The 194 Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons are especially vulnerable. As stressed in the statement of 11 May by UN officials: “since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Israel, legal proceedings are on hold, almost all prison visits are cancelled, and children are denied in-person access to their families and their lawyers. This creates additional hardship, psychological suffering, and prevents the child from receiving the legal advice to which they are entitled…The best way to uphold the rights of detained children amidst a dangerous pandemic, in any country, is to release them from detention and to put a moratorium on new admissions into detention facilities.”

International law is the key to ending these human rights violations, ending the colonization and annexation of the Palestinian land, and ending this illegal 53-year occupation. With the threat of annexation looming, it is high time for the international community to use all means available to it to uphold international law and implement UN resolutions and to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that they are not alone in the struggle for their rights, for freedom, for justice and for peace.

This letter is in follow-up to our 686 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 15 April 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.

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

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer

of the State of Palestine to the United Nations

29 April 2020 – Letter by Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour to the President of the Security Council

Excellency,

During the recent VTC meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, held on 23 April, the Israeli Representative once again accused me of antisemitism. This accusation is too grave, even when used in such outrageous and untruthful manner, to be left unanswered.

Such accusations have been repeatedly used to taint legitimate criticism of Israel’s violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with the aim to silence or delegitimize anyone speaking out and must be directly challenged. This has become a systematic policy that has even targeted Security Council members, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as international figures, who – in upholding their moral, legal, political and/or humanitarian obligations – dare to denounce Israel’s violations of the Palestinian people’s rights and its colonization of their land.

Israel has blatantly dismissed resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly,  the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and statements, including by its closest allies, as stemming from antisemitism instead of acknowledging that such legislations, decisions
and declarations reflect on facts and are grounded in the rules that were created to save successive generations from the scourge of war by preventing and deterring violations, regardless of the identity of the victim and of the identity of the perpetrator.

Antisemitism is one of the most despicable forms of racism, that has culminated in one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Our multilateral rules-based order has been established in response to the horrors of the Second World War, including the Holocaust. The UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice, international criminal law, all were designed in response to these tragedies and to prevent their recurrence and the human suffering
and turmoil they caused. 

We honor the victims by upholding the rule of international law, not undermining it. We honor them by denouncing war crimes, not by using their memory to shield perpetrators. We honor them by ensuring accountability, not by perpetuating impunity.

Antisemitism and all other forms of discrimination and racism must be condemned and confronted wholeheartedly, never justified or overlooked. We all need to fight antisemitism while rejecting the instrumentalization of the accusation of antisemitism to shield illegal actions from criticism and accountability. 

We pay tribute to all those, from every creed, race, color, and background who have fought for justice anywhere and everywhere, including in Palestine. We will remain steadfast in our struggle against the ills of oppression, occupation, dispossession, discrimination and injustice and will not be silenced by those who accuse us in a failed attempt to justify the crimes they are responsible for. Let them know that when it comes to our stance for justice, we stand undeterred.

History has taught us what it means to live in a world without rules. What it means to be able to allow anyone to justify widespread and systematic denial of rights. What it means to look away when others are suffering from injustice and oppression. The representatives here at the UN have a particular duty to uphold that collective memory so that the words of our UN Charter can live on, including our determination “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. 

I have dedicated my life to the fight for justice, equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and beyond and to the fulfilment of that very pledge of the Charter. I have fought racism in all its ugly forms. I have served this multilateral rules-based order with commitment and principle. I doubt that my accuser can say the same. 

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
of the State of Palestine to the United Nations

15 April 2020 – Escalating Israeli violations – Threats of annexation

Excellency,

As the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to deteriorate, I am compelled to write in follow-up to the critical concerns raised in our recent letters about the human rights violations and crimes being perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the public health emergency persists in Palestine, with 369 confirmed cases (291 in the West Bank, 78 in East Jerusalem, and 13 in the Gaza Strip) and 2 deaths as of 15 April, Israel continues to cynically exploit the international community’s focus on the life and death circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, to entrench its illegal occupation, advance annexation, and escalate its repression of Palestinians. It is estimated that, in one month alone from 5 March to 5 April, Israel demolished or confiscated 47 Palestinian structures, conducted 267 arrests and 238 raids, killed 3 Palestinians and injured another 52.

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel’s land grab and settlement and Wall construction continue unabated, as do provocative calls for annexation. In fact, annexation plans have become the centerpiece of negotiations to form the next Israeli government. Some, like former Minister Ayelet Shaked have gone so far as to declare that, “The government that is being formed has no right to exist unless it applies sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley”.

This proves yet again that those in Israel’s political establishment, regardless of political leanings, do not differ in their pursuit of permanent colonization, annexation, and apartheid-like policies. Moreover, this reconfirms that Israel has abandoned all pretense of commitment to the internationally agreed solution of two States on the basis of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Clearly, for Israel, the peace process was always a short-term tactic, never a long-term strategy.

We are grateful for the strong statements recently that issued from countries around the world, including Arab and European States, reaffirming their firm opposition to Israeli annexation of Occupied Palestinian Territory. We recognize as well the opposition by members of the US Congress who expressed concern about reports Israel intends to move forward with unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory, and emphasized that “This runs counter to decades of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy and to the will of the House of Representatives as recently expressed in H.Res.326, which opposes unilateral annexation and explicitly warns against the dangers of such an effort for peace in the region and Israel’s security.”

We reiterate, however, that statements alone about the threat to peace and about international obligations will not avert the looming destruction of the two-State solution and peace prospects. Serious, deterrent action is required to stop Israeli actions and plans. The international community must act to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions and perverse impunity before the two-State solution is permanently undercut, perpetuating the conflict and the immense human suffering it is causing.

In this regard, extremist Israeli settlers, emboldened by the specter of imminent annexation since the presentation of the US administration’s “plan” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have intensified attacks against Palestinians. According to a UN report, between March 17 and 30, the number of attacks reflects “a 78% increase compared to the bi-weekly average of incidents since the start of 2020.” In addition to physical assaults on civilians, the stoning and torching of vehicles, the uprooting of olive trees and crops, and the unleashing of dogs on Palestinian herders, settlers have also flooded sewage into Palestinian farms near the town of Beit Ummar, and vandalized tombstones in the village of Burqa. The aim of such violence and terror is clear: intimidating Palestinians and pressuring them to leave their lands.

In addition to these deplorable developments, while governments around the world work tirelessly to limit the spread of COVID-19 in their countries, Israel continues to undermine Palestine’s efforts in this regard. While coordination efforts continue in this regard, the occupying Power has simultaneously obstructed Palestinian efforts to ensure the orderly return and health testing of workers from Israel, disinfect neighborhoods, raise awareness, and provide assistance to families financially affected by the virus. Below are just a few examples of Israeli actions in the recent period:

On 3 April, Israeli forces stormed the home of Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Fadi Al-Hidmi, physically assaulting him, confiscating around $2,750 directly from him, forcing him to wear a dirty, bloody mask, and then detaining him. This outrageous act was carried out as punishment for the Palestinian government’s efforts to provide Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with assistance and healthcare, a human and moral prerogative; especially as the occupying Power has deliberately neglected its obligations to carry out vigorous testing of the Palestinian population under its illegal control in and around the City. Two days later, undeterred by condemnations of its actions, Israel arrested the Palestinian Governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, after storming his house in Silwan.

Since 6 March, when a state of emergency was imposed in Palestine to control the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Israeli forces have carried out more than 207 military incursions across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Such actions are directly undermining Palestinian containment efforts. Moreover, on 6 April, in an appalling attempt to spread fear and panic among Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers spat on doorsteps, cars and homes of residents of the village of Beit Ummar, and dumped contaminated trash, needles and used gloves between village homes. Also, despite the risks that Palestinian workers returning from Israel are bringing the virus to their hometowns – estimated to be the cause of at least one-third of confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank – and despite directives by the Palestinian Ministry of Health that all Palestinians returning from Israel must undergo testing before being quarantined, the occupying Power opened several wastewater tunnels near the city of Qalqilya to smuggle Palestinian workers back into the West Bank without testing or proper health precautions.

Such reckless and negligent behavior of the occupation authorities is similarly witnessed in Israeli prisons. At a time when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is appealing to governments to “examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to the pandemic,” including “those detained without sufficient legal basis, political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views”, and the UN Secretary-General’s Envoys to the Middle East are jointly calling for “special attention to the plight of the detained”, Israel is continuing its arrest and detention campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

In the month of March, Israel arrested 250 Palestinians, including 54 children and 6 women and girls. It has likewise refused to take measures to improve the provision of healthcare and hygiene for Palestinian prisoners and detainees in line with WHO guidance for preventing COVID-19 outbreak in prisons, in addition to refusing to sterilise detention facilities. Instead, despite the fact that two Israeli prison officers and a recently released Palestinian prisoner tested positive for the virus, Israel continues denying prisoners access to adequate soap and hygiene materials, heightening risk of contagion.

As stressed in a statement issued on 8 April by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, “in view of the global health emergency, precarious hygienic conditions and inadequate health services, overcrowded Israeli prisons constitute perfect conditions for catastrophic spread of pandemic, putting lives of inmates at grave risk and creating environment for major unrest in the prisons.” We reiterate our call upon Israel to release the Palestinian civilians it is imprisoning, starting with the most vulnerable, among them older and infirm Palestinian detainees, women and children, in accordance with international law.

Israel, as occupying Power, is under legal obligation to ensure the physical and mental health and well-being of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, mandates that “[a]ll persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Moreover, the UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) stipulate that, “Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.”

In the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians, most of them refugees, have been forced to live under appalling conditions as a result of Israel’s 13-year blockade and repeated military aggressions, the situation remains precarious and risks are enormous. Gaza is densely populated; its water resources largely contaminated; its population mostly unemployed and living below the poverty threshold; its healthcare system severely weakened and overstretched, with 80-90% of its few ventilators are already in use; its electricity supply sporadic; and its coping capacities already exhausted.

Based on epidemiologic estimates and given the near-impossibility of effective sanitation practices and physical distancing in Gaza, if the virus spreads, approximately 80% of Gaza’s population could become infected, necessitating at least 100,000 hospital beds would be needed, when there are only about 2,500 at present, of them only 120 ICU beds. Moreover, the needed hygiene kits, ventilators, drugs and other essential medical supplies are largely unavailable to the population. As stated by Gaza’s UNRWA director, Mr. Matthias Schmale, an outbreak would be “a disaster of gigantic proportions”.

While the Palestinian Government along with the support of the WHO, UNRWA, OCHA and other UN partner agencies are working diligently to quarantine, prepare for and avoid a worst-case scenario, as the occupying Power, Israel bears ultimate responsibility for the inhumane conditions in Gaza. As per its Fourth Geneva Convention obligations, Israel must, at the very minimum, allow humanitarian access and the needed medical supplies to enter Gaza. It must suspend the requirement for transit permits for those who require hospitalization outside Gaza. It must also facilitate the entry of medical personnel willing to volunteer their services, and develop a plan for treating Palestinians from Gaza who need urgent medical attention in Israel.

As stated by the Secretary-General in his remarks to the Security Council on 9 April, two of the priority actions where further action is needed are: “ensuring humanitarian access and opening corridors for the safe and timely movement of goods and personnel” and “protecting the most vulnerable populations and those least able to protect themselves.” Moreover, he reminded that “international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law continue to apply, even—and especially—in challenging times like these.” Also, on 11 April, in a joint appeal, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoys to the Middle East also underscored the need to facilitate humanitarian access and assistance including to refugees and “communities under siege”.

Yet humanitarian measures alone are insufficient. Fulfilling its legal obligations requires that Israel act forthwith to end to its illegal occupation, including the full lifting of its blockade on Gaza.  As long as Israel refuses to abide by its obligations, it becomes the responsibility of all States to adopt effective measures to uphold international law and ensure accountability, as well as to protect the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, and alleviate the human suffering and insecurity caused by this situation, inter alia, by providing humanitarian support.

As stated by the Foreign Minister of Norway, Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), in light of the great risks posed by the pandemic, “We need to work together to prevent this from being a bigger humanitarian and health disaster than we think it can be, especially in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.” In this regard, we reaffirm our gratitude for the humanitarian support being extended to the Palestinian people. We thank AHLC Chair for consulting with the international donor community on how to best coordinate the efforts to counter spread of the virus in Palestine and mitigate its impact on the extremely fragile Palestinian economy. We appeal for and welcome increased or accelerated international donor support, including to UNRWA, which requires funds both for its emergency COVID-19 appeal but also, critically, for continuation of its core operations, including provision of education and health services as well as food assistance.

Estimates that UNRWA’s budget for core capacities will be depleted by end of May are deeply worrying. We urge the necessary support to ensure the continuity of UNRWA services as per its General Assembly mandate in order to ensure the well-being of the Palestine refugees and regional stability, including in this time of global crisis. Further, as underscored by the UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov in his statement on 12 April, “The Palestinian Government will also require generous external support and technical assistance that is targeted directly to the recovery process”, support that is urgent in light of the fiscal deficits already affecting the Government.

It is our deep hope that such global cooperation and solidarity will be forthcoming and accompanied by concrete measures by the international community to uphold international law and compel Israel to end its violations and end illegal occupation, deprivation and denial of the rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and freedom. This is a time to act to save human lives, but it is also a time to stop conflict, stop human rights violations, and work together for a just peace.

This letter is in follow-up to our 684 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 2 April 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. 

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

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer

of the State of Palestine to the United Nations