Palestinian Territory - A recent webinar hosted by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor allowed attendees to take a deeper look into the escalation of Israeli violations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt). Five experts were invited to speak at the webinar, which was part of the organisation’s undertaking to document the rights violations, exploitation, and escalation of violence perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians in the oPt.
The webinar featured expert opinions on the psychological effects of the blockade on Gaza, Israel’s systematic use of violence, the legal questions surrounding Palestine’s ability to achieve justice, foreign policy, the two-state solution, and the power dynamics behind planned attacks. The discussion shed light on the severe lack of human rights accountability in the oPt, as well as on the scrupulous construction of an apartheid government in Israel.
Maha Hussaini, Strategy Director of Euro-Med Monitor, began the discussion by highlighting the dire human rights violations that are a result of events that have occurred during “the past seventeen years of the crippling Israeli blockade”, which began in 2007, “through which around four major military attacks and many other offensives have occurred”.
Hussaini spoke of her personal experiences as a lifelong resident of Gaza. “The fact that you have been living all your life in this part of the world, the Gaza Strip, and have witnessed two different eras—prior and during the blockade—gives you a clearer image of what is really happening,” she said. What Israel is doing, she told webinar attendees, is “slowly and effectively turning the whole [Gazan] population into two million physiologically and behaviourally distorted people”.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, discussed the power dynamics at work and the two-state solution. “We live in a one-state reality that is rooted in apartheid,” he stated, arguing that restricting physical space is an important method used by the Israeli occupation to systematically increase violence against the Palestinian population. He pointed to the brutal attacks on Palestinians in communal spaces, such as the most recent attack on innocent worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, as evidence of the use of limiting space as a structural tool to re-exert power and authority over Palestinians. By reducing civilians’ ability to gather in public places, Shakir told attendees, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to gather in strength and stand up against the occupation.
Shakir highlighted the fact that Israeli dominance over the Palestinian population is made possible by increasing levels of impunity, i.e. a lack of consequences for its violent or illegal actions. When asked about the two-state solution, Shakir contended that the “focus on desired solutions means that we forget about the problem, which is not the lack of a two-state solution”. He added, “The shift in paradigm following decades of work distracts from the daily reality; the two-state solution has become an empty solution [to the problem of] a deeply unequal status quo”.
A senior lecturer in law at Liverpool John Moores University in England and member of the legal team representing Gazan victims before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Triestino Mariniello described how the ICC must do much more to hold Israeli forces accountable for the crimes they commit against Palestinians in the occupied territories, and listed the illegal acts perpetrated by the apartheid regime. According to Mariniello, the acts include “the use of interrogation techniques against Palestinian prisoners, including children, which amounts to torture under international law, but also the forced demolition and extensive destruction of civilian property [that is] not justified by any military necessity”, plus “arbitrary displacement and the forcible transfer and deportation of the civilian population under occupation”.
Mariniello stressed that the creation of Israel’s annexation wall and of two separate legal regimes in the West Bank, one for the Israeli settlers and one for the Palestinians, allows Israel’s illegal policies to flourish. “The prosecutor’s reluctance to move forward by bringing the cases against the alleged perpetrators of these crimes contributes to undermining the already weak legitimacy and credibility of the ICC,” he informed webinar viewers. Mariniello went on to explain how the ICC can provide accountability to Israeli and Palestinian cases. “In order for both [sides] to be able to give voice and justice to the victims in the Israeli Palestinian context, it is necessary that the prosecutor acts in an independent and impartial manner,” he said, “by putting an end to the longstanding climate of impunity in this context, which is not only the fundamental right of victims, but also a duty for the court and the international community.”
He argued that, for Palestinians, as “there is no justice at the domestic level, the only possibility for the victims of the most serious crimes is the International Court of Justice”. Mariniello expressed that the ICC “has one of the few effective tools for the courts and has the most serious cases of violation of human rights, yet it finds fertile soil in the climate of impunity enjoyed by the alleged perpetrators of these crimes”.
Providing a wide overview of the direction that the Israeli occupation is going, Hugh Luvatt, a senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, assessed the collapse of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine through the lens of Israel’s foreign policy. “We are seeing negative shifting dynamics on both sides—Israel and Palestine. In Israel there has been a collapse of the little constituency there was at one time for ending the occupation and achieving a two-state solution in line with international parameters,” he told viewers.
“There needs to be new initiatives and paradigms for being able to achieve justice based on equality and an end of occupation,” Luvatt asserted. “This will require the elaboration of a new paradigm,” he explained. “The new paradigm would include two things; a new strategy for driving forward an end of occupation and inequality, but potentially in the wake of the disappearance of a two-state solution, also a new political project to achieve equality.” With the decreasing hope of a two-state solution, he argued, there is “increasing dominance and empowerment of the far right in Israel, which is quite happy to push forward, with not just annexing Palestinian territory but also entrenching a situation of apartheid”.
Taking a closer look at the systematic reasoning behind planned attacks, Amjad Iraqi, a senior editor and writer at +972 Magazine, explained how violent attacks such as that of the most recent raid of Al-Aqsa during Ramadan “are political decisions, law enforcement and military decisions, that lead to these moments”. Iraqi stated, “These are decisions made by law enforcement authorities and government officials backing settlers to push the boundaries of what can be expected at a holy site such as Al-Aqsa.”
The issue of Israeli impunity was discussed by most of the experts in the webinar, including Iraqi. According to Iraqi, for Palestinian citizens who have experienced the increase in settler violence, it is clear that “impunity has really increased, and has been absorbed by the Israeli political system and by the Israeli society”. He added, “The depths to which Israeli society and politicians [understand] that they can push [past] every political line with no consequences allows them to be more aggressive, allows them to be more violent, and to really change the status quo over the holy sites in Jerusalem.”
Iraqi emphasised that a major part of the issue that has caused the recent spike in violence is the extent to which international actors are trying to ignore and erase the Palestinian question. It is incorrect, he concluded, for “international actors to keep thinking that Palestinians are going to forget that they are somehow oppressed and forget their history of occupation”.
Through the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor webinar, five distinguished guests were able to provide participants with a comprehensive overview of the current state of the Israeli occupation, and educate them on the escalation of Israeli violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.