Ending Benefits Reaped Only by Israel Key for Stopping ‘Cost-Free Occupation’, Palestine Ambassador Tells Palestinian Rights Committee, Urging Global Action
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People approved its annual report today, as the State of Palestine’s ambassador urged the international community to use the tools at its disposal to pressure Israel and hold it accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people.
“Only if the occupation is made more costly can we usher its end, as opposed to the reality of all these years of a cost-free occupation from which only Israel reaps benefits and continuously accorded privileges in the international community, including in this organization,” underscored Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Deputy Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.
Citing Israel’s military assaults and acts of repression and persecution, she said the situation in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, has continued to deteriorate since the Committee met in July 2021. Israel, the occupying Power, is escalating its violations and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, she said, noting that her delegation has regularly documented this in letters to the Security Council, General Assembly and the Secretary-General.
In recent weeks, another criminal Israeli military assault on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza left 49 Palestinians dead, she recounted. Those attacks wreaked more destruction, adding to the thousands who remain displaced and exacerbating the dire humanitarian conditions caused by Israel’s illegal 15-year blockade of Gaza. This year to date, at least 85 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, as occupying forces continue to raid cities, towns, villages and camps, forcibly entering homes and attacking anyone who protests the illegal occupation.
She said 4,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, including hundreds held in administrative detention without charge. Every day Palestinian homes and properties are destroyed, and Palestinian families are displaced, while Israeli settlements and so-called outposts and military installations are being continuously constructed on their occupied Palestinian land.
Moreover, Palestinians and their holy sites continue to face provocation and acts of incitement, she said, highlighting that over the weekend, extremists again raided the Aqsa Mosque compound, entering for the first time since the occupation began in 1967 through the Lion’s Gate — the entry point for Muslim worshippers. The extremists performed religious rituals prohibited under the historical and legal status quo, she said, warning that such illegal actions, if they continue, threaten to ignite a religious war with disastrous consequences.
She went on to say that, following Israel’s designation of six human rights and humanitarian organizations as terrorist organizations, Israeli soldiers broke into the offices of seven such organizations, destroying furniture and equipment, and later summoning representatives for interrogation, threatening them with imprisonment should they continue their work. The targeted organizations work to support Palestinian women, children, farmers and prisoners and advocate for the human rights and well‑being of Palestinian people, she pointed out.
Citing a statement today by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she reiterated that Israel is “increasingly limiting ‘human rights eyes and ears on the ground’”. States must demand Israel to cease its harassment, intimidation and assault, and rescind the terrorist designation against them or bear the consequences for its illegal actions, she urged.
Highlighting the deplorable situation of Palestinian political prisoners, including children, she drew attention to the critical condition of Khalil al-Hayya, a 40-year-old Palestinian man on hunger strike for 171 days in protest of his unlawful incarceration by Israel without trial or any charge.
“What is happening to him and thousands of other Palestinian prisoners and to the millions of Palestinians under Israel’s colonial occupation and apartheid regime is not normal and cannot be justified under any circumstances.” The international community has many legitimate, effective and non-violent tools at its disposal, and they should be used to pressure Israel in the face of its blatant non-compliance, she said.
Drawing attention to the continued exclusion of the State of Palestine from “its rightful place in the international community”, she said the Palestinian leadership has decided to move forward with its application for admission to United Nations membership, which was submitted in September 2011. She called for the support of the Committee, especially those who are Security Council members and have a pivotal role to play in that regard.
The State of Palestine will continue to seek all legitimate means to hold Israel accountable for all its crimes, protect Palestinians, and ensure the humanitarian assistance they need, she said, calling for political and financial support to the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) to ensure the well-being and dignity of Palestinian refugees until a just solution is found.
Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York, also briefed the Committee, noting that 5.7 million Palestinian refugees are currently covered under the Agency’s protection mandate. The Agency provides education to approximately 540,000 students in 700 schools, health-care services to almost 3 million refugees in 143 primary health-care centres and a social safety net to about 400,000 people. However, it is currently experiencing crises in all its fields of operation except for Jordan.
In Gaza, the security situation remains highly volatile following the recent escalation, and she noted that the Agency’s staff must always be prepared for conflict as, during active hostilities, its schools are the only places to which displaced persons can flee for safety. Further, increased commodity prices have made people in Gaza extremely reliant on UNRWA, but continued price hikes and currency devaluation have impacted the Agency’s ability to respond to rising needs.
Turning to the situation in the West Bank, she said that the environment in refugee camps has significantly worsened in 2022, with nearly all conflict-related indicators pointing to record-high levels of violence. The security situation on the ground has hampered UNRWA’s operations through tear-gas incidents and access restrictions such as road closures.
She went on to note that the Agency’s work in Lebanon is confronted with multiple crises such as inflation and shortages of food and fuel, and the rising cost of living has affected refugees’ access to Agency services. Levels of poverty, unemployment and desperation are rising among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon faster than the Agency can provide services, but UNRWA remains the lifeline for this community due to their limited access to public services in Lebanon because of their legal status. Additionally, in Syria, Palestinian refugees are among the most vulnerable populations in the country, and funding is needed for emergency cash and food assistance and for the rehabilitation of Agency facilities damaged by the 11-year conflict.
On the upcoming renewal of UNRWA’s mandate, she noted that Palestinian refugees feel that they have been abandoned by the international community. Noting a funding gap of over $100 million for the Agency’s programme budget in 2022, she warned that the whole operation is at risk if funding issues are not addressed. She called on Member States to increase their financial contributions, facilitate the early disbursement of pledges already made and provide additional top-ups so that the Agency can get through this year.
Several delegations, including Sri Lanka, Cuba and Türkiye, echoed support for UNWRA, and called for adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for the Agency. Committee members also heard expressions of support for a two-State solution and for the renewal of the Agency’s mandate this fall. South Africa’s representative, noting that the situation in Palestine clearly resembles the system of apartheid experienced by his country, said he hopes that the Committee will take up the funding issues with urgency and bring it to the larger United Nations membership.
Neville Gertze (Namibia), Vice-Chair of the Committee, providing an update on its activities, said that, since its last meeting in July, the Committee co-organized its annual conference on Question of Jerusalem titled “Palestinian Youth in East Jerusalem under Occupation” with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where an OIC representative from Jeddah and the President of the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly, via video-teleconference, delivered statements.
Also in July, Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Committee, travelled to Amman, Jordan, to open the two-day Communication Strategy Workshop held on 25 and 26 July, he said. The Workshop gathered 21 officials of the Government of Palestine and equipped participants with skills to develop a full suite of strategic communications tools to help it communicate and engage with their audiences more effectively.
He went on to say that, while in Jordan, on 25 July, Mr. Niang met with Mohammed Hindawi, Director of the Negotiations Coordination Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss Jordan's support for UNRWA. He also met Ghulam Isaczai, Acting United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan, to update him on Committee activities, including the Strategic Communications Workshop.
On 4 August, the Bureau met with the Permanent Representative of Albania, and on 25 August, with the Secretary-General to express deep concern that amid other pressing global issues and conflicts, the international community has shifted its focus from the Question of Palestine. He said the Secretary-General assured the Bureau that the Palestine question and the Middle East peace process remain a priority on the United Nations agenda.
The Vice-Chair then announced that this year’s commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will be held on 29 November and will be followed, on 30 November by the plenary session of the General Assembly on the “Question of Palestine”, which will also consider the four resolutions on the topic, including the three resolutions that the Committee re‑biennialized in 2020.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
* The 407th Meeting was not covered.