Statement by H.E. Riad Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, before the United Nations Security Council’s Monthly Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, Quarterly Report of the Secretary-General on Resolution 2334 (2016), 24 June 2020

Mr. President,

Excellencies, Members of the Council,

We often use the image of a crossroad to explain how significant a moment in history is. It means your next decisions and actions will determine the course of history and the fate of nations. There is no doubt this is such a moment 

For now, the driver is Israel and it will not stop at the crossroad to assess the implications of its choices because it is drunk on power, propelled by infinite impunity, motivated by one single thought that it has been under the influence of for decades: grabbing maximum Palestinian land with minimum Palestinians.

Israel is under the illusion that this is the destination and, once it reaches it, it will be able to enjoy the view. It ignores that the road cannot end there and continues downhill towards an escalation of the conflict due to an oppressive regime combining colonialism and Apartheid. It does not care that humanity has been down this road before, and that former colonial powers and liberation movements alike have all reached the same conclusion: such a regime cannot prevail and will only lead to more injustice, instability and insecurity.

As many times before, Israel seems determined to ignore that big red STOP sign the international community erected to save lives. Israel thinks, as has been its experience so far, that it will not be fined or arrested. It believes that Security Council resolutions are binding for others; international courts have jurisdiction over others; sanctions are for others. Israel judges, but cannot be judged. The only true bias towards Israel is the one shielding it from accountability and emboldening it by considering its illegal actions as so-called “realities” that need to be endorsed rather than reversed.

Israel is testing the resolve of the international community, thinking its colonial appetite will prevail over the collective international will to advance regional peace and security and to preserve the rules-based multilateral order. We must prove it wrong.

The international community remains committed to the rule of international law and to the international consensus on a just solution for the Palestine question. It opposes annexation in no uncertain terms, as reaffirmed in recent weeks by statements made from capitals from every corner of the globe. The global position also remains unwavering on the illegality of Israel’s policies, including settlements. This wide international front, reflected in the gathering in the Jordan Valley just two days ago with broad Palestinian and international mobilization, in the UNRWA Ministerial meeting held yesterday, and in this High-Level Security Council meeting, is strong and remains our best hope.

Mr. President, Members of the Council,

Israel needs to know that annexation will have immediate and tangible repercussions. That is why we have called on the international community to adopt effective measures, including sanctions, to deter annexation and all other unlawful policies that have prepared the ground for it. It must also be made clear that annexation will irreversibly impact Israel’s relations with Palestine and the region. The Oslo accords were supposed to transform us into peace partners, but regrettably Israel continued waging a war against Palestinian lives and rights. It has violated the spirit and letter of the agreements, and with annexation, is taking a decision that will defeat their very purpose. These accords were supposed to pave the way for an end of occupation and a final peace agreement. They cannot survive annexation.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter, let us honour the UN purposes and principles: respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction, the suppression of acts of aggression and the prohibition of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Annexation, whether partial or total, gradual or immediate, is the ultimate breach of the UN Charter and cannot go unchallenged.

From a legal perspective, annexation is not only unlawful, it is a crime under the Rome Statute. From a political perspective, it will ruin the chances for Israeli-Palestinian and regional peace. From a security perspective, it is utter nonsense as it replaces internationally-recognized borders that can be defended with a system of military control and subjugation that only fuels conflict and violence. It is, as stated in the Secretary General’s report, calamitous for Palestinians, Israelis and the region. The only explanation for it is an extremist ideology rooted in denial of the Palestinian right to this land, disregard for international law and negation of history.

It is this ideology that has undermined negotiations time and time again, with Israel using negotiations as cover for its continued colonization. This ideology fostered a narrative that Palestinians should be grateful that Israel was ready to give them back any part of their own land, fragmented and besieged enclaves, Bantustans, that Palestinians may even be allowed to call a “State”. Genuine negotiations must aim at ending occupation to achieve peace, not at perpetuating occupation and calling it peace. 

We remain committed to peace. We have presented our position in writing on all final status issues to the Quartet. Did the Quartet receive anything from Israel yet? We have never retracted any proposal we have made to find a compromise, unlike Israel which says we must renegotiate all over again with each new government. We have accepted the longstanding terms of reference and international law as the basis for negotiations, while Israel has rejected and violated them. We accepted the pre-1967 borders, agreeing to an historic compromise encompassing only 22% of Mandate Palestine, and yet Israel has spared no effort to undermine these borders. The entire world recognizes the significance of the Arab Peace Initiative and the promise it holds for our region. Where is the Israeli peace initiative? Even with the US plan, Israel said it is ready to take immediately whatever parts of our land the plan unlawfully grants it, while expressing readiness to negotiate the rest indefinitely.

That is why we call for an international peace conference and a multilateral mechanism that will help advance peace by holding the parties accountable, ensuring negotiations are neither a smoke screen nor a time-wasting exercise while Israel finalizes its colonial plans, but rather that negotiations are the path to just and lasting peace.

While Israel spares no effort to erase the pre-1967 borders, the Green Line, the world must consolidate them, including by recognizing the State of Palestine and by making any unilateral encroachment over the Green Line a red line. Every State has the power to help us change course before it is too late; the power to help end the Israeli occupation and salvage the two-State solution;  the power to save lives; the power to preserve our global order. In fact, they have a legal and moral obligation to use this power through non-recognition and non-assistance to illegal actions, distinction, and accountability. Upholding their obligations is the only path to ensure Israel abides by its own.

At the end, allow me Mr. President to thank you for convening this important meeting. I also wish to express our appreciation to the Secretary General for his report and relentless efforts and those of his envoy to advance peace. If Security Council resolutions, including 2334, were implemented, peace would be a reality tomorrow.

Allow me also to seize this opportunity to thank the Secretary General of the Arab League and the Ministers for their participation today, as a clear signal of the urgency and gravity of the matter. I also wish to thank your country and Council members, past, present and incoming, for their consistent, principled stances, including against annexation. Allow me finally to thank the countries and the groups, including the Arab group, which has been fully mobilized in the lead up to this meeting, the OIC, NAM, the EU, that continue working to advance freedom, justice and peace, conscious of how this could transform our region and the world.

Mr. President,

The Secretary General in his report highlighted the urgency of reversing this dangerous trajectory we are on. We are at a crossroad and to reverse course, before it is too late, the international community must take hold of the steering wheel.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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

السفير منصور يطلب من مجلس الأمن توفير الحماية للشعب الفلسطيني تحت الاحتلال

عقد مجلس الأمن، برئاسة استونيا، جلسة مفتوحة عالية المستوى حول حماية المدنيين في النزاعات المسلحة اليوم الأربعاء، الموافق 27 أيار 2020، حيث ألقى السفير منصور كلمة تطرق فيها إلى حالة الشعب الفلسطيني التي وصفها مكتب تنسيق الشؤون الإنسانية “بأنها أزمة حماية طويلة الأمد بسبب عدم احترام القانون الدولي، وغياب المساءلة عن الانتهاكات”.  وطالب منصور بالحماية الدولية للشعب الفلسطيني تحت الاحتلال الإسرائيلي وأشار كذلك إلى بعض الحقائق الصعبة من ضمنها أنه لا يوجد حق لوضع أمن دولة الاحتلال على حساب أمن وحماية الشعب الواقع تحت الاحتلال، أو على حساب حق الشعب في تقرير المصير، والحق في الأمن لا يبرر الاحتلال الدائم أو الاستيلاء غير القانوني على الأراضي بالقوة واستعمارها، أو يبرر الحصار المفروض على مليوني شخص لمدة 13 عامًا وقمع أمة بأكملها.  

وأشار منصور إلى أن المحكمة الجنائية الدولية أنشئت لسد الفجوة المتبقية عندما تكون المحاكم الوطنية غير راغبة أو غير قادرة على مساءلة مرتكبي الجرائم الخطيرة وتفشل في تحقيق العدالة، مؤكدا على أن الوضع في فلسطين يتوافق تمامًا مع هذا الواقع، وأن الاعتداءات والتهديدات الموجهة ضد المحكمة بسبب أدائها لولايتها لا يمكن احتمالها وينبغي رفضها بشدة.  ونوه إلى أن الجهود الرامية إلى منع المحكمة من ممارسة اختصاصها في الأرض الفلسطينية المحتلة تهدف إلى حرمان الضحايا الفلسطينيين من أي سبيل للعدالة، مع ضمان عدم مساءلة إسرائيل عن جرائمها، وبالتالي تمكين تكرارها.

وأكد منصور أنه لا يمكن ترك مصير الشعب الفلسطيني تحت رحمة السلطة القائمة بالاحتلال، كما لا يمكن للمجتمع الدولي أن يتخلى عن التزاماته خاصة وأن إسرائيل تخرق التزاماتها بشكل منهجي.  ودعا منصور مجلس الأمن إلى الوفاء بولايته بموجب ميثاق الأمم المتحدة، وكذلك حث جميع الدول التي تؤمن بسيادة القانون الدولي إلى التمسك بالقانون والذي تم التساهل معه لفترة طويلة، الأمر الذي أدى إلى إطالة أمد الاحتلال العسكري الإسرائيلي غير الشرعي وجرائمه ضد شعبنا ومنع تحقيق السلام.

Statement by H.E. Minister Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, Security Council open high-level video conference on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 27 May 2020

Mr. President,

Allow me at the outset to thank the Estonian Presidency for convening this important high-level debate and for placing at the center of its Presidency the lessons of the Second World War, which served as the foundations for the establishment of the multilateral rules-based order. At a time when this order is threatened, it is important to remember why it was built and what the alternative would be.

We thank the Secretary-General for his report and for his central role in helping preserve this order at this critical juncture, including when it comes to the defense of international law and the protection of civilians.

Mr. President,

I must address the situation of the Palestinian people, which OCHA characterizes “as a protracted protection crisis driven by lack of respect for international law, and a lack of accountability for violations”, and let me do so by stating some hard truths.

  1. There is no right to security of the occupying Power at the expense of the security and protection of the occupied people, or at the expense of a people’s right to self-determination. There is no right to security that justifies permanent occupation or the illegal acquisition of land by force and its colonization. There is no right to security that justifies a blockade imposed on two million people for 13 years and the oppression of an entire nation. International law draws a clear line between legal action and war crimes and crimes against humanity. Allowing any country to blur this line places civilians in harm’s way and undermines peace and security.
  2. Are the Palestinian people entitled to the protections availed by the UN Charter, international humanitarian law, international human rights law? The answer must be yes. Is anyone under the illusion that Israel, the occupying Power, has any respect for its obligations under these instruments? Israel has demonstrated time and time again its contempt for the rule of international law and for Palestinian rights and lives. Can one rely on Israeli courts to ensure the occupied people of the protections they are entitled to? The Israeli NGO B’Tselem, explaining its decision to no longer cooperate with the military law enforcement system, stated that it reached “the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators”. So Israel cannot be trusted to ensure accountability for violations planned at the highest level and perpetrated with the virtual guarantee of total immunity.
  3. The ICC was established to fill the gap left when national courts are unwilling or unable to hold perpetrators of grave crimes accountable and fail to deliver justice. The situation in Palestine corresponds exactly to this reality. Attacks and threats against the Court for fulfilling its mandate are intolerable and should be strongly rejected. The efforts to prevent the Court from exercising its jurisdiction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory aim at effectively denying Palestinian victims – millions of civilians – any avenue for justice while guaranteeing to Israel that there will be no accountability for its crimes, thus enabling their recurrence.
  4. While some misguidedly state that Israel suffers from being singled-out in the UN, the reality is that Israeli exceptionalism, which has effectively guaranteed its total impunity for actions deemed as grave violations of the law by the international community, is the main reason for the perpetuation of its violations and crimes.
  5. The Security Council and the General Assembly have called for international protection of the Palestinian people, and the Secretary-General made concrete recommendations in this regard in his report of 14 August 2018, and yet the Palestinian people continue to be denied this most elementary right, as the occupying Power has granted itself veto power over any effective action to provide protection for the Palestinian civilian population. The international community cannot continue tolerating this situation.
  6. Now with the threat of further unlawful annexation looming, and as existing violations and crimes against the Palestinian people continue unabated, the price of impunity continues rising, and the Palestinian people continue paying it. This must change. The cost of occupation should fall on the occupying Power, not the occupied people, and only when this cost outweighs the benefits of occupation, will Israel be compelled to respect the law and work for peace.
  7. The fate of the Palestinian people cannot be left to the mercy of the occupying Power. The international community cannot abdicate its obligations, especially as Israel systematically breaches its own. We call on the Council to fulfill its mandate under the Charter, and we call on all States that believe in the rule of international law, to uphold the law in a situation where its breach has been condemned and yet tolerated for too long, prolonging this illegal Israeli military occupation and its crimes against our people and preventing the achievement of peace. Third parties have the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international law, including by not recognizing the situation created by illegal actions, not rendering aid or assistance in maintaining the illegal situation, and by holding the State, entities, companies and individuals responsible for such violations accountable.

Mr. President,

In his report on protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Secretary-General identifies respect for the law and accountability for serious violations as the two most pressing challenges to strengthening the protection of civilians. He rightly notes that the normative framework and the tools to uphold it already exist. What is needed is the political will to use these tools to enforce the law. The international community displaying such political will not only help end the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people, but will also help achieve peace in our region and beyond. Impunity is the enemy of peace. Accountability is the only path towards it.

I thank you.

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

Statement of Solidarity and Appreciation to the City of New York from 167 UN Member States and Permanent Observers upon the initiative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

As the world faces its gravest test since the founding of the United Nations, and countries grapple with the devastating consequences of COVID-19, we all recall the very reasons for joining this Organization. The existence of the United Nations stems from our understanding that global peace, prosperity and security cannot be achieved without global solidarity. COVID-19 stands as undeniable evidence that now, more than ever, we must work together to overcome the challenges we face.

New York City has been the home that has welcomed and nurtured collective action against global challenges. It is in New York City that multilateralism has found its most comprehensive expression. It is in New York City that the headquarters of the United Nations stand as our collective voice for peace, prosperity and solidarity.

Today this great city of New York is facing one of its biggest challenges in decades. COVID-19 has hit the City hard. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost. Thousands are struggling with the disease. The thriving, vibrant life of New York City has been disrupted.

We are fully confident that New York will overcome this crisis. New Yorkers will triumph over this challenge and will emerge stronger, more resilient. The heart of the City will beat stronger with determination, with achievement, with hope and with the promise of a better tomorrow.

We, members of the United Nations, stand in full solidarity with New York City and its great people.

We extend our deep appreciation and gratitude for the Heroes and Sheroes of New York City, who put their lives at risk every day, to save our own. Without the dedication and courage of New Yorkers: leadership, healthcare workers, police, fire fighters, and brave essential workers, this time of uncertainty would have been far more difficult. We salute them all.

We offer our deepest condolences for the loss of life that New York City has endured from the virus. Those who passed will remain in our hearts and prayers. Our thoughts and prayers are also with those who are battling this vicious disease.

We, the representatives of our Nations to the UN, have come to know the spirit of New York City. We know the strength of its people. We know that New Yorkers will win over this vicious enemy. We share our commitment, and stand in unity with the City of New York as we collectively work to defeat this unconventional enemy. And we will defeat it.

THANK YOU NEW YORK CITY

April 19th, 2020

Member States and Permanent Observers that have extended support to the Statement:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Albania
  3. Algeria
  4. Andorra
  5. Angola
  6. Argentina
  7. Armenia
  8. Australia
  9. Austria
  10. Azerbaijan
  11. Bahamas
  12. Bahrain
  13. Bangladesh
  14. Barbados
  15. Belgium
  16. Belize
  17. Benin
  18. Bhutan
  19. Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
  20. Bosnia and Herzgovina
  21. Botswana
  22. Brazil
  23. Bulgaria
  24. Burkina Faso
  25. Burundi
  26. Cabo Verde
  27. Canada
  28. Central African Republic
  29. Chad
  30. Chile
  31. China
  32. Colombia
  33. Comoros
  34. Congo
  35. Costa Rica
  36. Cote d’Ivoire 
  37. Croatia
  38. Cuba
  39. Cyprus
  40. Czech Republic
  41. Denmark
  42. Djibouti
  43. Dominican Republic
  44. Ecuador
  45. Egypt
  46. El-Salvador
  47. Equatorial Guinea
  48. Eritrea
  49. Estonia
  50. Fiji
  51. Finland
  52. France
  53. Gambia (Republic of The)
  54. Georgia
  55. Germany
  56. Ghana
  57. Greece
  58. Grenada
  59. Guatemala
  60. Guinea
  61. Guyana
  62. Haiti
  63. Honduras
  64. Hungary
  65. Iceland
  66. India
  67. Indonesia
  68. Iran (Islamic Republic of)
  69. Iraq
  70. Ireland
  71. Israel
  72. Italy
  73. Japan
  74. Jordan
  75. Kazakhstan
  76. Kenya
  77. Kuwait
  78. Kyrgyzstan
  79. Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  80. Latvia
  81. Lebanon
  82. Lesotho
  83. Liberia 
  84. Libya
  85. Liechtenstein
  86. Lithuania
  87. Luxembourg
  88. Madagascar
  89. Malawi
  90. Malaysia
  91. Maldives
  92. Mali
  93. Malta
  94. Marshal Islands
  95. Mauritius
  96. Mexico
  97. Micronesia (Federated States of)
  98. Monaco
  99. Mongolia
  100. Montenegro
  101. Morocco
  102. Namibia
  103. Nauru
  104. Nepal
  105. Netherlands
  106. New Zealand
  107. Nicaragua
  108. Niger
  109. Nigeria
  110. North Macedonia
  111. Norway
  112. Oman
  113. Pakistan
  114. Palau
  115. Panama
  116. Papua New Guinea
  117. Paraguay
  118. Peru
  119. Philippines
  120. Poland
  121. Portugal
  122. Qatar
  123. Republic of Korea
  124. Romania
  125. Russian Federation
  126. Rwanda
  127. Saint Lucia
  128. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  129. Samoa
  130. San Marino
  131. Saudi Arabia
  132. Senegal
  133. Serbia 
  134. Sierra Leone
  135. Singapore
  136. Slovakia
  137. Slovenia
  138. Solomon Islands
  139. Somalia
  140. South Africa
  141. Spain
  142. Sri Lanka
  143. Sudan
  144. Surinam
  145. Sweden
  146. Switzerland
  147. Syrian Arab Republic
  148. Tajikistan 
  149. Thailand
  150. Timor – Leste
  151. Tunisia
  152. Turkey
  153. Turkmenistan
  154. Uganda
  155. United Arab Emirates
  156. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  157. United Republic of Tanzania
  158. Uruguay
  159. Uzbekistan
  160. Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
  161. Viet Nam
  162. Yemen
  163. Zambia
  164. Zimbabwe

Permanent Observers:

  1. The European Union
  2. The League of Arab States
  3. The State of Palestine

Statement by H.E. Minister Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, New York, 23 April 2020

Mr. President,

We congratulate the Dominican Republic on its leadership of the Security Council in these turbulent days. We also commend China for its stewardship of the Council in March.

We thank UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing and for his efforts and those of Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick and their team in Palestine at this critical time, including in support of our collective efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On behalf of the Palestinian Government and people, I convey our deepest condolences to all bereaved families and countries on the tragic loss of life caused by this virus, and reaffirm our solidarity with all afflicted, wishing the restoration of health and stability to all.

We recognize the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in response to the pandemic. We commend their efforts to mobilize the UN system, with WHO in the lead to address the health impact of the pandemic, along with all relevant UN agencies that are helping alleviate the pandemic’s vast economic, social, humanitarian and security impacts, including on women, children and youth, refugees and displaced persons.

This includes the valiant efforts of UNRWA in support of the Palestine refugees, alongside the other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations assisting the Palestinian people, helping protect them from the ravages of the pandemic, while alleviating the needs and hardships caused by Israel’s illegal occupation and the historic injustice they have been forced to endure for so long. We appeal for urgent international support to UNRWA to ensure continuity of its essential work.

Today, we also underscore the Secretary-General’s wise call for a global ceasefire, which President Mahmoud Abbas has endorsed on behalf of the State of Palestine. This must include a call on Israel, the occupying Power, to cease its war against the Palestinian people; stop its denial of their right to self-determination; stop its colonization and de facto annexation of Palestinian land; end its immoral blockade on the Gaza Strip; and release the thousands of Palestinians, including children, that it has imprisoned, who are at great risk of contagion in crowded, unsanitary prisons.

Israel must be unequivocally called upon to respect its legal obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention, and accountability for violations is imperative. Only in this way can human lives be saved and can the potential for peace and justice ever be realized.

We recognize that so many are now suffering and that fears about our individual and collective futures are at an all-time high. The Palestinian situation in this pandemic is, however, unique and painfully acute. Our coping capacities have been depleted by 53 years of this illegal occupation and its constant dispossession, deprivation and oppression of our people. This crisis will only exacerbate an already volatile situation.

Thus, the state of emergency declared on 5 March remains in place with a view to stopping the virus’ spread, which would be disastrous, especially in Gaza where the health system is near collapse and an outbreak would gravely endanger lives, especially in the refugee camps. Despite limited resources and the severe restrictions imposed by the occupation, our Ministries and relevant national institutions are exerting all efforts to protect our population and respond to the vast humanitarian and socio-economic repercussions of this crisis and are doing so with the support of UN agencies and generous assistance of countries the world over, for which we are grateful.

Regrettably, however, even the extreme challenges posed by this pandemic to all have not convinced the occupying Power to stop its crimes. Instead, Israel carries on with its illegal policies and practices, business as usual. Whatever technical coordination has been achieved between the two sides in recent weeks to combat COVID-19 has been undercut by incessant violations. This is not politicization of the matter, as alleged by the Israeli representative; these are the hard facts.

Most flagrant of these violations has been Israel’s annexation push. Officials and extremists openly vow to annex parts or all of the West Bank and brag about plans to commit this crime and to do so in full coordination with the current US administration. Shockingly, annexation became the centerpiece of the recent negotiations to form the new Israeli government.

While world leaders have been calling for negotiations to resolve all final status issues to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and achieve a just and lasting peace, we are certain they did not mean negotiations between Netanyahu and Gantz to determine what Palestinian land they would steal and illegally annex.

Yet, as revealed by the cynical agreement reached in these past days, the Israeli government is forging ahead, in breach of the Charter and all other relevant provisions of international law, in blatant contempt of the Security Council, and undeterred by the international community, believing only the support of its main patron State matters.

This should leave no doubt as to the extent that Israeli impunity has been emboldened by the US plan unveiled on 28 January and its dismissal of the internationally-endorsed terms of reference and parameters of a just solution based on international law, UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative and the framework of two States on the pre-1967 borders.

We reiterate: the US plan will not bring peace. This plan – and Israel’s decision to proceed with annexation – will destroy the two-State solution and entrench Israel’s military control over the Palestinian people and land.

As stressed in the Secretary-General’s last report on resolution 2334 (2016), “Unilateral steps are detrimental to peace… 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”. The result, we all know, will be a one-State reality of apartheid, guaranteeing more conflict, harming generations more of Palestinians and Israelis and the entire region.

Such an outcome must be averted at all costs. The international community must repudiate and demand a halt to all annexation measures. Do not fall prey to the pretexts crafted by Israeli officials – now the excuse of the pandemic – to divert attention from these crimes. Do not be fooled by the naming of the new government as a “national emergency government”. Congratulatory words that ignore that annexation is central to this government’s program effectively bless such crimes.

In this regard, we recognize the many strong statements issued – by Arab, European, African, Asian and Latin American States and organizations, as well as by Special Envoys of concerned States and by the UN – opposing Israeli annexation plans and demanding a halt. But, the years have proven that statements alone will not compel Israel’s respect for the law, nor avert its looming destruction of the two-State solution as annexation is unfolding on the ground as we speak.

We urge the international community to act immediately, enforcing concrete and practical measures to hold Israel accountable for its perverse impunity. There must be consequences. There must be deterrent action. Only such action – by this Council, by the General Assembly, by the Quartet, in international judicial bodies, by parliaments and governments and by civil society – can ensure accountability towards halting violations and salvaging the prospects for a just peace and security based on the global consensus.

Without a halt to these violations, no efforts to create a credible political horizon towards attainment of a just, lasting and comprehensive solution will ever succeed.

The real concerns and worries raised worldwide by this horrible pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to ignore human rights violations and look the other way, as Israel would wish everyone do. On the contrary, this pandemic has only further highlighted the absurdity, immorality and illegality of such crimes and the urgency of bringing them to an end, right now.

When people everywhere are being instructed to shelter at home, how can Israel, justify destroying homes? When people everywhere are desperately seeking medical care, how can Israel justify destruction of clinics and humanitarian assistance and medical neglect of prisoners? When the Secretary-General, joined by Pope Francis and leaders around the world, appeals for a global ceasefire, how can Israel justify its entrenchment of occupation and pursuit of annexation?

Now is the time to cease those violations and reverse the negative trends on the ground, not escalate them in such a flagrant, provocative way. Now is the time to heed the global calls for respect of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, and the relevant UN resolutions.

Now is the time to become more humane, more giving, not more brutal and more insatiable, imposing apartheid and never-ending conflict. 

Now is the time to see the other as equal, as deserving of freedom and safety and security and prosperity as yourselves.

Now is the time to recognize our common humanity and shared future, to revive hope and trust. Now is the time to recognize that no injustice will last forever.

Israel has a choice. It may feel emboldened to blindly and arrogantly move ahead with annexation. But, should it choose to go down this illegal, destructive path, then it should not be surprised at the chain of events that will unfold. Many countries have already forewarned that annexation will not go unchallenged and that there will be consequences.

Those who are principled, who respect international law and the authority of the Security Council and General Assembly as pillars of the rules-based international order, will not stand idly by while the law and human rights of an entire people are so flagrantly breached and while the foundations for a just peace are destroyed, setting dangerous global precedents.

And, the Palestinian people will never forgo their inalienable human rights, including to self-determination and independence and to exist as a free and equal people, living in dignity, security and prosperity in their homeland. Even if the two-State solution  is destroyed, it will not end their quest for freedom and justice. The Palestinian people and leadership remain resilient.

We must join together to uphold international law and insist on its respect without exceptions. It is time for an international peace conference to finally resolve the Palestine question and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time to bring this illegal occupation to an end. It is time for justice and for the Palestinian people to know freedom and dignity in their independent, sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side in peace and security with all of their neighbors, joining together to meet all the challenges before us and create a better, brighter future for all of our peoples.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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

2 April 2020 – Israeli Violations amid COVID19 pandemic

Excellency,

In follow-up to our recent letters on the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, I must draw attention to the human rights violations and crimes that continue to be perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people. Even in these critical days, as the COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges across the international community, including in Palestine, the occupying Power has not for a minute ceased its illegal policies and practices.

Before proceeding, I wish, on behalf of the Palestinian Government and people, to extend our sincere solidarity to all afflicted and convey deepest condolences to all bereaved families and countries on the tragic loss of life caused by this virus.

As of this date, the State of Palestine has confirmed 155 cases of the COVID-19 virus, 12 of which are in the Gaza Strip, and one death caused by the virus. A state of emergency has been declared and the country is in lockdown with a view to stemming the virus’ spread, protect our population, and ensure their well-being. Despite limited resources and the hardships and restrictions already being borne under Israel’s illegal occupation, our national institutions are exerting all possible efforts to respond to this health crisis and its immense humanitarian and socio-economic impact.

Regrettably, however, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel is exploiting the state of emergency and lockdown to accelerate its illegal settler-colonization plans, including through the continued demolition of Palestinian homes, destruction of crops, and forcible transfer of Palestinian families. At the same time, military raids in Palestinian areas have continued, as have Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian civilians, in numerous instances undermining efforts to combat the pandemic.

As reaffirmed by the United Nations Special Coordinator in his 31 March briefing to the Security Council and as detailed in our previous letters, Israeli settlement construction and expansion and annexation threats have continued unabated. In blatant violation of international law and UN resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016), Israel is pressing forth with the construction of thousands more settlements units, further fragmenting the contiguity of our land and destroying the viability of the two-State solution.

The seizure of Palestinian lands and destruction of properties also continues. On 25 March, Israeli forces razed Palestinian lands, several hundred meters from a high school serving the village of Jalud, in order to expand a nearby illegal Israeli settlement and build a road connecting it to other settlements. On 26 March, occupying forces stormed the Palestinian village of Ibziq in the Jordan Valley, seized equipment and demolished a residential structure, a water pump and an electricity generator. This included confiscation of material meant to form eight tents for the construction of an emergency first-aid clinic to offer health services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such cruel acts are not isolated incidents. Rather, they reflect the regular and constant abuse and harassment inflicted by the Israeli occupying forces on vulnerable Palestinian communities, including in the Jordan Valley, to drive them out of their homes and make way for illegal annexation. Moreover, these actions clearly violate basic human and humanitarian principles, especially during a health crisis, including Article 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention, which requires that the occupying power ensure that all necessary preventive means available to it are utilized to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics and ensure the well-being of the occupied population.

In addition to the destruction of a health clinic being constructed, other actions undermining Palestinian efforts to contain the virus have included, inter alia: the detention on 25 March of four Palestinians for disinfecting public facilities near the Lions’ Gate in Occupied East Jerusalem and the seizure of their disinfection equipment; the obstruction of efforts by Palestinian volunteers in Al-Khalil (Hebron) to disinfect neighborhoods and educate the local population on the pandemic; the assault on 30 March of Palestinians working in local emergency committees created to help detect coronavirus cases; and the intentional and repeated acts of spitting by dozens of Israeli soldiers at Palestinians’ cars, walls and doorsteps to intimidate residents amid the COVID-19 outbreak on 27 March in Al-Khalil.

Simultaneously, the level of violence perpetrated by extremist Israeli settlers has risen with a spike in attacks against Palestinian civilians and properties since imposition of the lockdown in the West Bank, particularly in the villages of Madama, Burqa and Burin. Settlers have exploited the confinement of Palestinians in their homes to amplify attacks against them and destroy and pillage property. Also, on 1 April, settlers from the illegal “Ramot” settlement stood at the entrance of the village of Beit Iksa and spat at Palestinian cars entering or leaving the village in an attempt to spread fear of infection.

The systematic dehumanization and mistreatment faced by the Palestinian people by this illegal occupation, even in times of a global pandemic and when the rest of the world is joining in acts of humane solidarity, is further illustrated by Israel’s treatment of Palestinian laborers in Israel who are suspected of being infected with the COVID-19 virus. In a recent video circulated on social media, a Palestinian laborer is seen lying on the side of a road near an Israeli checkpoint on the outskirts of Beit Sira village in the West Bank, struggling to breathe. It was later discovered that his Israeli employer, after seeing him severely sick and suspecting he had the virus, called the Israeli police, who then picked him up and dumped him at the checkpoint. Another tragic example is the killing on 22 March of a Palestinian man, Sufian Khawaja, age 29, after Israeli soldiers opened fire at a car he was in along with his cousin, who was injured.

Such contempt for Palestinian lives is also starkly reflected in the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Israel is refusing to heed calls for the release of the more than 5,000 Palestinians, including 180 children and 43 women, that it currently holds captive in its prisons and detention centers, despite four Palestinian prisoners having been exposed to an Israeli employee at an interrogation center who tested positive for COVID-19. Here we must remind that Israeli jails are overcrowded, lacking minimum health and safety standards, and that poor conditions, including the requirement for prisoners to pay for their own medical treatment and blatant medical neglect, have led prisoners to launch several hunger strikes in recent years. Dozens of Palestinian prisoners also suffer from serious or chronic illnesses and are in need of urgent medical care. To make matters worse, Israel removed all doctors and nurses who were previously tending to Palestinian prisoners, leaving only one nurse per prison, yet a further shocking act of medical negligence.

In this time of crisis, Palestinians also face another consequence of this decades-long occupation – a dilapidated and depleted healthcare system that is marked by poor infrastructure and sanitation, a shortage of supplies and inadequate equipment. With just 1.23 beds per 1,000 people, 2,550 working doctors, less than 20 intensive care specialists and less than 120 ventilators in all public hospitals, the West Bank will face a public health disaster if the virus spreads further. And, while the healthcare situation there is bleak, in the Gaza Strip it is catastrophic.

As noted by OCHA on 26 March, “although the current number of detected cases remains relatively low, the capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in COVID-19 cases is severely impaired by longstanding challenges and critical shortages…the situation is particularly severe in the Gaza Strip.” For a population of nearly 2 million, half of whom are children, Gaza has only  56 breathing ventilators for adults, some of which are in disrepair or already in use, 60 Intensive Care Unit hospital beds, and 700 units of Personal Protective Equipment. The occupying Power has provided Gaza with only 200 testing kits, and the United Nations has supplied another 1,000.

Palestinians in Gaza already face dire humanitarian and socio-economic conditions, with the 13-year Israeli blockade, compounded by Israel’s repeated military aggressions, having undermined all aspects of life for Gaza’s two million inhabitants. These conditions have led to extreme poverty, with more than half of the population living under the poverty threshold; an unemployment rate reaching near 70% among young people; around 80% of the population dependent on some form of humanitarian aid; widespread food insecurity, with 10% of children having stunted growth due to malnutrition; the contamination of 97% of Gaza’s water supply; the collapse of essential services, including a regular electricity supply; and the crippling of the healthcare system, which has long faced acute shortages of medicine, equipment, cleaning materials, doctors and professional training.

This has been attested by UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Mr. Michael Lynk, who recently stated: “I am particularly worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on Gaza. Its health care system was collapsing even before the pandemic. Its stocks of essential drugs are chronically low. Its natural sources of drinkable water are largely contaminated. Its electrical system provides sporadic power. Deep poverty amid appalling socio-economic conditions is prevalent throughout the Strip… A potential large-scale outbreak will also constitute another enormous strain on Gaza’s beleaguered health workers who have had to respond, with inadequate resources, to three large-scale military offensives in just over a decade and have had to treat thousands of casualties from the ‘Great March of Return’ protests.”

The particular difficulties of containing COVID-19 in Gaza are compounded in Gaza’s eight refugee camps. While Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world, rendering social distancing nearly impossible, the density in the refugee camps is even higher, making them even more at risk for spread of the virus. Moreover, as most of Gaza’s water supply is contaminated, basic sanitation and hygiene practices like washing hands and disinfecting shared surfaces are ineffective in the majority of cases. As stated by a group of 11 UN Special Procedures mandate holders on 23 March, “COVID-19 will not be stopped without providing safe water to people living in vulnerability.” Also, as most of Gaza’s population is unemployed, those who are employed feel that they cannot afford to stop working, as their families are dependent on their generally meager incomes.

As stated by UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, in reference to the situation of the health system in Gaza, “there is only so much you can stretch a system before it snaps” and “this could be a tipping point”. According to the WHO representative in Gaza, Gaza is only prepared to handle the first hundred cases of the virus; “After that, it will need further support.” If even developed countries are finding it extremely challenging to confront the virus, how then can Gaza be expected to cope? The conditions in Gaza could quickly turn life-threatening in a situation of pandemic, endangering millions of lives. Such a horrific outcome must be averted.

Averting such a frightening scenario requires international solidarity and support. It is urgent that the international community recognize that the Gaza Strip – which the UN long ago determined would be unlivable by 2020 under its current conditions – is even more endangered in this time of global health crisis. More than ever, States must step up to their responsibilities and finally bring an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, a man-made disaster that can and must be reversed, and ensure the necessary humanitarian support.

In the meantime, we are grateful for the assistance being extended to the Palestinian people from across the globe. This includes in particular the vital assistance being provided through UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and other UN agencies and organizations on the ground. As called for by numerous Security Council members following the 31 March briefing by UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov, we appeal to the international community to heed the calls for support by those agencies and others to meet the Palestinian people’s urgent need for humanitarian aid. As emphasized by the Secretary-General in his report on the Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19, the global response to the pandemic “must be multilateral, with countries showing solidarity to the most vulnerable communities and nations”.

The international community, including the Security Council, must join together to do everything possible to protect everyone in the world from this pandemic – and this must include the Palestinian people, who must not be left behind. Indeed, while it is important to recognize, encourage and support Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to confront this pandemic, it is even more imperative to remind Israel of its obligations as the occupying Power under international law and to demand its compliance. We must all act to uphold international law and the rules-based order and insist on respect without exceptions.

In this regard, in line with the call made by the Secretary-General on 23 March for a “global cease-fire”, all must call for Israel to “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes” against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population; “help create the corridors for life-saving aid”, and “end the sickness of war”, including by ending its colonization of Palestinian land and lifting the blockade it has inhumanely imposed on Gaza and releasing all Palestinian prisoners in its jails, starting with the most vulnerable.

It is time to bring this illegal occupation to an end. Should Israel continue rejecting the calls to respect the law, choosing instead to carry on with its illegal policies and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination, and undermining their efforts to protect themselves from the global pandemic, it must be held accountable to the full extent of the law. This is vital for salvaging the prospects for peace, but equally vital for saving human lives.

This letter is in follow-up to our 683 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 March 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