Geneva - Israel's ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories is one primary reason behind all of the human rights violations in the territories. The only way to end human rights abuses under international humanitarian law is to end the occupation once and for all," said Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Lynk’s remarks were made during a seminar held on Tuesday, 3 July 2018, on the sidelines of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the UN Palace in Geneva. The discussion was jointly attended by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, the Geneva International Center for Justice (GICJ) and the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (EAFORD). It aimed at discussing the policy of systematic crimes against civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories and its implications on the legal and living status of the population.
Moderated by the Geneva International Center for Justice, the session focused on the deteriorating daily life of Palestinian civilians under Israeli laws and policies, stressing the importance of reaching urgent solutions and making recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council to end their plight.
Michael Lynk recommended that the UN General Assembly conduct a comprehensive study to examine the legitimacy of the Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories. He added that Israel's actions are repeatedly criticized by the Security Council as illegitimate, particularly its policies of collective punishment, which are clearly seen through its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.
"Since the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, the Israeli authorities have built a racist separation system based on the establishment of settlements, bypass roads, security zones and checkpoints, in addition to enacting discriminative laws that facilitate the confiscation of Palestinians' private property," said Aroub Sobh, Euro-Med's Women's Affairs adviser.
"The blockade on Gaza is one of the Israeli approaches of controlling Palestinian civilians' lives and practicing discrimination against them," she said, adding that: "The 12-year-old siege has destroyed the lives of two million civilians, including 1.3 million refugees (67% of the population)."
Aroub explained that the Gaza Strip is in constant deficit at all levels. The Israeli authorities impose severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, denying hundreds of thousands of civilians access to medical care, pursue their academic studies or participate in cultural programs. "These punitive measures are all based on an integrated racial segregation system," she stressed.
“Israel, under the International Law, is an occupying force despite its disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005,” Sobh assured. “It still controls the entry to and exit from Gaza by land, sea, and air. Likewise, it controls Gaza’s population registry, telecommunication networks and many other aspects of daily life and infrastructure.”
Danny Dugnes, from Scales for Justice, presented testimonies collected in the field concerning the catastrophic consequences of the Israeli policy on Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, land confiscation, demolishing Palestinian towns and villages to build Israeli settlements, in addition to the excessive use of roadblocks and bypass roads that aim at separating Palestinian villages and cities from each other.
Dugnes also criticized Israel’s attempts to forestall criticism against its practices by developing a draft law which prohibits filming Israeli soldiers while in duty and punishes who does so by imprisonment up to ten years.
“Military order 101 that applies only to Palestinian because they are under the military law and settlers are under the civil law, is clearly aimed to silence Palestinians,” she added. “It penalizes incitement, which is hard to define, in fact.”
In a related context, Eman Zaiter, a legal researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, discussed Israel’s excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in the Gaza-Israel border fence and the resulting huge numbers of deaths and injuries from such a policy.
“On 30 March, thousands of peaceful protesters went on peaceful demonstrations in the eastern border fence calling for the implementation of General Assembly resolution 194 that requires the return to their home and lifting the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. However, Israel used excessive force against them; the number of deaths, since 30 March, has reached 131, and almost 14,000 were injured either by gas canisters or live bullet,” Zaiter illustrated.
“35% of the injuries were hit in the upper part of their body, which proves that the Israeli forces intend to murder them,” she added. In addition, Zaiter gave ample evidence, gathered by the Euro-Med team, of Israel’s use of explosive bullets which result in much more damage and possibly lead to permanent disabilities. She also showed some videos concerning targeting different groups of protesters, such as journalists, medics, and children.
In conclusion, Zaiter called on Israel to lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and to stop using its collective punishment policy against Palestinians. She also called for compelling Israel to implement the General Assembly resolution 194, which will put a prompt end to the suffering of the Palestinian refugees since 1948.
The seminar was held on the sidelines of the second session of the Human Rights Council this year at its 38th annual session. The 38th session kicked off on 18 June, and will end on 6 July this year.